Sometimes it is the most foreign places that will inspire you the most. A foreign place has inspired me to follow a career in social-impact work.
I have always had the travel bug, so learning about the world while studying civil engineering, without getting to got there, was like torture. I longed to see the places I learnt about; the ancient sites with seemingly impossible achievements, and the forests with self-sustaining ecosystems. So you can be sure that after I graduated, I was outa here! I’ve followed the line of my travels, which has taken me to remarkable places.
One of the most emotional experiences for me was visiting the Nazca lines in Peru. The story started when I was very young; I flew to London, and at some point, I looked out the plane and saw strange markings in the desert. On the return flight, I looked for the lines again but didn’t see them. When I got home, I googled ‘strange lines in the desert’, and the search results came up with the Nazca Lines. What are the Nazca Lines? The Nazca Lines are kilometre long patterns carved into the rocky desert floor in Peru, that closely resemble animals, but there are other strange symbols too. This was done in a tough place where only 6mm of rain falls per year – so for people sustain themselves long enough to construct these lines, is a human achievement of note. I knew they couldn’t have been the lines that I saw from the plane, but the Nazca Lines captured me and I dreamed of the day I would go to Peru and see the lines for myself. I even had it as my PC background for years, to encourage me to live my dreams.
Then at the end of last year I got my chance. I travelled to Nazca and arrived there at night – not seeing much of the area, so the mystery deepened. The next morning I had breakfast then boarded a scenic flight over the Nazca Lines – because the lines are best viewed from the air. Although I really enjoyed seeing the Nazca Lines from the air, I didn’t soak it in because my friend next to me was sick on the plane. I didn’t really get to grasp the purpose of the lines.
However, later in the day, I visited a Nazca museum where, without any sickness, I got to see some pottery and other everyday objects from the Nazca people. It even included a figurine of a lady giving birth, which was rather graphic. The objects showed to me that the Nazca civilization were just ordinary people. I was happy with seeing the artefacts, but was not happy with some of the explanations that the guide gave me because there were just too many holes.
On the way back from the museum, we stopped at a rock outcrop where we could walk around, and look at long lines in all directions. This rock outcrop that I was standing on, had a lot of significance to the Nazca people because all lines pointed to right here. A load of questions hit me: Why this outcrop? Why go through the effort of carving the lines? What are the lines representing? How did they get the geometrics right? What happened to the people?
When I was leaving the outcrop, a flood of emotion hit me and I started crying. My experience on the way to London, all those years ago, was connected to this moment. I got to live my childhood dream because I was determined to make it happen. I felt the energy of this place and realised why they choose this rock…
It didn’t matter what the symbols depicted – because to me, they represent a great human ability. They represent ordinary people coming together, in the harshest of conditions, and putting in the effort into whatever they believed in. This is an extraordinary ability that we humans possess, but forget about sometimes.
I believe that we need to look out for each other, and I believe that many people know that working together is what makes humans successful. I believe there are organizations trying to do this, without asking anything in return.
In the coming years I aim to join a non-profit organization working to help those people in society who play the most fundamental role – farmers. I would like to bring my engineering knowledge of ecosystems to farms, to make farms more resilient to climate change. I would like to bring people together, in difficult conditions, to achieve what they believe in. And I think we can achieve some incredible things.
Travelling has given me my line, and it leads to an incredible outcrop. I hope yours does too.