2019 Travel to Japan to plan the 2020 Tokyo Cultural Tour (In memory of mother)
In Spring 2019, people kept asking if my mother’s vision and idea of a cultural tour to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was still a go. Eventually, I girded myself and said, “Well, if mommy were here, we would be going without a doubt.” I garnered the strength to give it my best effort to prepare and plan the cultural tour as she had envisioned. I tried tirelessly to get tickets to the Olympics through the travel agency, but it was a fruitless effort due to the limited USA country-designated supply by the Olympic committee.
In August 2019, I decided to go to Japan for four and a half weeks to plan for the 2020 cultural tour from central Japan as far as Hiroshima and be in the Olympic atmosphere of festivities. To my surprise, the Olympic office themselves told me they would not even release the schedule of festivities surrounding the games until fiscal year April 2020. While many non-traditional accommodations were already booked up, many travel suppliers were not prepared to offer bookings that one year in advance.
While in Japan, I stayed with my host families, friends and former clients and traveled through many regions to actually walk the routes we would take on the cultural tour. By the time I left Japan, I had the full cultural tour conceived on the airplane and the itinerary mapped out.
Back at home in the USA, I needed to get general liability insurance for the company to launch operations and tours. But I could not get insurance which was baffling because it’s very easy to get insurance in the USA in less than 24 hours–they sell you insurance you do not need or too much. While Visions International had been creating, hosting and managing immersive cultural and educational tours and programs for international clients for six years under our language and cultural immersion programs, insurance providers would not consider this history, nor underwrite Visions International, classified as a training and consulting company, for travel and tour services. My insurance broker informed me all options for insurance were exhausted. I surmised what they were really saying and requiring was I had to establish a totally separate legal entity for World Awaits Cultural Tour. I did so in ONE DAY online thanks to my background as a business coach.
I stumbled upon news of another major hurdle with securing insurance. Three major multinational tour companies had collapsed within the recent six months, two of which were legacy companies with over hundred years of operations – Thomas Cook (British), Cox & Kings (India) and JG Worldwide (USA). These companies left hundreds of thousands of travelers stranded overnight and travel and tour suppliers unpaid. This trifecta of international tour company collapses sparked concern with the industry. I believe insurance companies were looking at little ‘ol start-up World Awaits Cultural Tours LLC with a leary eye.
2019 Travel to Uganda
All of September and part of October were exhausted with trying to secure company insurance. African Business Institute (ABI) invited me again to teach operations and project management in Uganda, the headquarters for ABI. While in Uganda volunteer teaching, and experiencing the country, culture and Kampala, I was constantly in contact with my insurance broker to no avail to source and secure tour operator general liability insurance. Needless to say, meeting the ABI team and founder in Kampala, traveling like a local with locals and many others transplants from west African, east African and Southern African nations–Kampala is very diverse–was an indelible experience. Experiencing Kampala, Murchison Falls National Park, Nile River, a safari game drive with locals not a tour company, visiting villages, ministries and managing a bit of my daily life in a university campus apartment for two weeks further impressed upon me–this is what I want to introduce my travel clients to–real people, real life, real experiences, real opportunities to contribute to God’s people and our beautiful world.
2019 Plans to launch World Awaits
I return to the USA. In November 2019 still with no insurance, the timeline to launch the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Japan Cultural Tour was threatened. I thought something was not right. I needed to pray. Within two weeks, God impressed upon my spirit and I heard spiritually, not audibly, “you do not need to be focused on this right now.” It was clear. I listened and obeyed in faith as I had done many times before because God has always been a faithful guide and confidant in my journey. I had significantly invested in this Japan cultural tour only to now cancel it in faith. I did not know why or what would happen at the time. I even had one person who was ready to pay for her trip in full and others waiting on me to launch the tour. The next week, literally days later after deciding to cancel the tour, the third week of November, my insurance broker called to tell me that she had finally gotten the insurance. “No, thank you,” I definitively responded. “I have canceled the tour.” Furthermore, I declined to accept the insurance for future tours and operations because it was an absurd requirement to buy three different types of policies to give full liability coverage at a ridiculous annual premium of $3000 USD!
I gladly received my breather and release from the chaos of the past three months. As the whole wide world knows, in December 2019, we started to learn about some infectious virus in China, COVID-19. In January 2020, it was announced the pandemic had reached the shores of the USA and other nations. In March 2020, the USA shut down seemingly overnight!
2020-2021 Time to Grieve
I need not tell what ensued. The amazing grace of it all was that I believe God knew about COVID-19 and spared our new travel and tour company from launching this major international tour to Japan and enduring the experience that many of my colleagues in the travel industry endured. Japan was forced to delay the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to 2021, disallow a spectator presence and completely shut out full tourism to Japan until September 2022 being one of the last nations to reopen to less restricted tourism.
Thanks to a dear Japanese friend, my mother still got to contribute to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Japan Olympic Committee drove a program to produce the Olympic medals out of traces of precious metals found recycled mobile phone and other device components. I was inspired by a video telling how a Japanese female amatuer athlete died short of the opportunity to volunteer with the Olympics. Her husband saw the donation of her mobile devices as an opportunity for her to still take part in the games. I talked to a friend who obliged me to send my mom’s old mobile phones to Japan as an Olympic donation. My friend took the over one hour trip to the official Tokyo Olympics office to deliver mom’s phones personally to the donation box.
