Here’s the thing: Living the American Dream is expensive.
If your income is unpredictable or fixed, as it is for self-employed and retired Americans like my husband Hank and me, the financial weight of home ownership and a rising cost-of-living can feel overwhelming and render travel an unaffordable luxury you once enjoyed.
I’m going to be honest with you: I would have never guessed that at the age of fifty I’d be a nomad.
Here’s the thing: I’m a homebody at heart and up until a few years ago I viewed the contentment of home and the thrill of exploration as mutually exclusive destinations.
Then my husband, Hank, and I set off on a multi-year journey with a vague plan of temporarily inhabiting Latin America and the adventure opened my eyes and heart to new truths about myself and the world around me.
CONSERVATION TRAVEL: Discover the Story of Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest with Canadian Geographic and Maple Leaf Adventures
For me, the ideal adventure not only introduces me to places of wild beauty - its landscapes, wildlife, cultures and history- but also plays a role in protecting and sustaining it for future generations.
So I was thrilled when Maureen Gordon, co-owner of Maple Leaf Adventures, told me that they had added a second sailing vessel to accommodate interest in an upcoming collaborative conservation expedition with Canadian Geographic into British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, a vast protected area currently under the environmental threat of a controversial pipeline proposal.
Whether I’m traveling or running errands, I carry a leather Moleskine journal for jotting down notes, dialogue and observations. It’s a journalist’s habit that hasn’t yet yielded to my otherwise digital lifestyle.
But there’s an art to keeping the type of journal that can provide a transformative lens through which you can learn to see yourself with greater awareness.
I recently teamed with career and life design consultant Kendall Dudley to teach a storytelling workshop and when he told me he was leading a 12-day Morocco Journaling & Life Design Adventure (October 8-19, 2014), I was immediately intrigued and eager to share.
Are you looking for a meaningful travel experience that offers the opportunity to make a real difference in the world? Volunteer trips can create lasting impact and greatly enrich the lives of those involved.
To be absolutely honest though, I’m not an across-the-board supporter of voluntourism. In my most cynical moments, I imagine the heartache of orphans repeatedly left behind by well meaning visitors, jobs performed by vacationers that might have been a day’s wages for a local in need, or disreputable organizations profiting from the misfortune of others.
But I’ve also experienced firsthand the immense joy of human connection and witnessed the magic that occurs when people of different nationalities come together in support of one another.
To help you find a volunteer travel trip that gives back, here are three volunteer experiences by adventure travel providers that I trust and respect.
1.) Haiti Volunteer Experience with Elevate Destinations
This July, Elevate is partnering with the Edem Foundation – a non-profit supporting the education of children in Haiti and the development of economic activities in Haiti by working with local communities – to provide a Children and Youth Leadership Workshop. Activities and lessons are informed by the skills of the volunteers and can be anything from kids’ yoga to poetry reading and writing.
Bridget Besaw is one of those enviable women who are blessed with immense talent, a contagious passion, and the entrepreneurial acumen to transform that into a livelihood that sustains her and the planet she cares so deeply for. Now she’s putting those abilities to good use by pioneering a relatively young genre of photography that brings visual storytelling to environmental organizations and mentoring a new generation of image-makers in the art and profession of creating high-impact conservation media.
Her abilities were never more evident than when I traveled to the remote wilds of southern Chile last year to learn and record the story of Patagonia conservation as a participant in one of her Leica Akademie photography workshops.
As an avid adventurer and outdoor photographer, I joined the workshop for the sheer visual promise of the Patagonia landscape, people and culture, but returned with far more than memorable images. The experience not only expanded my knowledge and how I perceive the world, but also how I perceive myself and my abilities.
I managed to catch up with her recently and asked her to share a bit about her work and upcoming photography workshops.