Friday, December 9th, 2016

Family RTW Travel: This Is NOT Charity

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Image: L.S. Doron

I’m always first to defend long-term travelers.  So when I saw a piece on Boston.com about a family traveling the world and volunteering for a year, I began mentally preparing a defense in my head to take to the anti-travel trolls in the comment forums, just as I did in the Boston.com feature about Lillie from Around the World L.

Then I read the piece…and for the first time ever, I became one of the haters.

Here is the article: Are they courageous or reckless?

In short, Teresa Keller is taking her three teenagers and one of their friends on a yearlong trip around the world.  They plan to visit 33 countries within a year, volunteering the entire way.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

Keller has sold many of her family’s personal possessions to finance the trip and is pulling two of her children out of school for a year. She’s created a nonprofit organization, Round the World With Us, and website (www.rtwwithus.org) on which the five travelers will blog, podcast, and fund-raise for these projects.

Travel, food, and lodging will cost about $125,000, Keller estimates. To pay for the trip, they’ve sold off clothes, athletic equipment, furniture, even the family minivan. Keller, who quit her job, has also borrowed against her retirement funds to help underwrite expenses. Her goal is $100,000 in charitable donations. Personal expenses are all being met out of her own pocket, she says.

$100,000?!  God! I can understand collecting donations for charity, but there is an enormous difference between raising funds directly for charities and asking people to subsidize your trip while calling it charitable donations.

Also, the trip has begun.  They have yet to raise even $25,000.

When pressed, [her 13-year-old son] admits his biggest anxiety is returning home with his mom out of work and no house to live in. (Keller was offered a 6-month job leave but turned it down.)

Smart kid.  But it shouldn’t be his responsibility to worry about that.

[Keller] hopes to write her own book someday.

And there we go.  Everyone thinks she’s Elizabeth Gilbert.  It doesn’t matter that Elizabeth Gilbert financed her Eat,  Pray, Love trip with a book advance and was an established author to begin with.

Image: Toasterhead

This trip is reckless. Let me tell you why:

She expects others to pay the bulk of the expenses. If she were financing the trip entirely by herself, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.  But she’s not.  The Boston.com piece and the web site make it clear that this $100,000 will subsidize food and lodging for the family as they volunteer.

Why should people donate money to pay for her family to travel?  Their donations would go so much further if they went direct to the organizations.

She is unrealistic about the reality of volunteering. A full year of living among the poor in the third world, including a month in the slums of Kolkata?  Simply being abroad is stressful, and living among the poor adds to that stress exponentially. Additionally, this appears to be the family’s first foray into serious volunteering.  I have no idea how they’re going to do this for a year.

Additionally, any RTW traveler will tell you that 33 countries in one year, especially developing countries, is pushing it at a breakneck pace.

She has no safety net. Teresa Keller had the opportunity to take a six-month leave of absence and have a job waiting for her when she returned.  For whatever reason, that option wasn’t good enough.  She chose to go about it without a home, without a job, and with a depleted retirement fund, all in the hopes that she’ll get a lucrative book deal out of it.

Yes, it’s possible to do long-term travel without a job waiting for you.  But once you have kids, it’s not all about you anymore. You need to have some form of financial security for your children.

Image: Egui_

Is it possible to travel long-term responsibly with your family?  Absolutely.  Read the Soul Travelers 3 blog.  They travel full-time on their own money, living modestly but not miserly, while giving their young daughter a rich education and a home base in Spain.

Or read One Year Off by David Elliot Cohen, a memoir about a family traveling abroad — on their own money, of course — for a year back in the 90s.  They knew it would be difficult to homeschool the kids on the road, especially since they weren’t teachers, so they built in a lengthy stay in Australia where the kids could get a few months of proper schooling.

Teresa Keller could have done this.  She could have taken the offer of her six-month leave from work, kept the house — or downsized to a smaller home — and spent six months in Central America, where the ground costs are cheap, the landscapes are diverse, and the need for charity is great.

What pisses me off the most is that whenever I feel like I’m actually educating people about how positive long-term travel can be, somebody like Teresa Keller shows up, gets all the press, and gets people thinking negatively about long-term travel once again.

I’ll finish with a quote from the blog of Keller’s 13-year-old son:

My mom also wants to write a book about this.  I will be surprised if that works out because it is NOT something I would want to read.

NOTE: I have since learned directly from Teresa Keller that the $100,000 goal is being used purely to benefit the charities and not subsidize any of their travel expenses.  Keep your eyes out for an upcoming interview with Keller on the site soon.

Comments

76 Responses to “Family RTW Travel: This Is NOT Charity”
  1. The Missus says:

    I agree with you, Kate. 100% Thank goodness her son is smart!

  2. paige says:

    wow. agreed…completely irresponsible. how shady to call it charity, when they’ll be bringing limited volunteer experience. perhaps if she were an established engineer or doctor with a plan, but this just does not seem well thought out at all. no wonder they have yet to reach even a quarter of their goal.

    • Kate says:

      That’s a great point, Paige — there’s an enormous difference between skilled and unskilled labor. That’s why Partners in Health is my charity of choice — they send doctors and nurses to Haiti to train locals to run their own clinics.

