Category Archives: Travels & Adventures

More on where I’ve been and what I’ve gotten up to…

Kicking Goals!

It’s kind of hard to believe that it’s already been a year (this week) since my trip to Malawi with The Hunger Project and 15 amazing women.

Learning firsthand the magic of mindset and what a difference it’s made as people become empowered to take charge of their own futures was a powerful lesson and made me think carefully about my own limiting beliefs.  And although I’ve kicked a few to the curb, there’s always more to add to that list!

Meeting the amazing villagers who had all lived in abject poverty and yet were stepping up into leadership positions to empower their communities was incredible to be part of.

Transformational Leadership isn’t just about fearless leaders rocking social media but everyday people making a difference in the lives of others – they’re the true rockstars.  And it certainly put the privilege I’d been born into, into stark relief.

I remember thinking that certain awards were ‘out of my league’ or that ‘I’d never be as amazing as that person’ or that ‘I couldn’t do what they’re doing!’  So I chose to question all of that and set some goals of my own.

I wanted to travel more, write a book, do more public speaking, stay involved with The Hunger Project and have an award winning financial planning practice, and what’s really cool… is in the last 12 months, I ticked all those boxes.  It’s only now that the memories are coming up in my Facebook feed that I’ve realised how far I’ve come… and what I still have to go!

Time to set some more Big Hairy Audacious Goals and get kicking!

What are you planning to set up for yourself in 2018?

 

Is Travel Insurance really necessary?

Travel is a whole lot of fun!  And as we know, it can also be a little expensive!  Sometimes, travel insurance may seem like that one last item that tips we scales and we say no, it’s too much!

But firstly, what does it even cover?

Typically, you’ll be protected for:-

  • Loss of luggage and personal items, like cameras and phones
  • Disruptions to travel plans, like flight cancellations
  • Theft of your goods, and most importantly…
  • Medical expenses from injury or illness.

If you’ve never had the privelege of being sick in the USA, I hope you never are.  Medical teatment in some countries can cost a fortune if you don’t have travel insurance! According to the National Business Group, you may be out of pocket up to $1,000,000 for a heart attack!

But, it’s also Buyer Beware!  Usually, you won’t be covered for extreme sports, pre-existing medical conditions, acts of terrorism and some natural disasters, loss or theft of unattended baggage, travel to areas where there is an official travel warning issued, financial failure of a provider or pregnancy related issues after around 22 weeks.  If you’re likely to be affected by any of these, take care!

Top Tips!

Usually, you’ll find out the cost of the cover pretty quickly, but be sure to enquire about the excess applicable to any claims; what’s included and what’s not; dollar limits for your more expensivce items and total values covered; what proof you need at claim time and how to contact you’re provider if you’re overseas.

Be honest when completing the forms.  You don’t want your claim denied because you failed to mention a health condition!

Once you’ve purchased cover you’re happy with and stashed the details, pack light and enjoy the flight!  And if you’re a frequent traveller, ask about a coporate or annual travel insurance plan

I’d never leave home without it!

Holiday Tips Time!

So, you’ve waited all year and finally it’s here! Your time off is sorted, bags are packed, and you’re ready to go! It’s holiday time!

Most people love their vacations and look forward to them for a long time. But instead of coming back to a maxed credit card, what are some ways you can ensure things run smoothly – and return home debt free, with great memories?

Usually, you’ve got a fair idea of when you can travel, where you’d like to go and how long for. With the internet now, it’s easy to work out how much everything will cost, far in advance.  Sites like TripAdvisor and Booking.com amongst many others mean you know what you’re getting, and just how much you’ll be paying.

It’s always a good idea if you can pay off all your travel, flights and accommodation prior to heading off to take advantage of lengthy booking time discounts, and also work out how much you’d like to have as a daily budget. If I’m heading to the USA, I like to average around $250 per day spending money, if it’s Asia, I’ll likely need a lot less. (This is to cover meals, transfers, sight-seeing and day-to-day activities outside of travel and accommodation costs.)

It’s then easier to work out your total spend based on your research. As an example, you might allow for the following if heading to Asia:
Flights $1,500
Accommodation $2,000
Spending Money $2,000
Total trip cost: $5,500

If you have a year to plan, this means you’ll need to set aside $106 per week. Break it down into how often you’re paid. If it’s fortnightly, that’ll be $212 per pay period.

This is also a great way to work out whether or not what you’d like to do is affordable. If you can’t take the appropriate amount each pay period out to cover costs, and still make ends meet, it’s time to rethink. Can you wait for happy hour or a sale on flights? Do you need to rethink your accommodation options or planned experiences? Should you go for a shorter amount of time? Or find somewhere else to head to altogether?

