I met Ian McDonald back in 1993 when I was preparing to volunteer with AVI, also in the Solomon Islands. He was a cool and inspirational dude! And realistic. Interesting reflecting on his comments here – the answers I gave then, and would give now, certainly fit well into the OK rationales. But he was (and clearly still is) always realistic about the inevitable challenges and difficulties encountered along the way.
In 1990, I worked in the Victorian Public Service – I was practising living a ‘normal’ life, doing ‘normal’ things, with ‘normal’ clothes, listening to ‘normal’ music, and basically, behaving myself. One of my bosses, Sue K, went to Papua New Guinea as a volunteer and her stories were exciting and inspiring and adventurous and challenging and awe inspiring – all the things my current ‘normal’ life were not. By the time Sue had returned home, I’d been overcome by impatience and the thought of never really doing anything useful, and had applied for leave without pay to pursue a one year teacher education course. Long story short, they didn’t let me, I quit and I spent 1991 becoming a qualified secondary school teacher, specialising in Art and Media. It was a time of major cutbacks (anyone remember Jeff Kennett?) and I was assured there would be no job at the end of it. That is when I first applied to be a volunteer overseas.
At that time, the process was more about contacting the organisation (AVA at that time) and letting them know you were interested in volunteering overseas. I remember the classic question: Asia, Pacific or Africa? Asia – busy cities, too many people, no, Africa – hot and dry, no cities, no, too hard, too far, Pacific? Palm trees, beaches, perfect weather? Easy choice! No position was forthcoming at that time for a newly qualified Art/media teacher so I packed up anyway and set off to Kalgoorlie, Western Australia for two years (1992-3). Wherever I go, I end up getting bored/frustrated/letting life pass me by – usually (then) after around the 1 year mark, and spend the next year trying to move to the next adventure. Perfect time to re-activate my application to volunteer, and this time a position was found. I set off to Honiara in the Solomon Islands as an AVA (Australian Volunteer Abroad) a few months later (1994) for the next adventure.