    • I am not raising any money for our travel, 100% of donations go toward the projects we have set up with very reputable charities like Room to Read and Children International. I have two decades of experience with non-profits and I just want to use that experience to help others by raising money for projects and publicizing the good work of charities who are changing lives. Our family is traveling in addition to volunteering and trying to create a better understanding of other cultures, especially in the US where that understanding is too limited. For much of our trip, we will just travel and blog about it. This is disclosed on the website and every penny of the entire trip paid for our of my own pocket. My kids are having a great experience and I can assure you that none are being dragged about unhappy. Of course the younger ones were reluctant to leave there friends for this experience and I encourage them to be honest about there feelings. I hope you will reconsider your indictment of me and the trip now that you know that all funds are for projects with charities, not for our personal travel. -Teresa

      • Penelope says:

        It seems like all your kids did was complain about going – on the RTWWU website, and even during the interviews. And is this really about charity? You’re bombing around Paris and the UK. 140 days of your trip nearly 1/3 of the time) is for fun. There are thousands upon thousands of families, right here in the U.S. who need help. Charity begins at home.

  3. Ags says:

    I’m surprised if this works out. It’s one thing to use sponsors to go volunteer in one place while the money obtained covered the cost of the program, which goes into the charity directly. Raising money so an unprepared family frolics around the world at the expense of others just sounds wrong.

    I’m with you on this one, this is certainly a reckless disaster in the making. I feel bad for her kids and that friends who’s tagging along.

    • I am not raising any money for our travel, 100% of donations go toward the projects we have set up with very reputable charities like Room to Read and Children International. I have two decades of experience working for non-profits and I just want to use that experience to help others by raising money for projects and publicizing the good work of charities who are changing lives. My kids are having a great experience and I can assure you that none are being dragged about unhappy. Of course the younger ones were reluctant to leave there friends for this experience and I encourage them to be honest about there feelings. I hope you will reconsider now that you know that all funds are for projects with charities, not for our personal travel. -Teresa

      • Ags says:

        I’m glad to hear that the money being raised is to help the charities. My only concern for you all is the time. Honestly, I wish I could do as much as travel to do charity. It is a good way to get the kids to see the world and many different cultures. It does take a while to get comfortable with one place and to feel like one of the community.

        I’m hoping more people donate and you do raise as much as possible so more people can benefit from this. I’m keeping up to date in your travels via your page. Good luck and have fun!

  4. Well said, Kate!

    If Keller’s goal was to help others and educate her children about another culture, she could volunteer a year of their time in ONE foreign country. That way they could really get to know the people they are helping, become immersed in another culture, and make a significant impact on a community – and save LOTS of money! But I suppose that wouldn’t be book-worthy.

    • This is Teresa Keller. Although I would love to write a book someday, that is not the main goal of this trip. The main goal was to educate myself and my children about the world, and to help others in the process. Also, to spend time with my children that I did not get to do as much as I would have liked while serving as CEO of the Archaeological Institute of America, a non-profit with over 200,000 members and 107 local chapters.

      I am not raising any money for our travel, 100% of donations go toward the projects we have set up with very reputable charities like Room to Read and Children International. I just want to use my non-profit experience to help others by raising money for projects and publicizing the good work of charities who are changing lives.

      Our family is traveling through many countries in addition to volunteering and trying to create a better understanding of other cultures, especially in the US where that understanding is too limited. For much of our trip, we will just travel and blog about it. This is disclosed on the website and every penny of the entire trip paid for our of my own pocket.

      I hope you will reconsider now that you know that all funds are for projects with charities, not for our personal travel. -Teresa

      • Penelope says:

        You could easily have spent more time with your children without exposing them to this. It’s all about priorities. You seem to be more about doing what you want than caring for your children and listening to what they want and need.

  5. Couldn’t agree more! It really irks me when people don’t see how the vast majority of travel-volunteer trips are masturbatory at best. The most work the majority of unskilled volunteers are doing is soothing their own first-world guilt.

    You could touch a heck of a lot more lives, and more substantially, by volunteering at your local library’s adult literacy program once a week. And you could teach your kids a lesson about sustainable volunteering as well!

    Great post, dude.

    • Kate says:

      MASTURBATORY! LOL! You are so right.

      I don’t want to get into “Why help people around the world when there are people suffering HERE?” trap, because I don’t believe that people in other countries shouldn’t be helped, but there’s something to be said about sustainability. Even way out in Groton, I’m sure there are food banks that could use some volunteers. And while it didn’t explicitly say so in the article, there is no mention of any previous volunteer work there or on the site.

      • Oh, yeah, good point — definitely not saying that there isn’t work to be done everywhere in the world! But if you can’t afford the travel, you can do something just as good at home without relying on strangers to subsidize your trip!

      • Penelope says:

        I read you plan to interview this family after their trip – I hope you stay true to your initial feelings. They were spot-on.

        • I do — Teresa has the first round of questions now; I told her to take her time. I promised her an honest and fair interview, and that it shall be.

        • Alexandra says:

          Penelope, I just wonder how you are so sure they are spot on? From my point of view, as a personal friend and supporter of the family, Kate’s article couldn’t get any more unjustly false than it already is.
          Please consider the facts, and not these accusations. They are truly shocking and cruel.

    • This is Teresa Keller. No one is subsidizing our trip – we pay 100% of our travel and 100% of donations to go to projects done in conjunction with reputable non-profits such as Trees for the Future and Children International. We are raising funds for projects that are sustainable and supported by the local community.

