“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.

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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.

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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

Food for thought.

Life on the water

Some of you may be familiar with the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” This statement is accurate for Malagasy life in Southwestern Madagascar. In my previous post, Oh The PLaces You’ll Go!, I discussed what “Voluntouring” was, why it’s important and some of the “Voluntouring” I will be participating in with in a few months time, supporting the reefs off the coast and the Vezo people who depend on them for survival. I’d like to take an opportunity to introduce you to this Malagasy tribe and show you what makes them such a beautiful and inspiring culture.

    Who Are Vezo?

The term Vezo is defined as, “the people who fish.” It’s the term used to describe the semi-nomadic people of Southwestern Madagascar that have adapted to a life of depending on the sea for food. It’s also important to note that the term Vezo is not intended to identify an ethnicity, but rather a way of life. The ocean is important to their survival. Since they are less an ethnicity and more of a culture, it’s impossible to know their numbers and so their populations are estimated by the number of dugout canoes found along the shorelines.

Family and tradition are both important to Vezo culture. Typically they depend on the strong and healthy to take care of the old, sick and dying. Family is important because it’s how Vezo pass on knowledge of fishing areas, access to resources and equipment. Ancestry is also important to their livelihood, as it is ancestors whom are responsible for the success and failure of obtaining a good catch so it’s very important to give appropriate thanks through ceremony when a catch has been particularly favorable, especially when catching rare species like shark, dolphin or whale.

Vezo not only depend on the ocean for food, but as means for sale and trade. Typically the men will spend their time on the water in search of fish and the women will harvest the sand flats for invertebrates as well as sell or trade the catches the men have brought to them.

    Why do Vezo need support?

Over fishing is something that affects all of the world’s oceans. Regulation is hard to enforce around the world and although many first world countries have developed fishing regulations, Madagascar is still developing as a nation and doesn’t have many similar regulations and rarely enforces them.

Vezo have been the main navigators of the channel that separates mainland Africa from Madagascar, but currently more and more commercial boats are showing up to reap the benefits of these waters that are home to a diverse collection of marine life. As such, Vezo have had to adapt their fishing methods to better compete. Sometimes these methods can deteriorate the family and community culture as many Vezo will to isolate themselves & families to find fishing space not dominated by commercial fisheries or other locals. Sometimes these fishing practices are unsustainable.

Unsustainable fishing means fishing practices that will be unable to sustain themselves if they continue moving forward the same way they have been practiced. Currently unsustainable fishing practices, local and commercial, are having an affect to the marine life in Southwestern Madagascar. These negative affects are seen in the devastation of coral reef systems, the platform of which entire ecosystems are based. The negative effects are also seen in the dwindling numbers of species that have a hard time repopulating themselves. Species like Sea Turtles, Sharks, fish and even invertebrates.

Enjoy this video of an interview with a local Vezo talking about why marine conservation is important to him. Videos like this provide great perspective, which is important because with perspective we provide a basis of fair and balanced judgement. Not judgement of others but judgement of our actions and how we can best serve these world cultures, the lifestyles that sustain them and the ecosystems that sustain us and them.

    How can I support Vezo and the ecosystems they depend on?

ReefDoctor is a non-profit organization in Madagascar that is working to educate Vezo on sustainable fishing methods and how to respect the populations of these species so they can continue to provide food for their communities. Through conducting water quality and fish population research as well as cutting edge artificial reef restoration techniques and their education efforts, Reef Doctor is a major contributor to the marine conservation of the area while still preserving the culture of the people who live there.

You can support ReefDoctor through the support of those that wish to volunteer their time and energy on these initiatives. One of the reasons I will be heading there is that I know my volunteer fee will support the operation costs of their organization and the work I will do with them will compliment these costs. Please take the time to head to my fundraising page below and check out what I am fundraising for and some of the rewards granted to those supporters. Or you can simply share this blog or my fundraising page in your circle of influence if this is work that you feel passionate about supporting.

Drew Mac’s Madagascar Mission To Support Reef Restoration

Another way you can support Vezo and their food sources from another corner of the world, is through sustainable seafood choices. For example, the Vancouver Aquarium is another non-profit organization that started a program in Canada and the surrounding United States called Oceanwise Through labeling menu and marketplace seafood items with it’s logo, diner’s know that what they are choosing to eat is seafood that was caught sustainably. It also provides a cohesive list of seafood choices on it’s website and Apple App that lets browsers know what seafood species are sustainable or not, empowering people with the knowledge to support marine conservation and still enjoy the food they love.

Life on this planet starts and ends with the world’s oceans and the better we take care of those oceans the better we can preserve the life that lives in them and the life that depends on it for survival, which includes us.

-Drew

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Some people travel to lay on beaches and be waited on, some travel to see sights, and others travel to find the most unique experiences that give them a real taste of immersion into other cultures. Some simply want something more from their experiences and wish to support the people and environments of the places travel through. Fortunately, there is another way to see the world.

VolunTOURing is a method of travel that has become increasingly popular over the years. Instead of spending money on a tour package to be carted around a country, that money would go to a not-for-profit organization to support their costs of operation and allow eager travelers a chance to do charitable work. This work can be environmental or social, depending on the organization and personal preference. The cost of volunteering will usually cover room and food while on site.

Why would someone choose to spend their money and vacation on working? Many reasons. Voluntouring provides experiences that no other form of travel can provide. That experience could be educational, career based or simply the joy of doing something that few people worldwide get the chance to do. Plus, imagine the sense of fulfillment that work like this could bring.

“Welcome to ReefDoctor: ReefDoctor is a UK-based, nonprofit marine conservation organisation conducting coral reef research and implementing marine management, education and social development with local fishing communities in the Bay of Ranobe south-west Madagascar. A commitment to sustainable conservation and positive social development is at the heart of all our activities”

3 years ago I stumbled upon a not-for-profit organization called Reef Doctor, whom are doing marine conservation & social work in Southern Madagascar. Their program provides volunteers the opportunity to participate in reef restoration efforts, fish population research and social work with Vezo people, the local community of fishermen and their families. The program also provides an opportunity to certify it’s volunteers as divers. As someone who works with a marine conservation and science centre and a personal interest in marine life, world cultures and travel, this was not an opportunity to pass up.

This autumn I will be travelling to Madagascar to do volunteer work with Reef Doctor for 2 months. This is a huge opportunity for me and I am beyond excited for it. I will be spending the next 2 months working hard to raise the funds to support an endeavor of this magnitude. If the work that Reef Doctor does is something that speaks to you then please follow the link to my RocketHub fundraising page to learn more about why I’m raising this money, why this work is important to me and some of the neat rewards I’ve set up as initiative to those that do choose to support my goal. The money raised will go directly to travel costs and the volunteering fee that Reef Doctor charges.

Drew Mac’s Madagascar Mission to Support Reef Restoration

I look forward to the experiences that fundraising a project like this will provide me and also look forward to reaching my goal and supporting conservation efforts across the globe. Stay tuned here for updates on the project as well as some articles about Madagascar, Vezo people and some other cool stuff headed your way.

Thanks for reading, and just to keep things light and mildly relevant enjoy this video. Hopefully it inspires you to grab hold of your aspirations or simply smile a little as you head into your day.

– D

How connected am I?

It has been a while since my last post. I had been going through a patch in life that I can only refer to as “walking through mud.” Everything felt slow and arduous like I wasn’t getting anywhere at all. I really needed to reconnect myself, but to what exactly.

As someone who is comfortable speaking very candidly on the topic of Spirituality and Philosophy, I’m often asked what “God” means to me. For those not wishing to do much reading today, here’s my short definition.

“God is the interconnectedness of all things.”

Now, I’m not referring to God as the omnipotent being playing puppetmaster to the relationships between things, I’m simply referring to the way that we are connected with each other and every living and non living thing on the planet. At this point I’m going to suggest to people that keep reading that you may wish to drop your definition of God for a few minutes of you keep reading.

This leads me to my next statement.

