Which path to chose?
This week was my last week teaching in America for the next 450 days.  Everyone keeps asking me if I am excited about leaving and my answer is always YES!  I love my job and I love what I do everyday at Antioch Community High School, well most days anyway, but my experiences in Africa and traveling the world have made me realize a new passion. This week one of my students asked me why I became a special education teacher instead of getting a degree in International Relations.  In my answer I realized that this path was something I never imagined I would travel down.  In the push to be the best possible teacher and educational leader in my own classroom and school, I found that I had the ability to fight for education for those in need far away from home.  This weekend while at a family reunion many of my amazing family members continuously asked my why I am doing this year-long trip.  As I tried my best to answer them I realized that I am currently at a point in my life that is uncertain.  My first trip to Africa was described as a way for me to improve my teaching skills while also giving back to the community.  My second trip to Africa was to continuing to do that by helping build curriculum, a skill learned in my first masters program.  In my third trip I started to realize that this was so much more than just improving my teaching skills and helping others, this was about finding my true passion in life.  Now as I set off for a 450-day adventure away from home and away from the profession, school, and country I have buried myself in the last few years, I know that I am also at a crossroads in life.  I have discovered that I have two major passions and two major directions that my life could go.  I have for a long time thought that I could walk the line between both passions but I am starting to learn that it is very difficult.  I have pushed myself in every way to try to spread the word of a cause I truly believe in (Education for All), while at the same time pushing myself professionally to be a better teacher and a leader in Education within my school district.  Throughout this experience I have learned that I have to eventually pick one.  It is my goal over the next year to live life as best I can and hopefully learn which passion is more important to me and decide which one I should to pursue.  I love everyone who has helped me find my way down this crazy journey and although it is not what my family or I thought it would become I am very interested to see where it may take me. 

So to answer your question Emily- I did not pursue International Relations because that path did not present itself until after I had all my fabulous experiences in education.

To answer your question Uncle Dan- I am doing this to try to find my true passion in life and determine which path I love more and wish to follow.

And to my mom- I know you are worried you are losing me once again, but I promise I will always find my way home, regardless of the snakes or sharks I have to wrestle to get there.   I love you!

This week  a student of mine told me that reading my blog made everything about my trip seem so stressful.  Although I do agree that planning a trip (by yourself for one year, with little money and no real plan except to have fun and make a difference in the lives of others) is very stressful at times, there are many reasons why I am doing this.  So I dedicate this post to sharing those reasons and to encourage others to travel more- the planning is stressful- the traveling is amazing and life changing.  

So here are my top ten 10 reasons why the stress prior to the trip is totally worth every minute:

10)  The beautiful landscapes you encounter- waterfalls that show you the power of water, tropical beaches that make you feel like you disappeared to paradise, beautiful forests with the most exotic animals, tall cliffs that make  you wonder how they exist, mountains that make you feel on top of the world, and wide open land full of wonder.

9)  The most amazing stars you have ever seen in your life in shapes and designs you do not see from your side of the world

8)  Incredible animals in their natural habitat that only exist to you in books and at the zoo.  Nothing is cooler that watching a leopard eating an antelope up in a tree, a monkey taking care of its young, or an elephant spraying water over itself in the wide open Serengeti.  

7)  Wonderful and scary food that you would never have the courage to try in the comfort of your home.  Everything should be tried once, even if you don't like it, it will give you something to talk about: Fried Spiders in Cambodia- here I come (:

6)  Learn how to relax and slow down.  America is the country of go, go, go.  We often work 80 hour weeks and define success by how much money we have.  Through traveling you learn that many parts of the world define success by happiness not material possessions.  Many countries also have a much more laid back attitude about life and spend more quality time with each other.   

5)  Getting back to the basics of life makes things less stressful and you enjoy life much more.  LIfe is much easier when you only have to focus on keeping yourself healthy, finding basic shelter, obtaining enough food to manage, relaxing and having fun.  

4) When in situations that challenge you, you develop skills you never knew you had.  You learn that you can help so many people with knowledge you bring and that so many people can help you with the things you never thought you could do.

3)  Learning about cultures and customs that are so different than your own.  This teaches you how different and how similar people are all over the world.  It also teaches you that while you might not be able to communicate or understand each other all the time, kindness and compassion are a universal language to help you when you do not understand and they are skills we need to use more often in America. 

2)  The most amazing peopleyou have ever met and that you will never forget.  While you are far away from home you will meet people that become some of your closest friends and people at home will not understand how these intense friendships were created but your life will forever be affected by these friendships.

1)  You learn that your life is so small and minuscule in comparison to what is out there and that the world is big enough for all people, races, religions, ethnicities, and cultures.  You learn that if you feel lost, so do others, andyou end up finding yourselfthrough your experiences.