      Our volunteer work is designed to help the local community and is sustainable because it is part of an ongoing program, or because we are helping with a building project that is one-time and then the facility itself is sustained by the local community. Of course volunteers often get as much or more out of the experience as those they serve, but that is the beauty of giving to anyone. I recognize that more than volunteer work must be done to make a difference and that is why I am trying to raise awareness and funds for the great work of experienced charities.

      Our family is traveling through many countries in addition to volunteering and trying to create a better understanding of other cultures, especially in the US where that understanding is too limited. For much of our trip, we will just travel and blog about it. This is disclosed on the website and every penny of the entire trip paid for our of my own pocket.

      I hope you will reconsider now that you know that all funds are for projects with charities, not for our personal travel. -Teresa

  6. Jenna says:

    I agree, too. I don’t think there is anything wrong with honest people who are traveling to really make a difference asking for modest donations, most of which would come from friends and those particularly interested in their journey. But $100,000 is way out of line. There are SO many charities doing excellent work arount the world that would benefit greatly from even a small piece of that. Good post. 🙂

  7. Amanda says:

    Kate, I totally agree with you (and all the other commenters) on this one. I almost find this woman’s trip offensive. I mean, asking people to donate money so you can do a RTW trip, and then hiding it behind the guise of “charity”? That’s just sleazy. And, clearly her kids aren’t very excited about it. I’m sure they’d rather stay at home, in school with the rest of their friends. Bad parenting? I’d hazard to say yes.

    Ugh. This makes me mad. It gives travelers who are out there legitimately trying to do good — most of the time on their own dime — a bad name.

    • Alexandra says:

      Hi Amanda,
      Before commenting/judging please do your own research as well. If Kate had actually visited the website, she would see that clearly this is an honest family doing honest charity. This is in no way a scam, and they are certainly NOT hiding behind any sort of “guise” as you say.

      And yes, it is so easy to point fingers and say she is a bad parent from the sidelines, but I really cannot express how WRONG you are to judge her this way. Not only is Teresa a terrific parent, but she is a terrific person. I’m not sure I know any pre-teen who immediately thinks it’s a great idea to leave their school and friends, but truth is, they are on the trip now, helping people, and having the time of their lives doing it.

      Perhaps you should actually visit the website. It might inspire you.
      Thank you.
      -Alexandra

  8. You are sooo right! This woman is insane and reckless with her children’s lives. Anyone who donates to this should have their heads examined. Or better yet they should have my email address where they can send their donations to the “Send Pam to Hawaii” fund. Please help subsidize the chronically cheap.

  9. Gray says:

    OMG, I could not agree with you more! This is so irresponsible–and selfish. I resent the hell out of people who expect me to subsidize their travels. I have a hard enough time paying for my own! I have a hard time believing for a minute her main motivation is charitable work.

    • To set the record straight, I do not expect anyone to subsidize my travel. I am paying all of that out of my own pocket in order to learn more about the world, spend time with my kids, teach them about other cultures and share our experiences with others.

      100% of funds raised go to sustainable projects done in conjunction with reputable charities including Room to Read, Children International and Trees for the Future. With $100,000 – ALL of which goes to project costs, we can build a primary school, three reading rooms, three wood farms, a community kitchen and day care, a peer to peer health education program, a computer lab, educational materials, a new roof and a library for another school and more. We are also partnering with educational organizations to create and share world affairs content with thousands of teachers and students.

      I welcome all feedback and will try to answer and concerns you may have.

      -Teresa

  10. Sarah says:

    My comment isn’t exactly travel-related, but this reminds me of the families I see on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition whose houses fall apart because they’re spending so much time and money on charity. Charity begins at home. Give what you can live without. Otherwise, you’re going to end up needing charity yourself!

  11. Jenny says:

    I agree. I wouldn’t mind if she was raising SOME funds, but 100,000 is jaw-dropping out of line. Her kids don’t seem thrilled about the trip either making me feel like her parenting skills are self-fulfilling. I think it’s okay to ask for some donations, but not disguising a RTW trip with her family as “charity” fooling the public into paying for her travels. If she wanted to spend a year abroad volunteering there are better ways to do it than hit 33 countries in 12 months, a daunting task in itself. She could hit 3-4 countries for 3-4 months each, that way she could still hit several places, but also do the most good in the area. How much can you get done with 11 days in each country/place volunteer-wise? That is just enough time to get acquainted before having to leave and that doesn’t even include travel days. Reckless!

    • We are not raising any funds for ourselves, please see my responses to several other posts. We are raising funds for quality projects that are sustainable, supported by the local community and done in conjunction with very reputable non-profits with great experience in the area of the project. I am paying for all travel costs myself.

      -Teresa

  12. Thanks so much for mentioning us Kate!

    It’s always hard to tell by press what is the reality, but it sure sounds pretty crazy and not well planned at all. They seem to have no idea about what they are getting themselves into and 33 countries in a year is crazy in the first place. You make a lot more sense and I have to agree with your perspective.

    First, it doesn’t have to cost 100K for a year of traveling the world and doing volunteer work. We’ve been traveling the world as a family since 2006 on just 25K a year and could do for a lot less and we have done volunteer work as we travel.

    Second with kids you have to go slow and slow travel and deep immersion is a lot more satisfying and less stressful.And MUCH cheaper! Simple things like finding a meal or bed for the night become very time intensive in foreign lands.

    Third, it is hard enough to travel and volunteer, adding blogging, videos, press etc as you go is crazy hard. The rest of the world does not have internet connection like the US. We’re in Provence, France now and having a hard time finding a connection and do the minimal amount online and it’s crazy frustrating. They will most likely find it much harder after volunteering all day and moving so fast.

    Fourth, just trying to deal with photos and video is VERY time consuming while traveling, especially extended travel, if they want to do it with any level of quality. Writing decent blog posts take time too.

    Fifth, one should never endanger themselves, their children or anyone for travel. One must always have a back up plan, and extra money saved for any emergency. We know from personal experience that emergencies DO happen on the road. We’ve had a car wreck, a bike wreck that had me hospitalized for a week with serious surgery and 10 months with a paralyzed arm, almost bled to death another time, several hospitalizations for each of us plus a ton of dental work etc.

    Sixth- your 6 month plan makes a lot more sense than the plan she seems to be making.

    Thanks so much for your wisdom and support. YES ordinary families CAN travel the world, ( we’re huge supporters of that) but they must plan and prepare well first or they are taking unnecessary risks.

    • Kate says:

      Thank YOU for an excellent comment and for providing us such a great example on your site! 🙂 I agree with everything you’ve said!

      • Dear Soultravelers3

        Thank you for your well thought out comment. I would like to reply to your points. In regard to your opening paragraph:

        Most of the 33 countries are ones that we are just passing through. For example, we are driving quickly through Europe to give the kids a taste of the rich history and culture, but we want to minimize our number of days in the developed world to save funds.

        As part of our trip’s purpose, we have focused on 12 non-profit projects to raise money for – we are not raising any funds for our own travel. I am paying for that – mostly out of savings and selling things like our car, etc. We also gave up things like our car and home so we do not have bills to pay at “home”. With the 12 projects, we are just visiting several (where volunteering would not be of true benefit to the local community) to get a feel for the place, culture and work being done and publicize that so that people see what a difference can be made in the world if many people combine small efforts. We also want to raise awareness of world issues and we are partnering with educational organizations to get content out to teachers and students. That is one reason for visiting a variety of projects.

        Our volunteer work is concentrated into 3 or 4 week increments and several projects where volunteering makes sense and is sustainable because it is part of a larger program, or because it is for a one-time purpose. I have spent much of the last 15 months selecting high impact, sustainable projects that are supported by the local community and done in conjunction with a non-profit with extensive experience in that community. These include Room to Read, Children International, and American Assistance for Cambodia. I have over two decades of executive level non-profit experience, including serving as CEO of an international non-profit.

        Your first point COST: I wish I could get the budget down to $25,000 per year! I will look at your website and see how you do that. We are traveling with five people and we are trying to raise awareness of other cultures and a variety of non-profit work, and to educate ourselves more about those things, so moving a little faster to cover more countries has its advantages – and I am using my own money for that travel. So I think speed of travel and the trade off in cost is a personal choice. I have also tried to budget generously and spend conservatively to be sure I have extra funds rather than face the danger o running out.

        Your second point, third and fourth points SPEED OF TRAVEL AND AMOUNT OF WORK BLOGGING, AND THE KIDS’ EXPERIENCE: I do know how time intensive this is – at least it is time with my family and not the kind of time intensive I faced as CEO of a non-profit, working and traveling all the time without my children. That was a big reason for this change. Blogging is part of the kids work of this trip, so it won’t be only me putting in the time to communicate. We have built in time to do that. We are staying for three and four weeks in many places to get a feel for the culture and for two months in India. I want them to have somewhat of an overview on this trip, so that they can look back on if they choose to explore certain parts of the world in more depth throughout their lives.

        Your fifth point SAFETY NET: I have spent the last 15 months planning for this trip and making sure that our family can do this without excessive risk of personal or financial harm. I have a safety net in terms of savings. We have health insurance suitable for traveling. We did tons of medical and dental work before we left (ie: having my daughter’s wisdom teeth out, and my son’s orthodontia work done, a slew of vaccinations and medicine to use if we need to during travel). We have a service for help during emergencies, where people would help us coordinate services over the phone. Plus a communications plan, a sim card and phone that allow us to post in many places where there is not internet and to contact friends and family in an emergency. We also have a home school plan and on-line classes for subjects I think would be best taught by others. My children are having a wonderful time and are learning things and having great experiences that will benefit them the rest of their lives. Even they are surprised at how much they are learning and enjoying the travel. Of course they were reluctant to leave their friends at the start and they miss them very much now, but in my opinion, good parenting isn’t just about what makes kids comfortable, but about what a responsible parent thinks will be best in the long run.

        SIX MONTH PLAN – This would not have worked well in my opinion, because it would have meant faster travel and the disruption of my children missing half of a school year and trying to come in half way instead of missing a whole school year and covering all the standards in the order that makes sense on the trip. For example, my daughter is taking geography, and I didn’t want to cover six months of what the school was covering rather than the countries and cultures that she is experiencing first hand. Also, I was running and international non-profit – how can a CEO leave an organization to another for six months and then pick it back up again as its leader? I also led the organization with an emphasis on teamwork – I did not feel I could set a good example of dedication to a cause by taking off for six months for another cause. Realistically, I would have had to work remotely to lead the organization through a leave of absence and that would have taken time and effort away from the trip. Also, I want to devote my life to humanitarian causes and bring what we learn on this trip to an organization that does the same. As wonderful as my job at the Archaeological Institute of America was, and as great an organization as it is, I want to devote the rest of my working career to something that helps people in the developing world directly.

