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Travel Writing

Travel Writing (43)

Articles from The Volunteer Bay users about Travel Writing. 

The Don'ts of Being A Global Citizen

A global citizen is a person who sees themselves as a member of the 'global community' rather than a specific place or nation. No matter where they are in the world, they recognize that their actions and words have an influence and value. Through the use of technology, the internet, advocacy and simple actions, a global citizen works to achieve sustainability.

1) Don't stand by old allegiances forever.

Just like we grow apart from some friends, we might find ourselves losing what we thought was our foundation.

As a Lithuanian sea scout, one of my lifetime heroes has been Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the scouting movement and First Chief Scout of Boy Scouts of America (BSA). He taught us to question. He gave us a creed to live by: a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

I was angered as an atheist teenager when I was told that an atheist can not be a true scout. I let it go. As an adult I learn BSA was kicking out gay scout leaders- I stuck up my middle finger.

Discrimination is never okay. Don't let your loved ones (in my case the scouts) get away with it. Silence can be dangerous.

2) Don't- “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Following local customs in certain situations is not always advisable:

  • Throw your trash out the window if that's what you see everyone do in Thailand.
  • Refuse to let a cousin through your front door because she is of a lower caste in Nepal.
  • Catcall teenage girls in a drive-by in Ecuador.
  • Drunkenly piss in the alley during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

There is possibly no worse advice if you want to live your life as a Global Citizen.

3) Don't forget who you are.

It is true- when you are a global citizen you can feel comfortable in any situation, environment, or culture in the world. However, that does not mean you have to become another person. Respecting other cultures, and showing respect to your own is key.

Its easy to fall in love with an exotic place. Its the equivalent to love at first sight. While loving a place for months or years is equivalent to a long-term relationship. Sooner or later you'll find out about all those little ticks that bother you. They'll fester in you, and suddenly you're blabbing all about it. You've become that person who trashes your significant other behind their back. Ew.

4) Don't keep your mouth shut.

Ask questions on why something is the way it is. Try to get answers. Perhaps you'll learn something new, or you'll challenge someone to question why they think the way they think.

Women's issues are important to me. If someone calls a woman a whore or a baby-killer, its physically impossible for me to keep my mouth shut. I know I might not change their mind, but at least I'm defending someone who might not have a voice at the moment.

Call for reason and logic. If all else fails, use the most important tool of all: EMPATHY.

Learning How to Blow Darts in the Amazon

When you volunteer abroad working is part of the package, but so is learning about cool new cultural aspects. For instance, practicing blowing darts in the Amazon with a cerbatana, a nearly 10 foot blowing tube.

Our guide demonstrated it to us first. His fast paced blow slammed into the wooden owl target. Then it was our turn. Gradually, through practice you come closer and then hit your target, each blow with a little more force.


You imagine yourself, in another life, stooped up in a tree. Some red ants are biting you, but you laugh at their bites. You're target approaches. It's the person from the oil company. He's setting an explosive trap to drive your people from the area. One maimed your cousin's child last week. You tell yourself Not this time. Bam. Hits him straight in the neck.

Or perhaps you just think learning a new skill like blowing darts is really cool without all the crazy imagination stuff. Afterwards, you return to your volunteer work centered at a biological base in the Amazon to learn more why the conservation of the this wild place is so important.

Later on, you realize that all those things you thought were scary in the jungle aren't terrifying at all. When you return home, your dreams are filled of waxy leaves, tiny ants that taste like lemons, parrots chattering in the early morning hours. You dream to hear the hoot of the monkeys again and the singing bugs waking up in the middle of the night.


The 10 Year Anniversary Of The Tsunami

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of the tsunami that swept across 14 Asian nations killing over 200,000 people. Afterwards, thousands of volunteers dedicated their time to help rescue victims, salvage refuge, and rebuild entire communities. NGO's formed to help orphaned children. Hundreds of schools were rebuilt with better facilities. People began to understand why the reforestation of once destroyed mangroves was so important, since mangroves offer natural protection against unforeseen elements like tsunamis and monsoons.

Through unspeakable loss, good things did come to surface. Despite that, thousands still mourn and remember the nightmare that occurred ten years ago. To see more images and commemorative vigils, check out this link from the BBC here.

Lies We Tell Ourselves When Saving For Travel

Travel is money.

Unless you're a gypsy.

Budgeting and me have never been best friends. Last weekend, in hopes of saving a bit, I opted out of a yoga class to work instead. Conclusion: Rather than taking that hour to breathe and relax my mind and body, I nearly had a breakdown.

When we neglect one facet of our lives, the rest can fall to chaos. Balance is key in work, relationship, body, and travel. While traveling its easy to burn out. Our diets differ, routines change, sometimes exercise is tougher to get to. And we're burning through money. Saving for travel or to join a volunteer project abroad can seem like a difficult feat, but its something we need to do.

Its become a tradition that when I leave Chicago for an extended time abroad I always have a 'going away dinner' with my girlfriends. According to Matt Hershberger, in 4 Lies You Tell Yourself While Saving For Travel, this habit of mine is quite contradictory of how I should be handling my money. That final $11 wheat beer should have been replaced by six-pack at a friends house. Its been one of the better points on saving money for travel I've read in awhile. Have a look yourself.

Study Says Even The Unkind Can Learn To Be Kind

For some compassion comes easy. My mom once, years ago, complained to me while I am amazingly compassionate with animals and those in need, I could be aloof towards her. It was shocking.

But she was right. Like many, I found there was a delicate balance when dealing with family. We know all their ticks, and can use them at our advantage or not. The latter would demonstrate, practicing kindness. It would demonstrate understanding. Or as my favorite Buddhist nun, Sister Supranee, once told me at a 10 days in silence meditation retreat, “Think love and kindness.”

