Have Bag – Will Travel

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Adventures in International Living, Self-Discovery, and a Life of Meaning 

An Inspirational Memoir by James Cameron Mielke 


Author’s Note: In this “Adventures in International Living” series, my aim is to demonstrate how anyone can experience genuine fulfillment and self-discovery through different, freer ways of living – ones that are not narrowly focused on blind ambition, resume building, or saving the world, but more so on following your heart, discovering your life’s purpose, moving with the natural flow of your energy as it connects with the universal energy. By keeping it simple, easy and not forced, this may involve “living outside of the box”, experimenting with lifestyles learned from other cultures and different ways of living – being open to other priorities in life.

Following years of pain, depression and suffering with a debilitating chronic disease, newfound health catapulted a young man into a new reality – energized and free to enjoy all that life has to offer. 

Have you ever dreamed of discovering other countries, learning multiple languages, relishing foreign cultures and living abroad like a local? For me Jim Mielke, it’s a dream come true, and continues to unfold with amazing, at times hilarious (and often precarious!) travel adventures, along with meaningful professional contributions to the health and well-being of people living in some of the poorest, most remote and under-served places in the Asia-Pacific region.  

“Have Bag – Will Travel” is the first book in the “Adventures in International Living” series. Drawing on over 45 years of personal journal entries, the series chronicles some of my experiences living and working in developing countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, as well as low-cost adventure travel to exotic destinations on every continent except Antarctica.  

Like being shot from a cannon, I am still flying high with my new-found health thanks to ileostomy surgery – at age 19 I was fitted with an external pouch, following years of pain, depression and suffering with inflammatory bowel disease. The pain and misery were gone. Almost immediately after receiving the ‘bag’, I felt strong and exhilarated and this newfound health catapulted me into a whole new energized life. For the first time in years, I was free to enjoy all that life offers and that freedom continues now, 45 years later. 

Book One covers my early years growing up in the USA, giving some of my childhood background and continuing throughout my teen years. It goes on to describe my first decade or so living overseas. Join me for an epic journey spanning nearly a decade exploring 18 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region and the USA, including vivid tales of unique and meaningful international work experiences. Meet the rare mix of people along the way, and learn about the steps taken to achieve these goals and aspirations. Discover the deeper meaning and potential derived from overseas cross-cultural  experiences and perspectives  all on a shoestring budget!  

Packed with pithy narratives of overseas adventures, the thrills, humor, and heartaches, some romance, a bit of sex, and stunningly beautiful natural scenes – these stories give some glimpses into an evolving insight of a young man moving through the seasons of his life.  

“Another lovely evening in the tropics – watching the moon light up the clear tropical sky – highlighting the edges of thin clouds and shimmering off tall, elegant palms. The air is warm, a slight breeze wafts through the leaves. Daily swimming and diving on the reef in the clear lagoon waters, hiking and camping in the cool, dense jungles of the island’s interior – eating bat stew on the rim of an ancient volcano, swimming in a cold, bottomless crater lake – and becoming lost in a blanketing mist, outrigger canoe trips to uninhabited islands, numerous adventures by trail bike, romance in the setting sun, and night-dipping under the shooting stars. Too many social commitments, too much fun, too damn many women and not enough sleep.” [Journal excerpt, Western Samoa, December 1985]

I first learned about overseas volunteer opportunities as a college student working summers at a YMCA  Conference and Family Retreat Center in the USA. A six-week internship with the YMCAs in Sri Lanka turned into six months, and 40 years later I am still out in the world, having lived and worked in over 20 countries of the Asia-Pacific region. I also enjoy adventure travel to exotic destinations throughout the world.  

Over the years, I have spoken to college students, members of voluntary organizations and other interested groups about world service work and other options for international experiences – just as someone spoke to me 45 years ago, when I was a summer employee at the YMCA.  Many young people are keen for an overseas experience, and are searching for direction, but for various reasons, never get there. In a world of increasing global interdependence, the lasting benefits of international travel and cross-cultural service experiences are truly priceless.  

This book is important to stoke the fires of adventure – especially among young people. The stories in this book will resonate with anyone who has desired to travel and live overseas. They will inspire and encourage those seeking something beyond their national borders, beyond the mainstream tourist destinations, superficial material lifestyles and empty career paths. The discovery early in life of the deeper meaning and potential derived from international and cross-cultural perspectives might even save 30 years of meaningless work later.  

I  earned a Master’s degree and a Doctorate in Public Health and work as an international health and development consultant for various humanitarian aid agencies. I am also an internationally certified yoga and meditation teacher, and teach classical yoga and meditation as a seasonal volunteer at  YMCAs in the USA and abroad. Having  survived  these adventures, I still travel, and live in a peaceful seaside setting on  Phuket  island in southern Thailand. 

This book has been quite a work of heart, and for a limited time, it will be available for free download June 4th, 5th and 6th. I welcome comments and reviews on all platforms. Feel free to contact me on Facebook, comment on Amazon, or to email me at jim_mielke@hotmail.com.  

Make sure to check out the book! I can’t wait to hear what you think! 




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