A New Chapter

Welcome back! For those of you who don’t know, my name is Lucia Shindell and my family and I are going to drive around the world. Four years ago, my mom and dad (Deb and Colburn Shindell) packed all possessions, canceled all plans, and sent our family on a whirlwind journey that would change our lives forever. Starting in South America, we worked our way from continent to continent, making incredible memories and meeting even more incredible people.

If you want to check out my old blog, it covers most of our life (in as much detail as a ten-twelve year old girl can) from the months before we left to the final days. The site is Traveling Perfume – Lucia’s Blog. In the next four years, I will be discussing the things we have done, travel tips, and seeing the world can affect a person more fundamentally then anyone realizes. I’ll post again when we’re on the road!


Living in a “Sh!thole Country”

I have lived a lot of my life on the road, whether that be traveling briefly to Egypt or Turkey, or spending several months or years abroad. These experiences have given me an outlook on life that I am eternally grateful for, and will never stop trying to share with others.



Unfortunately, many members of our government and country have not had the opportunity to see how others survive and make their way in the world. Now this would be completely excusable if those same people did not ridicule and belittle other cultures without knowing the first thing about how life works in other parts of the world.

DSCF9843 (1)

Currently I am living the hut life in one of our President’s so called ‘sh!thole countries’, and I could not be happier. The Muga family lives on roughly three acres of land, spilt between a main house, a traditional kitchen, another house for one of the older sons, three volunteer huts, a cow shed, and a pit latrine/shower stall. Everything is made out of mud, wood, concrete, and sheet metal with concrete or packed dirt floors. Most of the huts have a fridge, double beds, porthole-sized windows and a bucket tap.

DSCF9862 (1)

When we arrived in the village, a herd of kids came dashing out to greet us, shaking hands and shouting local greetings. They were soon followed by the adults, beginning an enthusiastic traditional welcoming song and inviting us into their living room. The room was stuffed full of cushy arm chairs, an old television and phone, and pictures of the family. I instantly felt like a long lost relative for whom they had been waiting.


Later that night, when we got inside the huts and opened the fridge, we saw four liters of coke, several liters of water, pineapples, watermelons and mangos all rolling around in the bottom. I went to bed that night, curled up under a mosquito net, with a smile on my face.


Within three days we felt right at home, splitting our day between building a poultry coop for the family, volunteering at the local school, and working on our own classwork. It has only taken us this long to see how life flows here. More time is set aside for sitting outside and looking at the sky or chatting with your neighbor. America is incredibly fast paced compared to most of the world. When was the last time you sat outside without your phone, without music, without a book, without someone to talk to, and just looked at the sunset?  Now I know that I’m no one to be preaching about taking a moment to sit, but after a few days of just looking I felt far more energetic and enthusiastic.

DSCF9852 (1)

While we were walking around the village, greeting people and getting the lay of the land, we ended up next to the lake shore. Our guide Raphine Muga (Kar Geno Facebook) explained that the women hurrying around were collecting sand from the lake bed. Four women will work most of everyday for two months to fill a garbage truck sized container with sand.


They are paid thirty-five dollars per load, but split between four women that is only nine dollars for two months worth of hot, exhausting, soggy, slippery work. What really put that in perspective for me was remembering when I made nine dollars in an afternoon of selling lemonade in the shady park when I was only seven, or that one drink at Starbucks is almost a month’s pay for many of the people around the world.


This experience more than any has shown me the duty I have to our world, and the people in it. I am in no way speaking for all of America, but you will be hard pressed to find an American working that hard to stay afloat, trying their absolute best, pushing themselves to their physical limit, just to put one more meal on the table, and still have time to give a stranger a smile. It seriously changed the way I think about my life. I plan on having a picture on my bedroom wall of these women, so every time I whine about school, or my love life, or how hard my life is, I remember how lucky I am and my responsibility to people like those women

Diving Tofo!


Tofo Beach

Leaving South Africa with our newly arrived truck, we drove to Tofo, Mozambique to volunteer with Underwater Africa, a marine science and conservation program. The month we spent there is the longest we’ve ever been in one place outside of Reno. One of the things I crave when traveling long term is a little consistency.


