Category Archives: Travel with Impact

Travel to a Space Where Authenticity Meets Meaning

A few months ago, I had the good fortune to hear a presentation by Leymah Gbowee. A co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, Leymah was recognized for her efforts mobilizing women in a peaceful protest resulting in the end of the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003.

A strong believer in the importance of education, the Nobel prize money enabled Leymah to not only send girls to school but also to provide them with the support needed to succeed. According to Leymah, there have been many successes over the last 5 years. This includes two women earning their PhD’s and a continuous wave of girls entering high school.

After speaking of these successes, Leymah passionately spoke about the challenges. They were numerous and heartbreaking. Despite Leymah’s efforts, girls still experienced significant problems.

For example, one girl repeatedly ran away from school. Leymah was facing so many problems, and now this! She was a point of dismantling the program she had created.

Fortunately, before taking such action, Leymah decided to visit the school and address the girls in attendance. As she vented her frustrations, Leymah found one of girls standing next to her. It was runaway girl. Shyly, she placed a note in Leymah’s hand. It read, “I understand all that you have done for us. I don’t want to mess up my life.”

Leymah knew this was an important moment. She asked everyone, but the note writer, to leave the room.

Then, the girl explained “I’m not running away from school. I run from school when school is dismissed.” Leymah learned that this girl was the first student to get off the bus at the end of the day. Everyone in her neighborhood knew her mother was a sex worker. At school, this girl was Vice-President of the Student Council. She was smart and commanded respect. School was a different world than her reality. The girl went on to say, “I don’t want someone in my neighborhood to say something about my life as I get off the bus.”

Leymah’s story remains with me. How often do I judge someone before knowing their entire story? Just like it takes time to read a book beyond its cover, it takes time to understand someone’s story. Time to ask questions, time to listen, and time to reflect.

After telling this story several of times, I discovered another take away message. Leymah reminded us that school was a very different world for this girl compared to the reality of her neighborhood. This dichotomy raises so many thoughts within me.

I’m reminded of a Spanish teacher I had years ago in Antigua. Teachers at this school wore a uniform that included a white blouse or shirt. As I got to know my teacher, I learned that she lived in a home with one electric light bulb. She fetched water from a community well. She shared that house had dirt floors. I distinctly recall thinking, how does she keep her blouse so white and crisp? I found it challenging even with a wash machine and a good iron. Leymah’s story causes me to wonder how my teacher felt about sharing those details of her life. Was she feeling pride at being able to move beyond her limited material to work as a teacher? Or did sharing these details put her in a place of vulnerability?

Ripple Effect Journeys was created for women who want to experience the world beyond the sights and learn the answers to questions like these.

They want to meet people, particularly women and girls, where they live, work and go to school. We hope the women we meet will be comfortable in sharing their stories. What are their hopes and dreams? What challenges do they face? What do they need to be able to meet their goals? How can we support their efforts? Rather than fixing a situation, we are there to champion individual efforts.

Authenticity meets meaning! I hope Leymah Gbowee would approve.

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3 Aha Moments Define Travel that Serves

My mother often remarked that good things come in threes. That certainly seems to be the case when it comes to how I’ve interconnected three aha moments with how I envision travel that serves.

Aha Moment #1

It began with watching Lume Mufleh’s powerful TED Talk “Don’t feel sorry for refugees-Believe in them.” Lume’s grandmother, who fled Syria for Jordan as a young mother, was determined to help her grandchildren understand their family’s history. When Lume was 8 years old, her grandmother took her to visit a refugee camp, similar to the one Grandmother had lived in with her small children. Upon arrival, Grandmother told Lume to go play with the children. Lume shares how she did not want to play with children who seemed so different from her. But Grandmother insisted. Later, while leaving the camp, Lume told Grandmother how much fun she had playing with the kids. “Those poor kids,” said Lume. Grandmother’s response is one that continues to impact Lume’s actions today. “Don’t feel sorry for them – believe in them.”

photo credit: Tijen Erol <a href="">Children of Palestine</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

Aha Moment #2

Believing in someone is at the heart of a relationship I embarked upon about a year ago. At that time, a coalition of leaders came together with the goal of a poverty-free life for everyone in the community where I live. Designed to empower people in poverty with skills, resources and personal connections, a mentorship program was one of the strategies suggested to work toward this goal. Interested in giving back, I volunteered to serve as a mentor.

Connecting through mentoring

Two months ago, I met my neighbor, the person I would mentor, for the first time. A single mother of 2 girls (ages 10 years and 3 months at the time), my neighbor is in her mid-thirties. She works full time as a caregiver and human resources assistant in an assisted living center located about 15 miles from home. Despite full time employment, she lives from paycheck to paycheck with no reserves for unexpected expenses.

The connection with my neighbor is teaching me so much.

When we met for the first time, my neighbor was upbeat about so many things. She loved her job, feeling valued and challenged.  She owned a car, enabling her to work at the assisted living center as local public transportation was not available. A strong network of friends helped care for her kids. Her spiritual life was strong and provided a source of strength when things became uncertain. An outgoing individual, our conversation continued for more than an hour. I found myself wondering why someone felt she needed a mentor.

