We both grew up in the Midwest; Ashley just southwest of Chicago, Illinois and Jason just south of Indianapolis, Indiana. We first met our freshman year at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Florida. Our first conversation lasted over an hour and revolved largely around our interest in travelling. As we grew closer, our passion for travelling grew stronger. We couldn’t wait to explore all the places we talked about, so much that we ended up studying abroad at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland, Australia our sophomore year. After that taste of exploring and the experience of a different culture, we were officially hooked.

On our college budget we traveled locally and biked, climbed, and hiked anything we could find. After relocating to Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania for our junior and senior years, we found our professional niche – recreation. We both graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Science in Recreation Management, with Ashley holding a specialization in Therapeutic Recreation and Jason one in Outdoor Recreation.

After graduation, we moved to the Chicago, Illinois area to plan our wedding and make initial plans for an around-the-world trip. We were married August 4, 2007 standing barefoot on the beautiful shoreline of Lake Michigan in Saugatuck, Michigan.

There were many snags in the planning process, from volunteer organizations being completely booked to countries not having connecting flights between one another. We found that a trip of this magnitude does not come easily and that “the real world” doesn’t like to let you go. Moreover, we had both found wonderful jobs at the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association, providing therapeutic and recreation services to individuals with special needs. Ashley was a Day Camp and Special Events Coordinator, supervising a number of summer camps and planning a multitude of special events for individuals with various disabilities. Jason was an Athletics Coordinator, supervising Paralympics (Adapted Sports) and Special Olympics sports programs as well as a sports program for individuals with behavioral disorders. The longer we stayed, the harder it was to leave.

Sitting at Panera Bread one evening in November, talking about when would be a “good time” to leave, we found two cheap, one-way flights to San Jose, Costa Rica. Figuring we couldn’t pass up an opportunity for airline tickets that inexpensive, we booked them. After years of talking, we were finally set to depart on May 14, 2009.

The reality of what we were doing soon set in and we began creating an itinerary, working out how to fund the trip, securing volunteer placements, applying to teach English, and working on the myriad other tasks that were waiting to be completed.

It wasn’t until we sat down and talked about our expectations for the trip that we realized a common theme. We realized it was very important to both of us that volunteering be a part of the trip. We had both been avid volunteers throughout our school careers, working with children, relief efforts, and environmental cleanups. We wanted to continue that practice on this trip. As our plans progressed, we decided that the trip shouldn’t be planned to include volunteering, it should be planned with volunteering at its heart. It was from this idea that our travel philosophy was born.