Tag Archives: habitat for humanity

Why I Donate and Volunteer While Traveling

There is no arguing that donating items or volunteering your time is universally a good thing to do. I especially enjoy doing this when I’m traveling. For me, it’s a wonderful way to feel more connected to a destination. In fact, my favorite travel memories and connections have been when I volunteered or donated supplies to those in need. I am so fortunate to be able to travel and visit different parts of the world. It’s a small thing I can do and it goes farther than many realize.

cambodia habitat for humanity

My first travel volunteer experience was with Habitat for Humanity in Cambodia. It was truly so meaningful to me. I learned so much about myself on that trip. I had never been to Asia before and knew no one on my build. I had never seen that kind of poverty before. But working side by side these people living in poverty to build them a better home was truly so enriching. I will never ever forget the local people working on my build. They were such kind spirits that touched my heart. And, I believe they won’t ever forget me either.

india

But there are other small ways to give back that don’t take a week-long commitment. When I traveled to India I worked with an organization called Globe Drop to find a donation opportunity. I was able to purchase items in India for an orphanage of girls. The purchases helped the local economy and cost a fraction of what it would in the US. It was a win-win. All I had to do was take the time to buy the items and then go deliver them to the orphanage. A small amount of time that went a long way making these girls learning and living experiences better.

jamaica

Another small way I helped on another travel adventure was to collect and deliver children’s books to a foundation in Jamaica that help to educate impoverished children who would not otherwise have an education. People are always looking to give away books over time and, in many cases, they’d like them to go into good hands. I just took a little time to build up a collection and then contacted Rockhouse Foundation and asked if they would like them. They said yes so I packed them up in my bag and traveled to Jamaica. Again, the delivery just took a little time out my day and was so worth the cause.

peru1

My most recent volunteer/donation experience was in Peru. My friend and I found an opportunity to help orphan children with their school work and play with them for a few days in Cusco. To see their smiles every day brought so much laughter and joy to us. The same organization, Peru Trek 4 Good, that connected us to the orphanage also collects clothing and toys for poor people living in the mountains. My friend and I were able to bring three suitcases full of clothes, coats and toys to be delivered to a small Andean community as Christmas gifts – more than 200 parents and children. Again, so many people have things that they want to give away that others could really use. It was just a matter of collecting items, paying to get them to Peru and delivered to the organization. We were thrilled when we saw all the happy faces at Christmastime.

peru trek 4 good

This week I’m off on another volunteer adventure in travel. I’m excited to be participating in a new concept in travel – Impact Travel with Fathom. I will be cruising to the Dominican Republic and doing a few service projects over the days I’m there. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty and see the smiling faces of locals there. You really learn so much through these experiences and get more locally connected. I think Impact Travel is the way forward. You’re helping out others, raising awareness and empowering people to think about traveling and giving back.

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travel insurance – it’s better to be safe than sorry!

why i finally broke down & bought it for Cambodia

i have done my fair share of traveling but have never purchased extra insurance when going away. so many people recommend it but so far i have been lucky in my health and travel circumstances. having said that, i felt like my trip to Cambodia was a worthy one for additional insurance.

being careful during the build

i was so impressed with my Habitat for Humanity build. the whole experience was waaaay more organized than i ever expected & i’m a detailed organizational freak who can be hard to impress. given the unknown possible injuries that could occur on a house build in a foreign country, Habitat requires that you purchase insurance through them while on the build. makes total sense. i never felt like i was about to hurt myself…i wore my hard hat like a good girl! 🙂 BUT some of my build buddies definitely had a few near misses.

for the remainder of my time in Cambodia i also opted to buy additional medical & travel insurance. maybe i was being paranoid since i’d never been to Asia or a third world country but it definitely gave me peace of mind to know my options and coverage. i know i made the joke about being covered for dismemberment or death. THANK GOODNESS i’m back and able to report i’m alive & well and everything is intact on my body. BUT you never know when you may get sick or injured and need medical attention and insurance to fall back on. it seems obvious in the environment of a build site but things can happen in the simplest of scenarios.

the perils of walking around Angkor Wat

for example, the millions of steep steps at Angkor Wat are a prime place to possibly hurt yourself. these temples are absolutely stunning but they are not exactly in the best condition. talk about uneven surfaces and rickety structures just waiting for a twisted ankle to happen. OR how about taking a lengthy ride in a tuk tuk. this could also pose a danger to your health. tuk tuks are open on the sides and with the bumpy poorly paved or unpaved roads one could easily fall right out of one of those suckers. especially if you decide on a whim to take a quick nap while being driven around. HA! seriously, you better to have your wits about you when you’re passenger in a tuk tuk.

gettin’ down & trying not to fall down

THEN there’s just plain ole getting down at the local club. this is where an actual injury happened with one of my pals during our trip. between hiking the steps of Angkor Wat and then shakin’ our booties at a club she ended up tweaking her knee. although she opted not to seek a professional opinion about her knee until she returned home, she was relieved that she could go see a doctor if the pain became too unbearable. it definitely provides a good argument for why you might wish to have additional travel insurance.