Some Pictures of Past Adventures:

I put one foot in front of the other and took a step forward today- I sent away for my Cambodian Visa.  Super exciting!!   All it took was a trip to Walgreens for a photo- Passport photos are $10 for two (so expensive) then to Walmart for a money order (I didn't know they gave out money orders- and they are cheaper than the bank- only 55 cents) and then to UPS to mail the documents and passport with a prepaid return address which cost $40.  

So.... Passport Pictures= $10, Visa Application Fee= $20.55, Shipping to the Royal Embassy of Cambodia= $40, Getting one step closer to the trip of a lifetime= priceless (:

Trying to leave the country for a year can be a bit difficult and it requires me to get my life organized for a full 13 months.  This is very challenging considering I am often a last minute planner, sometimes even a procrastinator.   This weekend while decorating for the ACHS Prom (where my first group of students at Antioch are now seniors- good work guys!) I came to the realization that I was actually leaving the country in a month and a half.  School is coming to a close and I am a bit freaked out because I am not completely ready for my trip or organized enough.  My thoughts were racing:

"Do I have enough money?......  Will I bring enough stuff?............  Where am I staying in Indonesia?...........  Do I have enough money to pay bills while I am gone? ........... I still haven't sent away my visas! .............  I have to cancel my cell phone service...........   I wish their were funding grants for volunteers leaving their lives behind? ............... I need a rain jacket....................  How will I pay for a full year living without a salary?.....................   I want to plan a going away party with my family and friends.......  I wish Oprah answered my email on her Angel Network...............    I need to make final payments to my Thailand tour.........................   I wish Ellen responded to all the emails people sent for me for funds?....................  I need to make a packing list..................  I need to email my friends my skype name (It is KerriElliott- In case you are reading this and want it). ....................... I have to post this blog on my school faculty and student newsboards."------->  UGH! 

Well after this mind race session on my 2 hour ride home from Lake Geneva, I realized I need to make myself a to do list and prioritize.  So tonight I did that.  I worked on figuring out all my bills that I will need to pay while I am gone- student loans, car loan, and such- and set up automatic bill pays from my checking account so I don't have to worry about those bills.  I figured out how much I need for those bills for one year and put that money aside so I would have it.  I then reviewed my visa applications and realized that after some phone calls that I really only need to get a visa for Cambodia and Tanzania ahead of time.  Australia I already was able to get online, Indonesia you need to get at the airport, Thailand no longer requires a visa for US citizens, and it is easier to get a Laos visa when you get to Asia.  So this week I need to get passport pictures and send away for my Cambodian Passport.  When that is being processed I also need to make sure to get a letter from Tanzania about my volunteering.  This requires a phone conversation with Mama Grace in Tanzania- which will occur at 5am on Tuesday.  I also realized I need to cancel some of the things here while I am gone- such as my cell phone and gym membership so phone calls will have to happen for those this week.  

As for packing- this is where I have the most trouble- What to pack?  One backpack- four seasons!
Luckily my brother heard all my concerns and gave me his rain coat which I was in need of- but I am still struggling with what to bring.  I put together my box to ship to TZ but am still in need of some toiletries and food I can send that I will want- such as granola bars, pancake mix (I love pancakes), arizona ice tea packages, muffin mix, oatmeal (i hate oatmeal- but it is the easiest thing to make over there).  My plan is to send this box to TZ next weekend.  

So my two hour long prioritizing session has truly helped.  I also came to the realization that Ellen and Oprah are not my answers for my money stress- I will just need to have some really good budgeting skills and hope for the best.  When all else fails- I am fluent in English and everyone is always looking for an English tutor.  

So as they say in Tanzania- Hakuna Matata or Hamnashida or Hakuna Shida or Usijali or Tulia Simba- 

You have to love a culture that has so many different ways to say No Worries!  

50 Days!  I cannot wait (:

My attempt at packing for my trip.


My Backpack that I will use from July-Sept. to hold all my belongings.  It is bigger than it looks.


My box to ship to Tanzania.


Will these three piles of clothes actually last me for 2 1/2 months?


My brothers rain jacket- Thank You Joe!

In 58 days I will be leaving on the adventure of a lifetime.  Although I am so excited to travel through 7 countries in 13 months, I am struggling a bit with packing.  Due to the fact that I will be backpacking through 6 countries and living in Tanzania for 11 months of my trip I am trying to pack a box to ship to Tanzania with my clothes for Africa and then a backpack for the other 2 months of my trip.  I want to ship my box of clothes and supplies to my friends in Tanzania now so I can be sure it gets there before I leave.  In the process I have also been trying to think about what I need in New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.  This has been a bit difficult due to the fact that each country has a different climate.  New Zealand and Australia will be in the middle of their winter, Indonesia is an island climate and I will be surfing, and Thailand, Cambodia and Laos will be in monsoon season so I will need rain gear.  This creates a problem when I only have one backpack to put all this gear in.  And I am a girl who always packs to much- this is making this part of the trip a bit difficult.  But it does mean I am a little bit closer.  (: