Ready, set, TRAVEL! 5 tips to prepare yourself.

When you think about travel…

It’s a dream. An exploration. A chance to connect with that person you would have never otherwise met. Travel is an opportunity to stretch comfort zones beyond boundaries you didn’t know were there and an invitation to peel back the many layers of self. It is a ubiquitous word, one that leaves us longing, if for pleasure, and grimacing if for business. Travel is international. Travel is domestic. Travel is a road trip or a cross-continental voyage above the clouds. And whether your schedule permits ample travel time or you have to sneak away as you labor “remotely”, we’ve got your back!

Here are our top 5 recommendations for the essential mindset for any type of traveler:

  1. 1. Expect the unexpected.

It’s the best part of any adventure or experience! That time you got lost in the back roads of Wyoming? Wasn’t it great? Didn’t you stumble upon that perfect place or have an extra half hour for a conversation that wouldn’t have otherwise transpired? The greatest spontaneity derives from the illusion of a clear plan. When things go “awry”, accept the chaos as a gift and an opportunity. 

  1. 2. Take care of you.

Group dynamics can make or break a travel experience. You know just what we mean. He was hungry. She needed a nap. They wanted to stay while you wanted to go. The best way to navigate tricky group dynamics is to take care of yourself first. Go for a morning run. Have your coffee. Maintain any rituals that are important to you at home while you’re on the road. When you take care of you, you won’t have to worry as much about taking care of others.

  1. 3. Unplug.

When we stay virtually connected with our past, its difficult to connect with what is right in front of us. That post you saw that reminded you of that time you didn’t want to remember…it can transport you away from the present moment. Breathe with the trees. Dance with the locals. Find beauty in the mundane exactly where you are.

  1. 4. Say “yes”.

While relaxation is needed, especially on a relaxing vacation, sometimes you just have to say “yes”. Whether an invitation to a local celebration, a unique ceremony at a nearby worship place or a chance to swim in a boiling river, you just never know when the opportunity may arise again. Take care of you, yes. But also remember that most adventures make a great story!

  1. 5. Listen.

It’s a skill that none of us will conquer in our lifetime, but an imperative one on the road. Listen to yourself if something just doesn’t feel right. Listen when the answers to some of life’s questions magically appear. Listen to whomever you’re traveling with. Take time to understand their story. Ask questions. Listen to your surroundings. Practice closing your eyes wherever you are and notice if there are sounds you hadn’t observed with your eyes open.

The world is happening around you. You are part of its makeup and its beauty. Notice it. Take advantage of it, if even for an afternoon in your own city. Traveling can be as easy as making the decision to see something or someone in an entirely new way.

Enjoy the journey and let us know how we can support you!

 

Falling for Good with La Casa Materna

This month, we celebrate!

If you know Away 2 Be, you know one of our principal tenants is the philosophy of accompaniment.  Introduced by the Jesuits and adopted by leaders such asPaul Farmer, the term “accompaniment” reminds us to “walk with” one another, to relinquish our preconceptions and even our established goals in order to collaborate and create together.

The Casa Materna Mary Ann Jackman has been doing just that for 25 years.  In 25 years, the Casa Materna has welcomed over 17,600 women through their doors in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, and last week, we were able to celebrate their achievements with the staff of the Casa and women of the campo!  I have worked with the Casa for nearly a decade and am still humbled each time I visit, not only by the warmth and generosity it provides, but also for their steadfast dedication to lessen maternal death in Nicaragua and empower women around the world.

In honor of this amazing organization and all they have accomplished, for the next 25 days, the Casa Materna will be hosting an online CrowdRisecelebration to raise $25,000!

Here’s how you can continue the celebration for the Casa Materna with Away 2 Be:
–“Like” the Casa Materna Mary Ann Jackman on Facebook and invite friends and family too!
–Share our posts on your facebook page each day.
–Contribute to our CrowdRise event.
–Share our stories with those you know and love via any medium you choose.
Travel with Away 2 Be to visit La Casa Materna in Matagalpa!

May this fall bring you new beginnings, new perspective and recognition of good in the world.

Susan Lambert
Founder, Away 2 Be

Questions on “Doing it Right”.

