Why an Alternative Service Break Was One of the Best Experiences of My Life

During my Fall 2016 semester at Boston University, I was starting to think about where to go for spring break. I went home freshman year, which was nice, but I wanted to go somewhere new and maybe even relaxing. My mind immediately went somewhere tropical, for example, Florida, Southern California, Dominican Republic, or CANCUN. Where did I end up, you might ask? In Kentucky.

Yep, that’s right. You read that correctly. I traveled to Kentucky for my spring break. After learning that a lot of my friends were going on service breaks, I decided to try it myself, so I signed up through the Community Service Center at BU. Yes, I was a little jealous to see my friends after their trips to the tropics, but I wouldn’t change my experience for the world. I made new friends and memories that I will cherish for a long, long time.

After waking up at 4:30 AM, we drove 19 hours in a glamorous and roomy twelve-person van (did you catch the sarcasm?), with stops for meals. This van ride, although at times uncomfortable (sleeping while sitting up is NOT the move), caused us to get to start to get to know each other. Some of the people on the trip already knew each other. I had met four of the people before, in fact, one of my coordinators was already one of my best friends at BU. Nevertheless, I was still extremely nervous to spend a week in a new place with people I didn’t know.

Once we got to Kentucky, we settled into our home for the week by laying out our sleeping bags in the multipurpose room of the church we were staying in and going right to sleep. But of course, we had to B the Ts first. (B the Ts means “brush the teeth”).

The next day, we woke up in our new place. Each morning when I wake up in Boston, I am surrounded by tall buildings and many different people. In Glasgow, Kentucky, there are neighborhoods and a small downtown area. The population size is two thousand less than the size of BU. On our drives through the area, we saw vast landscapes of green, comprised mostly of farms. With only living in the suburbs and the city, this was an entirely new experience for me.

Majority of our service was completed in Horse Cave, Kentucky, which was about 20 minutes away from where we were staying. Horse Cave is a one-stoplight town with around 2,000 people. Even though there aren’t that many people, there is a lot of love. Everyone in the town seemed to know each other and welcomed us with warm smiles. We worked at the Hidden River Cave and American Cave Museum with the delightful Peggy and her team. We did some small odd jobs on days where it rained, but mostly cleaned up sinkholes around the area, and went caving. Caving was entirely new to me because there’s nothing really like that back home or at school.

We did two types of caving: on and off trail. First and foremost, I was scared of the idea of caving. I am a bit claustrophobic and am scared of the dark (okay maybe I’m still a child). However, I wanted to challenge myself with new, but somewhat frightening experiences. We went to three different caves throughout the week: Hidden River, Mammoth Cave, and Diamond Caverns. Okay guys, caves are a lot bigger than I expected, so the whole claustrophobic thing wasn’t an issue until we went on-trail caving. We did have lights, which was good until everyone insisted that we go PITCH BLACK by turning all of our lights off, causing me to grab and hold on to the person next to me. Otherwise, I was comfortable with just my headlight. You can see how much history the caves hold and it’s so interesting to hear their stories. Also side note: when we were in Mammoth Cave (around 200 feet below the ground’s surface), there was a bathroom in the cave?! Isn’t that bizarre! We were also able to see cool cave formations and it was quite an experience.

After we went into Mammoth Cave, we went horseback riding. I had never been and was nervous that my horse would knock me off, but it was such a great end to an amazing day. The sun set during our ride, so it was very scenic. Although my horse POOPED while walking on the trail, it was still one of my favorite parts of the trip. Thanks Comet!!!!

We were fortunate enough to go to Nashville one evening, and it was one of the best road trips I’ve ever taken. We filled the hour-and-a-half drive with some quality jams and we’re all super excited to head to a big city. We visited the beautiful Parthenon and ate hot chicken at Whiskey Kitchen (not a big spicy food person but apparently it’s a must-have). Afterwards, we went to the Whitehorse Saloon for a light dancing lesson.

Line dancing was SO FUN and very tiring because it is quite the workout. I personally loved it and found that it was pretty easy to get the hang of! You can line dance to any song if you get the beat right–we even danced to Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream”. We met up with another ASB group who was in Nashville for the week and got to ~dance the night away~ with them. We walked around, ate ice cream and candy apples, and then got caught in the rain. The SEC basketball tournament was happening in Nashville, so the city was alive. Overall, it is one of my favorite nights that I’ve ever had.

On the last day, we got down ‘n dirty. We cleaned up a sinkhole, got some free lunch thanks to a local restaurant, and then went off-trail caving for three hours. Needless to say, it was very messy. Off-trail caving involves a lot of dust and mud, so none of us came out of that experience clean. We crawled (even rolled) in small spaces, climbed, and sometimes slipped on the muddy hills, but it was a really cool learning experience.

After we cleaned up a little, Peggy invited us over to her house for a night of dinner and college basketball. Getting a chance to relax in someone’s home was delightful. Peggy made us nachos, ordered pizza for dinner, and even had ice cream for dessert. Peggy’s house was LIT. She had ping pong, a pool table, and one of those mini basketball games. Overall, the night was great–Duke even beat UNC in the semifinals of the ACC Championship!!!

Leaving the next morning was difficult because we knew we had to wake up at 4:30 and drive all day. I was also sad to see this great week end. We spent the night in Westchester, NY, thanks to a lovely BU host family for taking 10 strangers in. That night, we listed some of our favorite memories of the trip, which I’ll have written down in my journal forever. From the biggest inside jokes to the smallest moments, we laugh at all of them.

I became close with people I might have never met in college. Our group snapchat is still used daily and we had a reunion this past weekend and it felt like we had never left our room in the church in Kentucky. We ate some snacks and laughed about the funny times from this trip. I didn’t want to leave because I was too happy to be with these people again. I know that I have 9 new friends that I can rely on if I need them at a school that can sometimes feel too big.

I highly recommend anyone to take a trip like this if they have the opportunity. Although I was nervous at times, being in a new place with new people, I will look back fondly on this trip. It’s important to go outside of your comfort zone and spend time learning about a new place and the issues that it may face while trying to help the community. Sure, I sacrificed a fun spring break in a tropical place, but I’m happy I did because it helped me grow. Thank you to the ASB Horse Cave Trip for loving and accepting me. I love you all.

-Thanks for livin’ life with Annie!

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