Travel Resource: Over 50 and Overseas
Do you have a wealth of experience, and are looking for ways to help others, travel, and experience the world? I've found an educator, John Dwyer, that took his passion for helping others overseas, and focused it toward helping folks over 50 to help others! Talk about the ripple effect - John's work is impacting people and communities around the world. His website, Over50andOverseas.com, is an excellent resource for learning about opportunities for volunteering overseas. John just got back from Egypt, and has spent many years helping others overseas. His background and work are both impressive and inspiring - and his website is an extremely valuable resource.
Taken at the Referendum Center (Polling Place) in Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt this month.
Let's talk with John about Over50andOverseas.com...
WE: Please tell us about Over50andOverseas.com...
JD: Over50andOverseas.com is a resource of international volunteer opportunities for folks over 50. I contact all of the organizations that are listed on the site. I ask them if they have programs that include the over 50 generations and, if they do, I add the organization to the site.
WE: What was the genesis of the site?
JD: I found in my conversations with friends, and with people with whom I discussed my travels, I would be asked, “How can I do that?” I started checking online volunteer resources and found that most volunteer websites were devoted to college students and did not address the interests of people over 50 years of age. I then chose to develop Over50andOverseas.com
A political meeting in Rajshahi, Bangladesh 2008
WE: How can people best use your site?
JD: The best way to begin to use the site is to go to the Making a Choice section of the website and study the questions. First examine your motivations. Go over the suggested questions a prospective volunteer should consider prior to making a decision. Then read and ponder the questions a prospective volunteer should ask sending organizations and former volunteers. After this preparation, it is time to go to the Volunteering Categories section and pick, choose, and contact organizations that have programs that are of interest. One can then narrow one’s focus and choose a program that fits their interests and desires.
WE: What are the benefits of being an older traveler?
JD: The most obvious benefit of being an older traveler is having more time to travel. A secondary but important benefit is having the funds to travel. It is a time to visit the places one has dreamed about, to experience different cultures and, for those so inclined, to give back. International volunteering in a well-structured, community based program, can be a very satisfactory way to experience another culture. It also offers a wonderful opportunity to reap the gratifying benefits of giving back.
With a political candidate Rajshahi, Bangladesh 2008
WE: What are the benefits of your diverse background?
JD: I believe the biggest benefit of my diverse background is the ability to hold conversations about many subjects. It works wonders in travel as a door-opener. Because I read widely as well, I usually know enough about various topics to a least seem informed. I have always been very curious – which probably has lead to my diverse background. I can remember sitting in an airport restaurant in Skopje, Macedonia talking to a man from Turkey about being a manufacturer’s representative. In Sweden, while waiting for a train, I spoke with a theater director about an American playwright whose play he was about to direct in Gothenburg. I met a detective from Marseilles, while working in Albania, and talked police work. There are many other conversations I can remember. In my generation, one was highly criticized for changing jobs, not worrying about a pension, and having too many interests. I find it amusing now that so many people tell me they are envious of my background and find my experiences fascinating.
WE: How can travelers over 50 best give back while they travel?
JD: Most cultures I have encountered value the wisdom and experience of elders. They appreciate the practical knowledge and know-how that has been gained in one’s lifetime. It is that background and information that over 50 travelers can give back. Travelers also find, when they return home, that their lives have been immeasurably enhanced by their giving.
At a woman's political meeting Rajshahi, Bangladesh, 2008
WE: Anything else to share?
JD: It is human nature to think of many obstacles which might block a new life path. I know I worried when I joined the Peace Corps. What will my son and daughter think? Can I adjust to less than favorable living conditions? Can I adjust to a new culture? These questions and many more kept passing through my mind. In the end, the answers were all positive. One finds that adjustment to new and different conditions is also part of human nature. There is only one way to experience the wonders of international volunteering and travel - take the first step! Nearly 20 years ago, I took the first step and am so thankful that I did. I just returned from a three-month election assignment in Cairo, Egypt. When I joined the Peace Corps in 1991, I could not have imagined the exciting doors that would open for me as a result of that decision.
WE: John, thanks so very much for sharing your site with us! Your experiences have definitely informed your extraordinary site - we highly recommend it to our readers!
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All photos courtesy and copyright John Dwyer.
Photo notes: I was a long-term observer to the election in Bangladesh in 2008. I was the Community Outreach Manager for the Out-of-Country Registration and Voting for the Southern Sudanese Referendum in Cairo
feature photo: Taken at an IDP camp I managed in 2002 in Herat, Afghanistan