07/16/2012 09:16 am ET | Updated Sep 15, 2012

It's Time to Pop Out of the Bubble

Dublin, where I live, has been nicknamed the "Dublin Bubble." Here, people live in their upper middle class houses with their upper middle class families. The children go to upper middle class schools and the parents work at upper middle class jobs. A lot of kids I go to school with think that people who don't have a smart phone are "poor;" they think that those that buy any of their clothes for under $20 are "grungy." Yes, Dublin is a nice place to live, but it can seem too nice. I've lived here for 12 years and, if I'm being honest, it's starting to drive me crazy. My solution? I decided to go on my first mission trip for two weeks.

The only time I had ever been away from home without my parents was at summer camp, and that was only an hour away for six days. On this trip, we had to sleep on church floors in cities such as New York City, Philadelphia, the Outer Banks and Knoxville; for a Dublin girl, this definitely seemed like a challenge. However, by the time it was all said and done, I had the time of my life. I met so many new people, traveled to different places, and encountered experiences that will remain in my head forever. How did I do it? I stepped outside of my comfort zone and finally got my feet wet in the world outside of the bubble.

For example, I thought I had seen what poverty looks like, but I was sorely mistaken. At the Hoboken Shelter in New Jersey, there were many who thought it was a miracle that I was planning on graduating from high school. They wore tattered clothes and many had not had the opportunity to brush their hair or teeth for a few days. Unlike the many that put on blinders when they see people like this, I sat down and actually got to talk to them. I saw a sparkle in their eyes that I had never seen before in another person. It brought each of them such joy just to be recognized as a person -- a person with a heart, a soul and a story to tell. Many of their faces still stick in my mind. I see Eric, a man who said his poor decisions in high school now bring him to the soup kitchen every day. I see a man I met who was in the Marines, but was discharged after getting involved in a fight and quickly fell into poverty. And I see the volunteers that pick these people up and never think to let them go. Every single one of them is a hero to me.

There are many places like Dublin and many people who live in cities like it. I'm not saying to go move a mountain, or find Atlantis, or end world hunger; I ask that people just step outside of their bubbles, if only for a week or even just a day. Believe it or not, there is a world outside of the Dublins in this country. There are places where children push and shove just to get a sliver of food to eat. There are beaches so quiet all you can hear are the waves crashing and kissing the sand. There are cities that bustle with professionals ready to take on the world each day. There are forests untouched by the long arms of technology, where there exists only an ocean of evergreens. Sure, even after an experience outside of the bubble, many will choose to go back to their iPads and cappuccinos, and I don't blame them. Me? I see the world at my fingertips. I want to taste it, breathe it in, and let it live in me. Though there are many troubles in this mixed-up world, and I would rather learn to understand them than be sheltered from them. So come on world, give me all you got.