Ten Highlights From My Travels

I have a new friend to friend post up for you HERE!

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Hey everyone.

I hope you are all having a fantastic day today!  So Janae has had a few requests that I write a post about some of the traveling I did before we knew each other, so she asked me to share a post with you today about that.

I worked in a residential treatment facility for girls around the ages 13-18 for several years.  I started off as a Spanish teacher there to work my way through college.  A friend approached me there about how awesome it would be to take the families of these girls somewhere completely out of their comfort zone and serve others, wherever that might be.  VERY LONG story made short we got the okay and we were able to test it out and eventually made a complete service program that traveled all throughout the world and the United States.

This job took me to Singapore (2 times), Indonesia (2 times),  Nicaragua (3 times), Africa, Alaska (2 times), Havasupai (2 times), Peru (2 times) all over the Appalachian Trial and surrounding communities (2 times).  I haven’t looked through these pictures for a long time, so it took a while to sort through some of them. I want to share some highlights I had on these trips.

1- I honestly have not known my favorite color my whole life. I always would just say blue or green just because it was what popped into my head.  I finally found my absolute favorite color in the world in Alaska near Seward on a hike to view the Harding Ice Fields (the fields are in the picture below).  The hike was killer and to my memory it was around 4-5 miles out and back and each mile out had an elevation gain near 1000 feet.  The views were spectacular.  If you look closely you can see the people on the hills to give you a little perspective of how big these fields are.

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This right here is my favorite color…. I don’t even know what you would call it, maybe Glacier blue???  At the end of the hike you over look this valley of ice fields and I was lulled away by the hint of blue in the fields.  I had to run down to the glaciers and get a closer look and man I think I just stood here for 20 minutes taking in the experience.

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2- One of the trips to Alaska wasn’t necessarily a service/humanitarian trip.  As I mentioned before, I worked with girls who had experienced horrible traumas, eating disorders, substance abuse, mental disorders and much more.  After graduation and working through the program what experts realized was that the father/daughter relationship faltered after the program.  The dads oftentimes went back to work and the work they were doing plateaued, so we built a trip based on building relationships and making memorable moments.  We did so many different things, but the Harding Ice Field hike was VERY hard for some of these dads and daughters.  Everyone did it at their own pace and while it was a hellish thing for them, by the end of the trip almost every one of them recalled this being one of their favorite moments.  Maybe that is why sometimes we desire to do hard things like 10ks, half-marathons, marathons or ultras.

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This isn’t a realization of traveling, but I LOVED seeing the vast amount of wildlife in Alaska.  I was so close to so many types of animals.  We always play would you rather in our house and I always ask would you rather live in the mountains or near the ocean.  Usually my answer is the ocean because I just love the water, but if it’s the mountains in Alaska with glaciers and everything it has to offer, I would choose that every time.

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3- Traveling to Peru was an experience that I will never forget.  It was actually the first trip that we actually helped organized.  I wish I could say that everything went perfect, it didn’t.  I don’t think I slept much during the 7 days.  This trip definitely shaped the rest of my life though.  We went to this remote town in the Andes mountains.  We gave donated a lot of supplies and helped paint and remodel a school.  This was the first trip of our program.  When we gave to those in need we were able to first hand see the little difference we were making, we all left in tears.  All of the problems that we faced faded away while we were there and everyone was just there in the moment serving others and lifting up others. That was pure happiness.

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Of course we were able to see some of the amazing places too!!

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4- This world has so much variety in it.  Some live in huge high-rise buildings in big cities, some live in the Andes mountains and grow hundreds of different types of potatoes.

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5- Some people see guinea pigs as pets and some see them as a delicacy to eat.  There is some rush that comes with eating strange foods.  This one definitely goes on the list.  Along with chicken feet soup, cow brains and stomach, salmon hearts…. Yeah I’ll save you the rest just in case you are eating when you read this.

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Africa was by far one of the most culturally shocking places we went.  Within the big cities it didn’t appear to be much different but after traveling 15 or 20 minutes outside of the cities, life was very different.

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6- I absolutely love kids.  I think they all have the same qualities wherever you go.  One of my favorite things to do everywhere I would go in the world is bring a big package of pop rocks with me.  I would tell them its a popping candy and it would feel funny and it was SOOO fun to see them try it for the first time.  I always made sure I had these every trip!

