I had always been interested in volunteering abroad and helping those less fortunate than myself. So, when the opportunity arose to travel to Mali, Africa and contribute to building a school for the local children, I jumped on it.
Before I knew it, I was on a plane headed for Bamako, the capital of Mali. The overwhelming heat and unfamiliar culture was almost intimidating, but I was so excited to work on this project and make a difference in these children's lives.
Every day we worked hard under the scorching sun, mixing cement and laying bricks. But when the sun set, something magical happened. Beautiful drum circles would happen every night, lit up with colorful lanterns and filled with locals dancing and singing.
The rhythm and melody of the drums filled me with an indescribable feeling. I joined in, learning to beat the drums alongside these locals, who were so passionate about their music. I found myself completely wrapped up in the joy and unity of the experience.
My time in Mali was coming to an end, but my passion for music had just begun. As soon as I returned home, I bought myself a guitar and started teaching myself how to play. With the help of some friends, I started a band playing the music I had been inspired by on my journey.
Photo: Katie Lewellyn
We played countless gigs and eventually built up a small following. As our music career took off, we started touring around the country, sharing our love of music with anyone who would listen.
Looking back, I never would have thought that my journey to Mali would eventually lead me to pursue my passion for music. But that's the beauty of travel and new experiences - you never know what you might discover about yourself.
Now, every time I pick up my guitar, I remember that unforgettable journey to Mali, the music, and the magic that inspired me to pursue my dreams.