One Gift, Three Rules, and a Life-Changing Journey Around the World

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Travel can be hard – challenging at times, less than comfortable, and the stresses of dealing with unfamiliar cultures, people, and food. This can sometimes overwhelm the joys of travel – the wonder of the newly discovered, the kindness of people, the breathtaking scenery. Travel is as much about the journey within as the journey without. It’s about cultural adaptation, and changing worldviews, and intercultural growth. And, it’s about being open to learning, trying new things, understanding difference. 

Author Kim Dinan at the Rickshaw Run, India. From One Gift, Three Rules, and a Life-Changing Journey Around the World: The Yellow Envelope
Rickshaw Run India

How can we dig more deeply into this sort of journey within, on our travels? Author Kim Dinan’s new book, The Yellow Envelope, offers clues: Compassion, to ourselves and others. Connection - to pay attention to others, and give of ourselves. 

In The Yellow Envelope, Dinan beautifully writes of internal and external journeys, of relationships and change, of giving it all up to explore, and of discovering that new life paths take time, courage, and vulnerability. By giving of herself – as well as money from a yellow envelope – Dinan learns to live – and travel – with an open heart. 

This is a beautifully written memoir that gives readers a glimpse into a life of travel, of growth and change, of the messy, chaotic, beauty of the world. Highly recommended.

One Gift, Three Rules, and a Life-Changing Journey Around the World: The Yellow Envelope

We were lucky enough to catch up with Dinan and ask about her book, inspiration, changing worldview, and more. Here's what she had to say...

Please tell us about your new book, The Yellow Envelope...
Back in 2010, I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t living the kind of life I had hoped to live. Ever since I was young, I’d wanted to be a writer and I’d always dreamed of traveling and seeing the world, but instead of chasing those dreams, I followed a very traditional path. I started a career, got married, and bought a house. It was a good life and I wasn’t unhappy, but I realized that somewhere along the way I’d lost the sense of wonder and possibility I’d once felt for my life.

So, I dreamed up this grand plan to save money, quit my job, sell everything I owned, and take an open-ended trip around the world. It took some work, but I convinced my husband to come along, too. We bought one-way tickets to Ecuador because they were the cheapest we could find, and we counted down the days until we could set out into the world.

Right before our departure, we had dinner with friends and they gave us a going away gift: a yellow envelope tied in a beautiful yellow bow. Inside the envelope was a check for $1000 and instructions to give the money away as we traveled. There were only 3 rules: Don’t overthink it, share our experiences if we want to, and don’t feel pressured to give it all away. 

The book is about who we met and gave the money to - and it’s also about what happens when a dream you’ve held for so long slams up against the reality of actually living it. It’s a soul-searching book about giving and transformation. 

One Gift, Three Rules, and a Life-Changing Journey Around the World: The Yellow Envelope

What inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to share the story of the yellow envelope and of the kindness of Michele and Glenn (the friends who gave us the money), and I also wanted to share my personal story of following my inner truth. I wanted to show people that even though our dreams may scare us, we shouldn’t let the fear stop us—that the experience of living out those pieces of ourselves are worth the risk. 

Why is it important to give, while traveling?
I think that most travelers find that they are on the receiving end of so much kindness when they travel and giving feels natural. But I don’t think that money is the only way to give. We can give our time and energy through volunteering, and our goodwill through kindness. When traveling, I think it’s pretty important to stick to that rule of thumb about leaving someplace better than you found it—even if it’s just by showing gratitude for all you’ve received while there. 

Your travels were changed because of the yellow envelope - in what ways do you suggest people use their own yellow envelope (or concept thereof) while traveling?
Well, I think the true power of the yellow envelope is not that there is money to give away (although that was pretty amazing), but that having a yellow envelope makes you much more conscious of your everyday ability to be of service. When you have a yellow envelope, you pay more attention to those around you and you think to yourself, “How can I help today?” Nothing changes except for your level of awareness. When you set out with the intention of giving, you realize that there are so many opportunities. 

How can learning about the lives of locals while you're traveling change your worldview? 
On a broad scale, I think that this is the biggest gift that travel gives us. It’s nearly impossible to go into a country and be greeted with kindness and then go home and believe that the religion those people practice or their way of life is “bad.” I know I’m simplifying it, but basically, travel takes away that idea that the “others” are bad and scary and “we” are good and right. I didn’t start out with that worldview to begin with, but traveling made me realize more than ever how very similar we all are—we all basically want the same things.

On a smaller scale, I think it just pays to be curious. I found that people want to tell you about their lives and they want to hear about yours. Most people are curious and if you stay open, you’ll be blessed with genuine interactions with people - even if you can’t speak their language.

One Gift, Three Rules, and a Life-Changing Journey Around the World: The Yellow Envelope

What's up next for you?
I wish I knew! I feel like life could take my family and me in one of three directions and I just don’t know which one it will be yet. 

Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I’d love for people to know about The Yellow Envelope project. Once I came back to the states, I began asking people if I could mail them a yellow envelope. There’s just one rule this time - use your envelope to do something kind for someone else. I’ve mailed over 1,000 envelopes to people all over the world and anyone can request one by visiting The Yellow Envelope Project Facebook page. There’s also a yellow envelope in the back of every physical copy of The Yellow Envelope. 

I can be found here:

The book can be purchased online or at your favorite bookstore.

Here’s a great interview with Dinan, if you want to hear more:

All photos courtesy and copyright Kim Dinan