Girl Bosses on the Go showcases gals who have a passion for traveling & being the ultimate girl boss. This is an on-going series to showcase those women who deserve a girl boss stamp in their passport

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Meet Layni, a girl with a passion for adventure and giving back. Read about her journey teaching in rural Thailand, and backpacking throughout Asia after.laynicgirlboss

1. What inspired you to volunteer in Thailand?

Hmm.. That’s a question I feel like I get all the time, and I never know how to answer. I had originally wanted to go to Thailand and teach English for the entire year, but taking the LSAT and applying for law school took priority over that. So instead, I decided to go and volunteer for six weeks, and travel throughout Asia after. I wanted to make an impact on the people that needed it the most, so decided volunteering teaching children was the best fit.  I bought a plane ticket and knew I would figure it out!

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2. Where exactly were you volunteering, and what was the mission?

I volunteered in Chiang Rai, Thailand! It was a very rural area that many people have never heard of. It was about three hours north of Chiang Mai, and about an hour to Laos and Myanmar boarder (The Golden Triangle). My job as a volunteer was to teach English to Thai children. I volunteered at the Mirror Foundation, where there were many different missions; but the main jobs of the volunteers were teaching English and outside work.

One of my great friends who I made there from Paris, Alix, was on the outdoor team. Even though we had different jobs, at the end of the day it was all about helping the local people in any way possible.

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3. How did you choose the program, and how did you know it was legit?

I just Googled what I wanted to do and this foundation seemed like the best option for me! I knew it was a legitimate program after researching online, and reading positive experiences – it’s all about doing the right research ultimately.

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 4. What is your advice to people looking to volunteer abroad, or in Thailand?

DO IT! Seriously though, do it – and stay positive!! It was one of the best experiences of my life and I would go back tomorrow if I could. Don’t be afraid. Honestly, it can be scary at first, especially arriving in Asia and not knowing anything or having any expectations.

I had a bumpy start to my trip, but I quickly become accustom to the “Asia lifestyle”. It was intimidating at first, but people are always willing to help. For example, when I was stuck in an airport in Vietnam, I was crying (of course) but seriously, I was scared, it’s normal, but I didn’t know what to do. Nobody spoke English, I was alone and wasn’t allowed to leave the airport. While sitting on a bench, this man walked up to me (who I later found out was from Kansas) and asked me if I needed assistance. I was SO thankful for him at that moment. He gave me his business card and told me to call him if I needed anything. This wasn’t the only circumstance where I was offered help, but it was definitely the most memorable. Because of this specific instance, I made sure that I always offered help to anyone in need. I promise you that it’s worth it; it will make you a more independent person and forces you to grow throughout it all.

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5. Do you feel like you accomplished a lot during your time there?

I definitely feel like I accomplished a lot while I was there! Our program was very unique, where we would go to different schools every day, but we would still see the same children every week. I could see the kids growing and learning as the weeks went by, and it was one of the most incredible feelings! You become attached to the kids, so every day we went to at least 3 different schools, and on your way there you just get so excited to see them and you want to just hug them and take them all home with you. The day care I taught at was truly incredible, the children were ages 3 and 4 and you could see them learning every single day; one day you’ll be teaching them numbers 1-15, and then you come back the next day and they remember!! It’s a great feeling when they remember things you teach them because it makes you feel like you’re making a difference.

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6. What was your day to days like?

Every morning we would have similar schedules but at the different schools. We would: wake up, eat breakfast, go to a school and teach, come back for lunch, tgo back and teach, then come home and lesson plan, have dinner, and usually do something together as a group. With every being at a new school, it was always something new! Of course we went to the same schools every week, but I think the break up in the different classes every day really made the entire experience that much better, because you didn’t feel as if you were doing the same thing every day.

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 7. What was the highlight of your volunteer trip?

I had two absolutely incredible experiences during my trip. I think the absolute highlight of my trip was going on my home stay and the second highlight was teaching the Monks.

