My life goal is to volunteer on all 7 continents before I turn 35. I have 4 down with Asia, Africa and Antarctica to go. This is no easy task – no life goal should be really. And being that me and my whole family is poor, international travel is even harder. So, to accomplish this, I started traveling and volunteering with organizations. I went to Europe and South America with Alternative Break Corps through my school and to Papua New Guinea (a part of Oceana) with Habitat for Humanity.
Volunteering with organizations has a few draw backs for sure. You can’t get up and go do whatever you damn well feel like. But the benefits outweigh the drawbacks in my opinion. The biggest benefits is price. Organizations have a lot of pull and can get discounts. They also have some consistency and so their suppliers are less likely to keep prices high in the short run knowing they will make a profit in the long run. This translates to you as: cheap travel.
Finding an organization that is right for you is a little hard. A.B.C. is apart of Break Away, a group dedicated to college students. For those who are not in higher education, Habitat for Humanity has a great reputation world-wide and consistency. For young Jews (16? – 26) Birthright Israel/Taglit is a GREAT umbrella program and totally FREE!
The next group I’m going to try is Sierra Club. I’ll probably start with a national trip before heading overseas with them. If you are interested, the link is http://www.sierraclub.org/outings/
What it boils down to is: You can travel on a budget with a cause. Obviously the international trips will cost more than national trips but you can def. save money (and maybe the environment/ a way of life/ a troubled community/ etc.) by traveling with volunteer organizations.
A college friend of mine, Phil, was in Tampa the other night putting on a performance with his dance company. He didn’t have long before he had to leave town but we got a chance to catch up at Starbucks that night. The topics were many and varied. But the one I enjoyed the most was his questioning of why I traveled so much after leaving Tallahassee.
The question was kind of strange to me, like a foreign language I just didn’t get. Why do I travel? It was like asking why I breathe or why I eat. I travel to live. But that answer just wasn’t working for Phil. And I’m glad it didn’t because to some extent, it wasn’t true.
He told me about his fiance who wanted to go to Hindu Kush. Hamilton told Phil he wanted to go so he could forget about all his problems, all his bills and troubles. He also wanted to get some kind of discipline that he could find there (but I didn’t really understand that). Phil told him that all his problems, bills and troubles would be waiting for him just as soon as he got back and that you don’t need to travel anywhere to find discipline, that is a skill everyone has to work on all the time.
So why was Hamilton so set on going to the Hindu Kush? Why do any of us travel? We always here the “I want to get away” excuse but that isn’t really a great reason to travel – in fact that could just make things worse. Running from your bills? Traveling will make them worse.
A far better reason to travel is to experience. Hamilton couldn’t experience a Hindu Kush here in the US like he could overseas. The sights, the sounds, the tastes, the smells – everything. The way traveling makes you feel. These are the reasons to travel. It isn’t best to travel expecting certain outcomes, the best travels happen when you start a trip off by saying, “Hey, that sounds like fun, let’s see where we end up with that.”
So to answer Phil’s question, I traveled so much after I left college for two reasons. The first was the wrong reason – I was running away from life – just like so many people who “just want to get away.” This didn’t help me at all. But I also traveled for the experiences. I met new people in Arizona that tought me a lot about myself and what I wanted in life and was capable of. I met a caring family on the East coast of Florida that brought back my faith in family. I traveled and learned about life in a way that I couldn’t have by moving back to my hometown right away.
And I’ll continue to travel for the experiences. Why do you travel?
The hotel I work at is about half way between Tampa International Airport and the Port of Tampa. So we get a decent number of guests who are about to leave for a cruise. Tonight, a guest from Wisconsin came in and we started chatting. He gave me a great tip I want to try out soon. If you just show up at the docks on cruise day, you can get dirt cheap tickets. The company is just trying to make sure the beds are full because, according to him, they really get your money from the food on board.
So moral of the story, if you live near a port, show up on cruise days with a suitcase full of cheap food and enjoy a cheap vacation!
Not a picture by me - found it on google
Yesterday, I went kayaking with Jeffery, Jeff, Martin and Matt. We started at a house near Hillsborough and Rome Ave. and headed North (upstream) on the Hillsborough River. We kayaked up the almost 5 miles to Rowlett Park where the Hillsborough River Dam is and made it back in just over 5 hours. A fun day overall for sure – but I didn’t put sunscreen on my legs. And I was in a sit-on kayak (as opposed to sit-in kayaks, which look more like canoes and provide at least a LITTLE more protection for your legs). So now I’m hobbling around with very swollen, very burned legs.
This portion of the Hillsborough River was very different from last months portion. Whereas the upper park of the river is more narrow, more shallow and has more of a canopy over the river, this month the river was wider and the sun beat down on most of the river. The homes on the river ranged from really old, dilapidated wood frame homes to new, multi million dollar McMansions. It was really interesting to see all the variety.
It didn’t take long after getting back on the river that I came to the conclusion that I would like to kayak the entire river (in portions) in the next few years. I think the next portion will be from our starting point today south to Tampa Bay.
The picture below shows Matt in the sit-on kayak (we switched at the dam). You can see how exposed the legs are.