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Christine Maxfield and African Children

“Wanderlust is a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about,” as defined by Dictionary.com. Traveling is a requirement for George and I and right now we are in Hawaii. Lucky for you, Christine Maxfield offered to share about her recent year of volunteerism around the globe. I know you will be inspired by her awesome journey, here is her post:

Christine Maxfield and African Children

I blame my wanderlust on my first love—my grandfather. He was the one that got me hooked on National Geographic by having a full magazine collection in his basement that I’d pour over every summer vacation, launching a full-blown childhood dream of becoming a travel writer. And then my parents clinched it by allowing me to tag along with them to Europe when I was an impressionable ten years old, and I’ve never been the same since…nor have I wanted to be.

For the next two decades after that first taste of international travel, I’d aimlessly create lists of countries that I just knew I’d visit as soon as I became a jet setting grown up. But I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that this list sadly gathered dust in my drawer as life’s realities—college, career, relationships—took first priority. Sure, there was that brief study-abroad stint in Buenos Aires, and the occasional tropical vacation. But when it came to becoming a bestselling travel writer, I filed that dream away on a shelf.

I did hold true to my roots though and studied non-fiction creative prose at Penn (class of ’04) and pursued a career in magazine journalism, and at one point I thought I was getting closer to my goal when I landed a job at a national travel magazine in New York. Score! Now I’d get my chance to sip cocktails with foreign correspondents and interview mysterious sources in exotic locales—not. As I reported from my desk about African safaris and the Great Pyramids of Giza without ever checking off either item from my bucket list, I felt empty inside, and worse…like a fraud.

Christine at the Taj Mahal

That did it. I handed in my articles to my editor, pulled out my dusty list of countries back home, and started scheming about how I could take a year off to experience the same adventures that I only wrote about. I adopted a budget for the first time in my life, found a roommate, and scrimped and saved for more than a year until I stumbled across a simple but brilliant way to travel. It’s a form of voluntourism called work exchange, which trades the sweat of your brow—rather than the money from your pocketbook—for room and board with locals abroad. Wait…that meant that my trip suddenly got cheaper! So I immediately bought a one-way ticket to Sierra Leone via Morocco, gave notice at my travel magazine, let my adorable apartment go, and stuffed all my goods in storage. There was no turning back now.

Starting on January 1, 2011, I took my first step off a plane and into a solo round-the-world adventure that included 19 countries on six continents. My work exchange led me to teach HIV/AIDS orphans in Kenya, become a desert guide with the Bedouin tribe in for Holidays to Jordan, teach English to Tibetan Buddhist nuns in Nepal, mend fences on an aboriginal cattle station in Australia, shuck oysters on a black-pearl farm in French Polynesia, save baby sea turtles in Guatemala, teach music to Roma (gypsy) children in Romania, and herd a thousand sheep as a nomadic shepherd in Austria. Oh, and I can now finally say that I’ve been on an African safari and have also stood in the shadow of pyramids…

Underwater at the Great Barrier Reef with Christine

I returned to the States just a few months ago on January 1, 2012—exactly one year after I left—and I’ve been trying to find the right words to describe my last year to friends and loved ones. “Life changing” seems too anticlimactic. When I look up other superlatives in the thesaurus, I get more of the same. All I can say is that you need to throw caution to the wind and launch your own grand adventure to understand the inspiring journey that I experienced.

Cross that Bridge! Live your dreams like Christine!

Oh, and what about my dream of becoming a bestselling travel writer? Well, now that I’m represented by a bona fide literary agent, I can say that my prospects are definitely looking up for the first time in my career.

From WeSaidGoTravel:
We hope you feel as inspired as we do! Thank you to Christine for sharing your story! We cannot wait to read your book! Read more about her adventures, click here.

New video from our year away: Gushing Geysers of New Zealand

 

 

 

 

 

(claim token YZ5ZZGH64GS3)

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Lisa in her first shoot!
Lisa in her first Magazine shoot!
Lisa in her first shoot!
Lisa in her first Magazine shoot!

“Just when the caterpillar thought her world was over,

she became a butterfly.”

I have always felt connected to science, transformation, and especially to the process by which fuzzy caterpillars become butterflies. Butterflies and their metamorphosis were even the focus of my Bat Mitzvah speech at the age of thirteen. I just did not realize it would take me three more decades to fill my own wings!

Change has been good to me. I have been evolving from having a fixed mindset to a more growth-based model, and from a heavy, single girl unsure of what to do next, to a sassy skinny married one who is a traveler, teacher, blogger, now appearing in a major women’s magazine!

Lisa getting Styled with Kristina Van Dyk
Styled with Kristina Van Dyk

Not only have I changed; now our blog has undergone a shift. We have joined our two web sites and left both Weebly and Blogger for the widely used WordPress. I hope you enjoy our new and improved site. Please send us your comments as we continue to finalize all the parts and pieces.

