Salama Avy Aty Madagasikara

“All who live under the sky are woven together like one big mat.” -Malagasy Proverb

Culture is a fascinating thing. We all grow up in a culture. We grow up learning HOW to live by someone else’s definition. What’s appropriate and what isn’t. Belief structures, Language, Food, etc. This is what makes travel so important. It gives the traveler the opportunity to open up and experience new cultures and share their cultures with the world too.

In order to have a positive experience, one needs the opportunity to drop their belief structures and expectations to let something else wonderful in. This has definitely been my experience the last 5 days. As you may recall from my last update, I wasn’t in the most positive of places. There was a lot of processing going on, a lot of loneliness and definitely a lot of discomfort.

Leading up to this trip, I have constantly been telling people that I expect to experience a heavy “Culture Shock.” The reason I said this is because I have rarely had the opportunity to experience other cultures that haven’t been heavily influenced by the Western world. In fact, I live in a pretty excellent part of the world where I can go from eating Ethiopian food for lunch, Pho for dinner and a choice between late night Gelatto or Bubble tea to end the evening and maybe take in a foreign language film in the process. My cooshy little environment allows me the opportunity to dabble in all world cultures (and languages) with little commitment.

By using the phrase “Culture Shock” I had little knowledge of what it meant, especially it’s intensity. Wikipedia defines culture shock as:

“Culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply travel to another type of life. One of the most common causes of culture shock involves individuals in a foreign environment. Culture shock can be described as consisting of at least one of four distinct phases: Honeymoon, Negotiation, Adjustment, and Mastery, are the most common attributes that pertain to existing problems, further hindrances include: information overload, language barrier, generation gap, technology gap, skill interdependence, formulation dependency, homesickness (cultural), infinite regress (homesickness), boredom (job dependency), response ability (cultural skill set). There is no true way to entirely prevent culture shock, as individuals in any society are personally affected by cultural contrasts differently.”

Good news is, I feel as if I am coming over the top of the hill and feeling much more open to the experiences and adventures that this amazing country has to offer. I received some advice the other day that said “Everyone there are people, just like you, and they have gifts to offer the world, just like you. It will all seem normal very soon.” These are the words I have kept with me as I continue to explore.

So what does culture look like here? Surprisingly enough, as diverse as back home. The country has 2 official languages; French and Malagasy. The country also has 18 tribes, all with individual languages. The history of this country is even more diverse. People settled here from all over the world from various eras. Indonesian, (mainland) African, French, Indian and even Chinese. The food here, a similar mix of rice, beans, spaghetti, soups, salads, and the French standard; baguette and butter for breakfast. The lifestyle is simple. Everyone has something to offer, and suprisingly there is more materialism here than expected. From SUVs, to Beats headphones, to some of the cheapest non-knockoff Nike’s I have ever seen. The clothes are rich with colour and the jewelry is gorgeous.

I also look to sharing the knowledge I have acquired about the cities I have visited so far with all of you. Stay tuned for an update tomorrow where I will talk about the beautiful city that is Antananarivo and the rich culture that Toliara has to offer.

Until then all i have to say is…enjoy as much of this world as you can…

Advertisements

Don’t Panic!

image

Hello, Bonjour,

Something I’ve been saying a lot the last few hours as I try to get adjusted to the cultural and language difference here in Madagascar. I use the word “try” because it has definitely felt like work for me.

Air travel by myself was the easy pert, very little language barrier anywhere, excellent hospitality and even better, a ton of room on the flights. Upon my arrival in Antananarivo, however, I had an astonishing realization. This was the first time in my life where I have really felt alone. I have no one travelling with me (yet) and I have a bit of a language barrier, not to mention how overwhelmingly different life is here.

I’ve watched documentaries and television programs about parts of the world similar to this, but have only ever traveled in “first world” nations. Once the initial uneasiness wears off I’m excited to explore some of the many tastes and sights of this country but for now I can’t help but miss home a little bit.

After spending the last few months with intense support and love shown to me by so many amazing people in my efforts to make this journey to Madagascar possible, I’m now on the opposite corner of the world feeling very opposite emotions. I’ve been in this country less than 12 hours and I already miss my family, miss Eric, miss my friends and wish my goodbye hugs were longer

The good news is, this will pass, not the missing of people, but the feeling of loneliness. It’s been a big realization for me how much I depend on my relationships with people, but maybe took that dependence for granted more than I thought. I may be in Madagascar away from everything I know but I am so very excited about the opportunity to keep in touch with all of you via my updates.