Also, if you’re going overseas, send your spending money to a Travel Money card where it can store your funds in the appropriate currency. Most banks offer this service, as do Virgin and other providers. Make sure the card is chipped too, so it’s accepted in more places and that you can take cash withdrawals of your funds at ATM’s when you’re on the move.

It’s also a great way to average out the ups and downs of currency fluctuations instead of waiting for ‘the right time’ to buy. Even if you’re travelling domestically, this is still a great way to keep funds segregated just for your holidays.

And if you’re someone who has to buy gifts and ‘stuff’ and often need to grab an extra suitcase before you head back, my top travel tip is to throw in a large vacuum storage bag. This way you can suck the air out of all your clothes, and leave room for those extra items, without the last minute cost of excess luggage or another new suitcase!  Most hotels are happy to supply the vacuum!

And never, ever leave home without your travel insurance! I hope you’ll never need it, but for the peace of mind, it’s totally worth it.

Confronting Child Marriage in Malawi

Part of our visit to Majete 5 involved meeting people in the village who were open enough to share their homes and stories with us.

For some background, for many years, their homes and village formed part of the Majete Game Reserve, and naturally enough for people suffering chronic persistent hunger, the wildlife was viewed as a food source and the trees were cut down to burn and sell the charcoal as an income source.  Over time, this decimated the area until the Government finally decided to partner with private enterprise and re-establish the game reserve to entice tourist dollars back to Malawi.  It was pitched as good for the villages to bring money back to the country, but to those starving, made little sense.

Fencing the entire reserve meant that those living in the Park were forcibly relocated outside of the perimeter and much antagonism arose with the local communities cut off from what they once viewed as their own.

To assist in helping villages find their feet again and look for new sources of income, The Hunger Project was asked to partner with communities around the Reserve and assist with mindset change and leadership.  Education assists in helping find new sources of income and building a better life.

Yet for now, some things remain the same in the villages.

Maxwell (32) and his wife Shiveira (28) welcomed us to their home.  Shiveria was very shy and is currently expecting their 5th child.  Their eldest is now 15 (do the math!) was married at 12 and is a mother herself.  Maxwell told us she wanted to be married and wasn’t forced, but they needed the dowry to be able to eat.  We were witnessing firsthand inter-generational child marriage and teen pregnancy… and it was a little confronting.

I found it difficult to suspend judgement and just listen to the story for what it is seeing it’s so different, unacceptable and unusual in my own culture.  Child marriage however has long been considered normal in the area and no-one raises an eyebrow.The legal age for marriage in Malawi is 18 however child marriage still regularly occurs in the village areas with little to no intervention from the village leaders.

Maxwell’s daughter stopped attending school once having the baby and may never have the opportunity for further education… until The Hunger Project bring their literacy classes to the area.

At home, remain 2 sons and another daughter, plus the baby on the way.  Hopefully by the time their existing daughter is a teenager, the mindset training will be complete and her parents will take part in the Vision, Commitment and Action workshops, educating them with alternate options.

Well, here’s hoping anyway!

A visit to Champiti

Our travels today took us to an Epicentre of The Hunger Project (THP) called Champiti, which has been awarded the status of self-reliance, a huge effort by the local community!

Our bus trip took a couple of hours to head North-West of Blantyre and we passed much barren territory, a lasting effect of the past three years of El Nino which has devastated the country.

Our first stop was the home and shop of the inspirational Sarah Dzenza and the local women greeted us with song, dance and some serious ululating (which we later practiced in the bus!)  Sarah embraced the philosophy of The Hunger Project early and has had 6 loans from the rural bank to expand and grow her businesses (selling supplies and sarongs) and improve her home, now a burnt brick dwelling with rendered walls and an iron roof – quite an achievement!

It was a little overwhelming for me to walk up to her home with memories flooding back of my previous visit to Uganda, being surrounded by children whose folks are doing everything they can to give them a better life, the incredible heat and noise and sunlight that is Africa.

We then headed to briefly meet the first chairman of the Epicentre, Mr Hiwa and his lovely wife of 50 years who explained what life was like for the villages prior to THP and how their lives and that of the community has improved.  Next stop the Epicentre!!

Another amazing traditional dance from both the men and women greeted us on arrival and it felt like we were walking into a National Geographic spread.  We were proudly shown around the maize mill, food bank, medical facilities and rural bank with the local team on hand to answer questions about how they’d managed to achieve the status of self-reliance.

A deeper dive into the various works that committees arrange, such as Women’s Empowerment, Nutrition, Health, HIV & AIDS, Water & Sanitation, Food Security, Micro-finance, Education and Literacy were all covered.  No handouts here, just education across all that’s necessary and massive mindset changes required to move past the resignation and into a place of hope.

