Courageous Travel: How to See the World No Matter Your Circumstances

passport for courageous travelGuest Post by Bridget Sandorford

Many of us dream of traveling to exotic lands, filling our passports with stamps from countries around the world. Some of us even dream of living in some of these countries, becoming immersed in the local culture and learning everything we can about the people and their customs.

Yet few of us actually follow through on these dreams for travel. We tell ourselves that we don’t have the time for it, or we don’t have the money. We keep making plans for “one day”–and then keep pushing back that day.

Living courageously means going after your dreams and doing all those things you want to do.

Most of the “obstacles” we see for our plans to travel more can easily be overcome. We just have to readjust our priorities and our perceptions. Here are just a few ways that you can travel more no matter what your circumstances:

Work Abroad

Perhaps the easiest way to see the world without impacting your finances or your everyday routine is to find opportunities to work abroad. If you have a college degree, you can find opportunities to teach English in dozens of countries around the world. However, if you don’t want to teach, there are many other jobs that may allow you to travel, including:

  • Sales representative
  • Diplomat
  • Customer service professional
  • Cruise ship worker
  • Entertainer
  • Translator

Even if you don’t have training in one of these fields, you may still find opportunities to travel with your current company. Talk with your boss about what may be possible. At the very least, you may be able to create a work-from-home arrangement that will allow you to travel and work abroad.

Volunteer

Not surprisingly, you may find more opportunities to work for free than to get paid for your work. There are organizations located all around the world that would be happy to have you as a volunteer — sometimes in exchange for lodging and other amenities. For instance, the group Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) helps place you on organic farms, where you can work for a few days or a few months in exchange for room and board.

There are many other opportunities, which you can research based on your interests. Some organizations may require you to pay a fee to get involved, but the money goes toward supporting the organization. Find what works best for your circumstances and your interests.

Get Free Lodging

There are many ways that you can get free lodging when you travel, cutting down the cost of any trip significantly. Couchsurfing.org helps you to find people who have a spare couch or an extra room that they are willing to let you stay on for a few days or longer. Etiquette suggests that you leave a small gift or offer to cook dinner one night, but nothing is required.

House swapping is another option. You can connect with homeowners in other countries and arrange to swap your houses at the same time. They come stay in your house while you go stay in theirs. Websites that offer the service help to screen participants and offer some level of protection.

Budget and Plan

Of course, the easiest way to make travel possible is to budget and plan. There are dozens of ways to save money on travel, including:

  • Comparison shopping for airfare
  • Booking your airfare, hotel and rental car together
  • Traveling in the off season
  • Staying at hostels and discount hotels
  • Packing your own food
  • Shopping at local markets instead of eating at restaurants
  • Buying advanced combination passes for attractions
  • Using credit cards to get frequent flyer miles for free or reduced airfare

There are dozens of sites online that offer tips for “travel hacks” that can give you even more ideas for how to save money on travel. With enough planning and some smart choices, you can make any trip possible.

Don’t keep dreaming of traveling “one day.” Live courageously and make the choices you need to make travel possible. There are so many options — it just requires that you adjust your perception.


Bridget Sandorford is a freelance food and culinary writer, where recently she’s been researching the best cooking school in the world. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, painting and working on her first cookbook.


Re-Routing: How I Got off Track from My Goals

how i got off track from my goals past present future direction signsEver had a moment where you consider your life and wonder how you got off track from your goals, from your dreams, from who you believe you’re really meant to be?

Yeah, me too.

I  was in my last semester of grad school in the Bay Area. Those cities are a maze (though you might find them amazing).

I got lost several times, thinking I was on one street going this way, but I was really on another road going that way.

But, I digress. This story isn’t really about the tangled web of streets in Oakland, CA. If you’ve read my first post, then you know where I’m really going.

I was in my last semester of grad school, also known as the crossroads of “get a job or get a PhD.” All I knew was that I wanted to be a writer, so I applied for a couple of teaching programs back home in Louisiana. Looking back, I know that’s exactly where I made my wrong turn.

It’s one thing to get off track, and then find my way back. But realizing how I got off track in the first place might save some trouble going forward. So, let me clarify.

Teaching in Louisiana is not itself a wrong turn. It was a wrong turn for me because it’s not what I really wanted to do with my life.

The issue is not where I went; it’s why I went there. Are you ready for it?

Fear.

Just writing the word gives me goose bumps. But it’s true. That’s the reason I made a wrong turn and went down a path that led me away from my dreams.

Though I intellectually knew that being a writer was a realistic goal, I lacked genuine faith and belief that I could live the life I envisioned.

So I played it safe. I went the route that was paved.

I knew I could easily get a teaching job of some kind. I knew it was predictable–you go to work, you get paid. You know how much you’re going to make each half, and can quote your salary 10 years in advance.

But becoming a writer? I was too overwhelmed to even take a step in that direction, partly because I didn’t know exactly what direction to go? I needed to know exactly how to get from point A to point B before I would even attempt to get there.

Little did I know that the sure way was the wrong way. My dreams were over the mountains. Not only did I not know how to get there, I wasn’t sure I could make it even if I did know.

The irony? By being afraid to get lost, I got lost.

Some people rarely admit to having that problem, but most of us can think of a time when we psyched ourselves out of something we really wanted. And many of us have psyched ourselves out of the really big things that we desire. Like me and my writing career.

Getting rid of fear is an ongoing work. Fear has many layers. The great news is that fear is a manifestation of our thoughts. We can’t always alter the outside world, but we can always alter our thoughts.