We met a week later, as planned. Things were no longer going so well. My neighbor felt the initiative she demonstrated at work was not being appreciated by her boss.  Childcare was getting harder to arrange. Fall-out with a longtime friend struck a blow to her self-esteem. The refrigerator was nearly empty and diapers were running short. Within a week’s time, her world had become chaotic.

My neighbor has shared a variety of ups and downs with me since our first meeting. Because of her, poverty is no longer an abstract term to me. Rather, it’s something that impacts someone I’ve come to care about. Witnessing my neighbor’s approach to life, I often find myself in awe.

Here are a few of my takeaways.

The importance of being seen in a positive light

My neighbor was invited to participate in this program. Local social service representatives, familiar with her over time, felt she could benefit from a mentor’s support. The difference in tone between our first and second meeting reminds me that people want to be thought of in a positive light despite the challenges they face.

Being seen in a positive light

The importance of listening

A story unfolds over time. This is especially true when someone is sharing their life story. As a mentor, I’ve realized the importance of listening to someone without feeling the need to fix the problems they face.  My role is to build a trusting relationship that supports someone taking charge of their own life.

The importance of listening

Resilience and the importance of believing in someone

My neighbor has repeatedly shown me her resiliency. I am in awe of her ability to bounce back from both emotional and financial challenges. She strives to improve her life despite frequent setbacks. She is not asking me to solve her problems. Rather, she expresses gratitude in my belief in her ability to live her life.

The importance of believing in someone

Aha Moment #3

I recently came across a quote by Karen Blixen that connected things for me.

“We must leave our mark on life while we have it in our power.”

For several years, I’ve been exploring how to combine the wonder of travel with the desire to serve people in need. I envisioned a trip that serves rather than a service trip. But what did that exactly mean and why should people be interested in opportunity such as this?

Travel that serves

Connecting My Three Aha Moments Provides the Answer

I believe that many of us desire to follow Karen Blixen’s direction and “leave our mark on life.” Most of us are already doing so within our families, social groups and communities. But what could we do if we thought outside of communities familiar or close to us? How could those of us who explore life through travel integrate the desire to leave our mark?

Mission or service trips have long offered travelers a way of doing so. But the focus for my vision has been different. Lume Mufleh’s grandmother has given me the words to articulate the mission of travel that serves. “Don’t feel sorry for them. Believe in them!” Our hearts break when we see people living on the edge. This is especially true when we travel beyond our own country. We want to help. How can we solve the problems that are in front of us? There must be something we can do to improve the lives of those we see.

connecting 3 aha moments with travel that serves

There is! Lessons learned in my aha moments provide a starting place.

  • Remember the importance of an individual’s dignity. Travel that serves means taking direction not giving direction. Challenges are shared only after trust is established.
  • Listening serves as a building block for trust. Travel that serves means listening to an individual define their challenges. Once challenges are defined, solutions can be explored.
  • Travel that serves means aligning with someone as they examine their challenges. It is discussing possible solutions rather than providing the answers. Travel that serves believes in people, it doesn’t feel sorry for them.

Travel that serves – what an incredible way to leave your mark on life!

Leave your mark on the world

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10 Ways to Refocus a Service Trip to a Journey That Serves

10 Ways to Refocus a Service Trip to a Journey that Servecs

I See and You Can Too!

Jotting down words while pondering my vision for Ripple Effect Journeys, I experienced an epiphany! Removing the letters “i” and “c” from service, results in the word serve. This “IC” (as in I see) moment led me to think about the many definitions of the word “see.” Do the varied meanings of this word impact what it means to serve as opposed to provide service? I think so!

Here are 10 ways “IC” (I see) refocuses a service trip to a Journey that Serves.

1.  To see – To visualize

Thinking about traveling beyond the sights, you begin to think about problems that needs fixing. Because you care, you begin to visualize how your actions could be part of the solution.

A journeys that serves means gathering impressions

2.  To see – To perceive by sight

Being able to see something with your own eyes, enables you to gather information and impressions. The adage “One picture is worth a thousand words” comes to mind. Reading about a situation and experiencing it are two different things. What are your eyes teaching you?

3.  To see – To call upon &
4.  To see – To grant an interview

Journeys that serve are about partnership. As travelers, we often ”feel called upon” to make life better for those we perceive are suffering in the places we visit. But wait. Before developing an action plan for change, don’t we need to be invited in by those we wish to serve, so that we can listen to one another, ask and answer questions?

A journey that service means partnership and discovery.

5.  To see – To watch, to examine &
6.  To see – To discover

If the goal is long term sustainable change, it’s important to discover the complexities that contribute to a situation. Discovery involves going beyond what the eye can see. It involves watching without judgement. It involves not only gathering information but also examining it through someone else’s eyes. Discovery often challenges what we have envisioned. Most importantly it requires a conversation focused on learning.

7.  To see – To understand

Our “IC” journey approaches a place where we begin to grasp the complexities of what we see before our eyes. The tendency to refer to this as a light bulb moment is strong. Because of what we’ve learned, our arrival at a place of understanding comes from empathy.  Our words “I understand” are spoken with a full heart.