As often as possible, Away 2 Be will feature good people doing good things in the world!  Below is a blog written last December after visiting the organic farming cooperative in Esquipulas, Nicaragua.  For further information and to donate to the project, go to: http://www.friendsofesquipulas.org/

 

How could I possibly, can I, might I, try to find a way to articulate gratitude without tones of cliche?  What makes all of this stand apart from the rest?  How can I begin to thank those that I have met on this journey and those that will forever welcome me back into their lives and homes no matter where my finger lands when I spin the globe?  How can I begin to describe Pablo, a man who facilitates a nutritional program for over 100 women, ensuring the health of their families, their children and sustainable education and learning for generations to come as he mourns the loss of his 8 year old son?  Who might be willing to understand Leo, Pablo’s best friend, who travels to the country side four days each week bringing materials, gifts and ideas to these communities to support sustainable health and agricultural education?   How are these sustainable values instilled?  How do people inherently know that listening and being with human beings is, by far, the most integral aspect of local and global change?  How does Hazel smile and put on eyeliner and dress Naomi like a princess when the roof of her house has blown off and everything inside is consequently destroyed by the rain?  How do the men and women of these communities choose to work together and learn from one anotherinstead of resort to mundane, seemingly irreversible poverty?  How do these communities decide that organic produce and produce,in general will improve their wellbeing and that of their families?  How do they find the strength, courage, willingness and spirit to show up, hug, smile and dance?  When we are “Away 2 Be”, we can “be with” in order to embrace all that simply is.

Susan, December 2014

Slum Life.

In India, we have the incredible opportunity to visit Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world. After just moments in Dharavi, visitors feel comfortable and welcome thanks to Krishna Pujari and Reality Tours. This organization, created to demonstrate the positive side of Dharavi, (we try to avoid the word “slum”), exemplifies sustainable tourism and the philosophy of “walking with”. Dharavi is a home for myriad cultures, religions and communities. It is a place of work and rest, laughter and sorrow. Below are initial reactions to a most wonderful place:

 

Slum life. (Written 6.8.2015)

If you successfully read the above title and successfully filled with the anticipated pangs of sorrow and sympathy, then you clearly didn’t experience what I did today.

You didn’t see people hard at work, prideful at work, welcoming us into their world.

You didn’t watch as youth from opposite sides of the globe collaborated in dance, showed vulnerability through inquiry and laughed, and sweat as the initial bashfulness transformed into a unified rhythm of love and admiration.

If you feel bad and shake your head at the dire nature of that word, “slum”, then you forgot to hope.

You forgot about an organization that has successfully and sustainably chosen to give back, engage and inspire through education and language.

If tears fall because you feel guilty about your life of great fortune and privilege, let them. Then dry them to allow your eyes to connect and smile with theirs.

Zoom out to recognize the symbiotic beauty and oneness of us all.

Zoom out to see the rainbow of plastic and fabric and leather as a masterful tapestry of dedicated lives.

Zoom in to investigate your own heart. Your soul. Your duty to walk with all of us.

Now do you see their smiles?

 

From Poland to Nashville, TN. Global change is happening…one relationship at a time.

For the past few years, I have been working with and teaching with Taking It Global, an organization based in Toronto. We work with administrators, educators and students, alike, shifting the current education paradigm to one with global perspective and empathy. A few weeks ago, I awoke in San Francisco at 5 am to teach our course, Education for Social Innovation, remotely to a cohort in Poland. Last week, participants signed in from various locales in Eastern Europe as I sat in a hotel in Nashville. I sometimes have to “pinch myself” when I think about how connected I am, we are, Away 2 Be is to the rest of the world. As our ability to access one another increases, so does our ability to create change in the world. Below is a message I wrote to our cohort after our last session and after being on the road for three weeks:

Hello, everyone! I’m finally headed home after a three-week “tour” and thought of you and our course often. I was able to connect with a sustainable eco-retreat in the Costa Rican jungle, private schools and students in the US taking the first steps toward Global Citizenship and Global Education, and NGOs collaborating with one another locally and globally.

The places I went and the people I engaged with reminded me of the power of community and our ability to find innovative solutions to when we collaborate with one another. I was affirmed in the work we are all doing because I know that I am not alone.

I look forward to our next session and hearing about the conversations you are having in your classrooms regarding the social problems your students hope to solve on local and/or global levels. I have often used the UN Millennium Development Goals to facilitate such conversations. As I’m sure you’re aware, 17 new goals were recently developed at the UN Sustainable Development Summit.  And thus, the question prevails for all of us, “How do we create global change locally?”

Thank you for all you already do in your schools and communities. Ultimately, your efforts do create a positive impact on the world. 

 

Accompaniment. “Walking with” to improve the world.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with parents and students from the Lincoln School in Providence, Rhode Island who are interested in visiting India with The World Leadership School. The extemporaneous words I shared convey the purpose of everything I do as an individual, with companies such as The World Leadership School and Taking it Global and with Away 2 Be.

