World Travel with Purpose
Meet Caroline Han. Caroline has an easy smile and a contagious, knowing laugh, and laughs often. She’s forthright and thoughtful and funny. She is utterly charming. Until a year ago, Caroline worked as a field marketing rep for a coconut water company. In August of 2018, she and her fiancé Nick quit their jobs, got married, and went on a year-long honeymoon around the Pacific. They financed their adventure by working as they went, through a nonprofit company they formed in a spirit of global volunteerism. They named the company Elemental Affairs. Caroline and Nick have spent the last year traveling from small community to small community, installing solar energy infrastructure, planting trees, providing cooking equipment (and helping feed communities with that equipment), assembling wells and water filtration systems, building homes, and forging connections between rural communities to allow them to help each other.
Caroline’s excitement about the work she and Nick did through Elemental Affairs is palpable. “Do good and have fun while doing it,” she says. It’s clear that, to her, good and fun are equally important and inextricably linked. The new couple enjoyed working their way around Oceania and Southeast Asia, but they’re fully aware that the labor that two people can provide is a drop in the bucket compared to the awareness that those same two people can raise if they share their stories with the world.
Playing with kids in Cambodia
One way Caroline was able to share her experiences was by using the 1 Second Everyday app to document her adventures. She took daily footage and used the app to create and post compilations (monthly mashes) on Instagram at the start of each month. Caroline initially learned about the 1 Second Everyday app from a friend who works in the social media sphere, and decided that it would be a great way to document her year of travel. She was tickled to learn that 1 Second Everyday was originally inspired by a situation similar to her own (for that story, read this). Like 1SE’s founder, Caroline wanted a way to remember her trip and to succinctly share her experiences with friends and family. Unlike many 1SE humans (who use the app to document everyday life), Caroline began using it specifically to document her travels during this year abroad.
Nick does the video editing for the official Elemental Affairs posts, which tend to take a top-down view (sometimes literally — there’s a lot of drone footage) of the communities they’ve worked with and the work they’ve done there. These videos are polished, professional, and frequently convey a sense of the urgent needs of these places. The focus is to highlight the needs of these communities, and to encourage viewers to learn more and find their own ways to help.
By contrast, Caroline’s footage is much more intimate and raw, documenting their travels, adventures, and work in a personal way. The tone of her mashes is excited, eager, and fun. “I wanted something for my own,” she explains. “I thought about putting it together by hand, but [1SE] was the perfect way to do it.” She notes that she began using 1.5-second snippets after some family members expressed frustration over the initial 1-second versions. “My mother-in-law was like, ‘They’re going too fast! I can’t tell what you’re doing!’ But now everyone can grasp what the footage is.”
A Year in the Pacific
Nick and Caroline are ocean people. Nick is an avid surfer, and they have a deep and abiding connection to the ocean. Keep that in mind as you check out their route below.
They got married in Hawaii, then kicked off their year of travel in Tahiti. Eventually, they would travel to over a dozen different countries. But how does one go about planning a trip this long and complicated?
To help them plan their assignments and make contact with local communities who needed help, Caroline made use of a platform called Workaway to plan many of the stops on their trip. Workaway connects travelers with communities that are in need of a variety of services and skills. These services vary widely, from physical labor like construction, farming, and building infrastructure to help from specialists like marine biologists to help design sustainable fisheries and ecologists to help communities balance their needs against the needs of the local and global environment.
Neither Caroline nor Nick is a specialist. In fact, they didn’t go into this adventure with any special training. This is particularly noteworthy because it makes their trip a great example of the ways that anyone can help. You don’t have to be an expert or have enormous international funding to cook a meal, swing a hammer, or plant a tree. Small kindnesses are precious, no matter where they happen.
Every six-year-old’s dream job — digging holes with big machines
In exchange for the work they did in the communities they visited all over Southeast Asia, Caroline and Nick were provided with food and lodgings in the community, learned about life in vastly different communities, and met some really fascinating people.
Then they did the thing that will undoubtedly have the greatest long-term effect — they shared their adventures and their work. Tools like 1 Second Everyday and platforms like Instagram have allowed Caroline and Nick to help draw increased attention to their cause. “We’ll always be able to find people in need and ways to help.” She says. The ability to encapsulate her adventures in digestible, narrative packets of has helped spread her story. Caroline says using 1 Second Everyday as a tool to share her experiences wasn’t a part of the plan from the beginning — she originally started filming one second every day as a personal project, but she’s excited about the attention her project has gotten and hopes that her year abroad with Nick will inspire others to follow in their footsteps — to make the best out of life.
