How This International Volunteer Brings the World Back Home With Her

woman in Greece

Today, we’re interviewing Lisa Field, a chapter leader in Portland, Oregon. She’s incredibly enthusiastic and loves travel, design, people, food, and philanthropy. She has two amazing daughters in college, a significant other in the cannabis biz, and a Maltese named Louie. Today, she’s sharing all about her overseas philanthropy, how the coronavirus is impacting her volunteering, and some unique ways to travel from home. Recently, Lisa lead an event all about making an impact overseas.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am an extroverted people-person with an adventurous spirit! I love to travel to new places. Sure, that includes glamorous and distant places like Barcelona, Spain, or Koror, Palau, but also local destinations, like a great new food truck across town in my home of Portland, Oregon. I have two college-aged daughters, one of whom just graduated from college — which, oh my gosh, makes me an “empty-nester.” I am just now (finally) getting my head around that!

woman in front of desert rocks

Why is travel important to you?

I truly believe travel is so much more than simply sightseeing. Travel, and all the things you learn from it, can change your life; it has definitely changed mine. I travel to grow as a person, to meet other people who inspire and educate me, and to have my life enriched by the diversity and stunning beauty of this world. I travel in order to have my eyes, mind, and heart open wide.

I also travel to give back. I know I have been blessed, and it is important to me to show that appreciation by giving selflessly to others in any large or small way that I can. Most of all, I travel to celebrate life’s greatest luxury: time! I want to make the most of my time here because if you really think about it, we’re all Here on A Layover (see what I did there?), and who knows how much time we have?

woman drinking a coffee

What is your travel style?

I love to research the heck out of a place before I arrive. I sort of geek out a bit in this department. Have you ever had that disappointing feeling when you’ve arrived back home, only to discover something cool that you could have done on your trip? Man, I hate that! I want to be as well-armed as possible, whether it be with nuggets of info about the local culture and its social norms, a unique event that’s happening while I’m in town, or a bakery that’s wildly popular with locals and off the main drag.

I have lots of tricks I use to catalog my research (5 Things You Should Do Before You Travel Anywhere). I likely won’t hit every landmark on my list, but I will hit several, and I can be confident I didn’t miss something too obvious.

couple traveling in Asia

How did you start traveling — like, really traveling?

When I was 15, I saw a cheesy movie called Summer Lovers. I remember that day because watching that movie stopped me dead in my tracks. “Where in the world is this place?” I marveled, and the end credits made it clear: Santorini, Greece. I fell in love with it so completely that later, at the age of 20, when my father was planning a trip to Europe for the two of us (thanks, Dad!), he scheduled us five full days on the island. It was on that trip, which also included parts of France, Italy, and Greece, that I totally fell in love with travel.

However, as life sometimes goes, I did not get to travel again on a large scale for quite some time. I soon became a mom to two wonderful little people, and even though we weren’t exploring the world in person, I made sure that travel was always a part of my children’s lives.

From early on, I always asked friends and family to send us postcards from wherever they were. This went on for years, and eventually, I stopped remembering to ask, but they just kept coming! I think we have about 600 now.

Whenever one would arrive, the girls and I would drop everything and pore over it in detail. We would find the destination on our globe (always nearby) and look up information about that place. For them, knowing that a person they knew and loved was in such a magical and different place was always fascinating for them.

couple traveling in Greece

My goal in doing this was to illustrate for them that the world holds so much opportunity, there’s so much to see and do, and getting anywhere is always possible. Through this practice, they made great geographic connections from a very young age. While watching a TV program, one would whip her head around and exclaim something like, “They just said Pakistan! Aunt Janie was in Pakistan!”

Sometimes we would have theme nights. We’d make food from a country while listening (and often dancing) to thematic music. If we had any costume items or thematic clothing, we’d wear it. While we ate, we would talk about where that country is on the globe and read fun facts about its culture or history.

Living in Portland, Oregon made it super easy for us to explore cultures from home too! Dozens of ethnic festivals take place every year, and there are countless authentic restaurants and food trucks. One weekend we attended five different festivals. I’m totally serious, and it was SO MUCH FUN. Portland is a culturally diverse food lover’s paradise.

It’s because of this love of travel that when I was able to start really traveling again (about ten years ago), I had created a pretty long list of places I wanted to explore. I am now so appreciative of the opportunities I have to travel and look forward to the many adventures in my future.

two women riding bikes along the beach

What’s one of your most significant or pivotal travel moments?

I’ve always been committed to regularly giving back to my community, whether it be delivering weekly meals to the elderly or reading to grade school students. However, the opportunity to volunteer abroad assisting a cataract surgeon and provide surgeries to those in need is what I would consider my pivotal travel moment.

That first clinic I participated in rocked my world. I had no medical experience — and I was absolutely terrified! I studied so much before I even arrived, ended up making mistakes, and was mentally exhausted at the end of each day. When it was over and I was flying home, the scope of what I had just done dawned on me. I realized that I am capable of a whole hell of a lot more than I thought. And thankfully, they liked me and asked me to come back!

hospital staff

Is there a creative way that you fund your trips?

I am a travel hacking fiend! I have pored over all of Matt’s miles-earning recommendations and always try to employ as many tricks as I can. My copies of his book are highlighted and post-it-noted to death. I probably miss opportunities here and there, but I do everything I can! My biggest go-to’s are outlined in 6 Easy Ways to Squeeze the Most Out of Your Travel Budget.

couple traveling Japan

Tell us about a time on the road where a stranger or local made an impact on your day/week/trip/life.

