Friday, February 7, 2014

Our First Stop: Volunteering After Typhoon Haiyan

The pink hospital All Hands Project Leyte is helping rebuild.

We are so fortunate to have the time and finances to be able to take a trip like this, so it seemed only natural that we look for small ways to give back to some of the places we are visiting.

Surprisingly, it was a little difficult to find an organization that didn't cost an arm and a leg in program fees and also appealed to both our interests. That's where All Hands came in. All Hands is a U.S.-based nonprofit that provides hands-on assistance after natural disasters. They currently have projects in Staten Island and Long Island (still working on Superstorm Sandy recovery) and two projects in the Philippines. All Hands seemed like a perfect fit -- they charge no volunteer fees, you just have to get yourself there and pay for some incidentals. They provide basic lodging and three meals a day for the six days a week you are working. More importantly, you are really getting your hands dirty (literally and figuratively!), making a truly impactful difference in someone's life.

The Philippines worked its way on to our bucket list with stories of it's beautiful beaches, friendly and welcoming people, and affordable prices. A few of Grant's cousin's have gone on missions there, and we've heard only great things about the country. Right in the middle of our trip planning, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most dangerous typhoons on record, devastated the Visayas region of the Philippines. I had come across All Hands during our searches for volunteer groups and knew they had a strong history of projects in the Philippines. Sure enough, less than a month after Haiyan hit, they had launched Project Leyte to begin rebuilding the devastated area. We applied the day they opened the project to volunteers and plan to spend 3 weeks giving them a hand.

Sure, doing hard manual labor from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. six days a week in a tropical climate where mosquitos are currently running rampant might not sound like a dream vacation. We're hoping to meet some great people from around the globe, contribute meaningful work, and have a truly life-changing experience. We expect tough conditions and challenging situations. We also know we have to keep an open mind and courageous spirit. What else can you do when you're sleeping under a mosquito net, wearing pants and long sleeve shirts in the tropical heat, and only get one bucket of (cold!) water a day for showering?

If you would like to support us in our volunteering efforts, view our donation page and please consider contributing.

Photo credit: Flickr user E3.R

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Meet Our Travel Buddy

Two monkeys and a frog at the top of Angel's Landing at Zion National Park

Most of you know our travel buddy Kermit, but in case you don't know the full backstory as to how we came to travel with a little green frog, here's how it all started.

I got Kermit ages ago, probably in middle school, when it was mildly acceptable to wear shirts with a giant Kermit face on it. He survived a few moves of mine and manages to make it to Reno with when I came up for college in 2001. When I was getting ready to move back to Las Vegas for (more) school years later, I finally decided it was time to part ways. What was I really going to do with a little Kermit doll?

Grant saw him in my Goodwill pile and made me feel so guilty about giving him away. I pulled him out, stuck him in one of my suitcases and didn't give him much more thought.

Later when we were loading up Grant's SUV and the U-Haul, I came out with my arms full of boxes to put in Grant's front seat. He stopped me and said: "The front seat is full."
Me: "No, it's not."
Grant: "Yes, the seat is full."
Me: "No, I can see it, there is nothing there."
Grant: "It's full, go look."

I walked around to the (empty!) front seat and find this:

Click-it or ticket!

And the rest is history! So that's how our little frog came to be our travel buddy. Kermit is excited to add more stamps to his passport on our next adventure!

Enjoying the view from our room
in Bangkok, 2013
Frogs love pizza! New York City, 2012

Frogs also love fruity drinks. Belize, 2012
Sedona, Arizona, 2010 

The Grand Canyon, 2010

Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois, 2013

Naples, Florida, 2013

Newport Beach, 2013