I called this blog ’Lessons I Learned’, but really it would be better titled ’Lessons I’m Learning’. I believe in sharing what we learn to help others avoid our same mistakes and also exposing ourselves to the criticism and questions which might help us improve. I am skeptical of the popular approaches to both voluntourism and development work, though those are both areas in which I have worked as I’d love to be part of learning how we can do them both better. I think we need to learn before we can help, so I believe “service learning” should be “learning service”. I feel like I am learning more every day about how to help create the world I want to see my future kids and their future kids living in, and sometimes what I learn contradicts what I thought I knew was true. I have learned that good intentions are not enough and that the only person you can “improve” in the world is yourself, so I had better start improving the world by starting there. I hope the dialogue generated through this site will give me more chances to do that and to share the lessons I am learning with others who could benefit from avoiding my mistakes.

21 December 2008 ~ 0 Comments

Thank you to the best supporters in the world :-)

Wow! I have great friends! And we have fabulous PEPY supporters.

I have said this before, and I’ll say it again…. we have the BEST supporters in the world at PEPY. We just put out our PEPY 2008 Video with a call to action: Help us work with the community to build Chanleas Dai’s first junior high school. We put out a website specifically to collect donations for that project:http://firstgiving.com/pepybuildsjhs and already, people are stepping up to help. Within two days, we have already raised nearly $5,000 towards our $68,000 goal. We just added PEPY Cambodia to Facebook, and already nearly 300 of you have listed PEPY as your friend (click here to do so if you haven’t already!). Many of you have also changed your status to our PEPY video or to our firstgiving page asking your friends and family to support PEPY. THANK YOU!

If each of us commits $10 per month (click here to give monthly donations), we can build this school. For those who donate $10 or higher monthly, we will send you a free 2009 PEPY calendar to remind you of the work you are helping to sustain. (Reminder: do not choose “anonymous” in the donation setting on Network for Good if you would like to receive a calendar or we will not be able to see your name and address.)

I think a lot of others who operate tours in Cambodia sometimes dread when new guests arrive. We, on the other hand, can’t wait for our PEPY Ride 4 team to get here today. Why? Because the people who travel with PEPY have fundraised money in addition to their trip fees and have therefore had to learn about Cambodia, PEPY, and development, and can hit the ground running when they arrive. People who travel with PEPY tend to want to educate themselves when they arrive here. They “get” that before we act, we need to learn, and that by learning, we can learn how to be part of the solution, rather than the problem, of tourism, giving, development, etc…. PEPY travelers tend to ask questions, engage in conversations, and look for opportunities to feel engaged and involved with Cambodia. In short, the people who travel with PEPY are some of the most inspiring people we have met, and each person who travels with us helps us mold PEPY into something more positive. Thank you for being PEPY supporters!

21 December 2008 ~ 0 Comments

PEPY Book Club: Just Another Emperor

We have picked our next Book Club book…. one which relates to PEPY and is available for download for free online! No reason not to join us!


20 December 2008 ~ 0 Comments

And another in Nepal

My friend Sweta is organizing a bike trip which will also support education programs in Nepal. She is a fabulous guide, is from the area, and says the biking will be AMAZING….. join in!


18 December 2008 ~ 0 Comments

Want to join an educational service trip in Nepal?

My friend Ryan passed on this information about an awesome trek in the Everest Region coming up this April. You should consider joining him, as it sounds like a great cause! Also, if we can work out the technological logistics, The PEPY Ride School program might be joining the journey virtually via the Connecting Continents Project. Check it all out at: www.mtnprofessionals.com

This March, Ryan Waters and Dave Elmore, founders of Mountain Professionals, will trek through the Khumbu region near Mount Everest launching the Connecting Continents Project in order to bridge together the gap between local and foreign cultures.

The Connecting Continents Team or Ambassadors will not only donate needed supplies, gear, and friendship, but will also be linking schools and classrooms on several continents to each other and to the member school in Nepal. These students will follow along on the journey via dispatches posted to the Connecting Continents Blog. The students will also be interacting with each other via the blog, sharing their countries culture and customs, thus breaking down the barriers of communication and preconceptions between Asian, North American, South American, African and European children.