Namaste! Thank you for inviting me into your school and into your community. It is an honor to be here and to be welcomed. There is a question we often ask the students on programs, and now I will ask you: Why are you here? I invite you to think about that for a few moments. (Silence)

I am here because about eight years ago I went to Nicaragua. In Nicaragua I worked with the Casa Materna, a home for at risk, pregnant women striving to reduce the maternal mortality rate in the Matagalpa region of Nicaragua. In 24 years, over 17,000 mothers have walked through the door of the Casa to ensure a safe birth for their newborns and for themselves.

At the Casa we often walk with the women in the morning. We walk up a rocky hill and share our stories with one another. We ask questions. We engage. We breathe and stretch together and welcome all mothers around the world into our circle. Throughout my first summer in Nicaragua, I taught English to the staff of the Casa. My friends and family kept praising the “good work,” I was doing, but that didn’t resonate with me. I felt so “good” being in the presence of this welcoming community. I asked my dear friend, mentor, and co-founder of the Casa Materna, Kitty Madden, “What am I doing here?” She responded by saying, “Susan, the best thing you could ever do for us is walk with us.” This statement has become a metaphor and a philosophy for how I now choose to live my life.

The reason why I work with The World Leadership School is because they, too, believe in the philosophy of accompaniment. The World Leadership School empowers young leaders to find innovative solutions to the world’s pressing problems. We innovate and create by forming sustainable international relationships over time. In fact, it is the only way to create long-term, global change. The Lincoln School is on the precipice of a paradigm shift in global education and global citizenship because you adhere to these values as well. We are at the forefront of this transition.

I have traveled all over the world and yet each time I am away, the experience is new. I perpetually have the opportunity to see the world through fresh eyes, through the eyes of students and community members walking with one another. On behalf of World Leadership School and on behalf of global change through relationship building, thank you for your willingness to walk with the people of India.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before Empathy. The missing link.

I recently gathered with Denver’s creatives for a celebration of “Empathy”. This monthly gathering emanates social innovation, social change and the nature of our innate, human desire to establish empathy with one another. To find community.

With international travel and education, empathy has become a “buzz” word whose ubiquitous nature leaves us wondering what the word truly means. “Empathy” implies the ability to understand how someone thinks or feels. Realistically, it’s impossible to fully comprehend the inner-workings of another human being or another culture. The only story we ever truly know is our own.

Here’s the problem: We frequently delve into empathetic rhetoric without first asking ourselves the question, “Why am I here?”

How can we engage authentically with one another if we don’t initially understand, at least to some extent, our own purpose and truth? How can we pretend to “empathize” when we forget to take time to welcome stories and learn the tools necessary to actually listen to one another?

In an article by Stanford University, the author simultaneously encourages “service-learning” (read: doing for) and abhors the idea that Westerners travel to other countries to implement their own ideas (read: learn from)! The juxtaposition of thought leads me to surmise that as a whole, we are still grappling with the paradigm shift of “doing for” and “helping” to “learning from” and “collaborating”.

I have witnessed empathetic negligence in schools in the U.S. and within collaborative learning programs abroad. People are trying to do good, yet are impeded by predetermined agendas implemented by organizations and history. The classroom and education are victim to the bane of history as well. We know we have to engage students, engage with students and encourage students to do the teaching and the learning in a collaborative way. As educators, we have to relinquish expectations of a specific outcome and welcome ideas we never could have conjured ourselves. (Kudos to those educators willing to facilitate as opposed to teach!)

Even in the design-thinking education model, empathy comes first. But we’re missing something. We haven’t asked that preliminary, essential question: Why am I here?

Here’s the solution:

  • Ask yourself the question: Why am I here?
  • Learn how to listen effectively and create space to find cultural empathy. “Walk with” your community.
  • Be willing to shift perspective in order to collaborate and create change together.

Away 2 Be provides local and global platforms to ask “Why am I here?” We listen, we engage and we facilitate change from a sustainable, comprehensive foundation.

Whether involved in meaningful, international travel or educational innovation, take the time to follow these three steps. Though “empathy” may be inherently ironic, the initial steps we take to achieve it will benefit ourselves, our local community and our world.

 

 

 

On portals.

On portals:

There is another land, that which lies just beyond the open doors and windows and fences and walls of this world.  Behind these structures live stories of woe and sorrow, celebrations of new birth and new love, familial contention and secrets hidden just-so.  The portals are painted and tattered, worn and pristine, cracked and broken, adorned and stark.  They are bright and mundane, numbered and lettered and dusty and dirty and immaculate.  They provide insight into the beauty of humanness. Ubuntu.  Where resolution and destruction simultaneously resonate within walls of adobe, branches, livestock.  There is that light.  The one I’ve often mentioned that the most expert photographer struggles to capture, enrapture into one silly, little, two-dimensional shape.