Archive for March 2007

Karin Feltman: Katrina volunteering

March 29, 2007

Karin Feltman
Volunteered after Hurricane Katrina

1. i actually don’t work for an organization that sends out volunteers- i find volunteering opportunities on my own and go. i work for a hospital here in lawrence as an ER nurse. they are supportive of my efforts, but they aren’t actually involved in that process. well…that isn’t exactly true. they are part of something called the “pinckney partnership”, which is a partnership with a local elementary school, and there are volunteering project through that. i tutor a 5th grade class, for example.

2. most of the organizations that i have volunteered through have been faith-based organizations. i have gone to mississippi to aid in hurricane relief through the episcopal diocese of mississippi, and i am going to honduras with the church of the resurrection (COR) in kansas city. they also send volunteers to mississippi for continued hurricane clean-up, to the ukraine for construction and bible teaching, and to south africa for medical and HIV education, and also for construction efforts. they have many local volunteering projects, as well. my trip to kenya is through an organization called CTC International, and they currently send volunteers only to kenya, for both medical missions and construction projects. they are a christian organization as well, though not a church.

3. i think that volunteering is becoming popular for many reasons…some of which i will cover in #4, since i believe that many people volunteer precisely because of what THEY get out of it. another reason that the popularity of volunteering is increasing is that volunteer efforts are getting more exposure and more coverage in the media, and that allows people to become aware of volunteering opportunities and the needs of others. i think that many people have always thought of mission work or volunteering as very expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to get into. while that can be the case, there are many opportunities that take little time and effort, yet still make a huge impact (like serving at a local homeless shelter, or “soup-kitchen” , for instance.) i serve at LINK (lawrence interdenominational nutrition kitchen) for about 3 hours, every other month….and while that is a small effort for me, we feed up to 160 people each time that i volunteer so it is a huge benefit to the community. the more that these opportunities are highlighted in our media, the more people realize that they CAN help, and very easily…and there are things that they can do with their families, too.

oddly enough, i also believe that people are having families either much later in life, or not at all….and that is freeing up a large number of able bodied people to do volunteer work. many people don’t want to leave their spouse or children (for obvious reasons) to do volunteer work, but there are more single people in the world now that not everyone feels that they “have” to get married- and many of us feel called to use our availability to help others. it makes sense for me to go help where i am needed, since i have nothing tying me down here at home. i feel very privileged.

lastly, i feel that volunteering is becoming more popular because we have seen tragedy much closer to home than we are used to seeing (example: 9/11, and hurricane katrina). we are used to having bad things happen “somewhere else” and now they are also happening here. people tend to want to help those people that they relate to because their plight seems more real. we can all imagine what it would be like to have those things happen in OUR towns, too, so we want to help others just like we would want them to help us if we needed it. does that make sense?

also- volunteering just feels good!!

4. that brings me to your last question…. i cannot even explain the sense of fulfillment that i get when i volunteer, and i am sure that is the same for most people. knowing that you have made a difference in the life of another person (or people) is an amazing feeling. i tie that in with my faith, because i feel called by god to give back my gifts to serve god and others. he gave me my gifts to serve him and i try to do that faithfully. nothing feels better than living the life that god intended you to live. even without faith, though, people can get a strong sense of value and worth by helping out another human being (or animal, or the environment)…. it is a sense of productive work that makes this life and this world a better place to live. everyone wants to know “who am i, and why am i here?”…the meaning of life….well, volunteering gives life meaning, if nothing else. it keeps us from just taking up space and draining resources. it allows us to give back.


i-to-i profile

March 28, 2007

Jo Little

i-to-I press officer

Organisation profile

1. What does i-to-i do?
i-to-i is the world leader in ethical volunteer travel and TEFL
(teaching English as a foreign language) training. We send 5,000 people
a year to work with 500 community, teaching, sports, media and
conservation projects in 32 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America
and Australasia. We offer the most widely recognised TEFL courses
available and arrange paid teaching placements in ten countries
including China, Hungary and Greece. We also support projects across the
world through our charity – the i-to-i Foundation.

2. Why has meaningful travel become so popular?
People are looking for ways to give back, have unique experiences and to
grow as individuals. Simply travelling to destinations isn’t always
enough – it’s becoming almost too easy. As travel is so accessible now I
think people are starting to look for something different from their
time overseas. People want a new challenge and a ‘real’ travel
experience. Rather than just passing through a country and visiting the
top sites, travellers want to get to the heart of it, learn about its
culture and people and really give something back to the communities
they are visiting. Meaningful travel gives them the opportunity to get
so much more out of their time overseas by benefiting from a complete
cultural exchange – working and living alongside the locals and getting
a true feel for the country.

3. Why was i-to-i set up?
The i-to-i concept was born when its founder Deirdre Bounds embarked on
her own career break, quitting her job as a shoe machinery marketeer to
explore the world – teaching English in Japan, China and Greece and
driving a backpackers’ bus in Sydney. She was fascinated with travel,
going eye to eye with unique cultures and people. When she finally
returned home she was itching to help others have the same kind of
experiences that she’d had. So, she set up i-to-i from a bed-sit in
Leeds with no business experience but heaps of passion. She started with
her own weekend TEFL course which was a monster hit and the volunteer
projects soon followed.

