Harder than it looks

Hello everyone! My name is Katherine Tilbury and I am one of the Peter Lougheed Scholars from Forum 1B (Buzz!). I am 21 years old, and up until this point in my life I would introduce myself by saying that “I am a 21-year-old student, musician and teacher.” I currently reside in Edmonton, Alberta and attend the University of Alberta where I spend most of my days studying piano in a Bachelor of Music Degree program as well as am part of the Peter Lougheed Leadership College (the amazing organization who gifted me the grant for this trip!). I also have an amazing time teaching piano and just generally enjoying life at Sherwood Park School of Music. However, as of next Tuesday (June 26th) I will be able to say that I am a Global Volunteer in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It seems to me that many of the areas in my life have been preparing me for this opportunity. An opportunity to go all the way across the world and share my gifts, passion and talents with people who I have yet to meet; people whose language I cannot understand and whose culture I have yet to experience. Yet, as I prepare to leave, it seems to me like it is already be harder than it looks.

~I have learned all this to know, that I, indeed, know nothing. ~

In preparing to embark on this trip, I had to take an International Missions course through the lovely missions’ coaches in the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC). During this said course, I learned a lot about myself, about what my worldviews are and a few things I never thought about before going. These things included culture shock, dealing with conflict on the field with your team, and understanding that at the end of the day it is better to go in with an attitude of knowing nothing rather than an attitude of understanding it all. At least this was encouraging! In all fairness, I have never been on a flight overseas before – another reminder that Canada is a massive country. My family enjoyed singing Bee-Gees and “stayin’ alive” all the way through the mountains on a family road trip rather than taking a plane! I had no idea how much work was involved in booking flights, booking travel insurance (that was a nightmare), calculating all of the monthly costs of general living such as car insurance and gym pass and unlocking my phone. Not to mention all of the forms to fill out, contacting family and friends, finishing recitals at work, registering for classes in the fall and saying goodbye’s. Honestly, at the beginning of last week it seemed like the list was endless! Just writing these few sentences makes me tense all over again! I have never felt so disorganized and organized at the same time before. I probably have, still, at least three lists in 3 different places to try to remember everything.

For all of you who have been on international volunteer missions, or even international exchanges and trips you all know what I am talking about, I’m sure.

Does anyone have any tips for those who are going to travel that you would like to share below in the comments?

I have a few tips of my own:

  • Listen to those who have gone before – my lovely Opa (grandfather) immediately went out and bought me an electrical converter which will save my drained batteries for the entire trip
  • Every night write down your to-do list before you even try to sleep – believe me, you won’t be sleeping if you don’t write it down
  • Check all the options and read/re-read before you purchase – with my traveler’s insurance I realized after purchasing that some of the fine print excluded me from the coverage and had to go back (waste of time!)
  • Listen to and cherish a good pharmacist! – travel shots are a hassle, but are safety and peace of mind. Listen and value a pharmacist that takes the time and effort to ensure your safety and comfort
  • Write down questions or new to-do list items that you have when you think of them – right away on your phone or in a little notebook. If you are as busy as me, you will think of them at 2 am and it is better to just write it down and remember
  • De-stress – remember that you are only human and can only get so much done in one day.

Although it seemed like there was no end to the duties, the anticipation helped guide me through the tasks at hand. Every time that I had a second to stop and think, I would remember that when I began planning this trip a few months ago, I thought this part was the easy part. I thought the “Stretch” part of the experience would start when my feet hit the ground in Cambodia. Thinking: that is where I will be learning the most about myself as a human, about culture, about interacting with people and just basically in general. Need I say? I was wrong.

I have begun to think that if you can get through the preparation for a trip like this, you will be able to get through the trip itself. That being said, the most difficult part isn’t the looming list; it is figuring out how to balance the time you have throughout the week.


I will just leave you with the challenge to live each day intentionally this week and create a good life balance – whether you are leaving for a trip or just living each day. The time is precious! Love yourself and others, be generous and always: make time to have a coffee.


A very blessed-and-stressed



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