Seven Not-So-Reckless Reasons Why I Did It

Why would I forgo easy access to friends, family, and a 401K for two years of my adult life?

This question is harder to answer than you might believe. Even though the Peace Corps is kind of an obvious fit for me, it wasn’t an easy decision.

It would have been easier when I was in my 20s. After all, about 85% of volunteers fit into that demographic. Being at this point in my life, I had to do some serious thinking.

What prompted my initial plunge forward was not the sense of adventure, the desire to serve my home country, or the need to challenge my comfort zone – all typical reasons for many volunteers. For me, it was:

  1. A transition point. I shared this in common with most volunteers: the end of college; the beginning of retirement; the realization that their careers are in need of a drastic change. For me, it was finishing grad school. And…
  2. The desire to get on a more defined career path. It was time to draw upon some of my favorite professional skills and apply them to a clear vision. Which is…
  3. I want to combine environmental conservation and development work. I’m passionate about conservation biology, and I want to work within the human-environment system. Without sustainability of natural resources, no gains against poverty, hunger, or disease can endure long. One way to do this is with…
  4. The Peace Corps’ Protected Areas Management program. The position calls for a whole host of skills that I worked pretty hard to learn, and it allowed me to work toward my professional goals. What can I say; I am a sucker for a good mission statement. So why Peace Corps and not another job with similar goals?…
  5. I was lured by many of the perks specific to the Peace Corps. Developing fluency in Spanish and cultural competency; avoiding an unfulfilling job; amazing experiences both during and after service; linking in with the Peace Corps community; and saying goodbye to frigid New England winters for at least two years. In addition to that…
  6. I dig the diplomatic aspect of the Peace Corps. I did my job (fits Peace Corps’ goal #1) while being an American in another culture, fostering cross-cultural understanding (PC’s goals #2 and #3). Your tax dollars are thus spent in the name of promoting world peace and friendship. And finally…
  7. A better job offer never came. To keep my options open, I looked for alternatives throughout the application process. Most positions did not hold a candle to my offer from the Peace Corps.

With these reasons in mind, I weighed the offer against all that I would be giving up: being able to grab a quick coffee with any of my friends and family; the choice of where I live; physical closeness to my significant other; and access to a host of things that make my life more comfortable. All for the promise of a job that tried my tolerance for frustration, boredom, and failure.

After about a half dozen ups and downs, the scales finally tipped in favor of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer.

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