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This was an old run down church being rented out as a school.  School funds were VERY limited so we partnered with a few other organizations and decided to build a school in a rural community of Lusaka.

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This is what we were able to do in about a week.  I went through my pictures and I couldn’t find the finished product.  I’ll look some more if I can!!

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7- Don’t ever camp this close to the Zambezi river.  We had guides, but in all honesty this was one of the scariest nights of my life.  Camping next to crocodiles and hippos.  I know I have told the story before on the blog, but one night I woke up with a hippo just outside my tent.  I hope I never have the same experience again.

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We canoed down the Zambezi river next to these guys…. Probably one of the dumbest things I have ever done.  BUT, one of the most memorable.

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Nicaragua!!!  This place is VERY special to me.

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We partnered multiple times with a heath clinic that served women with cervical cancer in Nicaragua.  This was a pivotal experience In getting me more interested in going back to school and becoming a nurse.

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8- So one day I was in Nicaragua following up on some contacts and ideas I had for service projects and I found myself in San Juan del Sur, the southern part of Nicaragua.  The next day I needed to be in a northern part 4 hours away.  During this trip I didn’t have a car and I had to find some transportation and because it was Sunday mostly everything was closed.  I started to get a little concerned, but finally found some transportation.  My driver and I spent a long time in the car together and we talked about everything… Long story short we talked about his community that was on the Island of Ometepe. They dhad some needs and his wife was part of the “city council” or something similar.  I had only known the guy for 4 hours and we set up a project and when I got back to the States I wired him $3,000 to get the materials for the project.  Talk about trust or stupidity right? Haha  Well we changed MANY families’ lives.  Below is a picture of how they cook with an open flame and what it does to the house in the next picture.

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This is the final project that we had designed and carried out for over 20 different families.  This changed their lives and it was amazing to be part of this.  I learned that sometimes you have to take a risk and those risks can make ALL the difference.

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We were also able to repair rundown schools and repaint them.  I always found myself on the roof.

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9- It doesn’t matter where you are or how advanced technology is, there is always something to be made better.  We had the privilege to work with an all-girls treatment center, the first to my knowledge from what I was told.  I brought therapists with me to help do some trauma work with the girls.  We also did training with the employees to help them further their work in Singapore.  This was an AMAZING experience in a first-world country

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Indonesia!!!

This is were we stayed for a of couple days.  This was AMAZING, I loved this place.

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This is a fresh-water well that we dug for a small island that still provides water for the community to this day!!

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10- Lastly one of the main things I have realized from my travels is that there are so many ways to explore and make a difference.  You don’t always have to go somewhere on the other side of the world, although it may help and be really fun!  I also hope to instill this in our kids and start them young!

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Another reminder to check out the new friend to friend post here!

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Have any lessons that you learned from your experiences traveling?

What is your dream place to go to visit?

What’s your workout today?

-We are taking a few days off from running so we will live through your runs.

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32 comments

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SO incredible! You’ve definitely had some memorable adventures. I just got my passport a few months ago for the first time ever, so I need to find an adventure to go on. I know that I don’t need to leave the country for this, but I really want to go to Maui. I’d love to see the Northern Lights in Iceland someday (even though I’m not a fan of the cold), and I definitely want to visit Australia!

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Natalie,
You don’t have to go to Iceland to see the Northern LIghts! I’ve seen them 3 times, all in Minnesota where I grew up! Although I am with you in going to visit Iceland. I’ve only been in the Rekjavik airport. ha.

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I didn’t know that—that’s awesome!

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Wow! You are incredibly brave and caring. What adventures you have had!

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I used to work in travel and am itching to get back into it.
One of the best lesson’s I learned ( and 1 I’ve taught my kids) is experience /learn from the locals. You learn more about the history and can see the side of it from different cultures even.

I’ve traveled all over myself, but surpisingly my dream place to visit is to go back to India where I was born.
No workout today We’re getting ready to move and list our house. so a checklist for us.
Have a great day!

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So inspiring!! I am all hyped up to serve more now. Thanks, Andrew!

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So many awesome experiences! I’m kinda jealous of all your awesome pictures.

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Amazing!! And, so inspiring! You truly have touched the lives of thousands of people ❤️
I have never traveled much, bit it’s something I do love and hope that my kids take travel opportunities whenever they pop up.
Thank you Andrew, for sharing!
Enjoy the rest of your time here in sunny SoCal, and safe travels home!