        I hope this explains my choices more clearly, and I hope that we can work together in the future. We are just an ordinary family who is trying to make this trip work out as best we can, and do as much good as we can, and we have done a great deal of planning. You have a great deal of travel expertise from which we could surely benefit.

        All the best,

        -Teresa

        • 6 month plan = not as good for pitching a book as 12 month plan. 12 volunteer projects. 12 months. Hmmmmmmm.

          • The importance of writing a book ranks far below that of helping to improve people’s lives. The only value I see in publicity is in raising awareness and money for those in need who could help themselves if they were provided with a means to do so…sImple things like books, access to school, health care information, a community kitchen. We have so much power to help others and that is what I think life is really all about.

  13. Colleen says:

    As great as it would be to travel with your children, I feel that education and stability is more important. Take a three month trip during their summers, and let the rest of the year be stable. Once you become a parent you put aside the things you want and focus on what the kids want. This is all about the parents being selfish and trying to disguise it. Traveling is VERY important, but there is also something to be said about being a contributing member of society. Being part of a community, a church, an organization. When you are just winging it on your own and dragging your children around with you, you have forgotten that part, because truly what is travel (And you know I LOVE to travel!) but a selfish experience to expand your own horizons. In all honesty, it does not contribute to the world around you. Is traveling a great way to educate yourself? To see the world? Absolutely. Is it akin to working for a charity? Never.

  14. Terri says:

    Whoa! Where to start on this one. I am pretty shocked by the fact that she think she will really make any kind of impact in 33 countries in one year. I agree with what was said above re: pickin one of two countries so that her kids could at least have a little more stability. Having jealously read about RTW trips, I haven’t seen any that attempt to see 33 in one year. It seems like she’ll be doing the Amazing Race of travel volunteering.

    I’m shocked that she think it takes $100,000 for 3-4 people to live abroad for a year in developing countries. To be honest, many people live on less than that HERE in this country (depending on the region of course). I wonder what kind of lifestyle she expects to be living while traveling.

    Sadly, I do think everyone wants to be a star in our culture, and I think she is attempting extreme tactics to do so.

    Please do a follow-up if you hear more about her story!

  15. Alisha says:

    Oh this is great. I love all of your points and agree – this seems like a really lucrative idea. I immediately imagined her on a show from A&E like “Hoarders” or something where people need to give this woman an intervention. I’m interested in seeing how this works out, or if it even does.

  16. Andi says:

    OMG, I can’t believe her son said that hahaha.

  17. Erica says:

    I am a bit freaked out for this woman.

    Sure, alot of us ask for donations for coffee, a night in a hostel, etc… but the general consensus is to depend on yourself for the bulk of the money. Anything extra is well, extra.

    I’m just thinking how long $125,000 would keep me afloat…..

  18. Shannon OD says:

    Wow. All I can say is just wow – you are so right that it just sucks that this woman gets all of this publicity in a negative light when there are so many ways to travel and volunteer and be a benefit. There is so much that she has yet to learn, especially taking all of those teenagers along into the developing world! It’s with a sick curiosity I am going to click over to their site.

  19. Hi, this is Teresa. I am not raising even ONE CENT of money for our travel. Why would I even consider that? I am covering every bit of travel expenses myself. I am raising funds for projects done in partnership with high quality charities such as Room to Read and Children International. We have filed all of the paperwork to be a registered 501(c)3 charity so all donations are tax deductible. If you read our website, our goal is to raise $100,000 to accomplish and enormous amount – a primary school in Cambodia, three reading rooms in Vietnam, a community kitchen and day care in Peru that is already complete, a health education program in India, a computer lab in Bulgaria (Microsoft is donating the software), three wood farms in Tanzania and several more.

    I have spent my entire career working for non-profits and have been Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Executive Officer. Most recently i was CEO of the Archaeological Institute of America, and international non-profit with 107 chapters and over 200,000 members. I spent over a year selecting high quality projects in partnership with great charities that would show that people can make a huge difference for not a lot of money – especially when they have a vehicle like Round the World with Us to combine small efforts.

    I do understand that volunteer projects must be selected carefully and that they do not always provide as much to the local community as we would like to think. That is the reason we are raising funds for schools, libraries, etc for the communities. The real value of our volunteer work is to connect people, both personally (my family) and through the website (everyone who visits the website. We are also partnering with educational organizations so we can connect school children throughout the US to the projects and the people we meet and teach them more about world issues.

    I have to run now, but I welcome all feedback and questions and will answer as I am able.

    -Teresa

  20. Look, I’m all for long (and slow) travel. Did a 16 month RTW trip myself — and am headed back out in a month. I’m all for anyone and everyone getting out there and seeing the world. And I am writing a book about my trip also. Almost all of us travelers think (99% incorrectly) that our trips/stories/personalities are good enough, along with our excellent writing skills, of course, for a publisher to gush all over us and make us the next big travel writer.

    It’s a nice dream.

    But it is totally irresponsible to drag kids into this selfish project. When the 13 year old kid’s reply to whether he wants to go — BEFORE the tough times on the road, when the excitement would be highest — is ““I don’t really have a choice,’’ he says with a wary smile.”

    It’s close to child abuse to drag kids into this kind of project. Basically — this is all about having ‘good enough material to get a book published.’ Fine. We all plan our trips to get a book done.

    But dragging unwilling kids into something like this is beyond negligent.

