What do you love most about traveling, and what is the most recent trip you’ve been on?
To travel is to live a rich, full life. What I love most? Not knowing what’s around every corner – being completely open and humble. I love that moment when a new place starts to make sense – when the landscape and architecture and history and people all start to come together.
Recently I went on a trip to southern Morocco to visit potential sites for CorpsAfrica Volunteers. We were there for just two days, but we visited two villages, met with several levels of local authorities, hosted a community meeting, and scouted around on our own to investigate the cultural and logistical situation. It was exhausting, but so interesting!
What’s the one piece of advice you would give to your ‘past self’, before you ever stepped on a plane?
The world is a big and fascinating place. Go be a part of it!
Be careful and smart but also adventurous. There is so much out there to discover. Not just the museums and beautiful beaches, but the people – it’s the people that define the place.
You can understand the country or city or village or home through the people that live there. And give them a chance to show you that deep down, they’re just like you.
How have you designed your life to include travel as a core part of your lifestyle?
A few years ago I founded CorpsAfrica, which is a Peace Corps-like opportunity for Africans. We started the program in Morocco (where I was a Peace Corps Volunteer 20 years ago) – we currently have 19 Moroccan Volunteers serving for one year in remote, high-poverty communities across Morocco.
I’ve lived here for two years to get the program started and I visit the volunteers at their sites as often as I can. Now we have three full-time staff and a committed Board of Directors, so I’m ready to move on. We’re planning to expand Senegal and Ethiopia before scaling up to the rest of Africa. Once we have 250 volunteers a year in every African country, we’ll be ready to think about CorpsAsia. There’s plenty of travel in my future.
What would you be doing if you hadn’t started traveling?
Before I started CorpsAfrica, I had a career as a fundraiser for important non-profits in the US. I’ve always been mission-driven. I studied abroad in college and joined the Peace Corps because I wanted to be a part of the bigger world and find my place in it. Searching for purpose is a ton of fun, but nothing beats having found it.
What is your dream trip?
My dream trip is to visit a former CorpsAfrica Volunteer in an African country that’s not even in our radar yet – like Swaziland – maybe ten years from now. I’d like her to introduce me to her home community (a major city) and her host community (a small, remote village) – show me the differences and similarities, introduce me to her two separate families, and tell me about how the experience of getting out of her comfort zone for a year has helped her understand herself better and changed her life forever.
I’d like to spend a few days with each of her two families to get a feel for how uniquely they see and treat the volunteer, the difference in lifestyle (from daily routines to creature comforts) and watch how the volunteer acts and carries herself is in each place.
Of course, I’d also like to see the major tourist sites, sample the rich variety of local cuisines, and maybe visit a spa!
What is one key lesson you’ve learned from living in another country for an extended amount of time?
When you live in a foreign country, you have to accept that you don’t know what you don’t know. Once you think you have the place figured out something will come along to knock you down a few pegs.
Being humble, sincere, caring, and a good listener goes a long way. Oh, and patient – don’t forget to be patient.
Liz Fanning founded CorpsAfrica in 2011 to give Africans the chance to be Peace Corps Volunteers in their own countries – and other African countries. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco from 1993-95, where she lived in a small Berber village and worked on environmental sustainability projects. Liz has worked in leadership roles for a wide range of non-profit organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Schoolhouse Supplies and the Near East Foundation, and she has served on numerous Boards of Directors. Liz has a BA in Economics and History from Boston University and a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in Finance from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
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