4. How many volunteers does it help a year?
We send approximately 5,000 volunteers a year overseas.

Japan photos

March 25, 2007

To go with Shari’s article, Joseph Tame has very kindly allowed me access to his photos of Japan, here’s a cool one from his skiing and snowboarding trip:

ski slope in japan

Andante travel: meaningful archaelogical holidays

March 21, 2007

Joanna Lawson

Marketing manager

Andante travels

“We’re an archaeological travel company, set up in 1985, and owned and run by archaeologists. We run tours all over the world to ancient monuments, and each tour has a guide who is a respect archaeologist.

“The company was started by Dr Annabell Lawson, who started showing people around Stonehenge and sights in Germany, and she figured it would be a good idea to keep going.” 

“We currently run around 60 tours, that take in the Middle East, North Africa, South American and Sri Lanka. The most popular tours are those to Jordan, Egypt, Pompeii, larger towns in Peru and Mexico.

“Always been a popular type of travel for those in a certain circle, always going to be a market for specialist travel and types of holiday. I think that the rise of programmes such as Time Team has made it more accessible, the stereotype of archaeology has been blown away a bit by shows like that. Low cost airlines have also opened up the market for more interesting holidays for people.

“We now run Barebones, which is a scaled down version of the tours. We’ve found that a lot of people like having a guide, but they also like to go off by themselves. People want independence and a chance to explore the place they are visiting, but the Bare Bones tour allows them to explore and also have guided sessions. They are becoming very popular, especially with younger travellers.

“We see a real fluctuation in our most popular destinations, I don’t know why it varies. Obviously if there’s a big film or book based around a certain archaeological sight then sometimes that increases the interest, but it really is vary random why people decide to visit certain sights.

Pompeii is probably our most consistently popular destination for people to visit. This is because it’s still in one piece, you can really see what Roman life was like, the bodies are still covered in ash, and it’s also very accessible now because of low cost flights to Italy.”

Living in Japan: Shari

March 21, 2007

1. Why did you move to Japan? (and where did you move from?)

I moved from California in the United States. The reasons I moved are
a bit complex. Primarily, my husband and I had a brief and very
positive history in Japan and wanted to return to recapture that
situation. We also felt that we might find a better economic
situation temporarily in Japan. Our original plan was to be here for
5 years and now it’s been 18 years.

The “brief and positive” history was my husband and I, who were pen
pals, met for the first time in Tokyo while I was on vacation. I
stayed for a month. It was a wonderful experience.

> 2. How does it differ to living in a Wester country?

For a caucasian person, it can be a bit like being a black person in
a largely white community. You get stared at. People whisper about
you or talk to each other about you (figuring you can’t understand
them even when you actually can). People can also be extremely
understanding and considerate of you because they recognize you don’t
fully fit into (or understand) the culture. In general, the main
difference is that you are always aware that you are different and
will always be different.

Other than that, there’s the obvious which is you can’t read a lot of
what is around since there are thousands of characters. Even if you
study a fair bit, you may never be able to read fluently because the
characters read differently depending on the characters they are
paired with. You often find that Japanese people make mistakes in
reading their own characters because it’s so complex. Even those who
learn to read Japanese often never learn to write. In most western
countries, a roman alphabet is used so you can read everything even
if you can’t understand it. This is a serious impediment to learning
the language compared to learning a western language.

> 3. What are the cultural differences that you’ve observed?

This is the question that would require a book. Here are just a few:

1. Communication works differently. It’s not just a language
difference. The Japanese communicate in a fashion designed to not
communicate clearly. They say “yes” when they mean  “no”. They say
nothing when they really want you to know something. They tell you
it’s okay not to do something (or do something) when they really
disapprove. The Japanese people understand the way communication
works (or doesn’t work) and are able to read into the indirect
communication and infer what is actually meant. Foreigners find this
hard to do because they don’t understand the cultural framework.

2. Your rights are limited and can be revoked at any time. You cannot
assert your right to anything strongly. The police may stop and
question you at any time or haul you into the station for questioning
at any time. I have been stopped and accused of stealing my bike
merely because I was riding it down the sidewalk.

3. There is a lot more gift giving and apologizing. Neither is
sincere or heartfelt. There is a lot more obligatory behavior based
on social rules and customs. Your acquaintances and friends who are
Japanese will not expect you to follow these rules but they will
observe them when they interact with  you.

4. Appearances mean more than substance. Food looks good but doesn’t
taste good. A beautifully wrapped gift is more important for its
wrapping than its contents. How you dress is more important than who
you are (except in family and interpersonal situations). You hang
around the office and don’t go home until everyone else does. It
doesn’t matter what you’re doing as long as you give the appearance
of working as hard as everyone else.

5. People don’t complain often or loudly. You’re expected to control
your emotions and those around you usually control theirs. In the
U.S., you will often see people behave in a hostile fashion toward
strangers who annoy them. You rarely see that in Japan. People will
be rude, of course, but they rarely respond to each other’s rudeness.

