Face it, dear bloggers – the blogosphere can be a rather lonely place, especially when you’re just starting out. My blog took a while to get going from my first post in August 2013. I was unsure about a lot of things. All I knew for sure was that I wanted to write about my travels.
A couple of months down the line, I attended the first AWE Asia Conference in Kuala Lumpur. I met the most inspiring, amazing, kind-hearted souls in those two wonderful days.
And one of them was Deborah Chan.
She was a new mom, at the time, with plans to move to Cambodia with her family – all for a fantastic volunteering initiative. I don’t know about you, but I call that brave and full of heart.
I was glad that I managed to reconnect with Deborah at last year’s conference. She initiated a guest post for our respective blogs and needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity.
Do read on to find out more about Deborah and her wonderful work.
Tell us about your website, Ardent Traveler and why your started it?
Ardent Traveler is a portfolio and journal of my travel adventures with an intention to focus and bring to light two topics I’m deeply passionate and enthusiastic about; Sustainable (responsible) travel and Traveling with Kids / Family.
Your website has some great tips and posts on responsible travel. Do you think travellers or tourists are doing enough to be conscious of their actions on their travels?
Thanks! I’m glad you clicked on the “Responsible Travel” tab 🙂
Honestly, I think there is a general lack of awareness of the negative impacts tourists/travelers leave behind. Over recent years because of the social media space, a lot more information is bring circulated and travelers are reading more.
And my hope is that travelers will take the initiative to read up so that they can make better, more informed choices when they travel. Some of the tips listed on the page are no-brainers!
If you could choose one country that best represents your beliefs as a responsible traveller, which country would it be?
100% Pure New Zealand! I’ve visited NZ twice and spent significant time touring the North and South Islands and I must say that I’m extremely impressed at how well tourism is run. Tourism businesses operate within stipulated boundaries where the destinations is respected for its environmental beauty and rich cultural history.
You moved to Cambodia last year to start a great volunteering initiative called STORM. How has that changed your life?
Short Term Operation Relief Mission (STORM) is one part of the larger community development work that we are supporting in Cambodia. STORM was birthed after my husband and I saw the need to inspire young people to serve and give back.
Growing up in an urban environment, we realize that young people can grow up jaded by material wealth and a narrow perspective on life. Hence STORM, a program to challenge young lives to see life through different lens and to experience a world that’s out of their comfort zone.
Our lives have changed 180 degrees. We live with minimal assets in Cambodia, we re-learned what it means to live as a community and we learned that raising a child in a developing country is far more challenging and rewarding. It stretched our notion of true giving – expecting nothing (absolutely nothing) back in return.
What do you hope your volunteers gain from their time at STORM?
Volunteers are given a chance to integrate into the Cambodian culture and to build meaningful relationships, hence a minimal of 2 weeks stay. They are taught lessons on ethical tourism and sustainable community development classes everyday so that they understand what it takes to develop a community holistically.
The skills of volunteers are matched with the needs here. For example, if a volunteer is skilled at designing, he/she will be tasked to drawing a mural in a rural literacy center or leading the project while giving the locals a chance to express their creative side.
STORM is always on a lookout for skilled volunteers because they can do so much more when it comes to empowering locals.
You probably get asked this quite a bit, but has motherhood changed your travelling experiences in any way?
Being a mom has not deterred my passion to travel – one bit. In fact, I’m even more enthusiastic about planning trips now. Think about it, I have the opportunity to inspire another young life through travel-education. Everything becomes a learning experience – the dog on the street, the passing train, the crabs on the beach… absolutely anything and everything!
We do have to pack a bit more now and we have to be prepared for the occasional melt downs, but it makes traveling as a family so much more enriching, because we are conquering it together.
What advice would you impart to those looking to change their lives and follow their dreams?
Challenge yourself to do something that makes you uncomfortable, because being comfortable means you are stagnant, not growing. If your goal scares you it’s probably a good sign that you’re in the right direction. Rid the fear of failure and criticism and just do it, because doing is better than just dreaming about it.
What are your hopes and dreams for the year 2015?
To live life to the fullest while crafting a a legacy that sticks – one that will outlast my generation.
I am very grateful to Deborah for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions and making this happen. She may have a million things to do, but she does them all with heaps of conviction, passion and a lovely smile. I can learn a lot from someone like her.
~ Thank you for inspiring me, Debs. You’re all heart. ~