It started with an email.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve collected travel subscriptions like they’re toothpicks, and a couple of weeks ago I received one from The Travel Magazine that had a subject headline: “Win a trip around the world.”
Now, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ve noticed I’m a little overeager when it comes to applying for free trips anywhere. If there’s a contest, I’m applying. And as a general rule, to earn more entries, they tell you to share on social media–hence all the Twitter (and Facebook) love. People probably think I’m a robot, but these are just my high hopes that if I apply enough times, the law of probability states I MUST WIN AT SOME POINT. Right?
So I open the email, skim to the bottom, and click the link where it promises a free trip around the world. I’m redirected to a new page, and already I can tell that this is not the standard, “Enter your name and email address for 1/1,000,000 chance of winning.” This is something else.
This page describes an Amazing-Race-type adventure: 15 teams of two people competing on a global scavenger hunt, in 10+ countries that are unknown to them until they arrive, in order to earn the most points and win next year’s trip around the world. Unlike the Amazing Race, though, it’s not a “race”–their motto is He who runs, cannot walk with dignity. The scavenges are meant to get the players interacting with locals, talking to strangers, getting a glimpse of the local culture. Here are some examples of past scavenges:
- In Cambodia: Buy some supplies (20 tubes of toothpaste, a dozen bottles of shampoo, and some large tins of cookies, maybe a few soccer balls too) at Lucky’s supermarket and then personally deliver your supplies to either: a) the Lighthouse Orphanage; or b) the Sunrise Children’s Village outside town.
- In Malaysia: Visit the Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Farm and help the trainers wash them.
- In Kathmandu: Either take a meditation lesson at a Nepali Meditation Center; or, practice yoga at a local yoga center.
- In Viet Nam: Take a 4-hour morning cooking class that includes a trip to a local produce market at your choice of schools—not at the hotel.
I was sold before I got to the end of the article.
Ah, but of course! “Sold.” That’s when I realized that all of this came with a price tag. A really hefty price tag. A “There goes the money that should go towards a house or your future kids’ college funds” price tag. The price tag that was not clear in the fine print of the Travel Magazine newsletter I opened, when I thought I’d just throw my name in a hat and hope for the best.
But unfortunately, the seed was planted. And even though I put it out of my head (after a few back-and-forth emails with my friend, M-dogg, about how we would TOTALLY dominate if we didn’t mind selling our cars and becoming gypsies at the end of it), it came back very strongly. This is the nutshell version.
Unrelated, but related
–I should tell you that I started the New Year, 2017, with prayer and fasting, pointedly asking God for a transformative year. I had very specific goals in mind, thoughts of what “transformation” would look like, but true to form, my ideas turned out to be futile. Instead of getting what I wanted, I received this call: Seek God first. Thus, that is theme of this year.
–After the fast ended, I picked up a book called Beginnings, by Steve Wiens, that I’d started reading last April. He came to Providence a year ago and talked to us, and I was blown away by the things he said. So I bought his book and promptly stopped reading after the second chapter because I was moving to Greece and life got crazy. But sometimes waiting produces interesting fruit. The things he wrote were the things I needed to read now. (There is a lot of interplay between this book and this story I’m trying to tell, but it would make for a really long blog post, so if you’re curious, ask me about it.)
Back to the story.
So, I was walking to work thinking about my morning readings, which were about Hagar (whose name, by the way, means Flight), and a lesson from Isaiah (54:1), and I was struck by this thought: You need to do this trip.
- You wanted transformation
- Big changes come with big risks
- You don’t know what My plans are
- This will change your life
That’s how it started.
So I got to work and emailed my parents, asking on a scale of “1 to never” what they thought of me doing this scavenger hunt, and my dad, THE JUDGE, replied:
“Sounds like fun. What will your job say? I have some bonds you can cash.”
What?? This is the point in the movie where the protagonist wonders if her family has been replaced by pod people and she’s living in an alternate universe. So, she runs the idea by her boss, who says:
“Sounds like a great experience. I hope you get to go.”
I applied that night. The application was pretty straightforward, with only one real essay-type answer, of “Why do you want to participate?” I typed it out on my cell phone, in bed, at 1:00a.m. because I couldn’t wait until the next morning to do it, and submitted.
By the next evening, I had been contacted for an interview.
Then the panic kicked in. Is this a huge mistake? What am I thinking spending so much money? I could LIVE IN GREECE FOR A YEAR on this kind of money (“No you can’t,” says The Judge, “–they won’t give you a visa.” So he’s not a pod person after all!) Isn’t this a selfish use of my time and money, to go gallivanting around the world?
I took it to the treadmill, the prayer treadmill, as it were. And the reply I got was, again, tied to Wiens book. In it, he talks about the time he ran the Grand Canyon (RAN THE GRAND CANYON) and in so doing raised a lot of money for a charity that was important to him.
I need to raise money for a charitable organization, I realized.
Those wheels were turning, and suddenly, it didn’t seem like such a bad idea. And after my interview, which wasn’t so much an interview as much as a conversation with the most delightful woman I’ve ever discussed world travel with, I was all in. Turns out the mission of this Global Scavenger Hunt is to raise money to help people make the “Great Escape” from poverty all around the world. The Global Scavenger Hunt progenitors created a foundation that
- builds co-ed elementary schools in developing nations
- gives seed money micro-loans to budding entrepreneurs
- builds health clinics that serve nomadic tribes and train mid-wives
- helps single mothers make extra money so to better care for and educate their children
- the list goes on
Participants have the option to raise money for this foundation or any other that supports a global mission.
I was 100% in.
The only problem was that I needed a teammate, and I had none. And the organizers had no one to pair me with. “Can you find a partner in the next week?” she asked me. “We are getting down to the wire and need to book plane tickets ASAP.”
This was a problem.
Without going into too much detail… let’s just say I exhausted every possibility, including taking up a personal ad on Twitter and petitioning travel bloggers I’d never met to be my partner on a trip around the world.
That doesn’t come across as crazy at all.
I was running out of time and had met zero success. Once again, I had to abandon my ideas, my thoughts of who the ideal partner should be, and just asked God to provide the best person for the job. “If you are behind this, Lord, and you really want me to go, you’ll figure it out.” Take that.
The next day I found my partner.
He’s a friend of a friend (well, the friend of several friends) who used to attend Sanctuary Church when he lived in Rhode Island. We just missed each other–he moved to Colorado the summer before I started attending. Funnily enough, I was part of a Skype call in which we sang him Christmas Carols, unbeknownst to me at the time.
Long story short, he had been planning to visit Africa, and his trip fell through two days before I contacted him asking if he’d be interested to go around the world with me. His reply? “Well…okay. Why not?”
And so it was: I said, “I want change,” and God answered my prayer in a mysterious and awesome way. I’m learning a lot about what it means to seek Him first.
Thanks for reading the story of how Team THUNDERSNOW came into being. If you want to see what we’re up to now and how we’re using this trip to spread kindness to the ends of the world, please visit our website.