Stop me if you’ve read this before……I am currently sitting in an airport patiently waiting for a budget airline to shuttle me to an exotic place in the Caribbean with only the contents of my travel backpack to last me for an undetermined period of time. If such a situation sounds familiar to followers of my travels its because it is a situation that I have found myself in twice in the last year and a half. In April 2018, I was sitting in the Fort Lauderdale Airport on my way to the Dominican Republic not knowing when I would start my new job while I found myself in similar circumstances 6 months ago on my way to Panama because I was prohibited from working the job which brought me back from the Dominican Republic. After leaving that job, I am now in a similar period of transition as I wait for my next opportunity to materialize. However, this time I was more prepared and have decided to do something a little different than from my past travels.
It is July 1, 2019 and I am in the Baltimore-Washington International Airport waiting to board my flight to Atlanta, GA. While some may think of Atlanta as an exotic locale, it is not exotic enough for me to write about on this site. From Atlanta, my final destination will be San Juan, Puerto Rico. For those that are unaware, Puerto Rico is technically part of the United States as a territorial possession and does not count toward my goal of world travel. However, this trip has a special purpose. In the fall of 2017, two successive hurricanes (Irma and Maria) devastated the tiny island of Puerto Rico leaving much of the population without power, potable water, and in some cases, a home. Further complicating the matter was the fact that, while Puerto Rico is part of the United States, it is not a U.S. state which has significantly hampered the governmental response to the disaster. However, many non-profit organizations have stepped in to provide disaster relief to severely affected areas. Rather than use my time tourist traveling, I have decided to become a residential volunteer through an organization called All Heart All Hands (AHAH).
AHAH is a non-profit disaster relief organization which has projects throughout the United States (i.e. Texas, Oklahoma) and around the world (i.e. Nepal, Mozambique). The organization has completed multiple projects in Puerto Rico with the current project set up in Yabucoa, located about 65 km south of San Juan. This current project focuses on rebuilding houses for individuals who had their property damaged by the hurricanes. I have decided to undertake this opportunity because, I have always told myself I need to give back to those less fortunate and see this as the perfect opportunity to do so. This program provides food and lodging for residential volunteers meaning that my only major expense would be getting to and from the campsite. This explains why I am waiting to go to Atlanta. I originally bought a direct flight to San Juan through Spirit Airlines. However, in true airline fashion, my 9 AM flight was overbooked. After originally turning down a $250 flight voucher, I was offered a $500 flight voucher to give up my seat. Given that all I have is time on my hands these days, I took the offer. As a result, I will not get to San Juan until 10 PM after spending 5 hours in the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. On the positive side, I have enough Spirit credit to book my return flight as well as an additional one-way flight.
A question that I have been asked regularly since I decided to do this is “when I’m coming back?” I honestly don’t have the answer to that question. This could be a 2-week experience or a 2-month one, it all depends on the opportunity that I am coming back for. One thing that I do know is I am going to treat this my full-time job and enjoy the experience along the way. I will also start a blog highlighting my involvement in this project which will be accompanied by photos and videos of Puerto Rico. I hope you enjoy following along.