One of my good friends said to me before I left, “You get the opportunity to head on a journey that many of us won’t often get the opportunity to do, but it feels like we all get the chance to go with you.” This is something i remind myself of constantly, thinking of all of you alongside me. The picture at the top of the post was taken in the Johannesburg airport and I thought it’s words fit perfectly with the sentiment of this post.

I feel as though I’m in process similar to those at one of the personal development workshops or camps I frequently volunteer at. Being put in a place of emotional and physical vulnerability to be able to release stuff I’ve been holding on to, and rebuild. I guess this is necessary work if I plan to be fully present for the next 2 months of being here.

Sending a TON of love and gratitude your way and I’m looking forward to the next update!!

(Update: I went into the city today to explore for a few hours on my own. The taxi driver I was with decided to put on music, and I smiled, was thrilled, and put to ease as one of my favorite songs came on, putting to music exactly what I needed to hear. See Below. )

Fightin’ Round the World…

…Not really though. But much like Russel Crowe’s spoofed characterization in an infamous South Park episode, intention is everything.

As i sit here in Heathrow airport awaiting my flight to Johannesburg, on only 7 hours of sleep in the past 48 hours, i can’t help but smile that the most uncomfortable part of my journey so far has simply been that lack of sleep. Allow me to elaborate a little.

Living on the West coast of Canada, some of the best places nearby to visit are in the United States, and as such I have frequently flown in the states. Those of you familiar with flying in the United States (or simply crossing the boarder from time to time) know that the screening processes for entering the country can be a little…stern at times. Being so familiar with the security processes they put into place for air transportation, I was expecting the same treatment internationally because, lets face it, terrorists can be from anywhere, right?

I was so happy to be blindsided by some of the most polite and hospitable security agents I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Offering tissues after tearful goodbyes, walking elderly people patiently through the screening process and apologizing for the inconvenience of having to search bag and even promising to keep the process as swift as possible for the eager travelers.

This experience reminded me of an article i read recently of a writer’s attempt to travel from Montreal to New Orleans in lieu of his late father’s love for jazz and the French Quarter. In this article he describes in great detail the treatment he received from border agents because he had previously visited parts of the world that these uneducated boarder guards deemed unsavory. Long story short, after hours and hours of being detained, searched, interrogated and threatened, he was denied entry into the country and vowed to “Never travel within the United States again.”

This is a great example of not only how controlling fear can be for an individual, but how it can affect relationships with others. It’s the same on a personal and global level.

those-were-the-droids

I now complete this entry from a hotel room in Madagascar where I can still say with assurance that I still agree with my previous thoughts above. Heading into a “third world” nation [side note: I’m not sure I like that term, nor do i like the term “underdeveloped.” Content for future blog updates i guess?] like this, or even through South Africa where political unrest was not unheard of, I was surprised at how comfortable the entry process was. Walked up with my Visa, got a “Merci!” and away I went.

The reason I share this entry? moreover a simple insight i noticed from traveling through 4 countries & 3 continents int he span of 2 days. The world is smaller than we think, and the way we relate to our brothers and sisters around the globe says a lot about who we are.

We Are Active Participants

“When it comes down to it, it’s pretty simple. Adventure is what you make it. And whether it’s the travel, the discovery, or just the feeling of letting go, the only way we will ever find out is to get out there and do it. Enjoy the ride.” – Travis Rice

7 days from now, I’ll be boarding an airplane and heading to Madagascar, and I’m reminded of how quickly time does indeed fly. This trip is something that as been on my heart for 3 years, always rolling in the back of my head. It seems like just yesterday when I shared with the world my decision to head to the opposite side of the world to do volunteer work there that means a lot to me, and my need for support in order to get there.

These last few months have been some of the most humbling, heart opening, and also celebratory months of my life. Witnessing just how much we are all part of a global community, and we want to see nothing but the best for one another and that the experiences we all have are affecting those that bear witness to them. It’s the reason we become so upset by death, destruction, famine or injustice but it’s also the reason we smile with playful children, cheer for an athlete and watch uplifting videos and photos shared through social media. We see a little bit of our own personalities, relationships and experiences in the faces and lives of other people (and animals/environment) and it’s what makes us all interconnected.

When I started fundraising for my trip to Madagascar, I had to move through many feelings of guilt. Why would people want to donate money so I can head to the other side of the world? The answer, I thought, was that I simply need to provide them with value so it becomes worth what they donate, so I came up with as many “rewards” for donating as possible. I felt this was the best way to create value that was budgetable for me in exchange for money. These rewards are fun and many people were excited about them, but i learned something else through this process…..

I was able to learn exactly what was valuable to people. By speaking what was on my heart about this trip, the work I wanted to do and why this was so important to me…..people wanted to show support regardless. I found 2 important lessons for myself through this experience. One, that we are supported. Each one of us has support systems in our lives (whether we are aware of it or not) that see the best in us and want to help support us to see the best in ourselves. The second is that everything we do and say has an affect, and it’s up to us to choose the type of affect we wish to have on the world.

The Most Astounding Fact.....

The Most Astounding Fact…..

We are all members of a global community and what we put in is what we get out. This is karma. Many treat the idea of karma as a points system rather than the enlightenment that an individual knows what they contribute has an effect, and that effect can come full circle. This is one of the reasons that the work that I do with my Mom’s workshops, because it teaches us that we all have a role to play in this world and no matter how big or small that role is, it is important to the successes of the globe as a whole and it doesn’t matter if it’s scrubbing toilets, making airplanes, painting or passing bills.

Through this knowledge, I feel as if I have found new value in the experiences I’ll be having and it makes me all the more excited to share those experiences with all of you through photography and through this blog.

The next time you’ll hear from me I may be in a different country, experiencing new sights, sounds and people but it will still feel like home…I’ve simply entered a new room…..I’ll be back for dinner. 😛

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy….

“But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money–booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

W. H. Murray – The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951

I lived a life without commitment for many years. I loved this life, because without commitment I had complete freedom, right? Nothing to bind me down. I was in control of everything that headed my way. I was also depressed. Why would freedom leave me depressed? That’s because I was ALIVE but had nothing to LIVE FOR.

Commitments allow us the opportunity to focus our energies and effectively create. They also allow us the opportunity to expand our comfort zones, forcing the trust that “I may not know exactly how this is going to play out but by committing to this goal I trust that the right opportunities will show up and I will take the initiative to seize those opportunities”

In Fact, the title of a book by Grace Cirocco comes to mind “Take The Step, The Bridge Will Be There.”

This blog is a commitment that I made. To effectively share the thoughts, insights and knowledge important to my life, with all of you. I made the commitment to myself that this would be something that I would update on at the very least, a weekly basis but my last update was over 2 weeks ago. Dos this means I’ve failed? No, I simply acknowledge it and step forward. Sometimes it’s about getting back on track with commitments, sometimes it’s about readjusting commitments so they better resonate and sometimes it’s about decommitting entirely because the commitment no longer holds relevance or has been completely lost sight of.

Ironically enough, the last post I did make on here that I mentioned above, was a post about fear.

Fear is probably one of the biggest things to prevent people from commitment. Fear for personal security, fear of lack of money, fear of a lack of control, the fear of failure and finally, the fear of the unknown. Fear is a great paralyzer, preventing people from doing things before they can get their feet on the ground. Think of a time when fear prevented you from pursuing something you were passionate about. It’s an experience many of us can relate to.

life-begins-at-the-end-of-your-comfort-zone

Take the time to see where commitment has shown up in your life, and what a game changer it was.

It’s also one of the biggest pieces of advice I give to people who come to me about relationship issues. Mutual commitment. Sometimes it looks like marriage, sometimes it looks like babies, sometimes it’s a pet, a shared living situation or sometimes it can be as simple as a vacation or the time you plan with one another. By creating a shared mutual commitment, it gives people in a relationship something they can work on together and bond over. It’s those shared experiences of building a life with one another that really create the relationship.

Same goes for individual experiences. Feeling uninspired and depressed? Think of one, just one thing that you have always wanted to do. Doesn’t have to be big, doesn’t have to change the world. It simply needs to be important to you and just big enough to put you out of your comfort zone for the purposes of expanding that comfort zone a bit more.

The reason I speak so heavily of commitment today, is because of a commitment I made a few months ago to head to Madagascar and volunteer with an amazing organization called Reef Doctor. Many of you know about this already, for those that don’t, check out my fundraising page, which talks about it a lot more in depth. This is an opportunity that I have been thinking about doing for almost 2 years, but always talked myself out of for a variety of reasons from financial ones, to personal health & security, to simply not thinking that I was worth this kind of experience. This was all stuff I had to work on with myself and take baby steps to work up to where I am now.

And where am I now? Well, this trip turn a major step last night when I made the big commitment of booking my flights. The reason this is a major step is for a few reasons. I haven’t reached my fundraising goal yet, which means I’m still short what I will need to afford other things for the trip, including the fee I have to pay to volunteer with reef doctor, vaccinations, visas and dive equipment. By making this commitment yesterday means there is no turning back now, it’s full steam ahead for the next month. A few years ago I may have been paralyzed with anxiety and fear stepping into this and although I am still a little uncomfortable now with how they next month may or may not look, I’m mostly excited about that discomfort and all the learning opportunities this whole experience will give me.

