This week’s post is from travel blogger Tammy Lowe of Tammy & Chris on the move. They left their jobs to go and work on justice and human rights issues abroad.
When, why and how did you start Tammy & Chris on the move?
“We’”started our blog in July 2011, a few months before we embarked on our adventure to volunteer in Cambodia. I say ‘we’ as Chris is something of a silent partner in the whole affair, being one of those grumpy people who still refuse to join Facebook or any other form of social media. With the blog I/we wanted to keep family and friends updated about our stay, and it was all just a bit of a hobby at first. After a while our readership grew more and more, though, and it turned out that people outside of our family were also interested in what we were up to. We were thrilled as we never expected that to happen to be honest.
How did you get the name and what does the name mean to you??
I wanted the blog’s name to be personal and reflect what we were doing. Both of us are serial expats, having lived in five different countries between us, and we were going to be expats again in Cambodia. We also love travelling and do that as much as we can, really. Being on the move neatly described our kind of lifestyle, so we thought that Tammy & Chris on the move was a very fitting name for our blog.
How did you meet and how long have you been together?
When I finished high school in Germany I worked as an Au Pair in England for six months. Once I left England again to go to university in Germany I traveled back to England regularly to visit my former host family and the many friends I made. It was during one of those visits in 2002 that I met Chris. We hit it off instantly and despite the challenges of living so far apart we survived a two-and-half year long-distance relationship. After my graduation I moved to England straight away. We got married in 2006. So this year is our 11th anniversary of being a couple.
What are the best and worst things about traveling and blogging as a couple?
I think the best thing about traveling as a couple is that you are never alone and that you can share special moments together. Although we are quite similar and we agree on which countries to visit very easily, we often don’t have the same taste when it comes to sightseeing. I usually want to see it all and Chris likes to relax a bit more. So in order not to stress each other out too much we are quite happy to do our own things every now and then. So if Chris wants to watch a football game in a bar I am more than happy to check out a city by myself. I think it is important that you don’t compromise all the time and occasionally do things separately. In terms of blogging, I do almost of all the writing to be honest, so I am the boss really.
What keeps you jazzed about blogging?
I am not really sure what it is I like about blogging so much. In the past I wasn’t much of a writer and my literacy teachers tended to agree. When I started blogging I felt like I found a long lost passion. I love writing now and every time I receive a comment on one my posts I secretly shriek with excitement. J The growing number of readers, their engagement and encouragements with our blog, our Facebook page, or Twitter really inspire me to keep going. (Chris’s view is that I’m making up for not being shown enough attention as a child. I told you he’s miserable)
How do you divide up the blog duties?
As mentioned above I pretty much do all of the blogging. I write articles, take photos and engage with our readers via social media. However, I do let Chris have a read of the post and help me select photos before I publish anything, mainly so he can take out most of the photos with him in. As English is my second language it is nice having a second pair of eyes checking things.
You travel around Southeast Asia and “work on human rights and justice issues.” What does that mean?
When we decided to leave the UK we wanted to do some voluntary work to gain experience in international development. We volunteered for two NGOs in Cambodia which both worked on human rights and other development issues including women’s rights, human trafficking, etc. These kinds of problems are present in Cambodia today as a result of colonization, the Khmer Rouge dictatorship, and a civil war that went on for more than a decade. Working for dedicated NGOs who are trying to make a difference was a very rewarding experience, so almost two years later we are still in Cambodia.
Is all the travel volunteer work or do you have some projects that are your own?
In Asia we have only volunteered in Cambodia, but we love traveling to other countries in Asia for some downtime as much as we can. We have always been very passionate about volunteering though, even when we were still living in the UK. We set up a local UNICEF group in our home town, for example, to do fundraising and also helped out in charities such as Amnesty International. I was also a trustee for a local charity who visited female detainees in an immigration detention center.
What do you do when not doing volunteer travel?