This transformation requires support. I must personally thank many of my friends, family members and mentors and would like to publicly recognize our website Advisory Council, including: Kit Herring of The Backpacker’s Handbook, Dave Thompson, Dave’s Travel Corner, and Dr. JessieVoigts and Ed Forteau from Wandering Educators. Also the technical wizard on our team, Ateeq Khan. Without them we would not be ready for this next step!

I also want to thank First for Women Magazine for including me in their story and the capable team that prepared me for my first Magazine photo shoot!

How fun!

My First for Women Magazine Photo Shoot Team:

Photographers: Amy and Stuart

Stylist: Krystina Van Dyk  (Banana Republic Gemma Wrap Dress, Laura Elizabeth Jewelry )

Hair : Stefanie Cuesta for Fiore Beauty

Make-up: Phoebe Ogan for Fiore Beauty

Hair Color: Mark LaRocco at the Beauty Collection

Thank you for joining us on our travels and for your enthusiastic support of our blogging journey!

First for Women Magazine

Read this article from parenting.com which features Lisa Niver Rajna, science teacher!

Looking at a Construction Site
Most adults think of science as an experiment or equation that has nothing to do with everyday life. But science is the process for figuring out how things work, explains Lisa Niver Rajna, a K-6 science teacher in Los Angeles. When you think of it that way, even a construction site can turn into a physics lesson.

Going on a Walk
Observation is the basis of science, so do what Rajna does when she takes her students out on a walk: ask your child to put on his imaginary detective hat and tell you everything he sees.

What kids can learn: You can work in a lesson about photosynthesis when you and your child have a conversation about leaves: Why are they green in the spring, and why do they change color in the fall and drop off the trees? See how many different insects you see or different bird songs you hear. City kids can also soak up a little physics by noticing the timing of the traffic lights—do they depend on the flow of traffic to change or are they pre-set?

Snapping a Pic
Your phone is always with you, so turn its camera into a teaching tool and your child can pick up some very cool scientific principles of light, says Rajna.

What kids can learn: Get your child to snap a photo series of his shadow (or do it for him); by identifying which side of the photo his shadow is on and how long it is, he can learn about the earth’s rotation and the sun’s position. Or teach optics with apps like CamWow (for iPhones) or Effects Booth (for Droids). Both apps, which let you pick a variety of real-time filters that make objects look like something in a funhouse mirror as they bulge, elongate, and split in two, are fun (and funny) ways to talk about how light travels, and how it can be distorted by hitting a convex or concave lens.
 http://www.parenting.com/gallery/everyday-ways-sneak-learning

Simply Science
Summer Program
Guest Stars 2011

Mon Tues Weds Thurs Fri
June 20
Franklin Hayes Marionettes
June 21
Heal the Bay
June 22
Lego Building Festival
June 23
Los Angeles ZOO
June 24
Mad science: Dry ice
June 27
Race Car Event
June 28
Wildlife on Wheels
June 29
Santa Monica Bay Keepers
June 30
Rockets & Robots
July 1
Bubbles Explosion


**Subject to Change**

Article first published as Adventure Around the Corner: New York City Style on Technorati.

beginIn New York City for Bar Mitzvah Dos, we met Agnes, an event painter, working at the incredible party planned to celebrate the Jewish ritual to bring my nephew to adulthood.  Watching her create an oil painting of our family and friends, an art piece to treasure; I began to think about how we all paint ourselves into our lives. Are you in the place in your life where you want to be? Who would be painted in next to you? What would you be doing?

Recently watching LOST, the Television show,  several characters state: “Everyone gets a new life on this island. Maybe it’s time you start yours.” So I started thinking, what is keeping any of us from starting a new chapter in our lives? From taking that next trip or changing jobs or whatever risk you are contemplating?

Maybe you want some advice from someone older who can tell you, don’t miss out on any opportunity especially for travel. Did you know you can write to Elder Wisdom Circle, for advice from volunteers ages 60-105, a sort of rent-a-grandparent but for free and with no biological ties or guilt.

nyc
 Reading Rita Golden Gelman‘s Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World while we were in Sri Lanka last summer reminded me of the episode of LOST. She changed her life and traveled as a nomad for fifteen years; in her book she states: “I am free to live by the standards and ideals and rules I create for myself.” I hope that for my nephew on the verge of adulthood and for myself and all of you, that we can all learn to create a full life, a painting that includes all of us creating  our best lives.

If you are on the Upper West side, you can feel as if you have traveled to may countries, do not miss
Land Thai Kitchen with very authentic and fantastic Thai food. The trip by subway to Peter Luger Steakhouse – “Rated New York No. 1 Steak House for 24 years in a row! Ssssssssizzzzzzlllllle!!!!!!” was nearly heart stopping. The steak was great, but don’t plan a cholesterol test for six months after you eat there!

peterWe also went to the amazing Rosa Mexicano, “Just steps away from Lincoln Center, this impressive David Rockwell-designed space features a 30-foot iridescent blue tile water wall that spans both levels of the restaurant and is adorned with 240 miniature cliff divers.”