    • Alexandra says:

      Selfish project? Child abuse? Excuse me? Do you hear yourself?

      Honestly, I don’t believe there is one pre-teen or 13 year old who would INITIALLY willingly do this. Alex is on the trip now and having fun and learning a great deal. He, his sisters, and their friend (she might as well be a sister) will be experiencing things very few ADULTS get to grow from. This is a special opportunity. To call it CHILD ABUSE you are doing a disservice to the unfortunate children they are setting out to HELP and the children who actually have to live with child abuse every day of their lives. Please, do not throw those words around lightly.

      As for the selfish comment… anyone can see that this trip is anything but selfish.

      Please, do yourself a favor (and the cause, for I think what we are all forgetting here is that this family is working towards a CAUSE) and visit the website. All of the information is clear as day there– this is an innocent and genuine charity project.

  21. Eeep. Now I’m just depressed. This is absolutely awful, but you’ve hit the nail on the head: informed travel writers don’t get a lot of press. People who do crazy stunts (and drag their children into the mess) apparently do.

    This makes me incredibly sad. But I predict that perhaps one of her kids will write about the crazy crap that mom did in years to come, and they’re become the great and successful writer. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

    • Alexandra says:

      If you knew Teresa you wouldn’t be calling her crazy. She is an amazing person and everything she does is for her children. This time she’s trying to inspire others and help some along the way. Is it scary? Yes, a little. Is she taking risks? Yes. But what are you doing? You’re sitting on the computer and just judging her and not even getting the facts from a reliable source. I don’t know you so I have no idea if you are off doing charity work yourself, but if you were, I should hope you would support a fellow charity worker who only wants to make a difference, even if it’s a small one.

  22. marta says:

    wise little boy!

  23. paige. says:

    huh. i wonder if they’re asking people to fund their travels. i don’t think it was cleared up in the 19083873 responses by teresa that just showed up in my email.
    i’m still a skeptic…sorry.

    • How do you think we are going to fund the schools and libraries if we were to spend the money on our own travel instead? The community kitchen and day care is already built in Peru and I fronted that project out of my savings, because I care about doing some good in the world.

      One cannot have a 501(c)3 charity and collect donations for a project and then spend them on travel for goodness sake. That would be stealing and we are not doing this trip so that we can steal from people. What we are doing is all of the web for everyone to see.

      All we want to do is raise funds for great projects and help people to gain a better understanding of other cultures. Hopefully when the projects are funded and video is posted of them, you will be less skeptical, but if not, at least more families will have day care, more children will have access to education, more families will have fuel without cutting down more forest, more kids in Calcutta will understand how to avoid contracting and spreading AIDS and children who are HIV positive will have a safe place to live and water to grow nutritious food.

    • Alexandra says:

      the sarcasm is NOT appreciated, especially when someone’s integrity is on the line. Teresa has every right to defend herself, even more so because this blog entry is an incredible falsehood.

  24. Michael Hodson says:
    August 13, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    6 month plan = not as good for pitching a book as 12 month plan. 12 volunteer projects. 12 months. Hmmmmmmm.
    Reply

    *
    Teresa Keller says:
    August 13, 2010 at 6:24 PM

    The importance of writing a book ranks far below that of helping to improve people’s lives. The only value I see in publicity is in raising awareness and money for those in need who could help themselves if they were provided with a means to do so…sImple things like books, access to school, health care information, a community kitchen. We have so much power to help others and that is what I think life is really all about.
    Teresa Keller´s last blog ..St Petersburg and impressions of RussiaMy ComLuv Profile

  25. Kate,

    I just heard about this post from sosauce… but it looks like the woman responded to you in the comments correctly the information in your original post. Perhaps you should post a correction? Unless you don’t think that was her?? I just thought it was sort of unfair if what she said in the comments is true and she’s actually raising funds for charity.

  26. zoe zolbrod says:

    It’s been interesting to read this article and the comments section, just to see how many people comment without glancing at what’s come before. It also shows the power of media to distort. If the Boston.com article was as misleading as Teresa Keller’s comments seem to suggest…. wow.

  27. Lisa Bergren says:

    Fascinating. I’ll look forward to reading your interview with her, Kate. Seems ambitious and huge–and if she’s doing what she says and donating all $100K in funds for the projects, could be helpful to numerous organizations. Kids like routine, yes. And home. With teens of my own, and after discussions of RTW options, I know it’s not easy to get them to leave. But I submit that what they’ll gain in a year on the road will be life-changing, in a good way. (And I’m betting she can find a job soon after her return, based on her experience before she left home and what she’s learning on the road.)

    • Lisa, thanks very much for your positive comment. It is very encouraging!

      We are 25% of the way toward our goal and our first project is just about complete – a community kitchen and day care in Ica, Peru. In several weeks, we will be in Bulagaria where the donations we have recieved will fund a computer lab for children in an orphange so they can gain skills which will give them a better chance at gainful employment (Microsoft has already agreed to provide the software). Ordinary people are making this possible by visiting the website and making contributions. It’s great to see small efforts add up to great things!

      The kids are doing well. We are still on the part of our trip that is mainly tourist-like travel in first world countries – working up to the volunteering and visiting developing countries. It’s amazing the misconceptions that kids have about other countries – much of my children’s reluctance came from not wanting to go to “weird” foreign countries, but in Moscow they realized that we have more in common with people in other countires than we have differences. We are partnering with educational organizations so other kids can read their blogs and might come to the same conclusion.