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I had no idea Andrew did all of that! How amazing! After my kids are grown, that is my dream life!

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Wow! Thanks for sharing all your wonderful memories and photos. Definitely inspiring.

You have traveled to many places I want to go see someday. Right now, Thailand and Columbia are at the top of my bucket list.

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Wow Andrew, I commend you for all that hard work! Thanks for sharing!

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How very, very cool that you’ve been to all of those places and contributed in so many meaningful ways!
True confession (and regret): I was afraid to do a study-abroad opportunity in grad school. It sounded so cool, but I was just scared to put myself out there. Once I started traveling to conferences for work in the early 1990s (government contract, teaching about clinical trials and treatment for HIV/AIDS), I realized I had missed out on great opportunities a few years earlier.

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By sharing your stories you are inspiring many others! Thank you Andrew, I am proud of you!!

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WOW! This was so cool to read—I had no idea that you had worked with girls for a profession or traveled so many cool/beautiful/life-changing places! I can see more and more from reading this why you are such a perfect match for Janae and why she fell head over heels for you!

Lessons learned from traveling—money spent on travel is ALWAYS money well-spent, ALWAYS. When I travel, I’m reminded of just what a big beautiful world we have around us. Where we live normally is just a speck on the radar and just ONE way of thinking/living.

My dream destination is Cuba. I’ve been to Key West SO SO many times that I’m absolutely fascinated by Cuba. When in KW, you can pay $1,000 for transportation (by air) to go to and tour Havana for the day. I would so love to do this or to spend MORE than a day there.

Run plans for today!? I was off (strength day), but it’s snowing, and I kind of want to go for a snow run, so we’ll see :)

Hope you’re having a BLAST on your trip!!!!

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Thanks for sharing all of your amazing experiences!! I am so glad that you and Janae found each other!! What a great example you are to your children!! I don’t know if I could be as adventurous as you but I am definitely going to be more helpful to others!!

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Yesss to everything you said about Alaska. I love southeast Alaska because you get the ocean AND the mountains. And glacier blue is a pretty amazing color!

Your travels all sound so cool, I would love to do the same kind of traveling someday!

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No wonder you and Janae make such a fabulous couple. . . you both are so compassionate and caring for others!! What amazing opportunities you had! My hubs and I love to travel but before I was married I was able to experience a mission trip with my youth group to Ireland. Although we did not go to a poverty stricken country we still were able to minister and care for the kids in Ireland and we had to raise support like a missionary would. It was an incredible experience. My next trip I want to go to Uganda!!
Today was my rest day from 5 straight days of lots of miles!! Enjoy the rest of your time away!!

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No wonder you and Janae make such a fabulous couple. . . you both are so compassionate and caring for others!! What amazing opportunities you had! My hubs and I love to travel but before I was married I was able to experience a mission trip with my youth group to Ireland. Although we did not go to a poverty stricken country we still were able to minister and care for the kids in Ireland and we had to raise support like a missionary would. It was an incredible experience. My next trip I want to go to Uganda!!
Today was my rest day from 5 straight days of lots of miles!! Enjoy the rest of your time away!!
And dream vacation would be Fuji!!

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Amazing! I traveled quite a bit before I hadn’t kids, but never to do humanitarian work. I would love to have the experience of serving abroad. Someday, I would love to bring my kids and do something like that. I love that you shared your experiences!

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Thanks for the writeup! Cool pictures.

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Wow, wow, I LOVE this post Andrew! You’ve had so many amazing adventures and all with a beautiful purpose of serving others. You can tell in the pictures how lit up you are from the experiences. And now my favorite color is glacier blue!

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Wow! I’m so very inspired! My sister and her husband travel the world and their favorites are Indonesia and Nicaragua.
I truly enjoyed this post and sharing how you served others.
Going to go on a 4 miler today back from icky back to back colds.

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I loved this post! I live in South Africa and what you say about cultures in Africa is so true. You need to experience it to believe it! Bring your family for a holiday here – you will all love it!

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THanks for this post! I had been curious about what you did with the residential treatment center and you did incredible things! Doing service projects with the youth is such an amazing experience and eye opener. I forsee some Jacobs-Barron family service adventures in the future! That last picture is a perfect ending to your post, too!