All of these places and our time with family and friends, made the journey worthwhile. I would definitely have Agnes paint all the people we saw into the canvas that represents our lives.

We walked through the snow around the corner to the Colombus Cafe. There were 3 young men behind the counter from Yemen speaking Arabic; we had a nice conversation with them about Yemen, Soquatra, a tiny island off the coast, and words in Moroccan Arabic and Arabic. If you only join in, there are travel adventures around every corner.

finsihed paintingSeveral people have recently asked us for advice: how did you take a year off? How did your blog get 13,000 views in 6 months? Where will you go next? Where should I go next?

We love your questions and cannot wait to share more. Please keep writing to us and think about who would be included in the painting of your life, I hope you are in the center doing something fantastic!

Sri Lanka has really been full of adventures!
When we were in Sigiria at the Flower Inn, the owner said, ” Don’t wander far because of the wild elephants!” In all the countries and continents I have been to, this is the first time I have been told that…the elephants walk on the road and there have been several encounters that ended badly for the people!
In Nilaveli,the beach near Trinco in the North, we wandered at night past the barbed wire and soldiers but it was the scary dogs I got worried about, they growled at us and all I could think was PLEASE DONT BITE ME! I could not wait to get back near the friendly soldiers!
Although the people of Sri Lanka have been unbelieveable friendly, being on the beach walking through barbed wire was strange. We met large groups of travelers from Kandy and other parts of Sri Lanka, who were so happy to be able to be in the North now that the civil war is over and traveling is allowed. On the bus, I thought of the circus clown car but instead of all the people getting out, they all got in at every stop. When we joined the bus, we had two hours to stand and it seemed full to me but who knew that there was room for about 20 more people. You just have to SMOOSH as much as possible!
We joined another couple and spent a day on Pigeon Island. A local family took us there in their boat and we snorkeled several times. We did see neon yellow mushroom coral and two black tip reef sharks, however, much of the coral has been damaged by a combination of dynamite fishing, the navy and the 2004 tsunami. In the North, it is difficult to tell if the destruction of buildings is from the 25 year civil war or the tsunami. Our hotel, Shashira, had one side that was destroyed. They are working hard to rebuild and tourism is returning.
Passing back through Kandy, we had a chance to go to the Pinewalla Elephant Orphanage. I will have to post the photos…it did look like an African savannah. I am not sure it is the best place for the elephants but it is the top tourist attraction of Sri Lanka. 
Our next stop was the HILL COUNTRY: Nuwara Eliya and Ella for beautiful hikes in the tea plantations, after that ARUGAN BAY in the East, another area hit hard by the civil war and the tsunami but we saw them sealing the main road and painting new hotels. We did not surf but we saw many amazing surfers in the water. The Kataragama Pilgrimage festival was amazing. Can’t wait to tell you all about YMBA and the parade where elephants and dancers take “god to visit his girlfriend!” and our trip to Bundalla and Yala to see wild elephants….MORE SOON
I am writing to you from Columbo where we got our new visas so we can stay another two weeks. Just wanted to say HELLO! We will post more stories SOON.
Lisa and George

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Summer Adventure to Sri Lanka and the Maldives
We leave June 21, 2010 for Sri Lanka.

To receive updates from our blog, please add your email address in the box at the top right corner of the blog. Feedburner will send you an email immediately, once you activate the link sent to you, new posts will be delivered to your inbox. You can easily unsubscribe at any time. I expect that we will post 1 -3 times a month during the summer in Sri Lanka.

So many people have asked us, why Sri Lanka?
Here are a few facts from the Lonely Planet online,

“When the noted writer Sir Arthur C Clarke made his home in Sri Lanka in 1956, he claimed the island jewel of the Indian Ocean was the best place in the world from which to view the universe. … equipped with a stellar combination of scenery, culture and history, a growing focus on sustainable tourism and (hopefully) a more settled society, Sri Lanka is firmly back on the radar for curious travellers seeking unique experiences.” The 25 year civil war is over and our friends, Susan and Don, were in Sri Lanka for a month in Oct 2009 and said the local people are friendly and ready for tourists.
The video of the Duran Duran song, “Save a Prayer,” from the Rio album was filmed in the “jungles, beaches, and temples of Sri Lanka in April, 1982. Scenes were filmed atop the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya, among the ruins of a Buddhist temple at Polonnaruwa and the island’s southern coastline.” We hope to see it all this summer!

We leave Monday June 21, 2010 at 4:45pm from Los Angeles, California for a 15 hour flight to Dubai, UAE arriving at 7:25pm on Tuesday night. The 2:45am flight from Dubai lands Wednesday June 23rd at 8:45am.  Our first night stay will be at Ocean View Guesthouse in Negombo close to the international airport outside of the capital, Columbo, Sri Lanka.  The flight and the hotel are all the plans we have so far….we will keep you posted!
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave us a comment and remember we said GO TRAVEL!

Lisa and George