Digging in the mud

Casa Barry (the lodge we were staying at) was one of the few places where we found it. Once we got a feel for how they interpreted food orders, we pretty much got the same thing every day! We did find a frog in our lettuce once, but after all, we are in Africa. Although it was wonderful to have a temporary home and really get to know the people we were spending time with, it was one of the hardest goodbyes we’ve ever said.


Underwater photoshoot

Volunteering as a kid, your contribution is always underestimated, for good reason most of the time. You’re given the less important jobs, as well as the ones that will benefit your goal the least. However, almost as soon as we arrived, my brother and I were each given a marine question to research and give a hypothesis and conclusive proof on. Not only would the answer to the question benefit the program but it also gave us the experience of formatting the correct response to a scientific question in a real situation.


Diving was a critical part of collecting data, and us and the other volunteers had a dive scheduled four days a week. Although I wasn’t able to dive properly when we were in Thailand several years ago, I was with my parents right up until they got in the water, so I knew some of what goes into a dive. Usually you would board a catamaran off a dock, with all you gear strapped in and prepared for you. Snacks and drinks were below decks, and the ride was more or less smooth and quick.

Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 7.00.20 PM

The ride out to the dive site

Nothing could have been more different from Tofo diving. Since the lodges and dive shops are based out of a bay, the water is too shallow for a dock, so the rubber dinghies (imagine the type of boat seal team six would use, except ours are bright orange) are prepared on the beach, then pushed into the shallows by a tractor. It’s the divers jobs to haul the boat into deeper water, fighting against the waves and current. Once you are on board, the dive masters yell at you to secure your feet in the straps on the floor and hold on tight to the ropes running along the sides. It’s a hair raising journey (forty-five minutes at most) out to the dive site through massive waves.


Local kid’s soccer ball

Finding the dive site and actually getting in the water is an adventure all by itself. When we arrive at a seemingly random point in the middle of the Indian ocean (our skippers need a GPS to find them) we all try to balance and not throw up as the boat rocks and we put on our gear. Then on the count of three we roll backwards into the water with what’s called a negative entry (you suck all the air out of your flotation devices so you sink immediately and avoid getting carried away by a surface current). Not terrifying at all! A negative entry is completely disorienting.

Watershot Camera

Negative entry

You enter with a splash, so not only are you surrounded by other people with heavy metal tanks and black wetsuits, but the bubbles make it impossible to see. The only way I could deal with it was swimming as hard as I could straight down and away from all the people near the surface. Sometimes somebody wouldn’t empty their flotation device all the way, so they would shoot back up to the surface and have to descend again. Once you found the descent line (sometimes you can’t see the ocean floor) we would all float down and collect on the bottom. After we are all calm and ready, we continue with the dive. Once the dive is completed you haul yourself into the boat and the skipper hands you a lollipop!

Watershot Camera

Our first whale shark!

When it is time to land, hopefully after swimming with a whale shark, you secure yourself again before the skippers head at full speed at the beach. If all goes well and nobody chokes on their lollipop, it’s a relatively smooth slide onto the sand. Naturally, our very first landing was anything but smooth. At high tide there is a bowl of harder sand formed so our thirty mph charge was stopped short. We were all thrown to the front of the boat, and the skipper who stands behind the wheel at the front did a kind of summersault over the dash board. Thankfully no one was hurt and despite reassurances that it was one of the roughest landings ever, we were a little timid the next time it came to landing. Occasional screaming or swearing became the family norm!


Long story short, Tofo beach has become my favorite place to be while away from home.

Alternative Realities – Madagascar

In a shocking change of scenery, we left green Scotland for the jungles, plains, and deserts of Madagascar. Madagascar has the poorest economy in the world that is not in conflict and we immediately felt it was one of the most rural countries we had ever visited. We saw kids no older than five or six looking after even younger children, carrying firewood or rounding up chickens.  Eight or nine year olds were herding zebu (local equivalent of a cow and a status symbol) and fourteen year old girls looking to be  or already married.


At first glance, it seems like a childhood-stealing culture, but after many hours spent looking at villages as we drove through, it occurred to me that hard work is an essential part of their childhood. By our standards it seems unfair, but by the way they live, it is a normal activity. As long as they can remember, they’ve been helping their mothers with the laundry, working in a field or carrying water for their family. A hard day’s work is no different from any other day, instead of something to prepare for.


