Many questions are elicited from the folks that I meet (in person or via the information super highway) about this 12-month project of traveling across the world and volunteering with various organizations and communities.
Perhaps you have questions. They might even be subconscious. Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. I can read your inner thoughts.
Here are seven big questions about my project that love to be tossed in my direction…
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What made you want to spend a year traveling?
I have always been a person who has enjoyed a bit of adventure. I turned thirty in November of 2010, and I wanted to mark the milestone with a certain message to the world – but also to myself. The message was one of renunciation of societal definitions of what it meant to be successful at this point in my life. Is it necessary that I drive a nice car? Own a home? What does it mean if I haven’t secured a life partner or started raising children and settled down into a “practical” career? I wanted to redefine the script.
My decision was guided by the simple questions – “What will be my personal story?” and “How do I want to live this life?” And as a response, this project was birthed.
Yet, as much as this international project is a personal voyage, I also view the trip as a strategic professional move where I continue to develop my photography, videography and writing skills. Where exactly will this project lead? I don’t know yet. That’s part of the adventure.
And, as I mentioned, I’ve always enjoyed a bit of adventure.
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How do you choose the countries where you visit?
To make the trip financially practical, I knew that I couldn’t randomly jump from Asia to South America and then back up to Europe and then down to Australia. There had to be an intentional path. My first step was to map a route that was practical, while enabling me to visit the six inhabited continents. I wrote out the twelve months and matched countries and/or cities that I imagined visiting along a path that would proceed the duration of a year. This was in the “daydreaming” stages that begun back in 2008.
As I began doing research into potential host organizations, the destinations have evolved due to the realities of international travel: costs of airfare, political climate of countries, feasibility of entering a nation, seasonal timing and availability of space at host organization. Also, I’ve been happily influenced by the recommendations from friends who have had personal experiences in countries and/or nonprofit organizations.
For the most part, however, the route that I envisioned many years ago has become the route I am taking now.
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Where (and how) do you find your host organizations?
I have used a variety of methods to connect with the people that host me in my travels. The most reliable method has been word of mouth. The recommendation of friends is generally trustworthy. A friend in Montreal, for example, recommended my January host organization in New Orleans.
Because part of the “fun” of my journey for my readers is that I haven’t disclosed where I will be going. Thus I’ve used other resources to locate and contact potential hosts:
WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) – An international network that matches organic farmers and permaculturists with volunteers who are willing to exchange 4-5 hours of work per day for food and accommodation. This is where I discovered my February host in Costa Rica.
helpX.org – Going beyond farms to the realm of Guesthouses, Restaurants,
workAway.info – Similar to HelpX.org, but also featuring community organizations that are able to host volunteers. I found my March organization, Horizon Peru, via this website.
couchsurfing.org – Although this network doesn’t require any “work,” I believe that implicit in the principles of couchsurfing is that of exchange. This could be as simple as telling someone about the culture of where you come from. There is a reciprocation occurring.
Part of the journey is putting these networks to the test. Are they reliable? Stay tuned as I explore.
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How are you paying for this trip?
I worked hard for two years to save for this project. Throughout 2009 and 2010, each month I would try to put $500 into my savings account. My annual income during both of these years was not exorbitant (averaging around $37 000), but I had cheap rent, limited my spending on clothes and other frivolities – such as “children.”
As the time of my departure grew near, I had a small nest just short of 10 000 USD. But I would be a foolish man to believe that this sum would last an entire year of international travel. With many organizations requesting “reciprocity donations” (i.e. fees for volunteering), the unpredictable costs of airline travel and the inevitable unforeseen costs of such a project, back in the autumn I sat down with my bank and obtained a line of credit as a necessary financial safety net.
So, yes, I will inevitably be going into debt for this trip. But the experience that I extract from this type of project will be invaluable in terms of skill development, social network expansion, language acquisition and overall deeper understanding of world realities. I have forecasted my ROI (return on investment) to be astronomical. This trip is my Master’s Degree. Except I opted for independent, self-guided studies in the nitty-gritty of twelve diverse organizations in twelve awesome destinations across the world.
All this said, if you, my faithful reader, derive value from my narrative, photo or video content, and want to reciprocate the spirit of exchange, please check out the three ways you can support me in my travels.
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Where will you live after your travels?
To be honest, I don’t know what my headspace will be after a year of international travel. I can imagine that I will want to take some time to connect with family and friends who are predominately in Victoria (BC) and Montreal (QC). I shall continue to attest to Montreal as my “soul city” – my heart blossomed there.
But who knows? I may fall madly in love with Mongolia, and opt to live there…
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Are you going to write a book about your adventure?
I would LOVE to write a book about my experiences over these twelve months of volunteering my way across the world. But first I need to simply experience them. If there is sufficient content and a conceivable narrative arc, then yes, I will certainly be writing a complete memoir, and contacting potential publishers. If you are a publisher, feel free to visit my CONTACT page.
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How big a role have readers of your blog played in your adventure?
An important segment of my project is the interactions that occur through my various social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and this blog) where I share the stories of my travels. With the daily videos, weekly “Letter Home” and hundreds of photos, those who regularly visit The Conversationalists are seeing an adventure unfold over the process of twelve months. Many readers opt to become more involved participants on this journey by leaving comments, posing questions for my monthly “Talk Back” video, becoming Facebook friends or simply by reciprocating with a financial gift.
My content is free. And you, dear reader, are free to choose what level you engage.
I am traveling for myself. I am also traveling for you.
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