So to start, my home stay was absolutely incredible! A bunch of us went and stayed at a principal’s guest home for a week, while teaching at his school. A principle in Thailand is essentially a movie star in Thailand. Joking, but also serious… They know EVERYONE and are very highly respected. During the home stay, the couple took us to the Golden Triangle, running around with wild monkeys, going to a Thai University, running through tea fields, eating delicious home made food, and SO much more! ALSO, the principle and his wife didn’t speak English well, but we still connected on a different level. It’s so funny that we didn’t speak the same language, but we, as human beings, still connected and established such a deep friendship. The day I was leaving Chiang Rai, I arrived at the airport at 4 in the morning, and I got there and the Principal and his wife were there, with presents and cards for me – they lived an hour and a half away and they came ALL that way just to say goodbye to me! I couldn’t believe it. The people in Asia are absolutely incredible, I can’t say it enough. I can’t wait until I can go back and visit everyone and hopefully one day live in Asia!

Teaching the Monks was another highlight of my trip. I mean, in all honesty, I learned more from the Monks than I think they taught me. Buddhism is such an amazing religion and I loved learning about it while I was there.

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 8. How much money did you bring for your trip?

I saved a total of $2,000, and didn’t spend it all while I was there. Asia is the easiest place to budget while backpacking!

 9. What was the most difficult moment of your trip?

I’m not going to lie, I had a few moments when I wondered why I was even in Asia. I think the most difficult moment was arriving in Asia, not being able to communicate since no one spoke English, being detained in the airport (that’s another story!), and being stared at when I arrived. I have blonde hair, so everywhere I went I was asked to take pictures with people or stared at. Once I adjusted to life in Asia, I was completely fine and any issue I had I could deal with. I got sick a few times and that was obviously awful, but it honestly wasn’t a big deal. Again, I think the most difficult moment was arriving in Asia initially.

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10. Did you travel after volunteering in Chang Rai?

Yes! I went to Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and traveled all over Thailand!

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11. What are your best tips for people looking to backpack through Asia?

Stay positive and do your research. I would ensure you know where you want to go, what you want to see, what happens in certain countries i.e., what to do when you get sick (because that happens A LOT), what you need to bring, where your nearest hospitals are (there are certain hospitals you don’t want to go in Asia), how much money you want to spend (aka budget plan), etc. Asia is a whole different trip then backpacking around Europe. I always say my trip to Asia was a whole different world compared to my trips to Europe.

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 12. What was the most essential item you brought from America when traveling around Asia?

This is going to sound silly, but I was so happy I brought dry shampoo, a journal, a book, a sweater for the temples, a long skirt, GoPro, and Toms! Everyone dresses very conservatively in Asia, so you want to make sure you respect their culture – there’s nothing worse than going to Asia and seeing girls wearing short shorts.

13. What were your overall favorite moments?

Some my favorite moments:

Going to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand

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Visiting the Monkey Temple in Bali and seeing the rice paddies and coffee plantations in Bali

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Going to the waterfalls and hiking all throughout Asia

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Eating street food (Banana Roti with condensed milk is my favorite – also you can never go wrong with street Pad Thai)

Exploring Thai beaches

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Going to Siem Reap

Floating down the river in Laos with a beer in hand

Hot air ballooning in Laos at sunrise

Catching the sunrise over Laos (from Thailand)

Meeting amazing people in hostels

Swimming in Ha Long Bay

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Getting custom suits made in Vietnam

Drinking Thai tea and Vietnamese Coffee

Eating authentic Pho and Banh Mi on the streets in Vietnam

Riding on mopeds in crazy traffic

going to the Gili Islands and swinging on a swing in the middle of the ocean

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Dining at the Cliff bar in Nusa Dua

Walking around Sihanoukille and relaxing on the beach

Spending the day at Potato Head Beach Club in Seminyak, Bali

Participating in a Thai cooking class

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Buying souvenirs at the night markets and day markets

Seeing a Thai boxing match

And so much more!

Every single day in Asia was an amazing day. It’s hard to come back to real life after living in Asia. I miss the every day life in Asia. The people are so peaceful, calm and caring. I look forward to the next time I get to go back!

 Follow Layni on Instagram@Layniic and comment below with any questions you have for her about teaching abroad or traveling throughout Southeast Asia.

Honored to introduce Amanda, a girl with a heart of gold. She’s following the legacy of her cousin, Tim, to create a lasting impact on the underprivileged children of Arusha, Tanzania. Read about her incredible journey continuing Tim’s mission, providing the most disadvantaged children with quality education and a safe place to live.

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1. What inspired you to volunteer in Africa?

