If we’re going to be fairy tale heroes, if we’re going to make a difference, we need to understand the world we’re trying to change. Just like you don’t go into a new job at a new company and immediately start changing everything (at least I hope you don’t ), I don’t think we should go galavanting around the world trying to right every wrong, without some understanding of how the world actually works.
To reference one of my favorite fairy tales, Star Trek, we don’t want to violate the prime directive. Could our well intentioned actions do more harm than good? Could digging a well for a rural village, and helping them benefit from the clean drinking water actually be bad? What if pump breaks in a year or two and they don’t know how to fix it? What if they can’t afford the ten thousand dollar replacement motor because it costs more than the entire village makes in a year? Did we impede the development of local industry by “giving them” the first world solution?
Half the world makes less than $1250 a year per person. What if we help a sixteen year old girl learn to sell the bracelets she makes on a service like Etsy? Now she’s making money at a New York city rate, but living in a poor village where she just became the richest person in a very short period of time? What could be the unintended side effects? How does the way some cultures treat women factor into this equation? How do the gritty realities of life factor into our fairy tale and how do we ensure a happy ending?
I don’t want to be fifteenth century spanish explorer, giving trinkets to the locals out of the goodness of my heart, but spreading european diseases that wipe out entire civilizations. That’s definitely not the kind of fairy tale I want to live.
So… What do we do? How do we address this concern?
My personal answer is to spend some time traveling the world. Working among the people, helping them here and there with little things, but most importantly living among them. I want to be world citizen in addition to being an american citizen. The better I understand the world, the more qualified I am to help the world.
So for a while this website is mostly going to be a travel blog. I’m planning to explore WWOOF’ing, couch surfing, HelpX, etc to both reduce my costs and allow me to live with the locals. As I move through the world, and gain knowledge and experience, I expect these high tech options will give way to older and more natural ones. I want to learn languages as quickly as possible through immersion and determination, to reduce barriers to understanding and communication.
My first stop is Costa Rica. I can start working on my Spanish. Immerse myself in Caribbean and Central American culture. Learn about living in an equatorial region, organic farming, sustainable living and hopefully adjust to a different pace, a different kind of life. Having spent the majority of my life in the mid-western United States, I can only imagine the culture shock and adjustments. I can read hundreds of travel blogs, articles by non-profits, cultural examinations, etc… But nothing will even begin to match living there.
After Costa Rica, the current plan is head south into Panama. I’ve been to Panama before on a business trip and that trip is a large part of what actually set my plans in motion. What made me realize that I needed to convert my dreams into realities. That I needed to stop dreaming and start doing.
From there it’s boat ride or short plane hop to Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil… South America is a big place, with big possibilities.
I’m not all study and intense aspiration, of course. I intend to enjoy beaches, climb mountains, photograph volcanoes, learn the local style of dance, shop in local markets, and rescue the occasional princess.
How can we change the world, but do it in a responsible manner.
How can we change a world we don’t really understand? How can we make a difference without making things worse? How does being responsible factor into our unfolding fairy tale?
In the quest to build a Fairy Tale life, to find to way to change the world. To be prepared to rescue the princess or dispel the evil curse upon the land,