I’ve had many, but the first that always comes to mind is my experience in Japan. It wasn’t necessarily a specific person, but a series of people who went entirely out of their way to be helpful.

At the very busy Tokyo train station, we asked a man for directions. He just shook his head and shrugged, telling me immediately that he didn’t speak English and wasn’t going to be of any help. About ten minutes later, after we had continued walking about a quarter-mile further down the terminal, I saw someone weaving through the crowd in my direction. It was the same man. He was waving at me urgently, and when I made eye-contact he waved at us to follow him back the way he’d come. Together we quickly maneuvered through the busy crowds for a few minutes, and before I knew it, he was passing us off to an employee who apparently knew the location we were trying to find. This employee smiled at us and said hello in English. Incredible.

In Kyoto, we approached a parking lot attendant that we thought was coordinating taxis because there were several parked in his lot. Not speaking a word of English, he shook his head, No, no, we could not get a taxi here. Then he looked all around him, let out a deep sigh, and locked his parking shed. He waved at us to follow him. We did…for four blocks. He kept turning around and making sure we were still with him — we were laughing and saying, “no, no,” but he kept going. Four full blocks. It was finally then that he indicated an area we could catch a taxi or Uber, and he left us to return to his lot. Unbelievable!

travelers in Europe

What’s it like to be at home now during this pandemic? How are you keeping connected to your love of travel?

Canceling trips was so painful! I waited and waited to do it, in hopes that maybe some miracle would occur, and I would still get to go. We had to cancel our spring clinic to the Dominican Republic, where I go twice each year. I got emotional thinking about all of the friends I’ve made there and missing the opportunity to see and work with them again.

It took me another week or so for it to occur to me that their health could be in significant danger due to the pandemic and that some of those kind-hearted, wonderful people might not be there when I return in the fall. It took even longer for the reality to sink in that perhaps the fall clinic won’t happen either. There is also always a chance everything will change, and I can’t return at all. It’s all very upsetting.

I was also scheduled to attend some very exciting travel industry events — my first ones ever! 2020 was going to be my big “breakout” year, and I planned on tackling it with gusto, such as my very first TravelCon in New Orleans in May! I was over the moon about this trip, and it killed me to postpone it (I’m sure everyone at The Nomadic Network is with me on that one).

woman in front of colorful street

So, how am I staying connected to my love of travel during this downtime? That’s easy: through The Nomadic Network! The Nomadic Matt team has created such an amazing platform for all of us around the world who have been bitten by the travel bug, and I am so thankful I get to be a part of it.

Another fantastic thing I’ve been doing is participating in occasional Airbnb Online Experiences. They’re very addictive, and help me feel a little closer to having traveled to those destinations! The four of us (hubby and I in Portland, and our two daughters together off at college) have made authentic street tacos with a chef in Mexico City. Another was a sangria-making class with drag queens in Lisbon, Portugal. Amazing! (Check out 3 Creative Ways to Battle Your Travel Blues.)

woman on a hill overlooking Catalina Island

How important is it to have a community of travelers that support you?

Sure, there are a lot of people who love traveling. On the flip side, there are also a lot of people who just…don’t get it. Travel and everything that comes with it just makes my heart sing. Knowing others who feel this same way is wonderful for me. Having a network of people who can be of help to each other really creates just an endless valuable resource for all of us. Not to mention, all the new friends!

three women walking along the beach

Why did you choose to be a leader for The Nomadic Network?

Having the opportunity to be part of The Nomadic Network sounded fantastic to me, but getting to lead the Portland chapter? I was born for it! Over the years, I’ve organized many large events for a local philanthropic organization and planned many fun themed events and parties for family and friends. Plus, I’ve lived in Portland for a really long time now. Leading the group allowed me to bring together local travel lovers, while also creating opportunities for local business owners I know to promote their businesses. Such a win-win, and I’m so happy for the opportunity.

a couple walking along the river at night

What’s the best travel advice you’d ever received?

Stay flexible. Sure, I can plan the heck out of a trip. It’s important though, to use that planning not as structured boundaries but as guides. Oftentimes, some of the best moments are the ones that happen spontaneously and unexpectedly, and this is how you’ll make some of your most precious memories.

travelers laughing with beers

What’s in store for your future travels?

Just like with everyone else, this is so up in the air. I am sure we will have future clinics, but all the previously set clinics are on hold until further notice. Those will be determined by general travel restrictions, but obviously, also be significantly impacted by that country’s health situation at that moment. So that makes it difficult to plan ahead. In addition, the organizations that provide much of our supplies must have the supplies to donate, and at this time they’re not able to guarantee the quantities we need.

As far as personal travel, gosh, who knows! I have a theory that the planet’s most overrun tourist destinations (Venice, Paris, NYC) will not be popular again for quite some time. I think fresh air, open spaces, and expansive natural beauty will be appealing for a while, and gosh, there are countless options around the world that don’t get much attention! Maybe those destinations will become more appealing and spread the tourism dollars a bit more evenly for a while.

woman enjoying the show

How can we keep in touch with you?

Follow me on Instagram and subscribe to my blog, Here on a Layover.

Lisa Field is the chapter leader for The Nomadic Network in Portland, Oregon. She’s extremely extroverted and a lover of all things travel, food, design, and philanthropy. If you want to learn more about her and her travel knowledge, check out her blog Here on a Layover.

Note: We love featuring our travel-loving members. If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, send us an email at info @ the nomadic network . com with the subject line “TNN Blog Guest Post.”

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