since posting about my fall plans to return to nepal and beyond, i’ve received quite a few questions from people about my journey. some relate to the why, while others deal with the how and what. so, because i’d like to think this next part of my life will be as much a part of yours as it will be mine (after all, we’re all in this together, are we not?), i thought i’d fill you in.
i know i’m here to help people, and it’s what i feel i do best. i’ve worked a few jobs in the past that have allowed me to do this, but sadly they were all overshadowed by red tape or foolish rules and regulations – asterisks if you will. knowing i was able to make a medicine that would help an MS patient regain the use of her hands, yet be unable to give it to her because of some bullshit insurance pre-authorization nonsense infuriated me. or being unable to simply sit and listen to an addict, a victim, or a person going through severe mental anguish due to the fact my supervisor insisted meaningless paperwork was a more effective use of my time left me furious. going to nepal in 2011 was the first avenue i’ve discovered where there were no road blocks. i was able to help others without restriction, and it felt wonderful.
another reason i’ve decided to take my life in this direction falls on a more personal level. i’m 33 years old, and feel i’ve done a lot of living in that time. i’ve lost loved ones, watched my parents get seriously ill, and witnessed terrible events that have tested my beliefs to the core. conversely, i’ve seen amazingly beautiful things, met some wonderful people, and have felt true joy. and through it all, i’ve realized this: we need to live life today. no more waiting for a better time to pursue dreams. no more planning for the future. no more somedays. i’ve always wanted to live overseas, i know how much joy helping those in need brings, and i live a lifestyle that allows me to leave. at the beginning of this year, i started to form a real plan that would finally make this happen. then, a little over a month ago, i received an email from someone who used to be so close, yet someone i haven’t spoken to in over eight years. now in her early 30’s, she told me she was sick and how much her diagnosis had put things in perspective. the next day, i made my plans to leave known. no more planning or waiting around. it sucks that sometimes it takes something terrible to finally make us take action, but that’s often the way things work.
as most of you know, my travel, personal expenses, and so on will be paid for out of my own pocket, which leads to the number one question i get: how can i afford to do this? simple. visit places that don’t cost a lot of money to visit. when i went to vietnam, i’d say over 65% of my total trip cost was airfare. had i not purchased a custom suit, ate all my meals at restaurants, or stayed in nicer hotels, i could have easily spent well under $400 the entire time i was there. that’s over two weeks vacationing in a foreign country, for everything. fast forward to this fall, the majority of my time will be spent working and volunteering, where more times than not, for your service, room and board are provided for free. there might be a small monthly fee to help with food and utilities, but that is to be expected. so while i won’t be making money, i won’t be spending much either. and the times i do need to spend my own money for travel or personal things hopefully won’t be much of an issue – transportation, lodging, and recreation throughout SE asia is pretty darn cheap, and the dollar goes an awfully long way.
most of my funds will come from savings, and i plan to sell some of my belongings before i leave to provide an extra bit of financial cushion. i’ll sublet my place and get rid of most my bills before i leave, so there shouldn’t be much financial burden to deal with while i’m away.
where and who.
my travel plans so far are this: fly to nepal and spend some time back at the orphanage i worked at in 2011. from there, i hope to travel to india with a friend who is meeting me in kathmandu. while in india, i would really like to teach english to rural monks, work with street children in the urban slums, and spend a week or two traveling around the country. from there, i might look into some programs in sri lanka. if those don’t pan out, i’ll likely make my way to burma. having recently opened it’s doors to tourism, i’m fascinated at the prospect of seeing a country that hasn’t been spoiled by western influences like fast food, pop culture, and technology. cambodia, laos, and vietnam are definitely on my list, where i hope to find work teaching and assisting in medical centers. i’d like to stay pretty rural during my travels, but might find more work in the urban centers. like an idiot, i’m currently reading a great book about a lady who spent time in bali, and of course really want to go there now as well. i guess we’ll see how far my savings go. ultimately, if things work out to plan, i’d like to continue down into south america, although i fully realize this is wishful thinking at it’s grandest level. while working there might have to be shelved for a future endeavor, one can always hope for the best, right?
i’ll be looking for places to help through word of mouth, with established programs serving as my back up plan. i’m not opposed to helping through a program, but would prefer not to do this as they cost money, much of which goes to administrative costs. i’d much rather spend a few weeks getting to know an area, meeting the locals, and hearing their struggles. this way all the funds can go directly towards helping those in need, and if that means a little more frustration and hardship along the way for me looking for places to give, so be it. i think in the end it will be worth the extra effort.
a reminder that all money raised for this trip will go directly to helping those i meet along the way. sometimes, people need the basics – food, clothing, shelter. if i find that need, i’ll try my best to fill it. if i discover people who have no access to clean water or money for education, some might go there. my promise is that 100% of what you donate will go towards improving the life of someone less fortunate. that’s my guarantee.
i’ll be accepting donations through the time i leave, and will likely keep the account open for those who wish to give after i leave. in the coming months, i’ll be helping with a few fundraisers my amazing friends have organized, and couldn’t be happier to do so. if you’re a yogi, you might want to check out the Yogathon for Nepal my wonderful instructor Kirsten has put together for my trip. or, if you would like to chat more about my trip, feel free to contact me. if you’re local, i’m always up for a cup of tea and a chat, so don’t hesitate to say hello. don’t know me? no worries. i’m sure we’ll be old friends by the time our conversation has ended should you be someone interested in helping others, travel, or drinking tea.
so that’s the long version of why i’m going. want the short version? here it is:
at this moment in my life, i truly feel the most rewarding life is one lived helping others. so that’s what i’m choosing to do.
edit – another reminder: a few people have emailed me to ask if i’ll be traveling with others or willing to have someone tag along for part of my trip. ABSOLUTELY!! in fact, i already have two people who are going to meet up with me along the way for a week or two each. not only will it be great for me to see familiar faces, you’d be able to experience something totally different than your traditional vacation. and let’s face it – exploring some far off land sure beats lying on the beach (in my opinion anyways). please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if this is something you might like to do.