Crossing the borders of difference and indifference, fear and fulfillment

“Adventure Philanthropist: Great Adventures Volunteering Abroad,” by Erin Michelson. emComm LLC. 258 pages. Trade paper $16.95.

Not long ago, a mid-fortyish woman with a highly successful professional career in finance, decided to change her life. The change did not come without preparation: she had already traveled widely and worked with philanthropic enterprises. She had already put together a start-up network of can-do contacts for her new path. In 2010, Erin Michelson went into action, creating for herself “the opportunity to wander the globe and open up my mind and heart to worlds I never knew existed.” AP_postcard2sm

Her memoir of the two years nonstop activity through 2011 and 2012 is the substance of her highly original and exciting book. However, its arrangement is thematic rather than chronological. In organizing her activities as a vagabond explorer and philanthropic agent, Ms. Michelson explores the meanings of ten key emotions that we all share. Essentially, she lays out a process of remaking her identity through goal-setting, action, and constant learning.

The emotion-chapters are headed “Hope,” “Humility,” “Awe,” “Fear,” “Joy,” “Anger,” “Surprise,” “Pain,” “Love,” and “Gratitude.”

Her adventures focused on visiting places where essential needs are unmet, include Ethiopia, Mozambique, Laos, Nepal, Honduras, Zambia, Lebanon, Uganda, Egypt, Borneo, Zambia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, and Finnish Lapland. Believe it or not, there are another dozen do locations in Erin Michelson’s grand tour of lands were people are limited by shortages of every kinds, including shortages of respect, self-worth, and security.

In almost every case, the Adventure Philanthropist attaches herself to an enterprise that is already trying to meet needs – establishing housing and schooling for abused women and children, correcting abuses of the environment that diminish the quality of life, providing medical care in regions without sufficient health systems (or even safe drinking water), creating new local industries to improve economic opportunity, and so forth.

Michelson

Michelson

She seeks out and meets true heroes in these places, people making the often lonely and against-the-odds efforts to repair the world through selfless, determined, and courageous action.  Ms. Michelson learns, participates, and counsels. She shares useful skills in asset building, management, and marketing to provide necessary tools for these philanthropic initiatives.

Now, most importantly, she tells us about these places, problems, and people. She offers her own experience as one template for getting others involved. It’s not just the reward of giving – the do-gooder satisfaction – that is made appealing. It is also the growth in self-knowledge, the detailed learning of a range of disciplines, the resilience and endurance in the face of seemingly intractable situations. It is the truly spiritual exhilaration of risk-taking. It is the elation of positive outcomes. It is making a difference, and making it almost every day. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the February 12, 2014 issue of Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the February 13 Naples, Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, and Palm Beach Gardens editions, click here:Florida Weekly – Erin Michelson

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