6. Service is often slow and meticulous. The Japanese are sticklers
for dotting all the “i’s” and crossing all the “t’s” and they don’t
mind making people wait in line while they methodically go through
every stage.

7. The Japanese place a greater value on the needs of the group (and
maintaining harmony) than on individual needs. For instance, the
Japanese often work while sick. Meetings take forever because they
won’t express their opinions assertively or clearly. As a foreigner,
you can run afoul of your coworkers if you’re too assertive or

8. The Japanese don’t like too many personal questions and are
uncomfortable offering up certain types of information we’d freely
discuss in the west.

There are also a lot of tiny things but they’re all covered in guide
books and easy to learn – taking your shoes off when you enter a
house, eating everything you are served (because any food left on the
plate indicates that you didn’t like the dish), never pouring your
own drink and pouring drinks for others, etc.

> 4. What do you do out there?

I teach English and do freelance work for a company that sells
correspondence courses.

> 5. What advice would you give to people who are thinking of
> traveling/moving to Japan?

Traveling and moving are two very different issues when it comes to
Japan. If you’re going to travel around Japan, you can pretty much
get by with just English because most of the places you’re going to
go or stay will have English speaking and signs.

If you’re moving here, any advice depends on how long you’re going to
stay. If you’re just here for the short term, see and do as much as
you can in your free time and don’t sweat the cultural differences
much since you’ll be forgiven any transgressions.

If you’re moving and plan to stay for a long time, try to abandon
ethnocentric judgments and accept that the Japanese are different but
different doesn’t mean “worse”. Expect to be frustrated at times and
to have your patience tested. Try to get yourself in the mindset that
saying what you think will probably harm you more than help you in
the long run and set yourself to the task of learning to read and
communicate between the lines. Expect to love it at first. Expect to
hate it later. Expect to like it even later.

> 6. Where in Japan do you live?

I live in Tokyo.

New bumper passports

March 20, 2007

Gap year travellers can now get a ‘bumper passport’ for all those far away country stamps.


The new passport, costing £77, has 16 extra pages in it.


It is identical to current passports, but has 48 pages, and is biometric.

Travel advice: Travel writing

March 20, 2007

Rolf Potts, adventurer, explorer and travel writer, offers advice on how to break into travel writing. Example of question:


Although I’ve assembled plenty of advice for aspiring travel writers on my websites over the years, I still get a steady stream of queries – often from college students – asking about how to land a travel writing gig. A recent inquiry comes from Maggie in Minnesota:

I am an aspiring travel journalist and freshman in college. I have decided to pursue travel journalism as my career. I am only 19 years old, but I have already been on numerous international travels. I have found that one of the great loves of my life is traveling and writing about those experiences. One of the greatest thrills of my life is interacting with people of other cultures, hearing their stories, living their way of life, etc.

Mr. Potts, what I am trying to get at is that I am very passionate about travel and writing. I know many people my age dream of being a travel journalist, and I know many of them may be better writers than I. What can I do to make my writing stand apart from all others? How can I be a successful travel journalist? What do magazines look for when they hire a travel journalist? What can I be doing now to prepare me for my future as a travel journalist?

This is what I told Maggie:

My best advice for you is to find an area of expertise. An area of expertise might be a physical area, such as Southeast Asia or Scandinavia, or the Rocky Mountains; or it may be a travel specialty, such as extreme sports, or golf, or low-budget travel, or spa travel. Keep in mind it will take you a long time to accumulate expertise — but you’ll have fun doing it. With enough expertise, you may be able to write for (or create your own) guidebooks, and you can do lots of freelancing on the side.

Interestingly, getting “hired” by a magazine or newspaper as a travel journalist is a mixed bag. It makes for a stable job, but ironically you won’t be able to travel much in a free-spirited manner — since publications rely on freelancers for their actual travel features, and they themselves often stick to travel news that can be reported from an office. And, even more ironically, those staffers who do get to travel usually earn this privilege not by accumulating experience as travelers, but by accumulating experience as normal, office-bound writers and editors. So if you really want a staff job, aim for magazine/newspaper internships while you’re still in school.

I didn’t do this: I took the freelance route, which is more fun, but a lot less stable and remunerative. I traveled, taught English, traveled some more, worked odd jobs, and traveled some more. I didn’t sell a travel article for money until I was 28 — and, while I am a full-time travel writer now with books under my belt, I still don’t make much money as a freelancer. Few people do.

So only get into travel journalism if you really love to travel and write. If you think it’s a good pretext for getting to travel, think again: you can travel just as much by saving up money from another, better-paying job, and just taking off to go vagabonding. So only pursue travel writing because you love to write as well. If that admonition hasn’t scared you off, I’ll advise you to write as much as possible, work on your narrative voice (because a vivid or funny voice can make all the difference), do some publication internships, get out there and work on your travel expertise, and — most of all — have fun! Even if your travels don’t lead to a full-time career, they are a reward in and of themselves.