since i definitely plan on future Habitat for Humanity builds in far-flung locations, among other typical travel, it really makes a lot of sense to continue on with getting additional travel insurance. AND i just discovered a company that offers an annual policy for frequent travelers with multi-trips at a reduced rate called Insure & Away. unfortunately, the insurance is only available to residents of the UK. this idea sounds super appealing. discounted, multi-trip insurance would be the perfect solution for most travel bloggers and frequent travelers in general. i’m sure my Australian friends from the build would agree to that statement too. now i need to investigate something comparable for US residents.

do you typically purchase additional travel insurance? does it depend on your travel location and length of trip?

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surviving Cambodia

chum reap suor from Cambodia

how this priss-pot made out in the end

i know you’ve been waiting with bated breath to learn how i made out during my first 3rd world experience in Cambodia. i’m sure you are expecting some tales of misadventure & how i was eaten alive by the ravenous mosquitos despite my efforts to keep them at bay.

well…i’m back from the other side of the globe – NOT dead or dismembered in any way (phew) to tell you that my BIGGEST mishaps were not packing an extra bras for the build days AND losing my favorite lip gloss at the very beginning of my adventure. it’s a wonder i made it through ok! the only injuries i sustained were a finger pinched in a bathroom lock and some broken nails & bruises from bouncing on rocks in the river rapids. HAHAHA

gigantic A380 – LOVE

BUT seriously, let’s talk about some of my concerns. for starters, the flights. i’ve never flown that long on an airplane & dealt with that big of a time change. it really wasn’t so awful. i flew the longest leg on an A380, which is one of those new big-ass fancy planes, and i gotta say it was smooth as silk. AND this princess was in COACH in a MIDDLE SEAT nonetheless! the only issue i encountered was getting cankles on the way home from swelling. jet lag did affect me a bit – still is – but it’s not totally rotten either. thank you ‘no jet lag’ my favorite jet lag remedy 🙂

the passport, e-visa, stapling thing was also super. really the way to go. my stapled e-visa with USED stamped on it inside my passport is now a major source of pride. i went, i saw, i survived, i fell in love with Cambodia! i may just have to go look at it right now & reminisce a bit.

other concerns i had:

the non-accesorizing bit. yeah, that was a BIG overstatement. i wouldn’t have worn jewelry to the build but i certainly could have worn it anywhere else. i never once felt unsafe or like someone was going to take advantage of me. NO ONE was shocked by my boa wearin’ ways either. it was fascinating. here’s a country full of dark-skinned Asians AND then there’s me, a white woman with blonde hair. i kid you not…NOT ONCE did people look at me like i was any different. how lovely.

just a day in the tuk tuk park – Cambodia

AND remember my worries about pointing and greetings and being overly expressive. this was also a silly worry. YES, Cambodians are quiet, peaceful people but they are also accepting, smiley people. i did work hard to remember to remove my shoes when necessary and to bow and say the correct phrase for hello or thank you. the whole keeping my arms to my sides was a massive FAIL but it all worked out fine. as it turns out Cambodians quite like lil ole lola!

Sean our stalker tuk tuk driver in Siem Reap

now the truth about the mosquito situation. i did not get ONE SINGLE BITE at the build. they were in our van every morning on the way to the site but i never saw any at the actual location. i’m sure they were there and perhaps all my precautions taken to treat my clothes helped. i mean we were surrounded by muddy stagnate soil and water. they had to be around. BUT it may also be possible that those Cambodian mosquitos just didn’t like my Western self. even at the river, in the jungle, i had ZERO issues. i received the most bites my last night at the beach near the Thai border.

MY CASE STUDY: Cambodian mosquitos = don’t like lola. Thai mosquitos = do like lola.

OK, now how about all the crap i bought?! the clothesline, the headlamp, the medicines.

our laundry was done EVERY day during the build as part of our room rate. how FAB! and i used a laundry service at the end of my time in Siem Reap so i’d have choices for my last 5 days. BUT i did use my tide & clothes line a few times to wash out my swim suits and undies at the end. this is the roughest ‘roughing it’ lola got 🙂

tissues were a good idea for potty breaks as 9 times out of 10 there was no toilet paper. however, my dehydration & fears of the squat toilets kept me barely going during the day. i probably used the majority of my tissues for wiping away tears!

it’s a hard-knock life for us!

i barely used my bug spray or my hand sanitizer – probably less than 10 times. i did use the electrolytes i brought during the build. like twice a day because we were sweating from the second we started until we returned back to our hotel. it was intense work in the grueling sun. i don’t know if i’ve ever drank that much water or sweat that much in my entire life. the Habitat team had electrolytes for us but i preferred the taste of the tablets i brought along. as far as my meds, i was a good girl and took my malaria pills – just in case the 5 mosquitos that did bite me were infected! i really didn’t need all the rest of the pills i brought.

