Hi, I’m Shelley Graner. I used to sit in an office for hours on end with thoughts of travel and adventure swirling through my head (while I should’ve been paying attention on conference calls). I had a “good” job and was socking money away for what I thought would be a down payment on a house because that’s what you do when you’re an adult, right? It didn’t occur to me that I didn’t want a house. I wanted the exact opposite. I wanted to be free.
In August 2013 I took the leap and quit my corporate marketing job- with a little nudge from Kiva. I was accepted into their Kiva Fellows program, then boarded a plane to Kolkata, India the day after my 39th birthday. Much later than most job-quitting travelers, yes, but thank God that didn’t stop me. Instead of working five days a week with a steady income, I worked six days a week for free. But I was happier than I could remember. My soul was re-charged while the layers of stress, anger, resentment, discontent and fear slowly shed away. And I was pleased with what I found underneath.
For more information specific to my Kiva fellowship, below are some posts:
After an eye-opening three months, meeting borrowers in rural India and learning more than I could imagine, I set off on my own to travel around Asia and Latin America. My down payment was about to have a little fun.
In that time I have seen the north face of Mt. Everest, walked across the Friendship Bridge linking Tibet and Nepal, chatted with monks in Myanmar, attended a Cambodian village wedding, explored the ancient temples of Angkor, crashed a motorbike in Hanoi- twice, got lost in Balinese rice fields, climbed the Great Wall, took Spanish lessons in Nicaragua and sampled artisan chocolate on a cacao farm in Costa Rica… all with a herniated disc in my back. Unfortunately pain was a familiar companion. It slowed me down at times, but it certainly didn’t stop me. Ok, trekking was definitely off the itinerary, but I never was the “outdoorsy” type anyway.
Best of all I spent time with old friends while meeting new ones. I don’t know how I convinced so many friends to use their vacation time for a trip half-way around the world, but I’m ever so grateful. If only I could parlay those powers of persuasion into a money-making venture to fund future travel. I’ll work on that.
I also make a point of supporting local communities when possible, whether it be donating goods to an orphanage, buying handicrafts from village artisans, feeding the homeless or eating at restaurants that train disadvantaged youth. The acts are small, but my hope is that if more people make the effort, our tourism dollars will have a greater impact on the people who live there. I thank Kiva and my fellowship in India for that gift.
It’s been an amazing adventure, and while I should probably be worried about the future, I’m not. Below are a few of my favorite posts if you don’t know where to start; beginning with… well… the beginning. You can also navigate posts by the “Destinations” tab in the top menu bar, or by “Archives” in the right sidebar of the homepage. Thanks for joining me.
Below is a map of countries I’ve visited, represented in red. There sure are some big, grey gaps to fill!! I’m looking at you, Middle East and Africa.