Friday, December 6, 2013

It's Time

For the last decade and a half, especially the last 2 years, I've been travelling to explore some of my dream places.  

Now that my work schedule is comfortable and my psyche has had a chance to decompress from what feels like decades of "torture", it's time to start travelling for a larger purpose than myself.  I'll still incorporate some fun stuff but there is something I've wanted to do since I was a teenager:

To give back in a more personal way than money.  I want to experience viscerally what it is like in true adversity, not the "first world problems" that I contend with here.

Here's what's been on my reading list lately and the subject matter has made my gut feel very uneasy and has negatively affected my sleep.
  • Notes From My Travels:  Visits with Refugees in Africa, Cambodia, Pakistan and Ecuador --  Angelina Jolie
  • I Have Seen The World Begin:  Travels Through China, Cambodia and Vietnam -- Carsten Jensen
  • First They Killed My Father:  A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers -- Loung Ung
  • Cambodia Calling:  A Memoir From the Frontlines of Humanitarian Aid -- Richard Heinzl
In order to do the types of things I would like in the places that are needed, I have to get over myself. 

I have to be able to brave heat, bugs, potential disease, cultural shock, mental angst, emotional overload, safety concerns, long transit hours, disease, delays, frustration, potentially appalling levels of hygiene and public health standards, overwhelming sadness and despair...To rise above discomfort and still be productively helpful.

Will I be able to do it?  I honestly don't know but I would like to give myself an opportunity to find out.  To go beyond my current limitations and open myself to be changed forever.  I know I would have lots to offer if I can manage all the noise that comes with a more extreme environment.

Should I discover I don't have what it takes or am truly not cut out for this line of work, then I'll be satisfied with continuing to donate money.  But if there is a chance I can adapt and participate with my own hands, I will. 

This is the focus of my initial travels for 2014.  I'm seeking first to understand so haven't signed up for a solid commitment of any sort, as tempting as it is -- I don't want to let anyone down should I have a "breakdown".  I would like time to acclimatize literally and mentally/emotionally. 

It will be a challenge as I currently exist in a pretty controlled, clean, safe and manageable environment and it has taken a long time before finally feeling ready to take this on.  D will be the first to tell you that I'm not a huge fan of change in my everyday routine.  Not to mention mosquitos love me and heat and I have not traditionally gotten along too well. 

He'll also add that he simply choses to not go to places where there is so much to deal with but has been surprised with my persistence and how much I've been putting into my preparations.  I'm hoping a strong enough purpose will make all the difference.

Until then, I will allow myself to revel in the safety of a country that is at the opposite end of the spectrum.  A place where I'm free to wander at my leisure, where spirits will be high.  We're returning to Munich to bask in their Christmas Market culture.  Back in about 1 1/2 wk.


  1. Oh my! How exciting. Well done you, as the English say. I'm looking forward to hearing your decision on where you've chosen to volunteer your time. XO

    1. The intent is there, but haven't really done anything yet... : ) Unlike yourself! Kudos on a successful move and finding a job so quickly and so close! The tiramisu looks super yummy...I need a brother like that!

      The 2 countries have been chosen and flights set. First up is Phnom Penh. It would have been much easier and far less stressful (you should see my prep area and growing first aid kit at home) from a planning perspective to start with a quick 2 week build with Habitat International where everything is organized and structured for you but I really want to see if I could put my work skills to use instead. Plus I want sufficient alone time to understand the area constraints better. It's pretty easy to do a great job when you have everything you need. Far more challenging when limited resources force you to make difficult or "creative" decisions on top of all the physical challenges of the location. There is so much to learn, I'm finding it overwhelming.

  2. Interesting...and exciting. I'd like to think that mentally I am prepared to do the same thing at some point in my life, but physically, I doubt it will work out. Looking forward to your future endeavors in this area.

    1. What are your concerns physically?

      My delusion(?) is that when faced with real need, I will find myself being able to mentally override my own discomfort. Or I might discover I just am not strong enough to do so or it would take far longer to become acclimatized. As a start, I'm going to give myself just over 2 weeks in each country as a taster of what it's like and decide from there. I'm working hard to not set myself up for failure.