After our six-month voluntary placement in Cambodia we both got offered permanent jobs in the NGOs we volunteered for. Chris is still in the same role, but I have moved on and am currently volunteering again for another NGO. When we are not working or volunteering we travel around Asia as much as we can. We have been fortunate enough to visit Malaysia, Singapore, Nepal, Vietnam and Thailand so far, but our bucket list is getting longer and longer and there are many more countries in Asia we would like to visit.
How do you pick your projects? How long are they usually for?
I think it is important to do some research about the organization you are planning to volunteer for beforehand. A lot of the so-called voluntourism projects are massively overpriced and the communities often don’t benefit from your money. I always make sure that I take a placement that matches my professional skills. It makes a placement much more rewarding as you are more confident in what you are doing and you can also make a bigger difference. I wouldn’t feel confident teaching English for example as I am not a qualified teacher. A lot of people can’t do long-term placements for financial reasons, but I think you get more out of a placement if you can stay for at least three months. That way you can get to know the programs much better, learn about local life and also make friends. Having said that, I don’t think there is anything wrong doing shorter placements. Construction projects or working with animals are areas where short term placements are possible.
What is the project that you felt most worthwhile or most enjoyed doing?
We both loved volunteering for UNICEF back in the UK, as we set up the local fundraising group completely by ourselves. However, being physically so far away the beneficiaries is also not easy, as it is difficult to fully understand local circumstances if you haven’t seen them first hand. That’s why we both loved our first volunteering experience abroad so much. It really helped us realize how important the work of charities and NGOs are. Visiting local projects is so special. I particularly love seeing young people getting involved with development in their own communities. Every time I visit local projects I come back inspired and motivated to work even harder in future.
Do you explore while volunteering?
We have both been lucky to do a lot of field trips during our volunteering placements. Those field trips to the communities are a great way of getting to know a country and explore areas that are truly off the beaten tourist path. Volunteering is much like working, really, and you usually get annual leave and bank holidays. So it is possible to travel during your placement, too. However, we prefer taking some time off after a contract has finished, as we can travel more slowly that way.
What excites you the most about travel?
Everything about travel excites me. Visiting sights you have dreamed about visiting for years, exploring countries, trying out different foods, experiencing different cultures and meeting people along the way. What’s not to love about travel!
What’s your most memorable travel experience or favorite trip ever and why?
I think our most favorite trip was to Ecuador a few years ago. It combined everything we love: mountain trekking, exploring wildlife on the Galapagos Islands, getting to know locals through a homestay and visiting the mighty Amazon rainforest. We only went for three weeks, but we completely fell in love with the country during that time.
What’s your favorite place on earth?
I am not sure if I have a favorite place per se, but I love South America. I have only been to three countries there, but I am pretty sure I would love every single country there. Living in Cambodia for such a long time really made me fall in love with this country, as well. The lovely people with their sunny smiles make my heart warm every day.
Where are you now?
We have just returned from a two-month trip to Nepal and Europe and are back in Cambodia until later on this year.
Where are you off to next?
We are not sure, to be honest. We would really love to visit Burma, Laos and South Korea. We tend to organize trips quite spontaneously, so let’s see where the wind will take us next for our travels.
What’s the biggest fantasy on your bucket list and why?
There are three sites in South America that I would love to see one day: The Mayan temple of El Mirador in Guatemala, which can only be reached through a three-day jungle trek; Climbing Mount Roraima in Venezuela; and trekking to the lost jungle city Ciudad Perdida in Colombia. As you can see they are all fairly remote and involve some kind of trekking, but I am an explorer at heart and that is all part of the fun.
Tammy and Chris Lowe left life in England in 2011 to work on justice and human rights issues abroad. Their blog, follows the adventures traveling around south east Asia in their downtime. They enjoy savoring the sights, sounds, and tastes of this corner of the world. Follow them on Twitter, Pinterest, or like them on Facebook.