Travel bug, anyone?  The gateway to summer has opened.  Plans, maps, and visions for escape are unfolding in preparation for one of the hottest vacation periods of the year.

Penny's poolside postcard from Panajachel.
Penny's poolside postcard from Panajachel

An eyeful of images from a friend's trip to another spot on the globe is all it takes to spark an urge to fly, to inspire the pondering of our personal borders, and to double-check our passports to ensure they are ready when we are if the travel bug bites.

Antigua, Guatemala
Antigua, Guatemala

A new road has risen to meet the armchair traveler in light of social media, phone technology, and the internet.  My cherished scrapbooks are adorned with paper postcards from places that piqued my interest by way of others' travels.  This week, my friend and nurse-colleague Penny upped the postcard-ante by bringing her postcard moments to life from Panajachel, a town in the Southwestern Guatemalan Highlands near Antigua, and about 90 miles from Guatemala City.  On most days this week, Penny and I have poured over the details of her Guatemalan adventure via Facebook messenger.  The live chats over our morning coffee and evening tea have inspired my heart's desire to get going on a service trip again...best I check my passport, now.

Some 14 years ago, while serving as a volunteer coordinator for the pediatric hospital where I work today as a nurse, I started planning a volunteer trip of my own to Tutova, a small Romanian town that is home to Tutova Hospital.  By way of Global Volunteers, a local tour operator for volunteer vacations, I partnered with a GV volunteer coordinator to travel with a group of hospital volunteers, nurses, and support staff to embark upon a two-week Adventure in Service.  Following a brown-bag lunch hosted by the volunteer services department to promote this trip, the overwhelming interest from staff filled not one, but two trips during that calendar year.  Fast forward a couple years, and the organizational demand to offer more opportunities for this kind of affiliate volunteer travel paved Adventures in Service to Ecuador, and later to Brazil.

Taking flight for Romania in 2002 with a group from Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Taking flight for Romania in 2002 with a group from Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota

My postcard chats with Penny this week inspired me to dust off my photo albums from these volunteer trips, and from service trips I did with Habitat for Humanity back in my college days.  I even turned up this little You Tube gem, an interview I did with Alix Kendall on Fox 9 Morning News about the trips I helped coordinate and served on in Romania and Ecuador.

Nurses volunteering in Romania
Some traveling volunteers teased that there was plenty of room in their suitcase for our new Romanian friends

Looking back over these memories, I am hit with the same sense of wonder I experienced on flights (or bus trips!) back from faraway places.  I wondered, what do I do now that I know about the need that exists in...(insert any locale of any service trip host, here).  Today, I'm as eager to explore this wonder with those of you who have been bit by a similar travel bug...what do we do with the exposures we've had  in service travel?

Penny and her nurse colleagues Cindy and Mary meet with staff at Mayan Families to set the course for their week of volunteering and plans for future visits
Penny and her nurse colleagues Cindy and Mary meet with staff at Mayan Families to plan for their week of volunteering and for potential future visits

I asked my friend Penny to expand on the postcard thoughts we exchanged during her trip to Panajachel.  Volunteering her nursing skills in this faraway place has fueled some new aspirations.  Come back to the blog next month to hear how Penny plans to further propel her answer to the call she heard from this community in Guatemala.

You can learn more about the host organization for Penny's volunteer trip at: www.mayanfamilies.org

You can even volunteer resources to this Guatemalan community from your armchair.

A favorite memory from my 2002 trip to Tutova Hospital's failure to thrive clinic, rocking this sweet one to sleep each day for naptime
A favorite memory from my 2002 trip to Tutova Hospital's failure to thrive clinic, rocking this sweet one to sleep each day for nap time

If you have reflections on how travel has impacted your vision for your place in this world, I'd love to hear them here.  If you've always dreamed of going on a volunteer vacation, tell us where you would like to go with this vision.  This space is yours to reflect.