My cousin, Tim, quit his job to live in Africa and help the people there who are suffering. Sadly, last summer he passed away and a school was built in his honor to help underprivileged children in Arusha. I felt a calling to visit, walk in his footsteps, and understand the love he had for this place and it’s people. I knew if I didn’t go now, I might never get to experience it!

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2. Where exactly were you volunteering, and what was the mission?

A primary school in Arusha. Arusha is a city in northern Tanzania beneath Mount Meru. Unga Limited is the name of the slum our children primarily come from. The school continues Tim’s mission by providing the most disadvantaged children with quality education and a safe place to live. Here they learn life skills since many don’t have adult role models in their life. Tim’s “Kaka” and our brother, Yesaya Wilfredy, oversees and manages the school. He posts about the children, often with signs thanking donors and sponsors. 

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3. How long were you there, and what did you accomplish?

I was in Africa for about 2 weeks; my family is funding the building of dorms for the children who are going to the school to keep them from living in the slums. This allows them get to school easier (it took us half an hour to pick up the kids up for school in the morning) and to be in a safe environment. A humbling moment was when my Dad, cousin Jeff, and I got to personally work on the construction of the dorms –with help of the locals of course!

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4. What did your day to day look like?

We actually slept at the dorms in wooden beds with mosquito nets. I would wake around 6:30 to the rooster, brush my teeth with bottled water, the “toilet” was a hole in the floor with a bucket to manually flush (I brought my own toilet paper from the states). We would drive to three locations to pick up the kids for school. When at school, they did warm up exercise and songs before splitting up by class. We would teach numbers, colors, animals, mathematics etc. the kids would sometimes even lead the class. We would have a traditional meal from the school chef and at the end of the day, drive them home and walked them through the slums guided by a governmental peace leader, Amani, to their individual homes.

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5. What was the highlight of your trip?

Taking the kids to see the dorms! All 40 of them- they were running. The children of Arusha are so loving, each of them wanted to hold my hand, which was difficult at times so I let them each hold one of my fingers. That is a memory I will never forget. We built a playground out front and it was happy chaos, they were so happy they were climbing on every inch of the playground equipment and taking turns on the swings. Also, meeting the mothers and grandmother of the children-only one girl had a father figure in her life. Many times grandmothers are primary caretakers. Women in Tanzania don’t have the same rights and only speak when spoken to; only people with education are permitted to voice options. Social customs aside, they were composedly overjoyed to meet us and share stories and hardships.

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6. What was the most difficult moment of your trip?

 Visiting Unga Limited was one of the most difficult moments. Definitely eye opening. Basically everyone is Arusha is in need, but this is where the poorest people “live”… more like survive. It is like nothing I’ve experienced before. I want to put everything in quotations because their “houses” aren’t houses, rather a closet sized room of mud with no light where on average 8 people sleep. They live so differently, no water-dirty or clean- no place to go to the bathroom. One room had some solar power so all the kids were packed in the hut and neighboring children were peering in to watch from the outside slits in the house.

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7. What did you have to do to prepare beforehand?

Primarily, I applied for my Tanzanian visa, and then got malaria pills, a tetanus shot, and Typhoid- luckily I already had the hepatitis A and B vaccinations. I started collecting toilet paper that was halfway gone so it would fit in my bag easier. Deet spray is a must. Baby wipes are your best friend; showers are few and far between so wipes help with hygiene! I had to have buckets of water poured over my hair to wash it. I downloaded an app to learn some Swahili too!

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How you can help:

Yesaya posts pictures almost daily of the children, often with signs thanking donors and sponsors. Visit the Facebook page or make a donation

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Meet Kait, an all American girl who made the leap abroad to get her Masters Degree in London. After living in England for 4 years, she is currently residing in NYC. Kait recently founded Backpacks to Briefcases, a full service career consultancy for students and recent grads. Read about her journey abroad, and the best advice for making the move to a new country.

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1. What was the scariest part of moving abroad by yourself?

For me, it was the unknown! I originally moved to Surrey, England for an exchange program my final semester of college at the University of Central Florida. Studying abroad was the best experience I have ever had, and it opened my eyes to so many new things and opened up so many new opportunities that I never would have had otherwise.

The great thing about my study abroad program was that my school organized everything for me. When I moved abroad for my internship and later began working full time, I had to deal with everything myself; applying for visas, hiring immigration lawyers, enrolling in the National Health Service, registering with the police, etc. All complicated things you would never even think about! I also believe that it’s a common misconception that if a country speaks the same language as your native country, that the culture will be very similar to your home. We know this isn’t true even amongst different states in the US, imagine the difference of being on another continent!

