Our Volunteering Honeymoon by Sandra Larson

While preparing for our wedding, we [Josiah and Sandra Larson] discussed possible ideas for our honeymoon. Separately, we had talked about traveling, possibly for work or for volunteering internationally. With nursing and engineering as our professions, we were looking into how we could offer our skills to another community.

Ultimately the two ideas came together and we decided to volunteer for our honeymoon. After reaching out to various agencies, the founder of Helping Hands Health Education was outstanding. He was communicative, organized, and built an organization dedicated to helping his country of Nepal and others over the years. We flew out to Colorado to meet him and others also interested in joining in a medical aid trip to Nepal in October of 2011. Our group was made up of doctors and nurses as well as some spouses and coworkers. We were the youngest of the group by around two decades.

Over 3 weeks, we had an orientation in Kathmandu then traveled in the rural country to a village on the southern edge of Nepal where we set up a free clinic. The community was very welcoming and even held an impromptu wedding ceremony for us when they found out it was our honeymoon. We stayed with a host family in the village who generously opened their home to the volunteers.

I worked in the pediatrics clinic while Jo helped organize the pharmacy. After clinic ended, we traveled up north to trek in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas. The hiking was an especially bonding experience for our group as it was challenging but also breathtaking. We hiked up and down thousands of feet, crossed narrow rope bridges, and learned the definition of “nepali flat” (still very steep).

At the end of our trip, before returning home we flew down to Thailand with some of our fellow volunteers. We spent a few days on a boat in the seas near Phuket to unwind together.

For our marriage, our travels and service really helped us put a lot things in perspective from the very beginning. When we moved in together after returning from our honeymoon it really set the tone for life back in America. We deeply appreciated many things we previously took for granted- including plumbing, running water, fresh vegetables, traffic laws, access to basic necessities, and so much more.

To this day we share a gratitude we learned from our early travels that has set the tone for much of our lives. Even though in many ways it was a very challenging experience- we would gladly do it again.