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Sean Guardian has always enjoyed helping people, a personal passion that was part of the reason he ended up taking a job as a social worker after college. But every day, the illusion created by routine and environment became more apparent to him. He had always known abstractly that none of us choose the circumstances of our birth, but as he got older the reality of that fact began to set in more deeply. He didn’t choose to grow up in Southern California, in a great family that afforded him great opportunities, any more than a child in Nepal chose to be born in a village without running water or electricity. He realized that so much of a person’s life circumstances are determined by just that one, initial stroke of luck in where and to whom we are born.

Luck like Sean’s can sometimes give rise to entitlement or pettiness, but in him, the knowledge of his luck stirred a sense of duty to others. “I believe that luck comes with a fundamental obligation, and what should be a fundamental desire, to help those who aren’t so fortunate,” he said.  “The planet’s first-world citizens are so astronomically lucky, and if we can offer even the slightest bit of aid to someone, even if it comes at a personal expense, what amounts to a small gesture for us can transform a life permanently.”

One Project at a Time

With that conviction driving him, Sean set out to plan his Serving the World Tour. He began to research and ask himself what he wanted to do. He knew education and teaching were important, but he also wanted to get his hands dirty and wear himself out building something that wouldn’t exist otherwise—something physical. He didn’t mind sleeping outside, but he didn’t want to stay in any one place too long. He wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, but also enjoy the feeling of being between phases, of committing himself fully to a project, but also temporarily. He was lucky even further in having the support of his parents and friends, though his parents were worried that when he got back that his opportunities might be limited by the time off.  “At the point of leaving I hadn’t held any job for a significant amount of time, and much of what I was doing wouldn’t translate to a career back home, at least not without further education,” Sean explained. “So there was definitely a concern that I’d come home and have to start over, so to speak.  But that worry wasn’t nearly enough to give me pause.”

Sean strung together a series of volunteer assignments stretching around the world—starting in the Philippines, where his father grew up, then moving to Nepal, then India, through Southeast Asia to New Zealand, where he planned to have just enough money left to get to Sydney and…well, he’d figure out the next step after he took the twenty or more he’d already planned for himself between now and then. In January 2015, Sean left the United States, unsure of when he’d return. Unsure of a lot of things, but comfortable with that uncertainty, like a new pair of shoes that just needed breaking in.

The Continuing Tour

Today, that uncertainty no longer phases Sean. “This is something I’ll do for the rest of my life,” he told Imprint. “I can’t forget that while I can leave my tent in Nepal when I want to, or the slum in Cambodia, or the foster homes in India…those people cannot.  And so I’m not finished.  And I hope if nothing else, this experience I’ve been able to share gets Phi Kaps and people in general to consider doing the same.  In the grand scheme of a person’s lifetime, is taking one year to help others going to really slow down ‘the dream’?” he challenges. “And is it not worth it, when that one year might transform someone else’s whole life for decades into the future?” Sean urges those with a call to service in their hearts to look beyond the fear of losing out on petty comforts and short-term opportunities. Those fears can speak loudly, but the guidance they offer will only lead further into fear and limitation.