July 7, 2015—Nine months ago, Chloe Forman (C’14) was like many other recent college graduates; she’d returned home (to New York) for a summer job but wasn’t exactly sure about what she wanted to do in the long run. That all changed in October 2014 when she boarded a plane for India.
“I’ve always been intrigued by traveling,” said Forman, who majored in psychology and minored in justice and peace studies. “I decided that now was as good a time as any to go see the world, explore new cultures, and gain new experiences.”
Since making that decision, Forman has had the chance to experience places like Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia, live with the locals in many locations, and engage with a range of communities.
“My main purpose is to see how other people live, and that’s not something you get without living in a community up close,” Forman explained.
Some of these opportunities have come through volunteer work, including a recent stint in the Philippines that was facilitated, in part, through Andria Wisler, executive director of the Center for Social Justice. Wisler heard that Forman was on her way to the Philippines and put her in touch with Georgetown Board of Directors member Father Ben Nebres. In turn, Nebres connected Forman with a volunteer opportunity through the Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation (GK), which helps build and rebuild communities throughout the Philippines.
“I went sight unseen, knowing I had been connected by good people,” Forman said. “As it turned out, Gawad Kalinga is an incredible organization…one I am truly honored to have been a small part of.”
The opportunity took Forman to the town of Gabaldon—about 100 miles northeast of Manila, in the Nueva Ecija province. Forman soon learned that she’d be a part GK’s Bayani Challenge, an annual gathering that brings together local and international volunteers to collaborate on a variety of service projects over several weeks. In Gabaldon, the group focused on home repairs, doing everything from painting and landscaping to organizing clean up drives.
Before beginning a week of service, Forman spent a week living in the community so she could get to know the people.
“The experience was humbling and heartwarming,” she said. “They have next to nothing—they live in homes that are one or two rooms at most, usually filled with people sleeping on the floor. They have makeshift kitchens, no running water, and some have no electricity. Yet, I was welcomed with the most warm hospitality and taken in immediately as their ‘ate’ (older sister). [It was] one of the most kind, loving, and really beautiful places I have been.”
Experiences like the Bayani Challenge is what keeps life on the road both inspiring and surprising for Forman.
“I’m grateful for the flexibility I have, which allowed me an extra six weeks in Australia to dive, a last minute teaching work exchange in Indonesia, a commitment to work on a boat in the Philippines, and an upcoming impromptu trip to Thailand when my visa expires,” she said.
Over the course of nine months, Forman says she’s learned a lot about how to travel on a budget, what it means to be away from home, and the importance of doing something that makes you happy, even if it feels you’re not following the “right” path. Her advice to those seeking a similar experience?
“You may be worried about not gaining work experience, but you would be surprised how many skills you gain from the daily challenges of travel. [Don’t] fear traveling alone; you can decide for yourself how far out of your comfort zone you want to push yourself. Consider those things you can and cannot live without [and] you should be able to build the trip you want.”
Most importantly, Forman says, “If you want to do it—and are in a position that allows for it—just do it."
As for her own journey, Forman hasn’t yet put an expiration date on the experience.
“The more I travel,” she said, “the more I see the beauty of the places and people that are out there, and the more I realize there is so much I have yet to see and explore and discover.”