Everything you do and how you do it, matters.

If we are all connected on this planet then obviously the decisions we make must have an impact somewhere else. Synchronicity is a beautiful thing but in order for things to be in synchronization, then we have to each play our roles assigned to us. How do we know what our role is? It is the thin that tugs at our heart strings nor matter how little or large.

How many of you have walked past a piece of garbage on the ground, only to look at it and say, “ugh what a planet full of disgusting pigs we live on,” as you shuffle past. Ever stopped to consider that maybe YOU noticed that piece of trash because YOU could have done something about it?
Lands hard when it hits right? It’s not pleasant to think of oneself as someone who would rather piss and moan than actively DO something to proactively fix the problem. Good news is once the realization sets in, it cannot be undone. You’ll forever be picking up trash off the sidewalks, haha.
This concept isn’t limited to small acts. Think larger, in terms of protests. Years ago, I used to attend peace marches, as I felt it was my duty as a citizen of the planet. As I said above, we each have a duty to better our planet, but I soon realized that a peace march wasn’t it. It all seemed so misguided. There was more anger expressed in that mass of people than love. Hate for politicians, hate for the military, hate for the religious right, hate. Imagine the ridiculousness in people rallying together to protest people littering. Signs marching up an down the street calling litterbugs “filthy pigs” and “banes to society and the environment.” Rather than simply working together happily to clean the planet. The only way to connect the disconnected is to be connected to them.
Imagine a peace rally where the word war was never brought up, where we aren’t shown pictures of war crimes but rather we celebrate peace with one another. My ideal peace rally would invoke loud music and people dancing and singing and enjoying one another’s company with hugs and high fives. Lead by example, even if it’s on an individual level.

Now how does one feel connected and impactful on an individual level? It’s all a matter of how we perceive ourselves. If God is the interconnectedness of all things, then that would make us God. If we’re God than why aren’t we treating ourselves as such, let alone how we treat each others. It like when you’re on a plane, what’s the first rule when the oxygen masks drop down? Put yours on first. Same goes with life. How can someone be expected to care for the earth and life on it if people aren’t caring for themselves. How we treat ourselves is usually a mirror for how we are going to treat others.

By treating yourself, I’m referring to how you talk about yourself, how you relax, things that EXCITE you. If you understand how it feels to be God then you will understand how to treat the rest of the world the same way. Sometimes this looks like shopping with some friends, a nice brunch, a vacation on a beach or my personal favorite, going for a drive for a few hours with the windows down and the music up.

One of the best quotes I heard, is from Carolyn Myss and she said:

You have to do one action on behalf of the whole, and one for the self…….You are an active participant.

Consider this the next time you treat yourself to that shopping spree, that swanky dinner, that new tv. What could you then do to pay your joy forward?

I was at a workshop once, listening to Wayne Dyer deliver a talk on a few fascinating topics, but there was something he talked about that resonated deeply with me. That was that the most profound two words in the English language are “I AM”

This, of course is because of all the things listed above. Imagine my joy to recently come across a movie titled “I AM.” A documentary written by the same gentleman who also directed movies like Ace Ventura, Liar liar and Evan Almighty. He went on a journey talking to people well known in the environmental, social, scientific and spiritual communities to ask the question, “What’s wrong with the world an how can we fix it?” and he ends up discovering everything that is right with the world instead, and the important role we all play. The movie can also be streamed right off of YouTube in 3 parts and I will link it at he end of this post, however I do encourage people to head to the movie website and support its vision. I AM Documentary

Kinda feels like I’ve put a lot on your plate? Well we aren’t expected to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders either. It’s impossible to solve any problem from a place of guilt or anger or any other negative emotion.

In the upcoming posts I’ll be talking about seven different roots to most of our problems at an individual level, how they look in our lives and how to make them points of growth. It’s important to understand why we do things and how to grow from them, it gives us a basis for learning and understanding not only of ourselves but the actions of others too.

Until then, live well, take care of yourselves and take care o each other. Oh, and check out the movie I mentioned.

Much love,
Drew