I was very fortunate to always have my mom there for me during my college years, so I was able to feel very independent, but also have her on call to consult about bills, paying rent, car insurance, etc. When I moved abroad, the whole system was different, so I couldn’t rely on family to help, I had to teach myself.

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(Stonehenge)

2. What was the biggest challenge you faced living in England?

My personal biggest challenge was that my stay there always felt temporary, and I wasn’t sure how deep to let myself put down roots. It was an extremely tough decision to choose whether to stay permanently, or to leave. Although I was only supposed to be abroad for 4 months for my exchange program, I ended up staying 4.5 years! These years were filled with many ups and downs (academic, professional, legal, and personal).

It is a massive struggle to find *legal* work while abroad, because you must first obtain sponsorship from your company, and not many companies are not willing to do this, especially with entry-level positions. Sponsorship is generally reserved for hard to place, highly qualified positions in the medical, engineering, and academic fields. That being said, there are internship programs you can enroll in to make this process easier!

Choosing to uproot your life and move abroad is no easy task. Regardless of how long you plan on staying, the process is not for the fainthearted! A good way to gage if you would be well-suited to live abroad for work or school is how much you like traveling, especially abroad. If you like unfamiliar surroundings, learning as you go, and making new friends, it is definitely for you!

3. What did you miss most about home?

Chick-fil-a chicken minis, obvs! On a much more serious note, I missed the feeling of ‘being home.’ Everyone has a different definition of ‘home.’ For some, it is the house they were born in, for others, it’s their home state, still others consider it to be their college town. For me, it’s more of feeling than a physical place. That feeling of safety and acceptance, of familiarity; that’s what I missed most. While I was in the UK, I met so many amazing people, made so many new friends, fell in love, fell out of love, and had 5 different residences, but it never truly felt like home. Everything was just that much harder when abroad. I still think moving abroad was the best decision I ever made, but I can also say that I am so happy to be back in America, and am extra patriotic these days!

4. What was your favorite part of living abroad?

It’s so hard to pick just one…so I won’t! My top favorites were…

  • How easy it was to take short trips to other countries. Just as easy as I would travel from Orlando to Tampa for the weekend, I could fly to France, Italy, Greece, or Spain. For SO cheap!
  • How many different cultures and personalities I was exposed to through travel
  • Pushing myself out of my comfort zone
  • The awesome variety of food!

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(Barcelona, Spain)

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(Amalfi Coast, Italy)

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(Arctic Circle, Sweden)

5. Are British accents on guys as appealing as they seem?

To put it simply, YASSSSSSSSSS. Beware of the charm of the British chaps 😉

6. What tips would you give to people looking to make a big move?

Always remember that nothing in life if permanent. Try new things! Move to new places. The absolute worst possible thing that can happen is that you don’t like it and you go back home. As I always like to say “I’d always prefer an ‘oh well’ to a ‘what if”…

 

Backpack to Briefcases is here to help you find your dream job without breaking the bank. For more tips about studying abroad, working abroad, or tips on getting hired here in the good old U.S. of A., visit Backpack to Briefcases website, Facebook, or send them an email. Best of luck, and remember the world is your oyster!

 

Meet Kayla, an incredible soul who has combined her passion of art, travel and putting an end to human trafficking into starting a non-profit, Operation 1:27. This organization is under Florida Abolitionist, and raises funds and awareness for local human trafficking prevention efforts. She’s spent the last two summers in Greece, learning more about the cause, and applying the knowledge to Operation 1:27.

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1. Tell us a little bit about yourself

My name is Kayla Orr, I’m 24 years old, currently living in Orlando, Florida. This question’s always hard for me. I enjoy art and writing, love sports – especially spikeball at the moment. You can hear my laugh across the room, it’s sort of obnoxious, and I apologize in advance. I attend the most wonderful church, One Hope. I work full time at 4Rivers and am a proud UCF Alumni. I love business in the nerdiest type of way. Seriously, Shark Tank is my favorite show and I’ll read business and marketing blogs for fun.

Traveling became a passion very quickly. It helps me refocus, and allows me to try some great coffee shops along the way.