As we drove through the villages and towns, I would see many young girls, all younger than myself, accompanied with an infant and an older man. At first I thought they were looking after a younger sibling, but then when I asked our guide, he explained that those were their babies and the older men with them, twenty years or older, were their husbands.


At first I was shocked and a little horrified to imagine not only being married but having a baby at my age. However, as I spent more and more time thinking about an equivalent in our society, I realized that we are expected to go to middle school, high school, get a drivers license, go to prom, and possibly go to college or work before getting married. The pressure of marriage is just as intense, just on a different timeline.


The last time we were abroad, I was eleven. In most of the countries we visited, I wasn’t “on the map” or expected to be married, so I didn’t feel uncomfortable and wasn’t viewed any differently than my brother. However, now that I am in my “marital prime” in some countries, I have found myself being treated very differently. Men rarely look me in the eye and instead of being timid and shy, children are more likely to approach me than my brother because I am similar in age to their mothers. When I mentioned what I was noticing to my mother, she said that just like I say it must be sad to have lost what we would consider a childhood, they may be saying how lonely I must be without a husband and kids to keep me company. It reminded me of a theme I appreciated during our last trip – that because something is different does not mean that it is bad.


Madagascar was one of the most challenging countries we have ever visited, with its harsh landscapes, foreign culture, and struggling economy. However, it is one of my favorite countries because of its kind and cheerful people and eye opening opportunities.   Seeing girls my age in a different culture made me reflect on societal pressures I have experienced. Because these pressures are different doesn’t mean they are any less fierce.

A Soul Crushing Trek – Dissected

DISCLAIMER – If you are thinking of doing a long trek or backpacking in the near future, I would like to warn you, for this post will be completely honest about the difficulties and pains of trekking in addition to the benefits.


After leaving the USA, we touched down in Edinburgh, Scotland, as the beginning of our second trip. Scotland is a breathtakingly beautiful country, with its old winding streets, quaint little villages, and incredible landscapes. One of the many ways to see Scotland’s natural wonders is trekking. Many people will tell you that the benefits of trekking include the sense of accomplishment and the feeling of oneness with nature as you walk, but I am here to tell you that those feelings are only half of the story.

IMG_4926 2

Those feelings only come at the end of the day, when you can take off your shoes and socks and forget about the aches and pains of the day. The feelings while you are on the trail are very, very different. While you are walking, it is difficult to focus on anything except the pain in your feet, the rocks scraping your ankles, and the muddy puddles soaking your shoes.


Although the amazing vistas when you stop to catch your breath do lighten the mood, the disbelief at how far we still have to walk that day and the desire to just sit down seem to dampen it. Brother-sister bickering becomes a daily occurrence, with conversations among the lines of, “Lucia, quit walking behind to me!” or “Mac! why do you have to breath so loudly!” and many, many more.


While all of those things are true, there are many things that make trekking worth the effort:

  • The people you meet on the trail will all have something in common with you, because some how you both managed to convince yourselves that walking 100 miles was a good idea.
  • The feelings at the end of the day are truly the best in the world. There is something about the first moment you see camp or how well you sleep at the end of a long day that make the pain and hopelessness experienced during the day worth it.
  • Food always tastes better on the trail. That slightly soggy sandwich thats been sitting in your steamy backpack all morning tastes like pure heaven on earth. Frozen meatballs, powdered gravy and instant mashed potatoes have never tasted so good.
  • Starting trekking when we were young has made it part of Mac’s and my childhood, it is a connection to our parents and I have no doubt it will be something we continue to do together for the rest of our lives
  • Walking is an endurance activity, and not only does it give you killer leg muscles, but also an ability to deal with whatever else might face you. I have used the endurance (and leg muscles) given to me by walking for getting to the top of a rock face or swimming across a lake as well as challenging myself mentally to go further and try harder.


Trekking isn’t always easy, but in the end, somehow, impossibly, its worth it. The food, the people, the memories, and the lessons learned all make it one of the foundational memories of my childhood.