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Photo by Muskoka Foundation

Travel connects you to the rest of the world; it enriches your life, helps you gain a better understanding of different cultures while introducing you to new conversations, and creates memorable experiences. Travel is a gift, but what if your travel was also a gift to the local community or village you are visiting? This would create an even more educational, personal, and life-giving experience.

When we learned of the The Muskoka Foundation's Do Good As You Go movement, which “connects travelers (free of charge) to volunteer opportunities with their partner organizations around the world,” we knew we had to introduce this new kind of travel to our readers with help from The Muskoka Foundation's Deanna Rita (Contributing Editor) and Carol Hurst (Contributing Writer).

Both Deanna and Carol are travel lovers, and they want to inspire you to travel and connect to the people along your journey in a meaningful way. Through their efforts, they want to solve the problem that even though we as travelers have differences with distant cultural surroundings and people, there is a connection that could be of service to the bigger solution through the positive impact of volunteerism.

At Conscious, we loved this idea of enriching travel with volunteerism, so beyond this interview, Deanna and Carol are set to launch a column on Consciousmagazine.co to share their incredible stories and photographs from their mission work, which includes stories of learning, growth, community, love, hope and impact. Read on.

MuskokaVolunteers-1 MuskokaVolunteers-2Deanna (top) Carol (bottom)

Q | DEANNA AND CAROL, CAN TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?
Deanna: I have spent most of my adult life in big cities like London, Madrid and now New York City, so I guess you could call me a city person. I love the diversity, everyday street life and the simplicity of living in small spaces. As an avid cook, I am constantly excited by the array of food options, and I am always on the lookout for a new discovery.

I come from an entrepreneurial background, being part of founding a successful environmental, recycled goods company, as well as, a small business owner. I am now happily working in the non-profit sector, using my skills and education to help advance the causes of amazing social-impact organizations.

I am passionate about learning and knowledge. You will always find me signed-up for a class, attending an event or reading some book or blog. But, some of my greatest learning experiences have been due to travel. I have always been fascinated by different cultures. In fact, even as a kid my favorite class was World Cultures. I caught the travel bug in my early 20s, and have never looked back! When I started to explore the world, I truly started to discover new parts of myself. There is something about being outside my comfort-zone, opening my mind to different cultures and ways of life, and seeing the world first-hand.

The lessons we take back from these journeys are profound, and help shape our perspectives about ourselves and the world. The famous quote by Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes” can be applied to many areas of life. It’s about doing the inner work, seeing things fresh and from different perspectives. For me, travel helps with all that in my daily life.

Carol: I’m originally from St. Louis, Missouri - just about smack-dab in the middle of the United States. My professional career has focused on Fortune 500 marketing, but now, I am happy to represent the thousands of baby-boomers while I shift careers and seek out ways to give back to the world while pursuing my passion for traveling.

What I like most about traveling is seeing the people - how they live, their beliefs and (especially since I own a spice store) what they eat and how the food is prepared. I had a mentor once tell me “being invited in to someone’s home for a meal is one of the greatest gifts you can receive”. I agree.

I’m currently involved in grass roots projects for Muskoka Foundation and One Dream Foundation, which seek to increase the number of enrolled female children in Zambian schools.

Q | AT CONSCIOUS MAGAZINE, WE'RE ABOUT CHANGING THE CONVERSATION, WHY IS THAT IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Deanna: There is so much power in storytelling. Reading real stories, about real people. Cutting through the clutter to get to the truth and what matters most. To me, that’s what changing the conversation is all about.

Some of my favorite books are biographies. I get so inspired by them. I always learn from and can relate to a person’s life story on some level, even if we have led seemingly very different lives. The reason biographies always resonate with me in a powerful way is because they are true stories. There is something special that happens when you read real stories of impact: they touch you, resonate with you, teach you, and, ultimately, inspire you to do better. It’s important to me that we have places where we can share these stores.

Carol: Conscious Magazine is about changing the conversation. It’s through these conversations that we become inspired, validated, enraged, and motivated in to action. And it’s these sparks of action that become embers that we feed in to real change. This is important to me because each of us, in some way, can make a difference. As they say, “leap and the net will appear”. The collaborations and awareness made through Conscious Magazine helps us all to make the leap.

Q | YOU ARE ABOUT TO LAUNCH A COLUMN ON CONSCIOUSMAGAZINE.CO HIGHLIGHTING DO GOOD AS YOU GO/THE MUSKOKA FOUNDATION’S MISSION WORK. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT FOR OUR READERS?
Deanna: Do Good As You Go connects travelers, free of charge, to volunteer opportunities with our partner organizations around the world. We are committed to the idea of “use what you know, to do good as you go” and help enable travelers to leverage their interests and professional skills to give back to the local communities that they visit. For example, volunteers have taught photography to youths in Honduras, theater in Guatemala, business skills and art in Mexico, as well as,2 consulted in Thailand, conducted community gardening workshops in South Africa, and installed KA Lite learning programs in Canada…and these are just a few examples!

We have so many incredible stories and photographs to share with the readers of Conscious. Stories of learning, growth, community, love, hope and impact. Photography from around the world that is both artistic, and captures pure emotion and living in the moment. It is important to share these with readers. They are true examples of real people making real impact, and a reminder that all our actions combined can create change. We hope these stories will inspire readers to get involved and “do good as they go” during their travels and in everyday life.

Carol: I believe that by sharing these accounts of personal adventure and connection through service, we can inspire the readership to pursue their own journeys. Sometimes we get caught up in our daily grind and begin to feel isolated. We begin to feel like we cannot impart positive change in a world where the problems are so large and where we as people feel so different from one another. The stories that DGYG traveler volunteers have to share remind us that our differences are a part of the solution and are not to be feared. They show us that connection, relationship and service during travel can and does have a positive impact on the individuals and communities that we encounter as well as on ourselves. I hope that these articles inspire the readers to travel and to connect to the people along their journey in a meaningful way.

Q | WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GOALS FOR 2015?
Carol: This year Do Good as You Go looks to expand our network of travelers and volunteers as well as open up a new collaboration with local organizations focusing on ecological work, small businesses and social enterprises. In addition to this growth, we are focusing on our core program development to strengthen our curricula, improve equipment donations on site and raise our expectations for volunteers and local organizations during the implementation of skill transfer workshops to yield deeper and more sustainable results within the participating community. 

Q | WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU SHARE WITH OUR READERS AS THEY TRAVEL TO DIFFERENT PLACES THIS YEAR?
Deanna: If you have never volunteered while traveling, try it! Even if it is just a few hours or a few days, you will be amazed at what a difference you can make in the local communities you visit. Not only will you have a great time, but you will have a unique experience that becomes a piece of you for the rest of your life.

One of my favorite aspects of working with Do Good As You Go is hearing the stories from our travelers about their volunteer experiences. For most, the time spent volunteering was the highlight of their journey. They recount the people who touched them, unforgettable conversations, new activities, feeling purposeful, present and connected to a culture. There is definitely nothing to lose and everything to gain by volunteering on your next trip.

Carol: The main thing I try to keep top-of-mind is “seek first to understand”. We travel for many reasons, but to gain an understanding of how people live, their culture, their family lives- this is true enrichment and education. While there may be many differences, there are also many similarities - and it’s these common elements that elevate the humanity and kinship that we all share.

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FROM THE EDITOR
At Conscious, remarkable people and organizations inspire us, and so we set out to tell stories that highlight human interest stories, global initiatives, innovation, community development, and social impact. You can read more stories like this when you subscribe.

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