In fact, despite all I’ve talked about here, I think the great Jimmy Cliff said it best.

Much love,

-Drew

“Be Careful.”

It’s a familiar warning, heeded by those wanting to ensure that loved ones don’t place themselves in a situation that could potentially be hazardous, harmful, unsafe, uncomfortable, or DANGEROUS. This warning is one that travelers hear most frequently.

anthony-bourdain-design-crush

The biggest draw of travelling is that thrill of not knowing what experiences await you, but understanding that those experiences will be the ones you remember.

We often hear many warning calls about the big scary world out there. As someone who will be traveling in 2 months time, I’ve definitely had my share of concerns and suprisingly, it’s those very concerns that are making this pre-journey experience so exciting.

travel-money-banner

For some, the financial fear is enough to cripple them from global exploration. This was particularly true for myself. Due to poor financial choices I made many years ago, my credit is pretty much non-existent. That paired with my “less than lucrative” employment history always gave me excuses to never spread my wings. I’m certain many people can relate to this, with the economy being what it was and the cost of flights it all can seem very overwhelming.

I always blamed money as the reason I wasn’t able to travel, then I had a realization. It wasn’t money I was making that was preventing me from travel, it was the money I was making that was keeping me where I was. I was working full time hours so I could continue to afford working full time hours. That being said I am aware that I need to have money to afford to live (and travel!!), but I am finally open to alternate streams of income that don’t involve me dedicating myself 40+ hours a week to somebody else. I’m not sure what those look like

It’s also one of the reasons I’m fundraising for my trip to Madagascar. I’m aware that While there I will be dedicating myself to working full time to support a cause very dear to my heart. As the first real fundraising I’ve ever done, this has been eye opening experience and I’ve remained as open and grateful as my heart will allow for the streams of support that have come my way.

McGruffs Travel Safety Tips

The other, and probably the bigger argument, is personal health, safety and security. The world is a big scary place with a lot of unknowns. Microorganisms set to ravage one’s body, Political and social unrest and general cultural differences are just some of the things that can make people uneasy in travel.

I like to think that the enlightened traveler is someone who can not only understand these elements, but effectively use them to enhance their experience, rather than diminish those experiences.

Imagine the thrill of joining a political or social demonstration in a country on the verge of change, the fulfillment of working with HIV infected families to enhance their quality of life, or simply the ability to have open and unbiased conversations and participate in rituals and traditions that others would normally miss out on.

One of the best examples of this that I’ve seen is on the tv show Departures. If you are unfamiliar with this program, do check it out. 3 Canadian friends embark on a journey of the globe and all of the experiences that come with it. They explore all the elements of land and culture that would normally go unnoticed at a resort or with a tour company, with amazing enthusiasm. Worth every moment of watching.

Long story short, despite all of the elements in play on a trip as large as the one I will be taking to Madagascar at the end of next month, I am thrilled to be able to experience them. The financial challenges (and triumphs!), cultural differences and social uncertainty are what will make this journey one worth remembering for the rest of my life. That being said, this is only MY experience.

“The words printed here are concepts. You must go through the experiences.” Saint Augustine

Your mountain is waiting……Bon Voyage!

– D

Play Your Part

service

I love helping people and for the next week I’ll be “off the grid” so to speak. One of the reasons I feel driven to head to Madagascar is because I feel that one of the best ways to explore the world is through being in service to the cultures you visit.

There are many other ways to volunteer though from social work, to research and conservation to education. I’ll be spending the next week volunteering my time and energy with a personal development camp. A wonderful opportunity for 400 adults to come together in the wildnerness and learn a little more about harnessing their power and use it to create the lives they want. Why is this important work for me? Well it helped me. Those that knew me 5-6 years ago know that I was an angry, depressed, unmotivated, smoking, drinking mess. Those that know me today know me to be quite a different person and one of the biggest shifts for me was through meeting the wonderful people and being inspired by some of the perspectives at one of these events. I owe much of who I am now to those volunteers 4 years ago that helped support me through my shifts. I’m now a new man that wishes to spend his time supporting others to reach a similar place of self love and empowerment if it’s something they choose.

    The quickest route to happiness is to help others. ~Mingyur Rinpoche~

Some people see volunteering as working without getting paid, others know that it means taking responsibility to show up and do the work that would otherwise not get done. It’s being an active participant of this planet to support it’s healing.

I will end this short post with a question. How do you volunteer? How do you contribute? Where do you show up and what do you do? Honestly, please share here. It’s an opportunity to celebrate yourself for showing up and playing your part.

Much love,

-Drew

Drew Mac’s Madagascar Mission to Support Reef Restoration

P.S. – Remember, Play Your Part