I can't tell you the number of times I've heard someone say, "Ohmygosh I'm sooooo jealous," when Kendyl explains what she does for a living. I'm here to say: "Nope! You're not!"
Because if anyone was, in fact, jealous, they would have to enjoy the following: months of tedious research and desk work, staying up late to contact people across the world, traveling for days to get to beautiful destinations without seeing any of the tourist-y attractions, occasional bacterial infections, sleeping in less-than-stellar accommodations, wearing sweaty clothing multiple times before having the chance to wash it, asking the same questions (over, and over, and over again) for days, trying to communicate in as many as three languages at once, and finally...they would have to enjoy being confronted with the unbelievably frustrating human rights issues all over the world.
I know I just made it sound like Kendyl's life is terrible. And for most people, I think it would be. But for her? It's absolutely perfect. I recently traveled to Myanmar with Kendyl and I had the privilege of watching this woman work.
After three days of intense fieldwork for NomoGaia, Kendyl and I devoured a meal (which included squid) and climbed into our car for the five-hour drive back to Yangon. And for the first time in three days, I saw Kendyl's back settle against the seat, her shoulders relax and her eyes close. She took a deep breath and her relief was palpable. The expression on her face was a mix of accomplishment and exhaustion.
We had been traveling for days at that point and it was just one of many times that I thought: "Wow, this is hard work. She isn't messing around."
The first time I realized this, we had just gotten off a 12-hour flight from Denver to Tokyo. She began mapping out when we should sleep on the next 6-hour flight so we could be refreshed and not jet-lagged upon arrival in Bangkok. I had no idea she had to plan something as simple as sleeping so far in advance, to be fresh and ready to work.
The second time I realized her work was hard, my sweaty face was pressed against the cool tile in our Burmese hotel room. I had just finished vomiting for the fourth time and had an inkling I wasn't finished. (I wasn't.) Kendyl, who had eaten the exact same meals as I had for the last couple days, was somewhere else in the city, finishing up one of her six scheduled meetings of the day. She graciously brought me some rehydrating salts and gave me a pat on the back to make sure I wasn't dying.
But it was the third time that really drove the point home for me. We had spent the day in Thaton, interviewing people and walking through mosquito-infested water. We ate stale cake offered to us. Kendyl drank tea with bugs in it. I rudely declined, remembering the vomiting from the previous day. We drove an hour and half that evening, to stay in a hotel that had a mysterious red smear on the side of our room. Kendyl claimed chipped paint, I pretended to believe her:
Before I go on, I must say this: my trip with Kendyl was wildly fulfilling and so, so good for my soul. It came at the perfect time when I just needed a break from my daily life. And she was SUCH a gem to travel with...seriously, the best.
But I kept envisioning her doing this alone, which she has always done and will continue to do. I couldn't imagine experiencing all of that by myself! Which is why her word is intentional. What Kendyl does is so crazy specific. But she intentionally narrowed her focus with NomoGaia so it not only fits her interests, but capitalizes on all of her intellectual strengths. There is no way to create something like this without being 100% intentional in your conversations, your research, your relationships, and your travels.
She ignores the fact that she stays in crappy places to save money. She overcomes the fact that most of her traveling is solitary: away from her husband, friends and family. And she acknowledges that the work she does can feel like trudging through the mud, slowly. But she knows it's important and she laser-focuses on the good that can come from it.
I've known Kendyl for three years and though I've never found her anything short of lovely, this trip gave me such a deep appreciation for her dedication and commitment. She is a justice seeker for those less fortunate than her. I respect her so much for that and I hope you'll take some time to read about what she does. And maybe even donate. This is a nonprofit you can have confidence in because nothing is done without the absolute intention of helping others.
Kendyl, thank you for a wonderful trip. I can't tell you what it meant to me to see you in your most natural of environments, doing the work you were so created to do.