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The ART of traveling - Stories of manifesting the freedom for adventures and giving back

Today I woke up with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. I’m reflecting on the day: My amazing new friends and I toasted with a beer after wiping sweat off our faces, falling exhaustedly into our seats, and feeling grateful that our driver had turned the AC prior to us getting on the bus. This was the day our work in Hue, Vietnam, helping a deserving family of four, was finally complete.

Now, before you read all about the volunteer project, I was a part of, I must admit my travels are not entirely selfless! I signed up for this adventure because The Way to Travel tour group is a means of traveling affordably, but also an opportunity to give back by volunteering your time during the tour. Though the volunteer portion is why I signed up, I have such gratitude that I was able to explore Vietnam with my group, both before and after the project. A bonus in my eyes.

On the first day of the tour, I met a bright, kind, and ambitious woman whom I came to admire more and more each day. During our first team meeting, she explained how the volunteer project, or rather, “Her baby” would come to mean something to her, and I soon realized that this project was much greater than my time volunteering.

Because of her extensive background in tourism as a freelance tour guide, as well as her dedication, education, and ambition to make a difference, our team leader, Nguyen Thi Duyen — or Jane, as we call her—would bring forward this opportunity, and all of us together, seamlessly.

Jane’s team included her partner Matt (love that guy) and colleague Ngo Hoang Anh Tuan, a man who would become our fearless tour leader, who we would just call T. He tirelessly and happily answered all our questions each day and then would engage us in what we liked to call T-Time: the most phenomenal personal stories where he would rattle off facts about the history of Vietnam, landmarks, and villages we visited. His quick-witted humor forged our special bond, and I made him laugh just as much as he made me.

Jane and Matt

But the best praise I must give him is that he kept 15 adventure-driven adults together and safe as we weaved in and out of streets, temples, museums, buses, pedicabs, boats, restaurants, trains, and homestays. He became the most incredible tour guide and engaging storyteller ever, and yes, a true friend for life.


Jane, T, and Matt organized this project, starting by working with the local authorities in Hue called the Association for the Support of the Disabled and Orphans of Thua Thien Hue Province.


Me and out your guide T

Based on the size of the project, the authorities send out a list of families in need. After reading up on the families’ situations and histories, Jane and T would visit the families in person, speak with them, and then again with the local authority. This is done to ensure each family is suitable for each group and meets their inquiry.

There are many things to consider in deciding which family to help. First, they look at their income and their attitude toward increasing their income. The distance is also a factor; the travel to and from their house, and whether the house itself has enough land for us to build on and enough work for each person on the tour to work as a group.

Once the family is selected, paperwork is submitted to get permission from the government to bring the group.


The process is not easy, even with our tour leaders being locals. Finding the families and the government approval is a process with many moving parts.

Of course, it’s very difficult making those decisions, and they wish that we could help all the families they hear about but changing one family’s life, for sure, is pretty special.


So again, it was emotional today as we finished the chicken coop, added the kitchen extension (complete with the very first cooker to be used), and an outdoor toilet, and introduced the 21-day-old chickens to their new home.

All this and more, as 15 volunteers, once strangers from all over the globe, worked tirelessly in the 100+ degree heat without the luxury of modern tools for a deserving family of four, here in Vietnam.

I had no idea I’d be so inspired and delighted to see all the amazing women and men following their passions and helping people and nature.


The joy we all had of not only giving back but being fortunate in meeting one another, connecting, and sharing this experience with one another. Priceless.


If you have to think about a reason why “not” to travel, I hope the stories of my fellow Way to Travel friends inspire you to rethink them.


Way To Travel Group 2023


Deb

Traveling solo at 65 years young lives part-time in both Arizona and Wisconsin.


She lost her husband 10 years ago and wanted to not only experience a wonderful 65th birthday but she wants to experience the places her husband had once been. This has been an emotional but positive experience for her. We happily celebrated this memorable birthday with her and enjoyed some birthday cake!

Carol from Canada

Carol put aside money every month for six years to travel outside her native country. Her amazing personality, beautiful singing voice, and huge heart have captured my soul. She stole our last night by singing Moon River as tears streamed down my face while we floated down the Hoian River in fishing canoes with beautiful lanterns lighting up our way.

Barb and Michael are from New York and Arizona—a mother and son traveling together because they wanted to do a mother-and-son adventure! It’s been beautiful to see their bond, and they were truly amazing people to meet.

Heidi and Sally are sisters from different parts of San Francisco. Sally, the older of the two, told Heidi, “We are doing this! Go pack!” “Now, that is the way to do it!” I said. I loved their sister banter and the jokes they had with one another. Sister bonding, internationally.


