Breaking the Cycle of Poverty with Love & Education

I knew my trip to India would not be a vacation by any means, but nothing could have truly prepared me for the sights, smells, intense heat and humidity and most of all the extreme differences in culture from what I have grown up with.
I have traveled all over the world and experienced the poverty in which much of our world lives in and it is never easy to stomach, especially when you realize the cycle in which it continues. However, for me, the most unsettling part of this whole trip has been the serious social issues and lack of equality amongst the people, both because of the caste system and the serious sexism.

Being raised by a liberal, single father I grew up being told I could do anything and that not only was I equal to every man, but every human is equal and deserves the same rights. It has been drilled in to me from the minute I was born and so it is still so appalling to me to see the way other cultures view and treat other humans. In a few occasions I have lost my cool and have been fed up with the constant sneers, awkward and intimidating stares and most recent invasion of privacy by one of the male staff at our “safe & secure” ashram where we are staying. I realize these things are harmless and comparatively speaking, laughable, considering not too far from this part of the world women are still being stoned to death for “disobeying” their husbands. I have to remind myself that Ghandi, this nations peaceful leader in freedom and human rights did not achieve his dreams through rage and outburst but by compassion, tolerance, resiliance and perseverance. My passion must not be misguided but focused on the solutions that will bring a balance to this world.

As I sat in the tiny one room medical clinic/elementary school in the slums of Barota, India, I watched as Dr. Mistry wrapped a little girls arm in an ace bandage while he questioned her father as to why the 9 year old had never been to school. He was mostly blind and the mother worked full time to support the four children so the little girl had to work cutting vegetables in a local restaurant. I thought about what this little girl’s life would be like. It was almost too easy to predict and the doctor later confirmed it was all too common that these girls worked from the youngest age until the time they were married off around 14 or 15 to then continue the cycle.

Later in the day more little girls showed up to the doctor’s office, peeking their faces through the door way, shyly spying on me, curious to this strange looking visitor but too shy to enter or speak. The doctor told me that the girls attended the classes that he and his wife ran at the clinic every morning and they were avid learners. The girls are the most passionate about learning, he told me. The young females seeking education are the moving force to building up the country to be strong and healthy he said.

This is why he has left his private practice of 21 years in New Jersey, to return to the slums of his home town of Barota in Gujarat, with his wife, educating the children and providing affordable and available healthcare.

It was such an inspiration to meet someone who walked away from their comfortable lives in the US to return to where the help was needed, where it will make the biggest impact and where it is much appreciated.
The next time I returned to the clinic/school I brought a group of college students, members of Dr. Interns summer medical internship program who I have come to India to help support through marketing and program expansion.

The students were as excited as I were to hear Dr. Mistry’s story and I was most excited to see the little girls who had gathered the courage to come sit by me and even posed for pictures for me and with me. They mimicked my English and were obviously hungry to learn anything I had to teach them. I was excited to meet these girls who’s situation seemed grim but who’s futures looked bright.

The next time I returned with an even larger number of excited students and arms full of school supplies including all my favorite things: crayons, colored pencils, markers, coloring books, chalk, UNO cards, notebooks, pencils and erasers. We were happy to contribute to the Mistry’s school/clinic and I was excited to speak more about expanding our program to assist with their work. This is what I came to India to do. This is what I am on this planet to do.
The little girls ran from their houses to greet me in the street with cheerful “Hi’s” and hugs with huge smiles on their faces.

As we sat around Dr. Mistry’s office/clinic/school the room quickly filled with small children who were all excited to see strange new faces in their neighborhood. The energy in the room was amazing and even though the little children had trouble keeping quiet while the doctor explained his story ( now for the third time for me, yet still as genuine and full of passion) it was sweet to see how much it meant to them that we had come and with supplies for their school.

I wanted to hug each one of them and tell them I was so proud of them for getting an education and to stay with it. I wanted to let each one know that they were special and worthy of having a better life, one of opportunity and freedom but with the little Gujarati I knew I was stuck with formalities but the love and compassion was felt between both the children and us.

We poured our love on to them with smiles and photos and laughter and found a renewed purpose in our work here in India, something that is easy to lose sight of when faced with the giant hurdles of social issues. However, like when we spent the day delivering reusable waterbottles to the children enrolled in school in the rural village of Ratunpura we realized with every act of love and support, regardless of how small, making a difference in the life of a child is the greatest action a person can take in life.



Not even home a week and my bags are already repacked, only this time instead of trek gear and bikinis, my bags are stuffed with coats, scarves, boots and beanies, ready for the snowy playground that is Park City, Utah during the magical 10 days of Sundance! The Sundance Film Festival is not only movie premiers and a complete Hollywood takeover of the quaint mountain resort town, but also some of the best private parties and events this part of the world. I’ve had the pleasure of working James Franco’s “3s Company” party, Paramount Pictures Red Carpet event, The Twitterhouse and numerous nights at Las Vegas’ “TAO” nightclub, transformed from a parking garage to the luxurious and exclusive nightclub. Its pure snowmagic and this year will be my 3rd, and best year yet.

