Category Archives: Travels & Adventures

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

Milk is Meant for Boys

So now all the lovely ladies, Business Chicks representatives and THP Australia team have arrived.

This brilliant opportunity ahead of me, commences with The Hunger Project India and Australia teams welcoming us all to amazing India and to further introduce the work done by the elected women representatives, some of whom we’ll have the privilege of meeting on our travels this coming week as we head to Naini Tal in the Himalayan foothills.  It’s also lovely to have two representatives from the THP Swedish office joining us on this trip.

Firsthand, we will be able to witness the courage of the Elected Women Representatives as they bring about much needed change in their communities in spite of the daily obstacles that arise, and continued resistance from those who fear change.

This visit will be a milestone for us as we witness the work they do, and also for them as they understand that what they’re achieving is amazing and significant and worthy of us learning from them

India remains at number 103 out of 119 countries on the Global Hunger Index behind even Bangladesh and Nepal, yet is the third largest economy in the world following the USA and China.

The India Times yesterday was highlighting the reduction of child marriage and teen pregnancies in India, shaming the areas lagging behind and noting that much work was still to be done.

We sadly heard that infanticide is still practiced against baby girls and is considered acceptable by many.  Child marriage and the rape of girls as young as three continues.  If my blood could curdle, I think it just did.

The expression ‘milk is meant for boys’ crossed my radar and angered and surprised me today.  Even grandmothers won’t nourish their granddaughters as it is so ingrained that the men and boys are worth more and come first in the family, community, and beyond.  Yet, families don’t even let their animals sleep without food…  Over half of all rural women in India are malnourished and anemic,  and 39 crimes against women are committed every hour.

For someone who has grown up in middle class Australia in a family that had enough, and daughters had the same opportunities as sons, it’s a world I understand very little of.

As the horns continue to blast in the streets around me, I’m looking forward to learning from the experiences we’ll all have in the coming days and how for some, the tide is slowly turning.

In the past, I know that the lessons learned can inspire each of us to be a catalyst for change in our own personal and business lives.

Signing off… and eagerly awaiting my latest immersive experience despite, the 3.30 am wakeup call ahead.

A Good Horn, Good Brakes, and Good Luck!

So, it turns out that you go to sleep to the sounds of horns blasting and awake to the same frenetic activity.  It kind of completely set the tone for a dynamic tour of Delhi and an amazing introduction to India.

In Australia, hearing a horn means you’ve done or seen something stupid or seriously upset a fellow traveler.  In India it means, ‘hey, I’m here, look out!’  Or even, ‘I’m just completely in love with this horn that my vehicle has kindly provided for my unlimited use and intend to show my gratitude repeatedly.’  Road markings are a complete joke and aren’t even used as a guideline for motorists, riders or those pushing a cart.

Opting to immediately head out to explore the sights, rather than wallowing in my one night only special upgraded suite with a spa, I did a spot of research, and found a private  all day tour for AU$50 and set off to hit the town… the Old Town to start with.

My driver Rahul told me that you need three things when driving in India:  a good horn, good brakes and good luck! (he may need more luck with the brakes…)

And what an epic day it turned out to be.  Although it felt unhurried and quite relaxed, we managed to visit some amazing places.  Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists all reside in India and its sites and architecture reflect its diverse history.

I met my guide Qayoom when we started at the Jama Masjid, the largest Mosque in Delhi (incredible architecture) and snooped at the view of Old Delhi from all three gates.  Shoes off and swathed in a bright yellow wrap, I wandered the walls of this building that can house 25,000 worshipers at a single time.

Jama Mosque

It was then a bicycle rickshaw ride through the Chandni Chowk area to see some more sights.

Zinat-ul Masjid or the Fatahpuri Mosque, surrounded by homes for those learning, and schools for children, was next.  Koi splashed in the pond set aside for wudu (ceremonial washing before entering a mosque) as plans were underway to set up for Friday worship.

Mosque

This was soon followed by a spot of shopping for the alleged purest spices on earth at the bazaar.  (I may or may not be eating butter chicken and green curry for some time to come!)  Seeing man and beast hauling the goods on carts from the supply areas to the shops made me almost glad of an office job.

Spide

Next up was a wander around the outside of the Red Fort which commenced its life in 1639 and was completed in 1648, taking almost 9 years to finish.  It remained the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal dynasty for the next 200 years and today houses a number of museums (currently under renovation.)

Red Fort

We reconnected with Rahul here and made our way to Raj Ghat, the final resting place and memorial site for Mahatma Gandhi.  Judging by the number of school groups on site, he’s still as highly revered for brokering a peaceful independence for India as he was back in the day… before being stopped by a bullet.

Raj Ghat (2)

As it turns out, blondes may have more fun and I was accosted by bold, young schoolboys wanting photos with the white lady to mark their time at Raj Ghat, and smiles and waves from the shyer girls.  (Unsure how pics of the granddaughter of a British Indian army officer will fit into their school report on this important excursion in their formative years.)

School boys

Up after that was an authentic Indian lunch at Pindi, with resident snake charmer lurking outside!  I think I could have truly finished my tour right there with a full stomach and great pics, but there was still so much more to accomplish.

Charmer (2)

Isa Khan’s (an Afghan noble who fought against the Mughal’s) garden tomb followed, complete with new puppies, and it felt like I’d entered Dome Appreciation Day by the end of this site visit.  There’s truly some clever people and amazing artisans who helped create these brilliant buildings.  It’s kind of a shame that their residents don’t get to truly enjoy their final resting place.  But then, maybe the traipsing of millions of tourists around their graves would be some consolation in that at least, they are remembered.

Isa Khan

The Bu-Halima gateway then took us through to the real reason for our visit here, Humayun’s Tomb, another great building with extensive use of red sandstone, a final resting place for an Indian Moghul, as commissioned by his first wife and chief consort, and set in spectacular grounds.  It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site and well worth a wander – but if you can’t handle seriously steep stairs, it may not be for you!

Humayn Tomb

And last stop, which we just made in the nick of time, was the $10 million, white marble Baha’i Lotus Temple.  Twenty -seven large petals forming nine sides, and nine swimming pools complete this House of Worship that has become a prominent attraction.  The temple is available as a place of reflection regardless of your personal religious affiliation, or lack thereof.  CNN has referred to it as the most visited building in the world.  And with the sun setting behind, it was a fitting end to a big day and wonderful introduction to Delhi.

If you’ve been before, what are some of your highlights and ‘must-do’ things in this incredible city?  Or, if you haven’t been, what’s on your bucket list?  There’s still more to come from me!  I’ve only just begun…

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.