Pulling fenceposts like an old hand
1SE as a Travelogue
Caroline’s monthly mashes throughout her voyage give the viewer a peek into a joyful and funny adventure. “At the beginning of the trip we had so much going on and I was so excited to document with this app that getting my daily video was easy,” she says. But after the first couple of months, she found it helpful to come up with a theme or plan for capturing footage. Her video for October, for example, is a series of clips of Caroline jumping onto, off of, or in front of some important place or object from that day. “My friends all called me a dork, but I had a lot of fun making that video. October was probably my favorite month,” she laughs.
Caroline also notes that it was easier to remember to capture her second a day when she had a specific goal or activity planned for that day. Knowing in advance what she was likely to want to capture helped her to grab a great moment that would work well within the larger narrative of the monthly mash, but would also communicate what she was up to with friends and family. “When I don’t have a lot to do,” she explains, “I start slacking.”
Nick helps renovate a home in Siem Reap, Cambodia
1SE also has a feature that allows the user to display the location where a specific snippet was taken, or to manually write in commentary about what was taking place at a specific moment. It’s a feature that some 1SE humans use constantly, some use occasionally, and some use not at all. Caroline is one of this last group. “For me, I loved having the date on the video,” she says, “but having any other text on the screen was just too much, especially when viewing on a mobile device,”
She does, however, carefully list where she’s been on the Instagram posts themselves. And given how much she’s traveled during this past year, I can see how listing the specific location of every daily snippet could lead to input exhaustion for the viewer. Her solution seems logical: let the video be fun, beautiful, and entertaining. Then, if one wants to know where a specific snippet was taken, the information is in the video description. Caroline lets the video be less about where she was, and more about what she saw and did, and who she met while she was there.
Doing Good and Having Fun While Doing It
Modern volunteerism, particularly in conjunction with tourism, has come under fire of late, and it’s no secret that the rate at which Americans participate in volunteerism has been dropping for a decade. Meanwhile, studies have shown that the rates of the kinds of natural disasters that cause displacement and death are increasing at an alarming rate, and that they’re likely to continue to rise. Naysayers to volunteerism claim that only systemic, institutional change has the potential to deal effectively with environmental cleanup, disaster relief, food crisis relief, or infrastructure building, particularly in developing countries, and that small-scale volunteerism is at best a band-aid. It’s a bit like saying that someone who’s been rear-ended in traffic shouldn’t get their car fixed because the real problem is that people need to be better drivers.
Caroline’s message is clear: it is, for better or worse, up to all of us to help those in need, and small groups helping in small ways do make a difference, especially when they start a trend. Take #trashtag as a prime example. This internet challenge, in which participants take photos of an area in their community before and after cleaning the area up (often posing proudly with piles of garbage bags full of refuse) started taking off early this year. As of this writing, the #trashtag hashtag on Instagram has over 116,000 posts. The largest of several TrashTag communities on Facebook has over 27,000 followers.
Trash Hero Thailand!
In Thailand, Caroline and Nick worked alongside members of the volunteer group Trash Hero to clean over three quarters of a ton of plastic off of a beach. Pause for a moment, and think about how many empty plastic bottles it takes to make up 1,600 pounds of trash. This was accomplished by a couple of dozen people, in a single day. Although beach cleanup groups like Trash Hero have existed for a long time, many of the people getting involved in the #trashtag trend are working alone or in small teams of friends. Small changes in small communities, when multiplied across the breadth and width of social media are beginning to make a big difference.
Elemental Affairs and the videos Caroline and Nick made of their projects aren’t limited to trash cleanup efforts, however. In the city of Siem Reap, Cambodia, Caroline and Nick worked with a local tuk-tuk operator, teacher, and serial do-gooder named Kim to provide meals for children learning English at the school Kim founded. They also helped renovate local homes to prepare for monsoon.
Smiles and laughs while rebuilding on Lombok
One project in particular that left a deep mark on Caroline took place on the island of Lombok, Indonesia. On Lombok, Caroline and Nick purchased, cooked, and distributed food to the people of two villages that were nearly leveled by an earthquake in 2018. The Lombok earthquake left over 400,000 people homeless and destroyed more than 80% of the buildings on the north side of the island. “That really resonated with us, when we saw the effects of the quake,” Caroline says. “These needs are never going to change. There are always more disaster relief needs popping up all the time.” Meeting the people affected by the quake and providing aid in these communities had a profound effect on Caroline, and she hopes to redirect Elemental Affairs to focus more on disaster relief in future projects.
There are people and communities in need — all the time, and all over the globe. Fortunately, there are projects like Elemental Affairs and people like Caroline and Nick to step up and help. And maybe you’re one of those people, too! If you want advice on starting your own volunteerism project, would like to contribute to Elemental Affairs, or simply want to learn more about where they’ve been and what they’ve accomplished, head over to their site. 1SE is super proud to have been involved in their work, even in a small way, and we can’t wait to see where they go next.
This is the second in a series of user stories, featuring folks who exemplify large cross-sections of 1SE-humans who not only use 1SE regularly, but also share their stories on Instagram. To read the first of this series, go here.