My travel companion, Kiersten, is coming for her first time and we are both excited for some work and play and most of all, to network with some talented and ambitious industry folk who can help us find the best way to utilize our own talents. In the last few months we have had some amazing adventures for purpose and pleasure and have taken countless photos and videos. It’s our dream to reach a greater audience this way to inspire and bring awareness to the many causes and organizations doing great things to change the world and who need help! So many people we have met love the idea to make every trip incorporated with a humanitarian element so it is my wish to show how reachable that goal is. Here are just a few of our high lights from Asia and South and Central America:

The Inca Trail!

Machu Picchu!

Costa Rica!

You can see more videos on my youtube channel.

Who knows, maybe next year Kiersten and I will be at our own premier!

Costa Rica. Pura Vida!

To blog about the last two weeks would be like trying to stuff a Reeses peanut butter cup through a key hole. Sloppy, useless and peanut butter everywhere (much like the many “hostel homemade” meals I have had in the past few weeks.) My trustee journal is filled with hilarious misadventures of Kiersten and Lindsay but for the sake of time and maintaining professionalism on my company blog I will save those stories for my travel blog or book one day.

To give you the cliff notes, we arrived in to San Jose and stayed our first night in Costa Rica at a friend’s “house” who so kindly let us stay there before we embarked on our surf safari. I say “house” because this kind of property is unlike anything most people will see in their lifetimes and is closer to the Playboy Mansion than any home I have ever stayed in. Their generosity in letting us stay was greatly appreciated as luxury is a seldom occurrence while “backpacking.”

The next day we hopped on a bus from a local hotel to Tamarindo, a popular beach town on the northern part of the Nicoya peninsula and were immidiately in a cab on our way to another beach town just south of Tamarindo that was much more our style. Avellanas was a little slice of heaven. Much quieter and with zero obnoxious tourist shops, bars, or even a real supermercado, we had successfully found ourselves “off the grid.” We agreed we needed to stay for a few days at least to fully dissolve our former stressed selves into the new “tranquilla” Kiki and Linz. It didn’t take long and with help from our amazing hosts, a Canadian couple who took over the Casa Surf Hostel, Ericka and Dan, we were adjusting to the “Pura Vida” lifestyle quite easily. We borrowed some good books and surf boards, hit the beautiful and wide open beaches, enjoyed Ericka’s incredible fresh and delicious cooking and made friends with the old shirtless surf dude locals Denny and Bob, a hilarious retired psychology professor.

At Lola’s Beach Cafe ^

Our first day at Casa Surf renting a board and sporting the sun protection of the locals: Desitin diaper cream.

Me and the Pelicans going for a wave ^

Kiersten having a blast at sunset on a boogie board ^

We even had a “cocktail party” complete with wine, cheese and ciabatta bread we had been promised by our new friend Denny the night before. To his surprise we showed up with Bob in our “Costa Rican cocktail dresses” ready for some entertainment and although Denny hadn’t remembered his offer from the night before he was good on it and we were definitely entertained!

Avellanas was starting to feel strangely like home and we rang in the new year with a bonfire on the beach with all our new friends and made smores, including a “Virgin Sacrifice” of the first banana grown off Dennys “plantana” tree (banana/plantain hybrid) which made for a delicious addition to our 2012 Smore Fest. After an impressive firework display at midnight we threw inhibitions to the Costa Rican wind and Kiki and I went for a skinny dip in the warm ocean, watching shooting stars in the insanely clear sky and the bioluminescence creating glowing stars in the water around us. (Algae that glows in the dark) It was a magical way to ring in the new year!

Me and Kiki showing our LOVE for the great year that we had ^

This is me, slam dunking 2011 and all of its greatness on the final sunset of the year. ^

Sacrificing the “plantana” with Kiersten, Ericka and me. It made for a delicious addition to our smores. ^

Smores master Linz ^

Smores connoisseur Kiki ^

Although we loved our “new home” and our new friends the travelers inside us were getting antsy to see more of the country so we headed out on a journey south which isn’t as easy as one would expect. Just finding a cab or a ride was difficult and the buses were mysteriously difficult to get information on. After finding a cab we got stuck in a river and Kiersten and I successfully pushed it out of its rut and we made it to Nosara. Guiones beach was my favorite surf spot. It was a bit more of a town with organic produce shops, yoga studios, local art galleries and cute little cafes. Our hostel, “Solo Bueno” lived up to the name and provided everything we needed; a bed, boards, a locker, a kitchen and great company. We enjoyed surfing 3 times a day and I found myself getting up at the sunrise, excited to get out to the beach and see what the waves had to offer. Being born and raised just a few feet from the sand, my heart has always been filled with happiness and peace while at the beach. That is something my father shared with me like his father him and I will forever find solace in surfing or just looking at the surf, imagining myself on the waves. The sunsets were incredible and being paddled out on the water that seemed to be on fire with the reflection of the sun was one of the most beautiful things my eyes have seen.

