Back to Mexico: Dream Bigger
Lately I’m seeing life come full circle, and I'm being challenged to dream bigger. Though some days life can feel tousled and uncertain, on many other days I am in awe of the path that I get to live.
In January 2000, I set out on a college interterm missions trip with a group from my school, Tabor College. I was a sophomore, at the peak of my college “bubble” days, before the real adult world would start to rule my life. I had traveled as far as the East and West coasts so far in my journeys.
We set off on a big adventure to Mexico City. By van and then Greyhound bus (not recommended on today’s Mexican highways). It was a big step with big unknowns for me. Traveling far away from home, staying in a host home, working together with the team, trying to learn a new culture.
Looking back now, I can see that this trip was a turning point in my life. I had been attracted to missions and global causes before, but this trip sparked a passion that is still growing.
This was my first introduction to the developing world, to global poverty, to the lives of people in slums.
I found out I loved the hospitality and culture of Mexico, and the beauty of the Spanish language.
I tried new foods and ate my first authentic tacos (a passion I still follow at home as well as abroad 😉).
I deepened friendships that remain today some favorite people in my life.
I started noticing that compassion might lead me to more action. I didn’t know it at the time, but this spark later developed into a passion for Fair Trade.
New Sparks and Dream Bigger
Twenty years later, some new sparks have come.
[I remember being appalled at people who could gloss over TWENTY YEARS of time. That is ridiculous. But here we are.]
Based on my passion for Fair Trade, I have started Alegria to get more fair options into the hands of my Wichita community, and to ask people to think more about who makes our goods.
I have been to Tanzania, Uganda, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and more cities in Mexico from 2004-2017. I’ve seen the impact of social enterprises and development programs in those communities. I’ve worked on my Spanish and asked people directly, “Does Fair Trade matter in your life?” Every single one says yes.
This stuff matters. And I want to do more travel and tell more stories of Fair Trade artisans and farmers, and to advance the global movement for economic justice as a whole.
As I perused some trip ideas last fall, I was discouraged because travel ideas and dreams weren’t seeming to come together. I miss international travel and wanted to make it work. I could not find trips that fit my goals for timeline, price, or group availability.
But one magical day, I came across Moving Worlds Institute – a six-month fellowship cohort program with online training, mentoring, and networking for social impact leaders. Including a trip for the kickoff, and an experteering trip to volunteer skills for a social enterprise.
It felt like the world around me stopped. I actually cried because this idea seemed so perfect for me, and because I felt this message tug at my heart: dream bigger.
I don’t make big claims about God’s interactions with us, but this time the internal guidance was pretty hard to deny. I had been dreaming my dreams to take a one-time trip, but there is SO much more available – so much more impact to consider for my business/career, and so much more to learn about how I can be a part of God’s mission for justice in the world.
I guess that must be my theme for the year. I didn’t even know it until I wrote this down right now.
The world of global development holds so much more opportunity for change than I ever thought possible. And I get to go see what’s out there. I have been accepted into Moving Worlds, the logistics and fees have been arranged, and I am setting aside time to learn and treat this like online grad school.
I get to learn from and with others in social enterprises, who are doing incredible work around the world. I get to grow with other professionals who are looking for ways to impact the world more for good too.
But wait – there’s more.
Full-Circle Back to Mexico
This month exactly twenty years later, I go international again. I dust off my passport and work on my packing skills.
The Moving Worlds cohorts start at different kickoff sites on different dates. Mine happens to meet in Mexico City. As a major hub for international business and social impact, this spot is where we start.
And I almost cried again when I realized how full-circle this is for my life. I get to go back. 2000 to 2020, and life has been so hard and beautiful and unexpected in that time.
Dream bigger. Dreams can be hard, and heartbreaking, and wild. They won’t necessarily work at all like I expect. Until recently in life, that was a risk I was not very willing to take. With some pretty distant hindsight, I’m so grateful that I took that first risk and traveled to Mexico in 2000.
Twenty years ago this month, Mexico City is where it all began. And it’s where new adventures are beginning again.
Thanks for joining the journey! Follow along here to see what I learn on this trip, during the six-month training, and beyond.
Katy Munden Penner is our Founder and Content Strategist. She loves to eat outdoors, travel and meet Fair Trade artisans, and run occasional 10k races.