(Rafa): Just before we get to Paula´s incredible story let me fill you in on how I actually met her.
A couple of months ago I had my, probably, last family trip to Scotland. I´ve written a bit about it. Just a summary: simple but tasty food, cows with emo haircuts, friendly people(when you could understand them) and some of the most breath taking sights I´ve ever seen…!
I met Paula at a Sandiman´s New Europe Free Tour. She was following the tour to learn the last few things she had to know to be able to be a guide herself. I heard her exchange some words with somebody about Poland, being a tour guide and living abroad and there I went.
A few moments later we started chatting and soon enough we exchanged information, ideas and our email. This is just one of the results. She might have found me a job opportunity as well. What can I say…? Well…Thanks for writing for the blog Paula!! 😉
Hello, and thanks again for the invitation to write here, Rafa!
My name is Paulina Stachnik, I’m a student, a writer, and—perhaps most importantly—a nomad. I was born in Stalowa Wola, Poland. It’s a small city, which translates to “Steel Will,” and whose namesake has played a key role in my life.
My earliest memories took place in Krakow, where I bopped around between preschools before my parents decided to relocate to a mystical place: America. Communism had just ended, and Poland’s future was uncertain. My father, an idealist, wanted out—so he moved my mom, brother and I to a small town fifty miles north of New York City. The first day of school was entertaining. My vocabulary consisted of three words: I love you. Needless to say, I quickly made friends.
I grew up hopping back and forth across the Atlantic, spending summers with my kin in the motherland—eating lots of kielbasa, sneaking apples from neighbors’ trees, and getting up to mischief. I’d come back to the States with tales of a seemingly wild place—especially since life in suburbia revolved around a routine of minivans and after-school specials. All along, people on both continents loved to ask: “Where do you feel most at home?” I didn’t have an answer, I still don’t.
Once I got to college, at Loyola University Maryland, I ditched my plans of becoming a doctor (the sight of blood, it turned out, made me pale) and re-focused on international affairs. I pursued a degree in Global Studies, Writing, and Political Science and was fortunate enough to study abroad in Thailand, the Czech Republic, and India.
Soon, travelling became an obsession. I was fascinated with the fact that with every new stamp on my passport, my perception of the world—and of what it meant to be a part of it—would expand. Evolve. International boundaries became optical illusions: constantly shifting and changing. I wanted to understand that flux—and to play an active role in it.
A week after graduation, I moved to Southeast Asia. I was going back to Bangkok, but with a different purpose. I would be a teacher. I would be a student. I wanted to learn everything I could about its layered culture, to immerse myself in the delicate beauty of Buddhism, and to gain an understanding of Thailand from a Thai perspective.
I worked for the next year at the most prestigious private school in the country, St. Gabriel’s College. Manicured moms in Jaguars and Porsches dropped off their sons every morning; some destined to become Thailand’s future Prime Ministers. But it didn’t take long for the glossy surface to show its cracks. I taught high school writing, with a microphone, to classrooms packed with 60 boys, known by numbers—most with only an elementary grasp on English. Rote memorization was the most valued teaching tool. Cheating was rampant. And everyone passed.
I never thought I’d become a teacher, but something clicked that year. Having an education where critical thinking, curiosity, and imagination are encouraged is a rare gift in the world. Having someone believe in you as an individual, and help you foster your potential, is even more rare.
I’m currently working towards my post-graduate degree in International Development at the University of Edinburgh. This winter break, I’m going to Ghana to work as a teacher in a rural community. My goal is to get my hands dirty; to see how these theories, laid out so nicely in our textbooks, play out in the real world. After graduation, I want to work for the United Nations before starting my own NGO, focusing on international education consultancy.
My family, who still see home as one place, as roots, question my motives. Why couldn’t I have become a lawyer instead? But passion is invaluable. Finding—and following—that internal voice is what makes the world beat. I don’t know where exactly mine will lead yet—but I now know it’s the world that’s my home, not just a part of it. And you have to take care of your home.
What pushes me? Potential. I see it everywhere: in people, in problems, in myself.
The bravest people are the ones who feel fear, then act anyway. It sounds so simple, and so difficult. Each us already knows what makes us tick. It’s that voice, often a whisper, that’s sparked by a powerful internal force: passion. It means following you heart. Taking risks. Dedicating. Blind hope that it will all come together. The trust–in yourself, in the Universe–that it’s worth flighting for.
Buddhism teaches that reality is your construction. Businessmen praise the Law of Attraction. Whatever label suits you, practice it. Keep the end in mind, then take action everyday.
Even when it’s a bit scary.
Especially when it’s a bit scary.