The Connecting Continents Project focuses on connecting schools, from around the world, to participate and promote understanding of diversity, education and a cross-cultural exchange through one of the most powerful tools on earth, the Internet. This connection will allow under-privileged students and under-funded schools in Nepal the opportunity to participate in an international exchange with other participating schools from Argentina, Norway, USA, United Arab Emirates, Rwanda, and Cambodia. These schools will have the opportunity to participate in an international ‘lesson plan’ which will facilitate the communication of all participating classrooms.

Sharing information about their respective cultures, communities and classrooms, teachers will help facilitate the classroom participation. As the ‘Connecting Continents’ trek occurs, participating classrooms will be following along as trekkers post information about their experiences and facilitating the ‘lesson plan’, which will be, focused questions that classrooms will be answering from their respective viewpoint(s)

In conjunction with connecting classrooms, Mountain Professionals will be facilitating all in country participation. Everest Base Camp trekkers will be the ‘Connecting Continents Ambassadors’, delivering computers to participating schools in Kathmandu and the remote Khumbu region. Participants will also be visiting schools along the trek, delivering much needed resources for schools.

15 December 2008 ~ 0 Comments

PEPY Tours Hotel/Restaurant Partnerships

We have been meeting with more hotels, now that we are based in Siem Reap, and wanted to put our thoughts and methodologies out onto the interweb. Here goes!

PEPY looks to partner with local and socially responsible organizations when operating our educational tours. We pick our hotels, restaurants, tour operators, and partner organizations with care and look for long-term relationships with these groups that can improve our collective impact on Cambodia. By learning from and sharing our own lessons learned with our partners and contractors, together we can mitigate the pressure tourism is putting on Cambodia’s environment and culture.

That being said, our guests and friends have a variety of needs when they travel. Ideally everyone would ride bikes around the country and stay in hotels without the pollutants of air-conditioning, but we need to be realistic in our expectations. We recognize that visiting Cambodia stretches the comfort zones of many travelers, and the comforts of “home” help make the transition to learning about Cambodia possible. As such, we would like to have a range of hotel and restaurant options to recommend to our guests. During our search for potential partners we of course look at pricing and amenities, but we also consider the social and environmental impacts of their work and their commitments to the surrounding communities. As the guidebooks do not always recommend the same services we have identified, we also look to interview the more popular tourist accommodation and restaurant options so we can provide comparisons and options for our inquiring guests.

Outside of hotel services, amenities, pricing, and descriptions, here are some examples of the questions we might ask during our hotel interviews:

1) Does your hotel invest in the local community? Do you have an associated foundation? Do the profits from this hotel get invested in any local non-profit partners? What types of projects are you currently investing in?

2) How are these partners chosen? How much funding did your hotel put into these projects this year? Last year?

3) If your guests ask about supporting local projects, what guidance do you give them? Can we see this information if it is printed?

4) Does your hotel strive to decrease the negative impact on the environment? What actions does your hotel take to do so? Do you employ policies to reduce energy and water consumption, or minimize waste? How so?

5) Who owns this hotel? Are there local investors?

6) What types of services are provided to your local staff? Do you provide school scholarships or other capacity building opportunities for your staff?

7) What should socially conscientious travelers know about your hotel that will help them make a responsible choice?

By choosing partners who invest in their communities, we can ensure that the dollars we spend to run are tours benefit the local economy. We recognize that investing funds in local educational and development projects are an important part of our programs. However we also see that the daily decisions we make in how we spend our money can also have a positive effect on society. We strive to use the most responsible partners in our work, but sometimes hotels fill at the last minute, restaurants change owners, or we visit a new area where we are just forming new relationships. At these times we look to our guests to help guide us. We ask for thorough reviews at the end of our tours asking our guests to reflect on the choices we have made in planning their tour and ways they think we can improve our impact. If all parties are committed to making PEPY a responsible tour operator, from the guests to our contractors, we can continue to offer tour options which support Cambodia’s economy and people.

22 November 2008 ~ 0 Comments

What makes YOU happy?

Who knew that science could be so right on?