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2. Tell us about Operation 1:27

Based off of James 1:27, Operation 1:27 is an annual Silent Art Auction featuring all mediums of local art; from musicians, spoken word, tangible arts/crafts to baked goods. We organize all donations into a fun night of gathering together to learn about human trafficking, and bid on some amazing items. All funds are donated to Florida Abolitionist – Orlando’s local human trafficking taskforce, whose vision is ending human trafficking in all forms in Orlando, and all of the United States.

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3. What inspired you to start Operation 1:27?

My sophomore year of college I attended a conference, Passion. There was an artist on stage who painted to a song, and the message it conveyed was very moving. Being an artist and a new Christian, I had no clue where my gifts fit within the church, and that day I realized my gift of art could be used.

After attending Passion and learning that human trafficking is so prevalent locally, in my own city (and not just abroad), I decided to make this cause the focus of our efforts.

Art is a powerful voice against injustice, and artists were the original story tellers. Most of what we know about history was because an artist captured it on some medium, in their own unique way. Even today, we are still extremely moved by ancient art. I felt inspired to start the first Operation 1:27 event in Jacksonville, to raise money for local orphans and widows who are victimized by human trafficking.

4. What has been the most fulfilling part of this journey?

Seeing other people join the cause, and receiving so much joy from their generosity. Everyone is gifted in such unique, essential ways. For example: I’m a visionary, details drain me. I’ll forget something as simple as pens for the event. From logistics, event planning, communicating, teaching, catering – all hands on deck are needed for this type of event. It’s so amazing and joyful to stand back the day of the event and just watch God’s people – Christian or not – confidently walk in their gifts to make a difference in our community.

 

5. Did you ever feel like you wanted to give up? And how did you work through it?

Honestly, every year there is some thought of ‘why am I doing this again?’ or ‘this won’t happen again after last years event.’ Yet, I always end up doing it anyways. It’s tough planning an event of this magnitude in the midst of everyday life. At some points attending school full time, and working full time. I’ve often been overwhelmed with how large and complex human trafficking really is. Although, every year the Lord sustains me through my awesome friends and community, who really are the heroes in this story. I cannot do this without their selflessness, passion and support. Oh and coffee…tons of coffee.

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6. How does traveling to Greece tie into Operation 1:27?

In 2015, I went to Greece on a limb. My friend Lydia lives there so I decided to finally visit her last summer. I then connected with A21, an anti-human trafficking organization in Thessaloniki, Greece, to meet with them and learn.

In Greece prostitution is legal, as it always has been – even back to the temple days. I was blown away by how complex this issue is overseas. I was extremely curious if American business played a role in human trafficking abroad, since prostitution in itself is a business model of supply and demand. I learned very quickly it does, and what that looks like as a whole. I also learned about the need for companies to employee the rescued women, to help them learn job skills and earn an income.

During the summer of 2016, I went back again and connected with another organization. This time, I was able to visit brothels and see first hand what they look like and learn a different angle of rescuing and locating the victims. I can’t share the stories I heard or where we went, but I will say that to hear women as young as 14 and old as 21 are being held in a room for 12 hour shifts, really broke my heart and fueled my passion even more. It has led me to want to further understand business in the United States, and use art to raise funds to fight against human trafficking locally and overseas.

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(Black Beach, Santorini)

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(The Parthenon, Athens)

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(Black Beach, Santorini)

7. Tell us the highlight of your Greece trips.

Being refueled. Rest is so important, something Americans rarely value. We take pride in being the most prompt, professional and efficient. But to be in such a beautiful country with such joyful people really allows you to breathe and rest and laugh. Oh, and the food and coffee is a bonus.

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(Athens, Greece)

8. What cities and islands in Greece did you go to, and which is your favorite?

I’ve been to Athens, Milos, Hydra, Santorini and Thessaloniki. My favorite is Milos, it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. The beaches are pristine, the food is fresh, and the people and lifestyle is so simple and joyful.

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(Plaka, Milos)

9. What advice do you have for people looking to start their own non profit ?

In my honest opinion, while being as sensitive to peoples’ passions as I can, my advice is to research and fully think through it. The process is frustrating alone and expensive. Look around first to see if you can join a local group and get on board with what they are already implementing. There are too many small organizations – if like minded people could join together think of the impact and funding available. There is power in numbers.