I really began to interrogate fear as an undergrad when I heard Mumia Abu-Jamal on Goapele’sChange it All album.

I would like to see people become more rebellious, more outspoken, and see an abolition, really, of the fear that covers this country like a blanket, because I think that when people fight against that fear they become themselves and they find themselves, they find the best part of themselves. -Mumia Abu-Jamal

Since then, I’ve gotten better at recognizing fear in all its infinite manifestations. When I get lost, it’s because I’ve navigated in fear. I invite you to take up the challenge with me to trust a more courageous compass.

Can you pin point a wrong turn you’ve made in your life? Tell us about it in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter.

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The City is a Monument

washington dc is a great city

Washington DC is a great city because it’s 61 square miles of roots & routes. I was there last week, losing myself in the roots and tangling myself in the routes. We all know what happened last week– the 2nd inauguration of the 1st black president on the holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Poetic. Justice.

Since that’s the one you probably guessed first, I’ll start with it. Martin Luther King Jr. is obviously part of the root system that allowed Barack Obama to be President of the United States of America. But here’s the thing about roots & routes, and why I’m fascinated by the concept: One person’s route is someone else’s root.

We celebrate the legacy of MLK, and consider his work to be foundational. But for his contemporaries, MLK represented the future. He literally put folks in route to make this country better. The same will be true for BO. Now he’s leading the nation on our current path, hopefully a new path, but someday he will be history the way DC is history.

Washington DC wears the nation’s past like medals on an officer’s coat. The city is a monument. Even restaurants are museums, like Busboys and Poets or Eatonville, where waiters take the time to give you a history lesson on Zora Neale Hurston. Eatonville! What a perfect name for a restaurant, period. But when it’s also the name of ZNH’s hometown in Florida, that’s just the universe cracking a smile. When I saw the restaurant, I teared up and put my hand over my heart like actors do in those melodramatic movie scenes. Roots & Routes is the racially eclectic clientele of a minority owned business built to honor Zora Neale Hurston’s legacy.

And then, there’s the METRO. Operating since March 1976, the DC metro currently has 106.3 miles of track on which trains travel a max speed of 59 mph. It has 86 subway and surface stations and a rainbow of five lines: red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. The people, of course, are just as colorful.

For a rail fan like myself, the Metro is transcendent. What can I say? I’m transported. Where I’m going isn’t as important as the act of going. I slice through the seem of time and space. The sheer motion is entrancing. The one tragedy is that it doesn’t go on forever. It always eventually comes to a full stop.

George Wallace Gov. of Segregation: Does he Get his Wish?

Jan. 14 1963, George Wallace was sworn in as the Governor of Alabama with the vile cry, I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation for ever.”

The 50 yr anniversary of that damnable speech comes the day before Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday (read my post tomorrow, Tues. Jan. 15.) and exactly one week before the second inauguration of the nation’s first African American President, which happens to fall on the MLK holiday this year (Mon. Jan. 21). That’s poetic justice.

In 1960, nine students from Southern University sat in at a segregated lunch counter at the Kress Building in Baton Rouge in protest of the segregation. They were arrested and expelled from school, but eventually took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court where they were represented by Thurgood Marshall. The court decided in the student’s favor.

The Kress Building, renovated in 2008, now features a high-end art gallery curated by a black artist from Baton Rouge, Christopher Turner. On Jan. 18, 2013, the gallery will host an opening for “History & Innovation,” an exhibit featuring four African American artists living in Baton Rouge.

Beautiful.

But what is segregation? Why did the use of and access to places & spaces became such a pillar of racism?

Space, how much of it you take and how much of it you believe you’re entitled to, is a physical expression of your power, practical and perceived. 

Practical power refers to what you can do in the world, like vote, make purchases, sit in a seat, enter through a door, apply for a job, hold an office, or eat in a dining area.  Perceived power refers to how much power you feel or believe you have. It can also refer to other people’s perception of you based on how you position yourself in spaces.

The most powerful kings had the most land. The most powerful empires took up the most space on the map. Rich people’s homes take up way more space than poor people’s homes. Confident men tend to spread their legs and stretch their arms. Insecure men tend to hunch and keep their arms closer to their bodies. People often express power by invading someone else’s personal space.

For people like George Wallace, segregation was literally the way to make sure blacks stayed in their place so that whites could stay in their place of power.

Space is also about inside and outside, both physically and socially.

Segregation emphasizes the social part. After slavery, segregation was used to continue denying blacks entry into full American citizenship. The institutionalized separation of races perpetuates the belief that race is the ultimate characteristic for determining who is “one of us.”

Why talk about segregation now?

The same power play of space is still present in our everyday, micro experiences.

A few of my fourteen year old 9th graders asked why we had to talk about Civil Rights since it was “in the past.” They never asked that question when learning about history in general because such a question is really a way to avoid the sensitive topic of race. It’s not a genuine inquiry into the relevance of history, a relevance which always seems apparent for every other historical topic.

Well, much of our country is still segregated, even in our holier-than-thou states like California. That makes me wonder if George Wallace’s wish came true in some ways.

The fact that overt segregation based on race is now illegal, makes the persistence of segregation even more disturbing and troubling. It was one thing when the law said multiple races could not occupy the same classroom. But now that the law is reversed, and we still see tons of mono-racial classrooms across this nation, it’s clear that even if we’ve done away with the old laws, we’ve not done away with the old social structure.

Some of us are trying to dismantle it. Others are trying to preserve it.

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