By Kassia Binkowski
Everyone has her own definition of adventure. It’s something written into the corners of her soul, a visceral reaction to a set of conditions, an appetite that is heightened through experience. My personal definition is a bit circumstantial. Some days my thirst for adventure is quenched simply by dirt roads and wide skies, by windows down and music up and a distant horizon to chase. Other days it’s far more refined and significantly less attainable. On those days my definition of adventure is wrapped up in foreign languages, exotic locales, bustling markets, and unfamiliar foods. It’s the rhythm of words I can’t understand, scents I can’t recognize, scenes I can barely comprehend.
You can only imagine my joy, then, when I wove my way into a career that afforded regular fixes of said adventure. As the Creative Director for One Thousand Design, I provide storytelling support for social impact organizations working around the world. I get to work with an insanely talented team of artists to help mission-minded organizations captivate audiences with their stories of impact, generosity, progress, and collaboration. Whether working from behind a screen or on the road, I have found adventure telling the stories of midwives in Afghanistan, students in Nepal, farmers in the Philippines, and school children in Haiti.
Next week I will have the privilege of traveling to Guatemala with Reading Village to tell their story. Having spent the past several years as their Director of Communications, I am intimately familiar with their story of young scholars leading indigenous Mayan communities out of poverty. I spend all year trying desperately to leverage photos, videos, and writing to close the gap between the organization’s donors and the scholars they support. I craft compelling campaigns, captivate donors’ imaginations, pull on heart strings—but nothing is as satisfying or as effective as Reading Village’s annual Learning Journey to Guatemala.
For one week each spring, my passion for storytelling collides with my thirst for adventure as we lead a small group of intrepid travelers to visit the communities in which they’ve invested. Closing the gap between disparate populations, between wealth and poverty, between north and south, can mean more than writing a check. There is an ever-growing group of change makers who want to meet, share, and experience the places and the people whom they support through charitable contributions. In the same way that I crave the sensual experience of international adventure, they are looking for an experiential understanding of the lives being changed by Reading Village’s literacy and leadership programs. This trip is that experience; this trip is where travel intersects with purpose and adventure combines with philanthropy. Meaning is found in meals shared with scholars, coffee sipped straight from the plantation, dirt roads walked, and tortillas made. Only after you’ve witnessed the raw struggle of these families and experienced the proud handshake of a young scholar can you understand the desperation and beauty that is Guatemala. Only then can you understand the impact of your contribution.
For eight days, I get to document this adventure, the colliding of cultures, the thoughtful exploration of worlds. As I work to capture a story of social change complete with all of the raw beauty and foreign scenes that I crave, I will be documenting a very different story–one about the adventure to be had while changing lives.
I’ve noticed that my own definition of adventure has evolved over the years. As I grow toward the fourth decade of my life, I require fewer fixes of adrenaline than I used to. I don’t need utter isolation and physical feats the same way I once did, but my need for cultural and international adventure is increasing to fill those voids. I crave meaningful interactions with all spectrums of humanity and my thirst for adventure is satisfied only once I’m adequately overwhelmed by a new place and new people. It is there in the bridges that we build across cultures and the common growth that we gain where I will learn the most about myself. And no matter the definition, that has always been the product of my adventures.
Follow Kassia Binkowski on her upcoming adventure to Guatemala with Reading Village. For daily updates head over to www.facebook.com/readingvillage and www.instagram.com/readingvillage, and check back on womensadventuremagazine.comnext week for another article about her Latin American adventures in experiential philanthropy.