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found that kindness is in fact teachable. Those mean people in your life actually have the ability to change. Practicing the Buddhist art of love and kindness meditation over listening to cognitive reappraisal proved to be significantly more successful in helping subjects experience empathy toward their loved ones and complete strangers. Read more about it here from the Learning Mind.

The world needs a lot more kindness floating around. If you find yourself lacking it, why not start your love and kindness training.

Announcing 2014 Nat Geo Photo Contest Winners

Its that time of the year again when National Geographic unveils its winners in this year's photography contests. My favorite was from the nature category (it usually is). I actually have this photo in my rotation of changing photos for my desktop background. Check out the other winning photos here. Perhaps they'll serve as the inspiration for planning your next vacation or volunteering trip abroad. At the very least you'll get some cool new desktop backgrounds.

How Many Americans Have Passports?

I heard talk once that only 12% of Americans had passports, so I had to find out if this could possibly still be true.

Thankfully, its not. Today, a record number of Americans hold passports- 1/3 of them to be exact (or about 110 million out of the 313 million people according to the US State Department). Which is pretty cool, because in 1989 less than 3% of Americans (or around 7 million) held passports.

Now, a lot of things have changed since 1989. You still don't need a valid passport to enter Canada, but you do need a passport or passport card to enter Mexico. Border laws have gotten much more strict after 9/11. Travelers themselves know that their passports are gold, securing them in hidden belts or safes while sightseeing for the day.

However, this high percentage of acquisition of passports does not spread equally throughout the states. The state with the lowest percentage of people with passports is Mississippi at 18%. The highest is New Jersey at 62%. Want to see where your state falls on the list? Check out the link here.

So while America has greatly improved its passport acquisition, its still way behind England where 75% of citizens have a passport. Good news is that we're far ahead of China, where only 1.5% of the population (or 20 million people) hold passports, but that is to no fault of the people but rather the government.

If you don't have a passport, you should get one. Passports for adults are valid for 10 years. Even if you don't see yourself traveling tomorrow or even this year, you don't know what opportunity will come up three or seven years from now. Wouldn't it be a shame if all the sudden you were like, “Shucks, I can't go to                           , the place I've been dreaming of my entire life. I'm the idiot who never got a passport.”

Dogs Abandoned in Mexico City after Pilgrimage

On December 12th, over 7 million people made a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe in Mexico City. It was one of the largest pilgrimages in history. The people making the journey, many of them coming from the poor, rural villages hundreds of miles away, were accompanied by their dogs or stray dogs, who follow large groups of people in hopes of scraps. The dogs served as perfect companions and guards, or as locals like to call them- perros peregrinos (pilgrim dogs or canine pilgrims).

However, when the journey and pilgrimage ended, the people boarded buses, that don't accept animal passengers, and headed back to their hometown. Now, most of those dogs remain stranded in the city as volunteers from Mundo Patitas try to rescue them before the municipal authorities are required to get rid of them in the fastest way possible. Read about their experiences detailed on V[]cativ here.

Learn how you can help Mundo Patitas, or start lending a hand in at your own local shelter, or volunteer to help rescue street dogs and cats in Thailand with The Volunteer Bay.

The Four-legged Faces of Thailand

Its been proven that dogs and owners mutually benefit from each other's loving presence, with dopamine levels (that happy hormone) rising in both dog and person. You're literally experiencing love.

Now, I don't know if the same connection applies to cats and owners, but I'm positive most cat owners would agree. (Cats also probably think the relationship goes more like master and the entity the feeds me and exists solely for my entertainment.)

But one thing is for sure, the four-legged domesticated creatures that occupy this world with us rock. Lets celebrate them with a ton of cute pictures of dogs and cats from Thailand, many of them from the Dog and Cat Rescue Program. I'm getting cuddly feelings all over.

Here was me torturing the street cat we adopted in Thailand.


And more cuddly faces. . .








How to Find Your Own Path

Last Sunday I went to a reunion for Sea Scouts. I saw a girl there who I had formally been a scout counselor to years bacago. I think she remembered me. If she didn't, she sure pretended to.

I remembered her though. Her baby face was still the same, with a wide smile and pretty blue-grey eyes. I asked her what she was planning after school, and she mentioned she was studying art therapy. (Which is super awesome. I wrote about it back in May.) I thought she was so cool. She was hanging out with a bunch of people, few her age, engaged and thoughtful. Nothing screamed more 'free-spirit' than her.

That's the thing that sometimes people confuse get confused about being a free-spirit. The free spirit kid isn't necessarily the one rocking tattoos and dressed like a hippie. The free-spirit kid is the one that spending lunch in the library, because she finds reading a better way to spend her time. It could be the kid studying the greatest chess masters. Being a free-spirit simply means you are doing what you want to do. This might mean you are ignoring conventions, or it might not. You simply know that following your own path is a better path than following someone else's path.

So I started to grow a little jealous of this kid. She seemed to have a good head on her shoulder, knew what she wanted to do. I couldn't say the same at 18. But then I realized, this was her path. Not mine. It would never be mine. My path was my own. It was filled and will be filled with bumps, and sheer drops, with easy downhills and some flat surfaces. My path is a scape of me. It looks like no one else's. Nor should it ever.

There will be risk involved, journeys into new countries, immersions into new cultures. I'll find myself where I least expect it. I'll overanalyze things, trying to figure out why things are they way they are. Its the kind of path that suits me.

We sometimes forget this. Boyfriends, best friends, moms and dads, teachers, the media echo inside our ears. We listen to too many outside voices, ignoring the most important one.