As a child, I would spin my globe with my eyes shut, then I’d touch it to stop the spinning, open my eyes and wherever my finger landed I said to myself that I would go there.
Ahangama, Sri Lanka at Animal SOS, a dog and cat shelter. (Photo courtesy Barb Hautanen.)
raig and I had just returned
from our first global volunteering experience in Zimbabwe and we were so head over heels that it felt like our hearts had literally been ripped out of our chests as we reluctantly re-engaged with our “real” lives. To this day, we’re pretty sure our hearts are still being held hostage in Africa and patiently waiting for our return. That experience was the beginning of a life-changing passion for us and we were eager to meet others who had also traveled to global destinations and volunteered with animals, either working to conserve endangered species or helping with rescued animals in sanctuary. We had questions and concerns, dreams and ideas. But what we didn’t have were resources for first-hand knowledge beyond those we met during our time in Africa, most of whom didn’t have any more experience than we did.
Cut to a year or so later when I first heard about Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. As I started to do my research I posed a question to some of the volunteer friends we had made asking if anyone knew about ENP, and a friend of a virtual friend suggested I get acquainted with Barb Hautanen. Living in the U.S., Barb was an experienced world traveler and global volunteer and she was, literally, at ENP at the time of my inquiry. I contacted her immediately, and ever since she has been kind enough to allow me to pester her on several occasions to glean some of her sage advice.
Since that initial introduction I’ve followed tales of Barb’s adventures as she’s traveled to destinations such as Thailand, India, Nepal, and Romania, to name just a few. Barb has been able to consistently incorporate travel and volunteering into her life and I’ve been eager to learn her secrets, ask some questions, and discover what makes her tick.
I’ve never met Barb in person, but one day I will I hope to. When I do, I’m pretty sure it will not be in North Dakota or Washington State, where we each live, but in a sunny, warm climate with an ocean breeze, sights to see, and animals in need. Barb has volunteered with more organizations and in more locations than anyone else I’ve ever met and she has become a source of inspiration for me. I’m thrilled to give her the opportunity to share her story so she can inspire others as well with her wealth of experience, passion and energetic attitude.
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