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Nina: Fundraising for Thailand Volunteer Travel Despite Adversity

Teaching Traveling: Today we get a peek at the passion and determination it takes to make travel dreams a reality by hearing from Nina, who is fundraising to volunteer in Thailand.

Nina, tell us about yourself.

Nina: I was born to a very independent woman who couldn’t seem to stay in one spot. “Suitcase Sandy” is the nickname she came to acquire from friends and family. By the time I was 18 I had lived In 18 different houses. I suppose you can call me “Knapsack Nina”: an army brat born at Fort Campbell Kentucky then traveling over to Germany in the early 80s. Unfortunately, I was too young to have any memories from Germany. After Europe, my parents brought me back to their home state of Massachusetts where I lived until I was 16. From 16 up until now I have lived in Florida off and on. I am now finally somewhat settled down in Waltham, MA, where I have been for 2 and a half years now. The extent of my travel has been primarily all over the beautiful New England area, with many car trips up and down the East Coast. I have to say I have nominated Virginians as the nicest people on the East Coast of the U.S.

Nina's goal destination.
Nina’s goal destination.

Teaching is something I have always had a passion for, yet have never pursued. Or I should say, “have not had the chance to pursue.” My parents who gave me as much as they possibly could have just couldn’t afford to send me to college. I am a self-made professional working in corporate America. I am a Hearing Aid Specialist to be exact, and I work for one of the most wonderful companies in the state of Massachusetts.

Nina, herself.
Nina, herself.

So I have a “great job,” I’m here, and I did it! Or so I thought. Somewhere, somehow in my travels of life I had convinced myself that I had to make something of myself. I had to be somebody great so that people would know how special I was. So with no college degree how was I going to do that? With a positive attitude, focus, and a no-quit-til-it’s-done attitude, I quickly made the metaphorical climb to the top and obtained financial freedom.

Reaching the top was wonderful for the first few months, but when the giddy feeling you get deep inside from buying yourself your first new car fades, you are left wanting more. True happiness, I have learned, cannot be found with money, cars, jewelry or any other tangible object. True happiness is what I seek. Helping others is true happiness. Giving selflessly is true happiness. Now the journey can begin.

TT: Fascinating! Explain the dream travels you are planning.

N: Where will I go? For how Long? What will I do? Destination Bangkok!! Yes, I have to go that far to spread happiness. I am planning a two week trip on November 17 of 2012. To make this more exciting I will be meeting 17 to 20 other volunteers in Bangkok from all over the world. If you think a blind date is nerve-wracking, try flying 30 hours across the world to meet a group of strangers for the first time! Oh, and by the way, we will be living with each other to boot. While we are there we will have the great opportunity to work in various group settings. A few of those settings will include orphanages, elementary schools, and spreading education on the HIV/AIDS crisis overseas. Of course my primary goal will be teaching English to the children.

Any advantage they can gain to further their education is my top priority. While over there I plan to take many photos of this very special time in my life and keep a detailed journal which I plan to start a blog with. Spreading the word on how important it is to travel is very important. I have found that many people are concerned for my well being and have horrible perceptions of a land they have never even set foot upon. My goal is to bridge that gap and encourage a more open minded approach to travel and volunteering.

TT: Inspiring! How did you find this travel opportunity that you are planning?

Part of Nina's campaign to raise money for her volunteer travel.
Part of Nina’s campaign to raise money for her volunteer travel.

N: Have you ever heard the expression, “Just Google It”? The Internet is a great place to connect with people, places, and organizations you may have not known existed or been able to reach out to otherwise. I am making my dream come true via the net. In my search I came across a site They are a non for profit organization that was started in 1995. Since them, thousands of people have entered the very same volunteer program as I and have paved the way for people like me and hopefully you, too. They have a huge variety of countries to travel to. I have chosen Thailand because of the beautiful culture and spirituality. Oh and let’s not forget the food! To give you better taste of my trip here is a short You Tube overview of my Thailand trip.

TT: Interesting! How are you planning to fund this trip?

N: This is where the “No quitting until it’s done” attitude comes in. At this point there is no turning back; I am committed to my trip and the 4500 dollars I need to raise to make it happen. Even though I work full time including Saturdays I have taken on a second part-time job to fund my trip. But this isn’t enough. I have worn out my friends and family’s Facebook pages with pleas for help. Since my fundraising efforts have begun I have to admit they have not been successful.

In the future months to come I have a public fundraiser/raffle I will be holding outside of a local grocery store here in Massachusetts. I am currently sending out flyers to local business asking for gift certificates or baskets to be donated. Proceeds from that raffle will go to my cause. I have also generated a website dedicated to my trip which you can find here: . I have had a very difficult time getting the word out. My circle of influence only stretches as far as the friends I have online. Getting this link out there on the Net will be instrumental to my success.

TT: We wish you luck, Nina, and are impressed by your persistence. How has travel planning impacted you as a person?

A sight Nina will see in November.
A sight Nina will see in November.

N: I’d like to talk about the intense sense of purpose that has been a fire ignited inside me since my decision to take on this journey. I get an overwhelming feeling of joy when I imagine my time in Thailand. Having goals has been an intricate part of my success in life. If I have something to work towards and achieve it brings an unquestionable purpose to my life. Doing something for a reason is a lot different than doing something because you have to.

I made a conscious decision to volunteer and it was my choice alone. Don’t wait to be told what you should do next. It is very enlightening to be able to be part of the hand that holds the shovel digging this path of life. Something that has also changed for me is my naivety. It was a huge shock to find out that something that is so hugely important to me may be a bad idea to others. Overcoming this obstacle is still difficult for me especially when I get a lack of support from friends and family. That will not deter me from my ultimate goal. It will not bring me down. I will be in Thailand November 17th.

TT: What advice do you have for other people dreaming of traveling or volunteering abroad?

N: My advice is very simple and to the point: Do it!!! Find out what has been stopping you thus far and then discard that silly notion! Read, read, and then read some more. Find a good destination fit for you. Do not let anything get in your way. There are many websites you can visit and even more people willing to share their stories with you. Stop living your life as if it is guaranteed for 70 years. Fulfill as much as you possibly can, while you can, all over the world! Become an advocate for change. Make your nay-sayers your biggest allies and lead by example, showing them the world is a big beautiful place that was made to be explored!

TT: Thanks so much, Nina! Readers, what comments or questions do you have for Nina?


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Grant Wilson

Friday 24th of August 2012

" I have found that many people are concerned for my well being and have horrible perceptions of a land they have never even set foot upon". AND " It was a huge shock to find out that something that is so hugely important to me may be a bad idea to others. Overcoming this obstacle is still difficult for me especially when I get a lack of support from friends and family." Those 2 comments really got my back up.

I am a retired High School History & Geography teacher in Canada. My wife & I spent 3 weeks in Thailand & Cambodia this last January (we were last there in 1992 when I took a group of Grade 10 students to Thailand for 2 weeks). We loved it so much than we are already planning to spend 6 weeks there in 2014. We made good friends of our tuk tuk driver in Cambodia & we email each other every 2nd day now. We would be more afraid to walk after dark in any number of American cities while evenings in Bangkok or Siem Reap were worry free. I have already booked our 2014 accommodations in various small guest houses and every owner has been more than helpful with information. If it were not for children & grandchildren we would move to either country tomorrow.

You will have a wonderful time & meet eventual life long friends. GO FOR IT

If you have questions PLEASE send them to me as I would be honoured to help you.

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