My colleagues, friends and family were shocked when I announced I was taking a “career break” at almost 50 years old to volunteer with an extreme animal rescue team in Southeast Asia.

Two years ago, I joined a ragtag band of raving and roving lunatics to alleviate suffering, combat cruelty and rescue dogs, cats and critters exposed to dog fighting – and cockfighting – natural disasters, or other abandonment, neglect, trauma and abuses. Because of the intense nature of the work, we took time between ventures to explore nearby villages and cities, jungles and islands. We cleared our exhausted brains and bodies by exposing ourselves to the beautiful native people, food and cultures before immersing ourselves back into the brutal realities of the work we were doing.

For nine months, I alternated between these two realities and looked to my downtime to alleviate the stress of the enormous challenges we faced. During these therapeutic sojourns, I relaxed on a beach on Bali while watching a young boy laughing and playing with a small puppy. I hiked active volcanoes in the “Ring Of Fire” on Java. I learned how tribes in the Northern Philippines practiced the tradition of burying their dead in hanging coffins nailed to cliff walls high above the ground. I nourished my body with fresh street food in Malaysia, nourished my mind with meditation at Buddhist temples in Thailand and nourished my soul by listening to music everywhere. Lots of music.

For example, I stumbled upon the Rainforest World Music Festival, an annual three-day event in the jungles of Borneo. I’m sorry, I don’t remember the band names or their songs. But, I do remember the mesmerizing music and the human sharing and connections that allowed me to return to the animal rescue operations that will forever remain one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

All of these encounters encapsulate a concept known as “low travel” – to appreciate, love, and remember small, special moments while on the road, in the air, or over the water. If one has more time and fewer possessions, “nomad” traveling – essentially living everywhere all of the time – may be for you. Most of us now live in a polarized, political society and too much time is stolen and will never be recovered over conflicts that will never be resolved. Facebook is a major culprit, but toxic relationships, jobs-to-nowhere and a steady barrage of media calamities also take their toll. Life is short and the world is not so small. I urge my fellow Mainers to explore the Earth, but also absorb different folks’ backgrounds, viewpoints and visions of the future. Open your eyes and your ears to another way of thinking or living. You won’t regret it!

I’m now back in my own country and my home state of Maine and returned to the energy and environmental profession that I love. While I remain restless and unsettled, I am content knowing that my next adventure is waiting. I hope yours is waiting for you, too.


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