During the pandemic shutdown, I was able to actually grieve the loss of my mother. For the whole of 2020-2021, I was grieving severely. I was situationally depressed unnoticed by most everyone except my sisters who have also been enduring life without our mother. Life became a decision to do as little as possible whenever possible meaning I had no desire nor motivation to do anything other than maintain. I lost my entrepreneurial gumption.
I even began applying for full-time jobs or contracts in my speciality certification area of business optimization, process improvement and lean operations as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. As my history has been, I am an enigma, an outlier to traditional or typical employers. In actuality, my God-given talent, favored and sustained path is entrepreneurship. I am and will forever be an entrepreneur and business improvement professional to deliver leaner, more desirable, and relatable products and services to my clients.
I started to get a breakthrough from dejection in late 2021 as I was immobile recovering from an ACL and meniscus knee reconstruction surgery from a ridiculous basketball injury about 20 years ago dunking a basketball goal. The ball went in, but I was not standing to see it! Yes, I dunked it! Well, it was a broken, eight foot basketball goal not at the typical height of 10 feet / 3 meters. I could no longer ignore the injury, the long-term, progressive debilitation of my entire body, and I had to find a way to afford the exorbitant health care costs of the surgery and year-long physical therapy. God provided for the surgery and physical therapy. As a self-employed person, I am a grateful recipient of Obama Care, the Affordable Healthcare Act. As a healthy, young woman only in need of preventative care for years, USA insurance premiums as a self-employed person were $500 or more monthly and that was with high deductible or health savings plans. Since the inception of Obama Care, I have had to have two major surgeries. If it had not been for this insurance option, I would have had to take on over $120,000 in health care costs. A guaranteed route to a burdensome lifetime of medical debt.
Through prayer and introspection, I began to get motivation and energy to live again. Visions International Language School no longer required me in day-to-day management. We had successfully transformed the school and operational management systems to a licensing model for independent language and intercultural coaches.
2021 Focus to Launch World Awaits
I asked myself, “what do I want to do for the rest of my life? What can I wholeheartedly dedicate and contribute to?” Travel–cultural travel. In late 2021, I decided to wholly focus on re-launching World Awaits Cultural Tours.
Also in fall 2021, I had been planning to go to Peru to immerse myself to refine my Spanish-speaking skills. During the pandemic lockdown, I taught myself Spanish by watching Netflix, telenovelas, listening to Latin music, and practicing a little with my Spanish-speaking friends and family.
After my doctor’s and physical therapist’s travel bans on me were lifted in month six of rehab and pandemic travel restrictions began to open up for tourism, I started traveling in February 2022 and haven’t stopped. I have traveled on 6 trips to 8 countries and over 56 cities in 9 months.
These trips have been 2023 cultural tour planning trips and opportunities to build local relationships. I love to travel. I am passionate about traveling like a local with locals. Through culturally immersive travel you can experience the true way of life, not just the glamor and temporal nature of tourism. You can form meaningful intercultural relationships, grow personally and professionally, and recognize opportunities to support others and truly make a more sustainable impact on local people and communities.
My life, relationships and travel have been deeply enriched by over 22 years of experience in international business, coaching, consulting and training of expatriates, executives, families and children from around the world. I’m led by an insatiable desire to learn, experience, be challenged, grow and contribute to other people.
As I travel the world to discover countries, cultures, engage with local people and their distinct way of life, I desire to share the fullness of that experience with others. My hope is that by creating and sharing these travel experiences, others will also learn, experience, be challenged, grow and contribute in their unique way and their individual genius to our beautiful world and other people. I am a lover of God, life, people, languages, cultures, nature, food, this world and I want to experience, share and contribute more to it all!In my heart, life and work I seek to be a conduit of God’s grace and contribute to people. Oswald Chambers, esteemed minister, teacher and author of the early eighteen hundreds and author of My Utmost for His Highest, speaks it best and spoke to my heart, spirit and soul to come out of my listlessness and live again with these words:
“Do I really want to get there? I can right now. The questions that truly matter in life are remarkably few, and they are all answered by these words— “Come to Me.” Our Lord’s words are not, “Do this, or don’t do that,” but— “Come to me.” If I will simply come to Jesus, my real life will be brought into harmony with my real desires… At the most unexpected moments in your life there is this whisper of the Lord— “Come to Me,” and you are immediately drawn to Him. Personal contact with Jesus changes everything. Be “foolish” enough to come and commit yourself to what He says. The attitude necessary for you to come to Him is one where your will has made the determination to let go of everything and deliberately commit it all to Him.
“…and I will give you rest”— that is, “I will sustain you, causing you to stand firm.” He is not saying, “I will put you to bed, hold your hand, and sing you to sleep.” But, in essence, He is saying, “I will get you out of bed— out of your listlessness and exhaustion, and out of your condition of being half dead while you are still alive. I will penetrate you with the spirit of life, and you will be sustained by the perfection of vital activity.”
2022 Forward Travel is Life
When I travel, I experience life, people, God and the world in a profound way. Despite the stressors, and inconveniences of travel, the nuances and differences of other cultures and ways of life, the bizarre things that happen and the silly mistakes I make each time I travel, travel is so life-giving!
Spending time with local people, living how they live, eating what and where they eat, doing what they do, which is sometimes nothing at all–I can be in a space of simplicity to receive, give, learn, listen, observe and hopefully contribute. Interestingly, my body responds better outside my home environment. I do not experience lethargy, gastrointestinal issues, the same food allergens and reactions, environmental allergens, and I can usually spend less money compared to my monthly living in the USA.
The world is my home. The world truly awaits us! Join me on this journey. Let’s travel deeper and discover more about ourselves, other people and the world around us!
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