FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Interview: Ken Budd, author of The Voluntourist

by Trazee Travel

Dec 5, 2014

© Ken Budd | The Voluntourist

Interviews
© Ken Budd | The Voluntourist

© Ken Budd | The Voluntourist

Ken Budd is a writer whose credits include The New York Times, Smithsonian, Huffington Post, Smithsonian and NBC’s Today. He is also the author of The Voluntourist—A Six-Country Tale of Love, Loss, Fatherhood, Fate, and Singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem, which documents his journey working in China, Ecuador, Palestine and Kenya for nine months.

 

Name: Ken Budd

 

Profession: Writer

 

Age: 48

 

Packing Tip?

Always pack a journal. I usually carry a small, light notepad in my pocket so I can record my impressions, emotions, memorable things people say — all the small-but-rich details we’re likely to forget.

 

Favorite travel memory?

For two weeks I volunteered at a special-needs school in Xi’an, China. I’d sometimes see a happy little boy, maybe five or six years old, accompanied by his grandfather. The boy couldn’t walk — I suspect he had cerebral palsy — so the grandfather carried him on his back, constantly, often up long flights of steps. I’ll never forget their bond and the grandfather’s quiet devotion.

 

Bucket List Destination?

Mars. Or anywhere in space. Here on Earth, I’d love to visit Japan, Peru, Egypt, Antarctica — pretty much any place I’ve never been.

 

Favorite off-the-beaten-path spot?

The Santa Lucia Lodge in Ecuador, south of Quito. Getting there requires a lung-busting two-hour hike: Santa Lucia is an Andes cloudforest — the elevation is around 10,000 feet — with no roads. The pay off? Heavenly, fiery sunsets as light fights through the clouds, plus nearly 400 species of birds and four-legged creatures ranging from pumas to rare spectacled bears.

 

What kind of traveler are you?

I believe in leaving your comfort zone. That means trying new things and new foods (you should never fly to San Francisco and eat at Applebee’s). I want experiences that pull you from the tour bus cocoon and onto the streets. The relationships you form, even if they’re fleeting, are the most rewarding part of any trip.

 

Funniest travel story?

I stayed with a local woman and her children when I was volunteering in Kenya. She lived about 20 minutes outside of Mombasa and one day we went to the city for lunch. I noticed that the matatus were much sleeker in the city. A matatu is a shared taxi — it’s the main way you get around in Kenya.

“The matitis are much nicer here,” I said.

“It’s matatus,” she said, correcting me.

“Oh — what did I say?”

Matitis.”

“What does that mean?”

And she said it means … boobs. So basically I’d been sitting in a restaurant saying, “You know, the boobs are much nicer here in the city. They seem so clean and freshly waxed.”

 

Best meal you’ve had on your travels?

I became obsessed with the falafel in the West Bank. So tasty.

 

Craziest thing you’ve done while traveling?

I volunteered for two weeks near Bethlehem, based in the Beit Jebrin refugee camp. Avoiding the region’s politics is impossible, and our hosts asked the roughly 40-plus volunteers to attend a weekly protest against the security wall. I decided to go as an observer. In some ways, the protest is routine: A group of Palestinians (often joined by internationals and sometimes a few Israeli citizens) march up to a row of heavily armed Israeli soldiers standing behind razor wire. The protestors make speeches. It’s nonviolent. But you could feel the tension in the air. Then some kids rolled a tire into the razor wire. And one of the soldiers pushed one of the kids. We were lucky that day: it didn’t turn violent. But two weeks later, the soldiers attacked the crowd.

 

Favorite item collected from your travels?

My wife and I taught English for two weeks at a rural elementary school in Costa Rica. At the end of our stay, the principal gave us a thank you gift: a keychain with photos of us and the students and school. He apologized — he wished it was a bigger gift. I told him it was one of the most touching things I have ever received.

 

Where next?

I want to visit Spain, which has long been on my dream list. It would be good incentive to improve my feeble Spanish. And Mars seems a bit unrealistic for now.

 

#TrazeeTravel

Insta Feed
Products / Food/Drink
Aug 9, 2022

Baketivity

If you have kids in the house, you likely already know what a challenge it can be anytime they come into the kitchen. Whether they want to help with a batch of chocolate chip cookies or you’re just trying to make any ol’ dinner, messes — and maybe a few tears — are likely to ensue. Baketivity helps families streamline the kids-in-the-kitchen experience, with baking kits featuring everything you need, as well as easy directions, so you can enjoy more treats and fewer tears. This summer, it has even given its subscription boxes a travel twist, focusing on sweet treats from countries like Sweden, Mexico and Italy.

United’s 100 Percent Green Commitment to be Carbon Neutral by 2050

United Airlines remains firmly committed toward sustainability in aviation. The latest development in its eco-conscious goals includes working with Oxy Low Carbon Ventures to commercialize the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) with biotech firm Cemvita Factory. Cemvita looks to develop a revolutionary new way to produce SAF by using carbon dioxide and synthetic microbes. Additionally, United Airlines Ventures (UAV) recently announced an equity investment in Fulcrum, and United has invested more in SAF production than any other airline in the world.

Trends / Top Trends
Aug 9, 2022

Celebrate the Award Winners, as Voted by our Trazee Travel Readers

It’s time for a celebration as we announce the winners of our 2022 The Trazees, in their eighth year. Congratulations to all the amazing winners!

Slideshow
Aug 9, 2022

6 Must-See Sites in St. Louis, Missouri

It’s time to start dreaming of your next trip. Here’s six must-see sites in St. Louis, Missouri, for inspiration.

8 Reasons to Press the Green Button and Visit Ireland

Start planning that long-awaited trip to the island of Ireland. With all travel restrictions now lifted, there has never been a better time to visit.

Trends / Adventure
Aug 9, 2022

Chatham Bars Inn, Lexus Deliver Ultimate Beach Drive Experience

Cape Cod’s Chatham Bars Inn partnered with Lexus to offer the Lexus Ultimate Beach Drive Experience. The luxurious off-road beach experience allows guests access to Cape Cod beaches from behind the wheel of a Lexus GX460. Chatham Bars Inn is the only resort on Cape Cod to secure the necessary permits to drive on to some of the area beaches.