More Than A Vacation

Cecilia Li travels with Rustic Pathways to help others and returns home with a changed life. Interview by Ariana Gainer, Kiwanis International, September 2015.

Building in Fiji (Photo: Rustic Pathways).

Fiji is a gorgeous island in the South Pacific. It’s a popular location for destination weddings, honeymoons, and beach vacations. But that’s not why Cecilia Li went. She went because there was work to be done. Li traveled with Rustic Pathways, a Key Club partner that offers high school students travel and service opportunities. Li spent her time in Fiji doing construction, teaching English, and farming. Key Club magazine asked Li a few questions about her experience and discovered her most significant takeaway from the trip: the friendships she made there will last a lifetime.

KCM: What impacted you most during your trip?

CL: I think the fact that I spent two weeks with no running water or electricity really helped me realize how luxurious my life at home is. And I realized that you don’t need much to be happy. The Fijians seem a lot happier than people I’m around back home. Simple living is happy living.

What did you have the most fun doing, and what were your most and least favorite parts about the trip?

Playing with children in Fiji (Photo: Rustic Pathways).

I think my favorite part of the trip would be being with the children. They’re just so full of life and have so little, yet seem so much happier. It really gave me perspective. My least favorite part of the trip would be the bugs. They drove me insane. They were huge, and I couldn’t escape them.

What most surprised you — about yourself and also about Fiji?

That there were luxury tourist spots on islands right next to villages living in poverty really surprised me the most. The difference in quality of living was shocking.

Do you think it’s important for other Key Clubbers to take advantage of experiences like this? Why?

I think these experiences are truly life-changing for all who participate. And since Key Club is all about creating character and serving the community, I think it is important for them to experience something like this.

What is the biggest reward you noticed from the service you performed?

I think the biggest reward was the smiles from the locals. (Local resident) Rex worked with us on the farm, and every night he would make us laugh. And in return we helped out with (harvesting) the taro (plants whose stems and leaves are used as vegetables). And just knowing he was happy was all that I needed.

Do you think it’s important for volunteers to step outside of their local mindset to help people in other cities, states and even countries? What’s the benefit of doing that?

I do think this is important because helping communities that aren’t your own really lets you experience a lot of different things, be it different kinds of service or culture.

For information about how you can participate in a trip like Li’s, visit

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