international volunteering

By The Way… I’m Leaving You for 3 Months

There’s Something You Should Know

My relationship with Amy was still in the early stages. Already I was about to break some news to her that potentially could put a giant spanner in the works. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was very close to putting a hold on my dating life, as there was no sign of any romance with anybody. I made a decision that would have a major impact on my future. I decided that I was going to take a 3 month volunteering trip to the other side of the world. Little did I know at the time that I was later going to meet a stunner of a lady, which would take my life in a completely new direction.

I needed to make a tough decision…Do I cancel my trip and stay at home with my new lady? Or do I take the opportunity of a lifetime and go away for 3 months and do something that most people only dream of doing?

After much thought, I decided that I was still going to go. I couldn’t pass up this chance to see the world and help so many people. The only problem was, how on earth was Amy going to react? Would she leave? Would she wait for me to come back? I can guarantee that 99% of women would have turned their back on me. Especially considering we had only just started seeing each other. Amy, luckily for me, was in the 1% of women who would stay. It takes a strong person to agree to go through 3 months of worrying, doubt and insecurities through choice. This was another moment that I realised Amy was something special. I was going to take this trip and make her proud.

Zambia…Here I Come

A month later I was sat on a plane with 20 strangers wondering what the hell I was doing. Spending 3 months in Africa with people I don’t know, eating food I don’t like and shitting in holes in the floor…was I pissed when I signed up for this?!

Believe it or not, I had chosen this with my own free will. Maybe I was losing the plot, or maybe this trip would be the making of me. I hoped to go home a more confident and outgoing person. To be able to put myself out there to try new things and take more chances in life. Life is too short to be sitting on the sidelines.

After a couple of weeks in Africa, Amy and I were starting to feel the emotional distress that comes with being so far apart. I often worried that Amy might give up on me and decide that it was too difficult to carry this on long distance for such a long period of time. We were strong though and after plenty of reassurance we both realised that we could survive this.

Down…But Not Out

My trip had many high points, but just as many low points along the way. After living on a dish called Nshima, which looked like lumpy mash potato, I started to grow frail and weak. I found myself in hospital, attached to a drip, vomiting and shitting like there was no tomorrow. If Amy had seen me in that state I imagine she would have run a mile. I lost over a stone in weight whilst I was there. Weight that I didn’t have to lose in the first place. I was scrawny when I got there, but I looked like a corpse that had been washed up on a beach by the time I returned.

Another change to my body involved me attempting to grow a beard. For anybody that knows me, this is a funny concept. I promised myself that I was going to go the whole 3 months without having a shave, just to see what I looked like. A month and a half in, I looked like this…

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Pathetic I know! I was ashamed to call myself a man after that. There was more hair on my toes than on my face (yes I have hairy toes, laugh it up). I shaved a few days after this picture, I accepted defeat and went back to my clean shaven baby face that everybody knew me for.

Close Call

The best moments whilst I was there were the rare occasions that I had access to WIFI. This was my opportunity to ring home and talk to loved ones. Without regular calls from home, there was no way that I could have made it to the end. They were at times the only thing getting me through the day. Knowing that people back home were missing me and willing me on. I’m not afraid to admit that tears flowed when I was at my lowest because I was desperate to come home.

The lowest point was when I received a message from Amy telling me that she had been involved in a crash in her car. Not being with her at a time like that was torture, as I was completely useless. Thankfully she came out with only minor injuries, but the emotional distress she went through was hard for us both.

I made sure to ring Amy as much as I could throughout my trip. However, it didn’t always go to plan. As you can imagine in Africa, the WIFI connection isn’t great. Trying to have a deep and romantic conversation with someone who you haven’t seen for months with no interruptions was impossible. The connection would go right in the middle of a conversation, and there were times when I completely lost my shit.

Now I usually have the patience of a saint, and I very rarely lose my temper. There were times however when the connection went off that I would be shouting and swearing down the phone, only to realise afterwards that Amy could still hear everything that I was saying on her end…oops! I wasn’t calling you an effin’ idiot darling, I was talking to the phone, honest!

Regular Visits

Whilst I was away, Amy went round to visit my folks several times, just to catch up and have a chat. Little did I know that I was being plotted against with the dreaded baby albums. I’d know when Amy was at my house because I’d receive another embarrassing picture from when I was a child, and there were some crackers! This one was my particular favourite…

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Such a cool child I was

There were clear indications that my family were missing me back home. This was confirmed by the fact that when Amy went round to chat to my parents about me, my younger brother Mike (19) tore himself away from his Xbox to listen to how I was doing. This is someone who has never spoken to a girl that I’ve been with. Mainly because he’s more scared of girls than I am. On this occasion though, he sat downstairs with Amy and my parents and spent hours chatting and catching up on my progress. He may never admit to missing me, but I knew he did. I was never going to let him forget it.

Time To Come Home

My trip had finally come to and end, and it was time to head home. I was so eager to eat some decent food, get out of my smelly dirty clothes and get back to normal life back in the UK. I had missed Amy a lot and couldn’t wait to latch onto her like a leech and not let go. The moment Amy and I had been dreaming about for the last 86 days had finally come. My plane had landed and I was about to burst through the doors into the arrivals area.

Amy had promised me that she was going to run at me like they do in movies and I would lift her up in my arms and it would be the most romantic moment ever. Of course it didn’t go quite as dramatically as that. I walked into the arrivals area and scanned the area for Amy and my parents. I could see my mum’s head poking over the top of a crowd of people so I headed in that direction. Then I spotted Amy, and waited for her to turn into Usain Bolt and sprint the length of the airport. Instead, she waited with my parents with a huge grin on her face, only deciding to jog the last few yards. As we embraced after all this time, all that I could hear was “awwwwww” from all of the surrounding spectators. It was probably the soppiest thing ever!

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So I made it, I had spent 3 very long months in the middle of Zambia, overcoming so many obstacles and challenges. But I was home. Amy and I had survived possibly the toughest challenge we would ever face as a couple. It brought us so close together that we felt unbreakable. I think if I ever left her again like that though, she would probably hunt me down and bring me back in a body bag.

One Comment

  • Amy

    You forgot to mention that the only reason I jogged instead of running was to avoid embarrassing you by falling on my clumsy arse in front of your new friends!

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