Next, you will read about Claudia and Amanda! Two amazing friends Kalley and I met in India 3 years ago. We were all a part of another volunteer/travel group (a name we won’t mention)

Claudia from New York City was traveling solo, until meeting up with us. Southeast Asia has been the favorite of her adventure and travel destinations.

She wanted to learn more about the Vietnamese culture, open herself to more spirituality, and learn about the practice of Buddhism. Her new husband supported her travels because she is filled with joy that

Vietnam will now be crossed off her bucket list.

Amanda from Florida has had a string of bad luck, including losing her fur baby and being in a terrible car accident. This was a way to bring laughter back into her life. Giving back, meeting new friends, and catching up with old ones would be the best medicine.

Claudia, Amanda, Me and Kalley

Arienne from the Netherlands is traveling “by the seat of her pants,” leaving the Netherlands on a one-way ticket to Vietnam. Her plans are decided when she makes them. She is also on a mission to research her family lineage when she makes her way to Bali, of course, whenever she gets there. Her infectious, silly personality is something I will never forget about her.


Arienne’s 19-year-old son called her to come home, but even he realized his mom was on a journey that needed to be explored.

Cheri from Novia Scotia believes that getting old is a privilege denied to many, so you need to make the most of your life by living your best life! She is traveling solo at 60+ years young.

I have to share the story about Cheri, working alongside me and Michael. We laughed at some ridiculous joke I made, delirious from the heat. We were on toilet detail, using small hammers to break the rocks in the 8 x 10 dark toilet area space that were helping to build. Hammering away (did I mention the heat) and trying to avoid inhaling all the rock dust, Cheri was putting me to shame breaking those rocks!


I love that she is living her best life with no regrets. Her husband eagerly awaits her at home.

Karen! A seasoned solo traveler from the Northern territory wanted this experience in the books! Soft-spoken but with a gritty sense of humor—I came to love her immediately. One day, when a huge cockroach had Kalley and I panicked and in a screaming fit, Karen popped into our room without a word and with lightning speed, proceeded to kill it—possibly to shut up the two overreactive American girls, since Australians have much bigger animals to worry about than we do in the States. I hope to meet her again one day.

Lorraine is also from Australia—a kindhearted woman and a great conversationalist. I loved being around her. Along with me and Kalley, Lorraine was part of our nervous group of three that volunteered time at a local grade school. Together, we formed a “lesson plan” and attempted to impress a classroom full of eager Vietnamese 4th-graders; a priceless memory the three of us will always have a laugh about. Lorraine’s adventures continue after the tour: She’s making her way to the Philippines, which is inspiring to me.

Pamela is from Canada. She probably thought I was a weirdo because I was so gaga about her. She reminded me of my Aunt Lori, whom I love so much. Pamela traveled solo as well, leaving her kids, husband, and grandchildren to join our wonderful bunch. She has a tough exterior but a warm personality which is why I admire her so much. She’s truly a beautiful human being.



Kalley Girl - Atlanta, Georgia, and my all-time, forever, travel buddy!


It is not easy to travel, especially internationally. And even though Kalley and I are seasoned travelers it's sometimes not easy to travel with another person. Unless you are Kalley and Addie and I must admit, we have this s*%t down to a science. We travel so well together, making these experiences so much more memorable.


Our adventures started 5 years ago. We were bartending together and during our shift, she saw my Lonely Planet book on the bar. I told her that I had decided to start traveling again and joining a group, doing volunteer work. The following Wednesday I was happily surprised when, during our shift, she said, “YO, I just booked the same trip you did! We're out”. That’s when the Adventures of Kalley and Addie began. Our list of travels includes Cambodia, Mexico, Thailand, Bali (duh), India, Vietnam, and Tahiti. More adventures to come, that I am sure of.


Thank you, Kalley, for putting up with my absent mind, always asking you how to spell words, being so annoyingly positive, and my snoring. Love you Kalley girl.

Me and Kalley

Writing this, got me thinking.


How often are you around people like that?


Who are you surrounding yourself with?


How did I get to meet these people?


I dreamed about it, talked about it, and started planning. Manifesting my adventures and passion for travel.


So, If you’ve dreamed about, talked about, or even started planning and then put your travel ideas on hold, now’s the time to get back into making those plans!


Your passion to see, explore, and seek adventure will shake off any stagnant energy lingering in your life, bringing you way more charisma and magnetism.


"The little things that make you happy are incredibly important things."

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