Spending time with Everton, the young bank manager and learning about his family and job was lovely.  He tells me women are educated before taking out the loans and strict warnings are given not to pass on the funds to their husbands as they are still responsible for the loan and any associated interest (around 2%) even if their husband’s spend the money!  A warning that women the world over would be wise to follow!

Sex Ed was also fascinating with the mindset changes required for communities to embrace male and female condoms and HIV testing and increasing health and sanitation practices.

After hours of learning and inspiration from the local Malawians we were all invited to join in final songs and dance.  We all need so much more spontaneous song and dance in our lives!  An uplifting and beautiful way to finish our visit.  Then time for selfies, hugs, goodbyes with the kids, more pictures and long waves…

On the way home, a brilliant sunset occurred to our west, as the supermoon rose from the east in epic African skies.  A fitting end to a fabulous day of learning and laughter.

 

Arrival into Malawi

So after around 32 hours of travel door to door from Australia to Africa, and with my calves and ankles now merged into their usual long puffy sausages, we finally arrived at our hotel in Malawi and over the next few hours, all the lovely women I’ll be spending the next 10 to 14 days with, arrived to take part in their coming immersion into the work of The Hunger Project (THP.)

As always, that first shower was spectacularly satisfying… and the massage to follow was pretty great too.  A couple of drinks, introductions, a dinner and an early night were next on the cards.  (I can’t help but think back to my visit to Uganda last year when it was all still so unknown, and also as another group are touring from there simultaneously with our Malawi trip.)

It’s now 4.30 am and with the body clock still out of whack, we’ll soon start our first day of the Business Chicks Leadership and Immersion Program.

It’s so fabulous to meet a bunch of ladies who you know for the past few months have gone above and beyond to be here; going so far out of their way to each raise $10,000 for this great cause and hear of their trials and tribulations on the way.

Yet, the stories carry the same interesting themes.  Surprise at those who were so supportive of their efforts… and also at those close to them who weren’t.  And gratitude for the lessons along the way.  The incredible personal achievement of having ‘made it’ and to finally arrive in Blantyre after the culmination of months of plotting and planning.  Most have never done anything like this before, but are approaching their coming adventure with open minds, and just a little trepidation.

Over the next nine days we’ll be visiting various Epicentres and learning lessons in leadership from those who’ve stood up and made a difference in their own lives, in those of their extended families and their communities, and who also happen to be amongst the poorest people on earth.

If you’d like to follow our journey over the coming days, I’ll be sharing more about the work of The Hunger Project, their efforts in Malawi and thoughts on what we’ve seen and experienced on our visit.

For those who are unfamiliar with the work of THP, they start with Three Pillars:

  1.  Start with Women – studies show when women are supported and empowered, all society benefits.  This is why THP focus on building the capacity of women;
  2. Mobilise Everyone – building knowledge, skills and leadership so the locals can take action to improve their own communities;
  3. Engage Government – empowering people to communicate their needs to local government ensures they too are effective and accountable

You can read more about their work at THP Australia or follow along and enjoy my adventures!  I look forward to sharing more with you.

Now it’s time for that early cup of tea…

Home Hug Surin gets a new driveway

A long drive to the orphanage of Home Hug Surin from Yasoton, saw us once again collaborating on a humid Thai day to bring about what the home required as part of the Hands Across the Water Social Venture Program.

A gravel driveway for the frequently used travel bus and a beautiful paved entrance to the main hall of the orphanage was on the agenda.

After a quick debrief, we easily moved to where we could all add most value, with many of the girls opting to spread the gravel that had been dumped on the drive, and the guys to move the concrete sleepers and commence spreading the sand and laying the pavers for the entrance walk.

The work was hot and sweaty and once again, our hosts paid us special care, providing cool refresher towels, plenty of water and fabulous food to keep us going.

By the late afternoon, the kids were home from school and joined us in the work that was left, loving having visitors at the orphanage and being useful amongst all their new-found foreign friends despite plenty of language barriers.

Once the work was finally finished and we were all exhausted, we enjoyed a lovely debrief and a session of thanks followed by a beautiful meal with the children, who just loved our company.

It’s been said that the ‘workman is worthy of his wage’ and our payment was more than enough in the smiles and thanks of the children we met at this lovely home.  They also showed their appreciation through traditional dance, a spot of hip hop and some songs for us – all to standing ovations..

From younger children, to intellectually impaired teenage boys, this place operates from a place of love and makes a beautiful welcoming environment for all these amazing and resilient children, who have nowhere else to call home,  It is again a testament to the amazing work of Hands Across the Water and the love and tireless work of Mae Thiew in protecting the children in her care.

Sounds sleeps and pleasant dreams were had by all.