One of my favorite nights was at a local bar where folk singer / songwriter G Love (known for many collaborations with Jack Johnson) performed for a crowd of 80 people, a benefit concert for the Nosara Surf Foundation, raising money for local schools in need desperate help. We were right up front of course, dancing our pants off and stomping right along with him to the beat and cracking jokes back and forth with him and his guest singer, Brendan O’Hare. He played a great song, “No keeping Track of a Woman Like That”… I think it was written about me and Kiersten!

Of COURSE I had to get a “Surf Dog” during intermission! I worked up an appetite and most people know I LOVE me a dog!

After a few days of yoga, surfing and reading in hammocks we decided to try our luck moving further South. The plan was to stop in Samara, a great spot for snorkelling but while waiting at what we thought was a bus stop we got picked up by a car full of people we met the day before at the concert and decided to go to Santa Teresa with them. The tiny rental car they got was not equipped for the terrible dirt roads much less the 6 people and the luggage we crammed into it.

After 5 hours of uncomfortable yet high spirited driving down the beautiful coast, we found ourselves driving in the dark and unmarked roads, desperate for a hotel. Instead we found ourselves wedged in a ditch, safe but scared and a long way from anywhere we knew of and no phone service. Luckily not too long after a large truck full of Ticos heading in the opposite direction pulled us out of the ditch and gave us all a ride all the way back in to the next town. The kindness of people never ceases to amaze me. The travel Gods had our backs that night!

We continued on to Montezuma, much farther south than we planned but we liked the cute and colorful town and met some really fun groups of travelers while exploring the waterfalls and swinging off rope swings and diving off rocks. We had a bonfire yet again that night and got to enjoy the glowing waves from the bioluminescence once more. Such a treat!

The next day we took a boat tour to Isla Tortuga and got some spectacular views of the bays and islands around as well as a snorkeling tour we really enjoyed. Kiersten’s  dive casing for her camera was a lot of fun to play around with as were the 4 girls we met on the boat who were from San Diego and Los Angeles. They really enjoyed the adventure of traveling and exploring new cultures and wanted to incorporate philanthropy with their trips as well. We discussed ideas and ways to make it happen and could see their excitement grow as we told our stories. It is SO rewarding to know there are other people out there who are ready and willing to help make the world better while viewing all of its glory. It is our dream to continue to grow this “network” of world travelers with compassionate and conscious hearts and minds! I am looking forward to a collaboration with these inspiring and inspired girls!

Fancy photoshop Photos courtesy of “The Blonde Abroad” Blog, EAT PRAY LOVE PARTY

From Montezuma we took a bus and a ferry to Monte Verde on the mainland and immidiately off the bus headed to the rainforest for some canopy adventures. I fulfilled my dream of ziplining through the canopy of the Cloud Forest and even did the kilometer long “Superman” where you are head first with your back and waist attached to the line just flying over the trees. It was beautiful. The 300 ft freefall “Tarzan Swing” terrified Kiersten who has a fear of heights but was the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done! We also took a 4.5 kilometer hike through the Cloud Forest floor and really enjoyed taking in all the tiny details and natural beauty of the preserve.

Video taken by Kiersten Rich, might want to turn it down because the wind is loud and she screams “Shit” a lot but definitely worth watching.

In my Han Solo shirt about to do the “Tarzan swing” much like a bungee jump without the whiplash of being strapped by your feet.

Being a Rainforest Fairy ^

Another 5 hour bus ride and we were back at the “house” of our friend, with a full day and a half left to lay out by their pool, read, relax and enjoy our last full moments of peace and tranquilo! I fully enjoyed it and am so grateful to be blessed with blessed friends who like to share!

The trip back to San Diego was long with a 5 hour flight, a missed connection in Pheonix and a long drive in traffic home from LAX  but I maintained my mellow mood and was appreciative to be back in San Diego safely.

I feel like 2012 is the year of a more “tranquilo” Linz. Life is really too short and too sweet to not appreciate every moment and every blessing. I’ve resolved to smile at the people I walk past on the street, forgive the people that hurt or angered me in the past, say a Thank You before every meal and enjoy the amazing sights and activities all around San Diego, this amazing place I am honored to live with fantastic people! In the 40 hours I have been home so far I have walked along San Diego harbor and through Downtown, caught a sunset on a walk down Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach, and hiked to the top of Cowles mountain. I am still living PURA VIDA and no reason not to. 😉 Life is Good.