      I think my kids are now having the time of their lives. They know it will be hard in places like Calcutta, but we are working with Children International and they are helping with all of the arrangements there.

      Thanks again!

  28. A Global Bruin says:

    I am glad that you are giving Ms. Keller an opportunity to tell the full story. I think all of us have had experiences with media distortion. Everyone will have different opinion on any topic but an informed opinion is preferable to one based on half facts.

    I first traveled internationally in my early 20′s. My first experience outside my comfortable middle class suburban existance changed my life forever and for the positive. I continue to travel and work on humanitarian projects in several countries. I wish I had the opportunity to have that experience at younger age.

    I think what Ms. Keller is doing is extremely admirable. I wish more Americans would become engaged in global issues. The real take away from this trip, as I see it , is at a minimum a family better informed on the rest of the world. If her goals are sucessfull she will have helped some lives and well as engaged some Americans in what conditions are like in many places in the world.

    I see nothing but good in that and kudos to her for having the couarge to take this on.

    • Barbara says:

      Hmmm… a “global Bruin”? Must be a boston fan. Isn’t Doug Tilden, the boyfriend and CEO of Round the World With Us from the Boston area/Massachusetts? That’s what his bio says. It also says he’s been traveling extensively for most of his life and continues to travel and work on humanitarian projects. Same as this person, who seems to be the only adamant supporter. Interesting….

  29. Connie says:

    Wow, what a topic and I’ve really enjoyed reading the replies. First off, I agree, this trip seems WAY too unreasonable, especially with children involved. As someone who has been volunteering internationally, I always make sure that I can make at least a 3 month commitment, otherwise, you’re not going to really make a difference. In fact, it will take away from the organization itself because instead of spending time working on existing projects, the staff is going through orientations with volunteers and showing them how things will work. What is the point if you are going to be gone in a week or two? The rewards of staying longer with a single organization is FAR more rewarding than just skipping in for a short period. In order to really understand and make an impact with an organization, you need to spend TIME there.

    Teresa, I think it’s great that you want to expose your children to travel and to different cultures, but it sounds like it’s much too whirlwind for them to truly enjoy it. I hope that’s not the case and they are, in fact, enjoying their time.

  30. Kelsey says:

    What annoys me most about people like this is that it makes it harder for those of us who *are* running charity projects or other projects which need funding to acquire said funding. Because of people like this woman, it’s all too easy for some PR person to just think “Eh, who care, it’s just another blogger looking to have their trip subsidized…” when really, there are folks out there who are looking for support who will put it to serious use, and who are trying every avenue possible to reduce the costs of their trip (like me, with my loaned-gear tactic for my Mongolian documentary expedition).

    • Kelsey, Did you read any of the numerous comments where I say that not one cent of the money we raise subsidizes our travel? Would you like it if someone made and/or perpetuated false accusations against you? I am surprised that someone doing a documentary would not take some time to look into the facts. -Teresa

      • Kelsey says:

        It *does* subsidize your travel because, as you said, it is going to pay for the volunteer opportunities you will be undertaking. “Pay to work” volunteer opportunities are better than just traveling the world for your own sake, but there are plenty of other volunteer opportunities which do not charge you at all, and I think your money could be better spent.

        I also applaud your motives in bringing your children along, but they do not seem to be on board with the venture, which further shows a disconnect between your hopes and reality.

      • Kelsey says:

        I stand corrected, as I just now saw your clarifying comment. I do think that what you’re doing is admirable, and as often occurs with media, your original intent and the details of the trip were distorted by the Globe article.

        • Thanks, Kelsey. We are paying for all volunteer and travel costs. All the money is being used for building a school, libraries, community kitchen, reforestation, etc, etc with high quality charities who know the local communities. The kids were nervous about leaving, but now are not only having a wonderful time, but learning a lot. We are all enjoying touring Europe, but are looking forward to experiencing developing countries later in the trip. Hope your project is going well! -Teresa

  31. Alexandra says:

    Kate,
    I’m glad you put all this time into researching all of the various comments and quotations about future plans and what not, but it seems you haven’t even visited the website and really considered the first hand source? You have made some very harsh and blatantly incorrect accusations. Simply visiting the website would clearly show you that this is an honest family doing honest charity. They worked hard to raise their own money for travel– all donations made are FOR charities, not for the family.

    And yes, it is so easy to point fingers and say she is a bad parent from the sidelines, but I really cannot express how WRONG you are to judge her this way. Not only is Teresa a terrific parent, but she is a terrific person. To slander her as you do and say such false and cruel things is just.. well, it’s horrible. As I said before, you should really do some better research next time before you make such terrible accusations.

    I wish you would delete this entry and create a new one. To sum this up flat out, you are just WRONG on all accounts about Teresa and this whole family. It’s really upsetting to people like me and MY family who truly believe in and support Teresa.

    Please reconsider everything you have written here.
    Thank you,
    Alexandra

  32. Andi says:

    While I appreciate your attempts to defend what you believe to be appropriate extended travel, I would appreciate it if you changed your article to reflect that Ms. Keller is not raising any of the money for herself. She has tried thoroughly to get that across in this article and yet it seems like the majority of your commenters are ignoring her. Comments that are absolutely incorrect are denying the charities she is giving to much needed support. Your other comments about the way she is approaching this are opinion and as such are fair, but please don’t list “facts.”