A journey that serves means understanding and recognition

8.  To see – To recognize

The words recognize and acknowledge are often used as synonyms. A closer look reveals a slight but important difference. When we recognize someone or something, the act typically takes place quietly. But acknowledging someone or something requires an audience. Inspired by their growing understanding, travelers learning to serve are keen to both recognize and acknowledge, and in doing so help others to understand the power of serving.

9.  To See – To imagine the possibility

Traveling to serve nurtures an empathetic spirit. The importance of this can’t be overstated. Empathy enables us to recognize that we are the visitors, serving in a supportive role. Empathy allows us to accept if our help is rejected. Empathy humbles us to accept an invitation to collaborate rather than solve. And empathy honors us with requests to serve as mentors rather than doers. Understanding empathy helps us see the possibilities for serving may take many forms.

Journey that services means possibility

10.  To See – To take care of, to provide

Whoa! This “IC” may seem contradictory. At first glance, this reaction is understandable. But nothing could be further from the truth. When learning to serve, travelers grow to understand this. As educators, champions, advocates and mentors, we serve others through acts of empowerment. Our journey towards that goal does not end once we are home. Rather, our experiences ignite a passion to champion continued steps towards change.

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Travel with IMPACT: A Service Trip Alternative

Resolving to Live Life to the Fullest

The New Year is almost a month old. Along with many of you, I’m determined to live this year to the fullest!

Inspired by Janice Kaplan’s  Gratitude Diaries,  I am writing about as least one thing I am thankful for daily. And while it may seem a bit out there, I’m practicing the Superwoman pose in front of my mirror every morning. I didn’t come up with that on my one, but rather was inspired by Amy Cuddy’s popular TED Talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.”

Preparing to Travel with Impact - Ripple Effect Journeys

Someone suggested I include a picture of me in my Superwoman pose, but I think my granddaughter is so much cuter!

It turns out that these two activities were included in Life Hacks “30 Little Things to Do to Become a Different You in 2016.” I may be on to something because the list also suggests “travel some place new.” Well that’s right up my alley!

Combining the Love of Travel and a Passion to Empower Others

As you may know, I’ve spent much of my life helping adoptive families travel to their birth country via Adoptive Family Travel—travel that I LOVE being part of.

Lately, though, I’m thinking about new ways to help. How can I combine traveling to marvelous places with my passion to support organizations dedicated to helping people by empowering them? How can I help others do the same?

Check out this recent “Reasons Why People Travel Abroad” infographic from Travel Type.
How do your reasons compare?

Why People Travel Infographic from Travel Type

Why People Travel Infographic from Travel Type

Are you among the 32% who are “curious about how others live”? Or, is your reason similar to the 24% who travel “to discover what’s really important in life.”?

Some people participate in a service or mission trip, which have increased in popularity in the past several years, as a way to fulfill these reasons. If you Google “What is a service trip?” you’ll find 625,000,000 results! So what is it?

According to VolunteerTourismViews, a service trip is “the practice of individuals going on a working holiday, volunteering their labor for worthy causes (such as) aiding or alleviating the material poverty of some groups in society, the restoration of certain specific environments or research into aspects of society or environment, in an organized way alongside touristic activities.”

Travel with Impact

But I envision a trip that is more about listening, learning, understanding, encouraging and supporting global communities and their efforts. Ripple Effect Journeys was created to do just that. Rather than “aiding or alleviating the material poverty of some groups in society,” Ripple Effect Journeys participants will walk alongside community members on their quest for change.

We’ll do so by taking you beyond the sights. Ripple Effect Journeys connects you with people striving to improve their lives and the organizations empowering them to do so. You’ll come to understand the challenges faced and champion the possibilities. As a result, we believe the desire to be a partner for change will accompany you home. That’s Travel with Impact!

Traveling with Ripple Effect Journeys, you’ll:

Ripple Effect Journeys Infographic - Travel with Impact

Travel with Impact – Ripple Effect Journeys

Ripple Effect Journeys – Peru

Our first trip will be to Peru where we’ll introduce you to Peruvian Hearts. Those of you familiar with Adoptive Family Travel, may remember that Ana Dodson, a Peruvian Ties participant, founded this organization. We look forward to introducing you to the girls Peruvian Hearts empowers. We can’t wait for you to hear their dreams and learn how they plan on making these dreams come true.

Picture of two Peruvian Hearts Scholars

Peruvian Hearts Scholars: accounting student, Maribel (L); Electical engineering student, Rosa (R).

And let’s not forget the wonderful places we’ll visit along the way. Cusco, The Sacred Valley, and of course, Machu Picchu! I can almost hear the Peruvian Pan Pipes welcoming us!

Majestic Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu’s majesty awaits you!

We are thrilled to launch Ripple Effect Journeys and excited about its impact. Join us and you’ll meet amazing, like-minded people interested in a meaningful, impactful and fun travel experiences. I can’t wait for you to participate. If you or someone you know is interested in receiving further information about our trip to Peru or future Ripple Effect Journeys, please contact me at

Bea Evans, Ripple Effect Journeys Founder

Bea Evans

By Bea Evans, Ripple Effect Journeys Founder

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