10. How can readers support Operation 1:27 ?

Our event is once a year, so of course we’ll need help then. We also need help all throughout the year in different ways! Give your time, talent and/or treasure. You give where your heart is.  If you’re in Orlando, sign up to volunteer and learn more at Florida Abolitionist’s website. If you’re not in Orlando, then join your city’s taskforce. If there isn’t one, help get one started. That is how you can help the most.

Check out Operation 1:27 on Facebook

Email Kayla at Operation127@gmail.com

Follow her on IG @kaymarieee0909

 

 

Girl Bosses on the Go showcases gals who have a passion for traveling. This is an on-going series to showcase those women who deserve a girl boss stamp in their passport.

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The first of the Girl Bosses on the Go is my lovely friend, Rae, who has lived in Dubai for 3 years and currently works in business development. Read about her travel tips and tricks, life as a woman in the Middle East and favorite travel experiences after visiting 42 countries.

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(hiking Mount Kilimanjaro)

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am American, from Orlando, 28 years old, have completed 2 master’s degrees, lived on 3 continents, and traveled to 42 countries. Traveling is my oxygen, I itch to get out and explore the world – I want to see every country of the world – even the “forbidden” ones. Every country and culture is a new experience and I would hate to miss out on one.

2. What inspired you to start get your start your adventures living abroad?

My life has always been about chance… I read an article in Marie Claire magazine while on an airplane which highlighted this elite program at the International University of Monaco. I didn’t think much of it but my Mom encouraged me to apply. I didn’t tell anybody because I didn’t think I had a chance of gaining admission but when I got my acceptance letter, I was in awe. For a split second I had to think about what was happening, but then it just became a given that I was going because of the amazing opportunity awaiting me.

3. What made you decide to move to Dubai?

When I was living in Monaco, I was having the best time of my life. I always traveled here and there when I grew up in Florida… Bahamas or Mexico, always “far enough” but still close to home… but when I moved to Monaco is when I truly discovered my unquenchable thirst to explore the world. I suddenly found a new appreciation for history and cultural immersion, always seeking unique and authentic experiences. When I finished my degree, I knew I didn’t want to go back to the U.S. yet and Dubai just happened to have a great opportunity for me so as I always say in my life… “why not?”

4. What is life like as an American woman living in the Middle East? 

Before I moved to Dubai, I was buying sweaters, long dresses, one-piece bathing suits, and preparing myself to be ultra-conservative. Once I arrived is when I realized that the only people who dress like this (aside from the locals, of course), are the tourists because they don’t know any better. Being a woman in an Islamic country actually has its perks. We have ladies only taxis (driven by ladies wearing pink hijabs and the taxis are pink too!), ladies only check-out lines, ladies only gyms, and hundreds (yes, hundreds) of ladies nights all across Dubai every night of the week offering food and drinks specials – all of these are optional and nothing is forced. Ladies are always prioritized before men are – I often find myself being invited to skip lines.

Living here you learn to dress for the occasion and keep it appropriate… When I am going to the club, I wear the same as I would back home, when I go to the mall, I wear normal clothes (just not short shorts), and when I am going somewhere more conservative with locals (like a bank, government office, etc.) then I dress much more conservatively to show respect. Living in a country like this is all about finding the balance and maintaining respect.

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(Visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates never gets old – the opulence and details are simply stunning!)

5. What’s the hardest part about living in Dubai?

The hardest part about living in Dubai is obviously being so far away from my family and missing key moments. A few weeks after moving to Dubai my Grandfather passed away and it was very hard to get back for his funeral, but thank God I did. This past Christmas I missed my step-sister’s wedding. Living so far forces you to make tough decisions and learn to be independent while also making painful sacrifices.

In regards to Dubai specifically, the hardest thing about living here is respecting the laws for the Holy Month of Ramadan – especially when it’s in the dead middle of the summer and it’s 120 degrees Fahrenheit outside! I have experienced 3 Ramadan’s so far and it’s very hard to not eat in public, drink in public, no road rage, no cursing, no loud music, and basically just creating a “Stepford” style environment. Of course it’s a nice change to have everyone being so happy and nice, however, when it’s so hot outside and it’s illegal to drink water being seen, it definitely creates a challenge (I mean, who wants to sneak in a public bathroom just to sip the water you’re hiding in your purse!? Gross!).

