Inspiration Safari *Interview*

madagascar_working, Photo by Kristian RuggieriMeet Adventure Philanthropist Kristian, the founder of Inspiration Safari! I met Kristian when she introduced herself during a book signing in San Francisco. We spoke for a moment and she followed up with an email to tell me more about documentary films she was making as she traveled. This introduction sparked my curiosity and I had to know more!

How did you come up with the idea of Inspiration Safari?

I got the idea for Inspiration Safari when I was in Chile building houses with Habitat for Humanity. Our team included people from the US, Canada and Tasmania and we had a great time working with the soon-to-be homeowners.

On one of the final days there was a military tank in the main plaza in Santiago and people were staging a protest. I realized that this event was more likely to make the news in the US than our Habitat experience and I wanted to find a way to change that.

What do you hope to accomplish with your documentaries?

My hope is that these documentaries expose people to the fact that there are individuals and groups of people working to create positive change, even in locations with a lot of negative press. If people who see these are inspired to travel or start a project of their own, even better!

Here’s a taste of Kristian’s videos from her Inspiration Safari series. This one was shot in Africa.

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: UniquEco (the Flip Flop) Project, Africa

Like me, you escaped your corporate job and headed to Africa…How did Africa entice you?

One of the ways Africa enticed me is that it was a continent I had yet to visit. Imagining it might be more challenging than European travel, I set a rather arbitrary goal to get there before I turned 40. I’m happy to say I spent my 39th birthday in Madagascar!

Monkey Man, photo by Kristian RuggieriWhat were you searching for when you left on this adventure? Did you trip meet your expectations?

During this adventure I was hoping to find some positive local projects, in addition to the work Habitat does in countries across Africa. I also wanted to challenge myself to 4 months of solo travel to see if I could do it.

The trip exceeded my expectations. I met more people doing inspirational work than I had time to film. I also made it home safely after visiting 10 countries without ever taking a flight or checking into a fancy hotel. (Knowing I could always use those options if I became overwhelmed and started freaking out helped me get through 15 hour bus rides and hostels full of drunk Norwegians.)

Before your Madagascar trip, you’ve volunteered before, yes? Where and when?

DSCN0280All my official volunteer experience outside of the US has been through Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program. I’ve taken six of these trips in total, the last two I co-led with a friend: Guatemala (1998), Peru (1998), Romania (2000), India (2002), Chile (2004), Madagascar (2007).

I’ve recently joined a team for a Habitat build in Mongolia in September, 2014 and I’m really looking forward to it since it’s been so long since my last trip.

How did you choose your projects?

I read about Habitat for Humanity in a book about volunteering abroad. Their two-week trips seemed like an easier way to travel and volunteer than two years with the Peace Corps, which I was considering.

I chose my first two trips to Guatemala and Peru because they were countries that I wanted to visit but none of my friends did. Not sure I was ready for solo travel, a volunteer trip seemed like a good way to be with a group but not be part of a tour – which I knew would drive me crazy. I like to have freedom to explore off the beaten path.

madagascar_josephine, photo by Kristian RuggieriAny advice to others looking to incorporate volunteering into their travels?

I would encourage anyone curious about a Habitat trip to give it a try. Or, pick either a cause you’d like to support or a place you’d like to visit and then look for opportunities for a volunteer vacation on sites like Universal Giving or Globe Aware.

How do you incorporate volunteering and giving into your everyday life?

As a person working only part-time at the moment, my giving is focused on people I know who are fundraising for a cause – or selling Girl Scout cookies. As for volunteering, in the past I’ve worked on a crisis hotline for battered women and was a literacy tutor for adults. Currently, I’m looking for a new local opportunity because I miss volunteering!

To me you’re the perfect example of an Adventure Philanthropist! Why are you surprised to be acknowledged as one? Do you consider yourself a philanthropist? An adventuress?

I was surprised to be acknowledged as an Adventure Philanthropist not because of the adventure but because of the philanthropy. I do consider myself an adventuress. In addition to solo travel in Africa, I’ve traveled solo throughout China – at the height of the SARS outbreak, thank you very much. Believe me, adventures were had.

The term philanthropist, however, makes me think of someone with a lot of money who creates a foundation to give it away, like Bill Gates. Before now, I didn’t equate donations of time and skill as philanthropy. Now that I do – I will gladly wear the Adventure Philanthropist title along with any associated sashes or crowns. Who doesn’t love a crown?

More Inspiration Safari Videos

Here’s another of Kristian’s videos from her Inspiration Safari series. View more on her YouTube channel: HeyMissK

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Recology, San Francisco

What about you, readers? Care to wear the Adventure Philanthropist crown too?! Write me at I would love to hear all about your adventures volunteering abroad!

Kristian Ruggieri loves world travel, volunteering and learning children’s songs from the locals. When at home in San Francisco, she’s a filmmaker, improviser and tour guide and yes, she’d love to meet your for a coffee and swap travel stories! You can find her here:

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 1st, 2014 and is filed under Adventure Philanthropists.

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