Such journeys force people to face experiences through which they ultimately learn much more about themselves, says Jim. Following on from his first book, “Have Bag - Will Travel”, the second book is titled “The Warlord’s Hospital and Other Stories”.
Drawing on over 45 years of personal journal entries, the series chronicles some of his experiences living and working in developing countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, as well as low-cost adventure travel to exotic destinations on every continent except Antarctica.
Ten percent of proceeds from book purchases are donated to charitable organisations in the developing world.
Originally from Buffalo, New York, Jim grew up as a pastor’s son. Following years of pain, depression and suffering with Crohn’s disease, Jim at age 19 was fitted with an external pouch. Almost immediately after receiving the ‘bag’, which alleviated the pain and misery, he felt strong and exhilarated and was catapulted into a whole new energised life. For the first time in years, he was free to enjoy all that life offers and that freedom continues now, 45 years later.
Over the years, Jim has spoken to college students, members of voluntary organisations and other interested groups about world service work and other options for international experiences – just as someone spoke to him 45 years ago, when he was a summer employee at the YMCA.
Jim has lived and worked in over 20 countries of the Asia-Pacific region. In that time, he completed his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Public Health at the University of Hawaii. This was funded by a State of Hawaii academic award and a US Government grant administered by the East-West Center research institute in Honolulu, whose mission is to “promote better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue”.
Jim first learned about YMCA overseas volunteer opportunities when he was a college student working a summer job at Silver Bay YMCA on Lake George, New York. After graduating in 1982, he was soon off to Sri Lanka for a six-week internship with the Colombo YMCA, where he led outdoor recreation and life skills programs for disadvantaged youth. He ended up staying for six months.
After Sri Lanka, and his subsequent postings with the YMCAs in Western Samoa and Fiji Islands, Jim was hooked on the thrill of international living. For the next eight years, he worked with voluntary organisations in developing countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
An experienced expat, Jim has been to more than 60 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America and the Pacific. He currently works as an international health and development consultant for various humanitarian aid agencies, and he is also an internationally certified classical yoga and meditation teacher and teaches both as a seasonal volunteer at YMCAs in the US and abroad.
Having survived these adventures, Jim still travels, and lives in a peaceful seaside setting in Ao Por. Jim first made his way to Phuket on a fishing boat from the South in the early 1980s, after staying at a bungalow owned by a local family on the “back side” of Phi Phi Island. Like so many other people, he joined the aid efforts in the aftermath of the tsunami in 2004, after which he made the permanent move to Phuket.
For Jim, joining aid efforts abroad is the key way to gain genuine life-impacting experiences through travel, the types of experiences that go beyond the popular tourist destinations and give real meaning and purpose to one’s travels. During his seasonal returns as a volunteer at the YMCA, he meets many young people who are happy to travel across the United States, but stop there.
“They are too apprehensive about travelling abroad, which is the one thing that will truly deliver what they are looking for: genuine life experiences that will broaden their understanding of the world,” he says.
Money is not the issue. Jim’s first trip abroad to Sri Lanka was paid for with money from his paper route.
For Jim, his latest book offers inspiration to any people looking to finally take the plunge to travel abroad. “Many young people are eager for an overseas experience, and are searching for direction, but for various reasons, never get there. In a world of increasing global interdependence, the lasting benefits of international travel and cross-cultural service experiences are truly priceless,” he says.
“The books will resonate with anyone who has desired to travel and live overseas. The stories demonstrate how anyone can experience genuine fulfilment and self-discovery through different, freer ways of living, no matter what your budget,” he adds.
“It will stoke the fires of adventure, especially among young people. It will inspire and encourage those seeking something beyond their national borders, beyond the mainstream tourist destinations, superficial material lifestyles and empty career paths. The discovery early in life of the deeper meaning and potential derived from international and cross-cultural perspectives might even save 30 years of meaningless work later.
“It [such travel] reveals that you grow when you give back. Giving back to the world in return for all that has been given, and expanding one’s horizons through travel, leads to immense personal growth,” he adds.
The book demonstrates perseverance with a positive mindset. “After years of suffering, it gave me back my health, my freedom ‒ and 45 years on, life keeps getting better all the time,” Jim says.
“This story encourages readers to be accepting, flexible and to learn to roll with the flow. If you’ve been bumped off the track, the next adventure is about to begin! Find the silver lining that transforms negatives into positives, and new doors open.”
Both Jim’s books are available on Amazon. The Kindle version of each costs just US$3.99. Jim is currently in the final stages of writing the third instalment.