I went to NZ and Romania while I was in college. Vastly different for sure! We went to Romania *just after* the fall of Cceausescu and it was a bit scary, but also very insightful. We spend time in the larger cities where you could still see bullet holes in the building and there were military police (in street colored camo!) all over the place. We visited orphanages, a medical school, and a few health clinics to deliver supplies. Then we took a rickety train and bus to a remote village and lived with host families. This was incredible.

Thank you for sharing your adventures! I would love to do more service projects while in Europe and take my kids. The youth group usually has an annual trip if there is a connection to an organization.

Enjoy the rest of Disney!

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Is that Telunas resort in Indonesia? I stated there 2 years ago on a impact investing trip. Amazing place (we went to the village nearby too!).

What countries in Africa did you visit?

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You are so RIGHT!! That is Telunas! We had such an amazing time there. In Africa I only visited Zambia and Zimbabwe. Do you know what village you visited?

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I love this list! My husband and I love to travel! The next place on my travel bucket list is SCUBA dive the Galapagos! I’d also love to check Antarctica, but that’ll probably be hard to do. Once I visit thosev2 continents I’ll have visited them all! We just had a baby 8 months ago, but we want to instill that travel bug as well! When she was almost 4 months old we decided last minute to go to the Big Island of Hawaii! While I’m enjoying every moment, I’m excited for her to be old enough to get certified and bring her a long on our scuba adventures! We are also planning on going to Korea this year to visit my moms side of the family and they are all SO excited to meet my little one! This will also be my husband’s first visit too!
No run today, but we did take the day off and go snowboarding today! It was so much fun with none of the crowds!

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I’m from Singapore (like, born here, Asian) and it’s so cool you’ve been here! And not that long ago either based on the picture of the skyline; think you were on the flyer.
I’m just posting this because I’ve noticed that Westerners seem to find a lot of stuff Asians/ non-Westerners eat pretty fascinating (euphemism for “kinda gross”). Haha. Well, chicken feet gross me out too, but they are an amazing source of collagen; I clip off the nails and stick them into the pot when I make stock. I remember once seeing this Caucasian lady at a hawker centre who was running away from the chicken rice stall shrieking, after she realised when she got up close that there were a bunch of cooked, headless chickens all hanging in the display case.

I wouldn’t mind trying guinea pigs to be honest, but I’d draw the line at dog or cat.

BTW I should have left this comment on one of Janae’s earlier posts but I caught you guys on the Man Bun Run podcast, it was SOOOOO sweet – my husband and I went on a run on our second “date” too! He was rather more fit than me, but he matched my pace. :)
Also…… I keep wanting to make a comment about you more or less always being in running tights in the photos Janae’s posted lately. I still snigger a little to myself whenever I see those pics, thinking of what you said on the podcast! HAHAHAHA. Brave man.

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I have lived and worked abroad for a while– soI’m curious where in Africa you went and I LOVE the pop rocks idea. I have worked in schools for many years and I’ve never thought to do that. When smart phones first came out it was so great to show kids their pictures, but now they’re like, “meh, seen that”, haha. I’m headed to Cape town in May and I might have to have my mom bring me some pop rocsks from the states.

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Hi Andrew!
Thank you for writing this post and thank you for all the amazing things you did! I think this post came at the right time for me to read. I was just recently talking with my fiance about how I want to do something that can make a difference in people’s lives and I don’t know where to start or look. If you don’t mind me asking, what was the name of the service program you worked with? I would love to look more into programs like these or at least find a place to start looking for ways I can help out. Thank you again for sharing your experiences and pictures, they have warmed my heart!

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Hi Danielle,
I wish I had a definite answer to give you!! So there are a thousand different “companies” that sell a service trip experience. Some are REALLY good and some aren’t so great. When I was looking for specific trips and everything it was impossible with my clientele to combine with others and I wanted to find something where I knew exactly where the money went to. I created my own company underneath the corporate umbrella that owned the residential treatment center.

A company that I almost partnered with was IVHQ. I haven’t had any direct experience with them but they have some great trips and projects. https://www.volunteerhq.org/ . Let me know if this helps!!

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Hey! Just wondering why you referred the Zambia as “Africa”? Just kind of confusing considering you used all of the other country’s names! Africa isn’t a monolith and is *super* diverse, plus I know some people from different countries think it’s disrespectful to omit their country’s name when talking about. Amazing work you did though!

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