6. What do you miss most about America?

Umm, totally Chik-Fil-A! Jokes. I mean, I do miss it but it’s not the number one thing I miss. The thing I really miss the most is special moments. I’ve had to pass up bridal showers, engagement parties, bachelorette parties, baby showers, funerals, weddings, American holidays and other monumental moments in the lives of my family and girlfriends. You would think that as the time goes on it gets easier but that’s never the case. Each one hurts just as much as the first time.

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(I’ve celebrated the 4th of July being abroad for the last 5 years – this year was my favorite celebrating in Dubai with fellow Americans.)

7. What advice can you give to people to make the leap to start traveling?

Americans get criticized a lot for having one of the most powerful passports in the world but not traveling enough. Once I moved abroad, I finally understood why… Traveling from the U.S. is not convenient as it often takes 24-hours each way to get anywhere vastly different from home. Given that most employees get a mere 2 weeks’ vacation, this does not make it easy to tempt someone to waste 2 days just for travel purposes. On the contrast, I wish more people would take the leap of faith and just go… go somewhere totally different, somewhere out of your comfort zone, so you can experience something completely new and at the same time, learn to appreciate where you are from.

8. What’s your best advice for someone who has never traveled abroad before?

Before booking a trip, if you want to go with someone, make sure they have the same traveling style as you. By “traveling style” I mean, find someone who has the same priorities. For me, I can’t stand wasting my time in museums. I spent 30 minutes in the Lourve and 20 of those minutes were spent battling crowds just to see the Mona Lisa, take my photo, and get back out. When people travel they have styles whether it be shopping, adventure, museums, city trips vs. nature trips, etc. I have been on a trip with someone who has a totally different approach to traveling than me and it doesn’t allow for a productive or enjoyable trip.

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(Hiking up the mountain to enjoy the beautiful views on Cat Bâ island in Vietnam.)

9. What are some of your traveling tips?

I have 3 goals when I travel: look for adventures, immerse yourself culturally, and give back.

When I go to a new city or country, I always try to book something adventurous (some examples of my adventures: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, a hot air balloon ride over the Great Migration in Kenya, riding on an elephant bare-back in a river in Thailand, taking a private side-car tour in Spain, great-white shark diving in South Africa, and the list goes on). These moments to me were each unforgettable in their own ways.

For immersing yourself culturally, I always try to seek the most authentic moments possible… be spontaneous and see where you end up. Trust your gut. Talk to locals, hear their stories. Try to get off the beaten path and go where the tourists aren’t. Discover your own places and experiences.

When I travel, I naturally want to give back because many of the countries that I’ve been to are not thriving economies and I want to contribute as much as I can. Giving back doesn’t always mean volunteering but there are other ways, too. For example, when booking to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, I realized there are hundreds of companies to choose from, with many based out of the U.S. and U.K. Instead, I chose a local company based out of Moshi, Tanzania. I would much rather give a local company the business than some overpriced Western company.

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(After climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, all I wanted to do was go play with the kids at Amani Children’s home in Moshi, Tanzania.)

10. Where has been your favorite location to visit and what made it so special?

After conquering 42 countries, it’s really hard to narrow it down to one. I am in love with so many countries and places for reasons that were unique to each experience. 

Laos was definitely one of my favorite and life changing at the same time. While I was there, I learned of “The Secret War” which basically is a huge event in the history of the country, but no one knows about it – which is strange since the U.S. was the cause of all of it from 1964 to 1973 ☹ Basically during the Vietnam War, when the U.S. fighter planes had bombs that they didn’t drop, they couldn’t risk landing while still carrying them because of potential risks of self-explosion. Because of this, they would drop them over Laos, land safely back on base, and think nothing of it. The UXO’s (unexploded ordnances) would then sit there for years and still decades later and have caused detrimental damage to the country and people when they eventually develop the land. Because of the U.S.’s negligence, this beautiful country is still facing major, major challenges and deaths even today due to the presence of the UXO’s. Long story short, learning about this was embarrassing as it is indeed a secret (the U.S. finally acknowledged our role on May 15, 1997) but the most humbling moment was realizing that the Laotian people were so peaceful about it and so kind and welcoming to me.

It was a moving moment for me, so moving, that I got the word “Peace” tattooed in Lao language as the people represent the ultimate example of peace and how we should live. The fact that they don’t seek revenge or publicity, just peace, was absolutely mind blowing to me.

Catch Rae’s recent adventures on her travel blog or on IG @roamingrae. Comment below any questions you have for this traveling babe!