    To those of you ragging on Ms. Keller for not doing more service projects and for actually daring to enjoy the beautiful world we live in – she is not dedicating her entire life to service projects! She is going on what sounds like an amazing trip with her family that is probably theraputic in all sorts of ways. She is also spending time that she could just spend wandering around the world with her children helping out others and doing twelve more service projects than what she is required to be doing as a human being. Just because she is not spending every waking moment volunteering doesn’t mean this trip is not incredibly admirable! It is also very admirable to volunteer in the USA and to stay local and not entirely uproot your life, but this is not what she chose to do.

    As for the way she is approaching her travels, Ms. Keller has faith in what she is doing and her children are hesitant, but all on board to do this. I am sure they had a long session of discussion and years worth of planning to ensure that this was a smart and safe choice for their family. While some of you have fair points about ways she could have done things differently, those are once again opinion and are a testament to different styles of travel. She’ll find out what works and doesn’t work, I am sure, and she’ll find out with her own hard earned money. People adding tag lines that sour her work such as “guess who they think should pay for it!” couldn’t be further from the truth and are hurting her hard work. Ms. Keller will probably meet hardships on the way and possibly regret some of her travel choices, but this does not mean that her efforts and the charities she has chosen to support should be compromised by a bunch of ill-informed people shouting incorrect facts for the very sake of shouting. It is your choice to donate to these charities (and like she said, not to her travel or trips). However, please educate yourselves from the primary source before you judge Ms. Keller or infringe on her hard work.

    • Alexandra says:

      “Ms. Keller will probably meet hardships on the way and possibly regret some of her travel choices, but this does not mean that her efforts and the charities she has chosen to support should be compromised by a bunch of ill-informed people shouting incorrect facts for the very sake of shouting. It is your choice to donate to these charities (and like she said, not to her travel or trips). However, please educate yourselves from the primary source before you judge Ms. Keller or infringe on her hard work.”

      I agree with this 100%, Andi, this is wonderfully stated.

  33. Doug Tilden says:

    Kate,

    I thoroughly enjoy your website and I know you are busy with moving. However you need to fulfill the commitment you made several weeks ago and set the record straight on Teresa Keller’s trip by posting the interview questions. The negativity unleashed by your commenst is terribly unfair and you have seen several of the commantators change their opinions once they were aware of the facts.

    We all have different approaches to volunteerism. Teresa has working in the non profit area her whole life. I also have spent considerable time in the non profit world. I have seen projects of every size descrition and outcome. I serve on several non profit boards and advisory committees ranging from small locally based organization to major internationals.

    I helped Teresa to design the trip. The carefully scripted plan was to balance her personal search for finding a meaningful role in the future with a humanitarian organization, with creating awareness of global issues for her family and the partner organizations who are distributing content for us and with volunteer and sponsorship opportunities.

    We have screened our partner NGO’s in each project very carefully and the quality of our partners speaks to theat process. We do not want to do “hit and run” projects. We want to have a positive impact on service projects that are sustainable and have community engagement and commitment. In doing this we also hope to engage people who have not had the opportunity to experience the devloping world. This may be an agressive agenda but if we succeed in making some lives better (we already have with the Peru day care center) and creating awareness of global conditions in a few hundred people we will have moved the needle in the right direction.

    I certainly hope you proceed soon with allowing Teresa to fully explain the pupose and mission of the trip.

    Doug

  34. Chishikoff says:

    Good article, thanks. 🙂 Good Design

  35. Sterling says:

    Whatever came of this? I’d love someone to subsidize our trip – LOL! Traveling as a family on a budget sucks. So difficult to find accommodation for 6.

    Many think rtw/long-term travel is all wine & roses. We’re hitting our 2-month mark and it’s great fun at times but very difficult other times.

  36. Doug Tilden says:

    Sterling,

    I wish you well on your trip. It is unfortunate that this concept that Teresa was using donors dollars is still out there. She did not. I know, I filed the IRS documentation for the 1099 each year.

    The trip was actually carefully measured for personal time, a lot of which was having the incredible opportunity to expose the 4 kids to other cultures, and the volunteer opportunities which were concentrated in a couple locations.

    The trip ended in 2011 and we (Teresa and I married last year) are still very much involved with several of the better non profits. This was one of the prime motivators for the trip. I am not going to list of the programs we are now involved with, but literally thousands of children and youth have new opportunities to break the cycle of poverty on a sustainable basis from the work we did investigating on the trip and then working with the non profits.

    It obviously requires and incredible passion to do what Teresa did. Not every has the life opportunity to do that. But I applaud you and others who embark on similar journeys that develops awareness of culture and social situations in different countries. That awareness is important for us as individuals and for our country. I would love to tell you our story about English as a second language. Perhaps if you respond to my post I will have an opportunity to share with you how big things can grow from a one month volunteer effort.

    I wish you well

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  1. […] Each Friday, we share those sites and articles—those interesting links—that we are currently reading or have recently read. Enjoy these great posts that you may have missed this past week. If you have any suggestions for next Friday’s round-up, please contact us! Round-the-world charity? Adventurous Kate’s take on Teresa Keller’s plan to take her three teenagers and one of their friends on a year-long trip around the world.  They plan to visit 33 countries within a year, volunteering the entire way. An ambitious and expensive endeavour, eh? And guess who they think should pay for it? You! Check out her piece here. […]



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