Fletcher, NC couple embark on travel adventure of a lifetime

Fletcher, NC couple embark on travel adventure of a lifetime

Wow!  Had to share this amazing 1-year adventure by Kelly McDonald and her husband, Connor from Fletcher, North Carolina.  They have travelled New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia, India, and now currently in Nepal.  Love the fact that they are volunteering along the way helping with medical & dental care.  A MUST READ!  Enjoy!

Article by Kelly McDonald, Blue Ridge Now Times

Kelly McDonald and her husband, Connor, from the Fletcher area, left their jobs as a nurse and dentist in March and began traveling around the world. They are also volunteering in many of the countries they visit. They were recently married on the island of Mauritius. Here they share their account of the first half of their travels. 

In April of 2013 — less than two weeks after returning from a measles campaign with Doctors Without Borders in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa — Connor (my then-fiance) and I found ourselves on the island of Caye Caulker in Belize.

It was there, on that beautiful island, not too far off the coast of the mainland, that we made the decision to travel around the world.

We quickly jotted down a list of must-see countries and our excitement grew as we planned to make this dream a realization.

Many people might ask, “Why? Why quit your jobs and travel around the world for a year?” My response: Life is short, you only have one, and there are many exotic places around the world to explore.

There are interesting cultures, traditions and deep-rooted histories from which to learn. It is a privilege to have this opportunity.

So, with money saved, Connor and I embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. Our departure date was set: March 4, 2014, with the theme of “marching forth.” (www.connorandkellymarchforth. com) As a couple with professional backgrounds in dentistry and nursing, our journey allows us to incorporate volunteering with traveling. Our goal is to volunteer in most countries on our international journey. We plan to provide services to needed populations and raise awareness for organizations that make a difference within underserved global communities.

As planned, we departed with our 30-pound backpacks containing everything we would need for our 12 month endeavor. After a 13 hour flight, and with clearance of sanitized shoes and a pest-free tent, we entered the lush, green country of New Zealand. The rumors of this paradisiacal country being “jaw dropping” are true!

We spent two-and-a-half months exploring the country in our rickety Nissan rental, “Betty White.” We ventured off the beaten path, exploring World Heritage landscapes, amazing mountain passes, hikes on “The Great Treks” and breathless coastal beach coves.

In New Zealand, we volunteered on four farms with Willing Workers on Organic Farms. Our diverse daily activities ranged from making poo tea for the lime plants to weeding pots of cymbidium orchids in hot houses and potting buxus for the formation of dense hedges. We also tended to and fed farm animals, such as the alpacas.

The real benefits of WWOOF are the relationships you form with Kiwi families. The eating of meals and exchange of conversation and culture help to build fast attachments with your host families.

Our travels then took us to Thailand, the land of smiles! We were happily greeted with the bowing of prayer hands and “Swasadee.” Thailand is a grand tourist destination which offers white beaches, glorified Buddhist temples, night bizarres, trekking, Asian elephants and tasty Thai food.

Our volunteer work with Concordia Education and Welfare Foundation led us to the Northern territory of Thailand (www. cwefthailand.org). CWEFT is a nonprofit organization that strives to improve the lives of underprivileged children through education and other services.

Connor and I worked in two different rural Hmong hill-tribe communities giving health and dental presentations, mainly to women.

From Thailand we crossed the border east to Cambodia, where we volunteered for two weeks at Angkor Hospital for Children (www.angkorhospital. org). ANC opened in 1999 as an independent, nonprofit organization. It provides free medical care to impoverished children, treating close to 150,000 children annually. Connor and I witnessed the great need of Cambodian children while working there. Almost 40 percent of Cambodian children suffer from malnutrition. I saw firsthand two cases of malnourished infants on my field visit with the capacity building team. Connor worked in the dental clinic where they see anywhere between 40 to 50 patients daily.

We spent three wonderful weeks in Ladakh, Northern India, a land of jagged and high mountainous landscapes with magical Buddhist symbolism. My friend Kelly is living in Ladakh and running an organization, www.volunteerladakh. com, and is always looking for volunteers. Connor and I performed dental presentations and dental checks for the monks in some of the beautiful monasteries in the area.

We are currently in Nepal volunteering in the rural mountains of Kumari, www.gokumari.org. The Kumari people are isolated in the mountains, where dental care is scarce.

Our journey has been a highly rewarding once-in-a lifetime experience. International volunteering has given us an insider’s perspective into the many diverse cultures and traditions of ethnic populations around the globe. We are six months in our amazing world journey, with six more to go!

To follow their blog, visit: www.connorandkellymarchforth. com