i did use that most unsexy money belt during the build to keep a few small things on my body, however, never again. like i said before, safety really wasn’t a concern. i NEVER used the headlamp but it would have come in handy a few times. power outages were fairly common & at the most inopportune times. of course, i never had the darn thing on me when i could have used it. honestly, people’s iPhones made great flashlights!

some of my Habitat build team

i’m glad i was prepared but it did seem a bit like over-kill. pharmacies truthfully did have everything you could ever need. at least my over-preparedness made my build team laugh! AND what about my ALL-Australian build team?! how did they take to their only American team member? i guess i should have collected quotes.(feel free to comment gang) i know that many of them thought in advance of meeting me “how on earth is this diva going to survive a house build” especially since many of them had actually done one before. they were pleasantly surprised i think. AND many of my team members are now new life-long friends. a visit to Australia in 2013 is a definite must!

so there you have it. lola surviving the scary unknown of going to Cambodia & doing a Habitat house build for the first time. it couldn’t have been any more of a success for me. AND i can’t wait to share more details of my Cambodian adventures with you!

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living life in Cambodia & my unintentional writing hiatus

I’M BAAAAACK! 

i’m coming home…tell the world, i’m coming home!

i’m making my way back from Cambodia today. i had such good intentions to make time for writing while gone. you know, because i was far away from daily distractions i figured i would be prolific with my writing. i made plenty of notes and have many many stories to share BUT found it difficult to sit at my computer and write.

it was a strange to feel this way. at home, i’m desperate to find time to write but while away all i wanted to do was relax and enjoy. this also brought on feelings of guilt. one thing about running a blog is the need to constantly engage your audience. you need to give them new interesting content all the time or you will fall off the radar. it was a total push and pull in my mind. kind of like when you stop exercising and know you need to get ‘back in the saddle’ but can find almost any excuse not to.

know what was truly silly? i was doing different work for the first half on my adventure. i was physically building something in the world instead of virtually doing that. i was busy living in reality not through my writing. i think i forgot how to do this a bit. i feel it’s an easy trap to fall into as a travel blogger. the pace to keep up or surpass others in audience readership can keep one from looking around themselves for any length of time.

while i struggled with the guilt, in the end, i decided it was better to be really living in the moment than giving those moments up to my computer. it was the first time in months that i read something other than travel blogs. it was the first time in months where i lost track of time. it was the first time in months that sleep was more important than burning the midnight oil due to physical exhaustion, jet lag and general living it up instead of logging hours in front of a glowing screen. AND anyway, part of the point of my journey was to be off the radar for a while.

i hope that upon return to reality i can work on striking a balance between building my travel blog persona & audience and living the life lola should be living.

does this happen to you? do you get off-balance in order to achieve success? do you ever feel guilty about just living?

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Cambodia Countdown – 4-3-2-1-0 BLAST OFF

New Continent. New Country. Parting Thoughts. Cambodia.

so so excited BUT holy hell, listen to the craziness of this whole adventure. i will leave today at roughly 10AM Eastern Standard and arrive at 10PM Friday, local time, in Phnom Penh. it will be 11AM Friday here. that’s over 24 hours of time. a day of my life gone. sayonara. goodbye. flying home is EVEN WORSE.

what else…crazy visa crap i’ve never dealt with before. turn one copy in on arrival only in these X lines and then one upon departure again and you can staple it into your passport. staples in my precious passport? whaaaaa??? 

then the whole ‘it’s rainy season – malaria – dengue fever threat.’ (READ: THIS ONE I’M ACTUALLY WORRIED ABOUT) so i’ve pre-treated my build clothes with toxic bug repellant that if in contact with my skin while wet would need the assistance of poison control. ok…that is OUT OF CONTROL.  or, wait, maybe it gets even better.

how about bug repellant lotion a that is for only exposed skin. ok?! but when you apply it you cannot let it touch your clothes because it’ll eat it up. seriously?! so i have bug repellant clothes spray that cannot touch my skin and bug repellant skin lotion that cannot touch my clothes. this combination sounds INSANE.

AND the most recent advice is not to bring/wear any nice jewelry. it calls attention to yourself and this isn’t good. what is going to happen when i pull out my hot pink boa? it IS just feathers but that baby is a definite attention grabber! i don’t know what to think about having NO accessories. this is killing lola.

there’s cultural issues to consider, too. proper greetings and no embracing in public. holding your temper. no pointing fingers. not showing your palms. i’m tremendously demonstrative. i mean, do i look like a subdued person? toning all of this down is going to be a bit of a trick for me. i plan to just keep my arms glued to my sides. you think this will work?

well, that’s all folks. send positive thoughts for a safe journey, few mosquito bites & that i can control myself in public.

XO – lola

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