Returning from VolunTourism Sabbatical

spatuletail hummingbirdIn February 2014, I took a step back from to spend more time exploring human development, and therefore my own, through the Generating Transformative Change in Human Systems (GTC) course offered by Pacific Integral ( and to support my friend Kabir Kadre and his daughter, Jett Quintanar, in co-creating a multi-destination voluntourism experience for her in Latin America (

Jett left for Peru on 30 August 2014 in order to begin work on a book with local residents and young people to support conservation of the Spatuletail Hummingbird in Choctamal, Peru. She will have other stops along the way, and in February 2015 she will return to San Diego, CA, to embark on a different journey – one with her father, mother, and possibly half-brother, as they explore family dynamics together. Her “Gap Year,” if you will, is proving to be an 18-month journey through the world and into herself, as she prepares to start university in the Fall of 2015.

Both the GTC course and the Destination Voices project have afforded me not only time away from but also time to expand and broaden my awareness – to see VolunTourism with new eyes and from different perspectives. It has also given me a chance to explore voluntourism with people who come from very different walks of life – therapists, doctors, educators, business professionals & strategists, and others. This exposure has assisted me in further understanding the voluntourism landscape and what the future likely holds.


Through my GTC cohort, I was introduced to Dr. Alan Watkins, co-creator of Complete Coherence ( out of the UK, and one of his Team members, Alan Littlefield. Dr. Watkins has recently published Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership – an insightful look at Enlightened Leadership and the steps that can be incorporated into one’s life in order to approach an enlightened way of being in the world. Let me reiterate that: a way of being — so that when we do something in the world, the doing is done in an entirely different manner.

What sets this book apart from others you might read on leadership and professional development?

I have to say one of the first things that struck me was how Dr. Watkins opens the discussion around the importance of physiology. Brilliant Leadership begins with a body that is fit for performance. This does not mean that an individual need acquire the fitness level of an olympian; what this translates into is a body that is harmonized (in coherence) with its optimum level of performance potential. And, for each of us, this will be different, of course. Dr. Watkins writes:

What we do depends on what we think, what we think depends on emotion and what we feel and what we feel depends on the physiological data signals that are occurring inside our body 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Therefore improved performance is a cumulative process that starts with greater mastery over the first internal “line of development” – physiology and includes the vertical development of another seven internal and external lines of development namely, emotion, cognitive, maturity, values (internal), behaviour, networks, impact (external).” SOURCE: Chapter Summaries – Chapter One: The Great Performance Myth (

Coherence, therefore, is a set of life-practices which embrace leadership development across a host of lines of development and ask the practitioner to look beyond IQ (intelligence), to integrate EQ (emotional intelligence) and ESQ (emotional social intelligence) as well.

Coherence & Voluntourism

Though my eyes have passed over the words of this book but once, I am eagerly awaiting future such opportunities. Dr. Watkins has crafted a compelling set of references to new discoveries in human physiology as well as breakthroughs in individual (human) & collective (team) development and even that of organizations (Holacracy®). As dark as the writings on voluntourism have been over the past six months (alas, I have not been completely on Sabbatical), the hope that Coherence has infused in me is proving deeply inspirational. To think that Coherence techniques and practices could steadily filter into the vast array of voluntourism stakeholders across this planet has left me on the verge of giddy, to say the least.

I have held for quite some time the notion that voluntourism is an expression of human development and something that can indeed, when harmonized (now we can borrow Dr. Watkins term “in coherence“), set us on a course toward a brighter collective future, one with far less suffering. Dr. Watkins and his Team are every bit as interested in alleviating suffering. Bringing Coherence and Brilliant Leadership to the voluntourism space appears to be a further step in birthing such a world.

If voluntourism becomes not so much the thing done or the thing accomplished but the thing set in motion, the catalyzing agency of multiple expressions of humanity coalescing around a common purpose (improvement of a current condition, whatever that may be), then applying Coherence in such a context may very well prove to support the delivery of service that is far beyond what we could have ever imagined.

Final Thoughts…

Voluntourism appears to represent a step in humanity’s collective unfoldment, an adaptation to address our present conditions. Just as we do not sack the human race because of all that is “wrong” with us, it is equally uninformed to simply sack voluntourism for all of its controversial elements. With Coherence, perhaps, we will be able to uncover the essence of what is really at work: “Is humanity simply growing up and waking up?”

Dr. Watkins introduces us to practices, approaches, and insights that can, for example, assist us in appreciating others and “hearing” the arguments and positions of others, whilst providing them with the invaluable feedback of being understood. He brings to our attention that the change we seek in the world, e.g., voluntourism-generated change in the human and/or environmental condition, starts with our own physiological coherence. Who would have thought to explore our own physiology as the foundation of creating a world with less suffering?

Coherence emphasizes that “how” we develop ourselves has a tremendous impact on how voluntourism, as an example, shows up in the world. Thus, we can change voluntourism by simply bringing ourselves into coherence. And, I must admit, there is something extremely appealing about that.


2 thoughts on “Returning from VolunTourism Sabbatical

  1. Great work, as always :-). Are you signed up to LinkedIn? Be sure you are a member of the GTC group (GTC Graduates)

    Much love!

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