Kathy Lombardo

What does traveling to Afghanistan have to do with friendships?

travel quotes
travel quotes

 "Why are you planning all these travel trips?" I'm often asked by people who seem perplexed what a friendship author and speaker is doing planning trips. :)

My short answer:  Anyone who cares about friendship has to care about personal growth and the moments in life that can bring us together. Travel does both: it bonds us and grows us.  There are few things more bonding and growing than leaving our comfort zones together.

I also think it's downright magical to be going on trips together where we are intentionally learning about our sisters in other countries.  There are few things in this world more beautiful than having moments of resonance with women who don't even speak the same language as we do.  Everywhere we go we're doing it with eyes that look with our hearts to better understand the life and voice of women in that place.

Then, the next question is usually, "But why Afghanistan?"

For that, I asked Kathy, the trip ambassador who will be leading a small group of women (ideally 6 women-- we have room for 2 more!) into this country to share with us why she's so passionate.  Just reading her response makes me want to go on this once-in-a-lifetime trip!

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By Kathy:"I have been asked many times, “Why do you want to go to Afghanistan?” always followed immediately by, “Aren’t you afraid?” The answers to both those questions are complex.

I had never before been interested in going to the Middle East in my life, and I believe a part of my draw is that it is a country that has been living just under my radar for more than a decade. A country who’s name I have heard a million times. I want to experience the people and culture of this land where so many men and woman have fought and died for. I know from talking to people whom have been there that the people of Afghanistan are warm and kind and that it is a beautiful country. One soldier told me he wished he could go back as a tourist because of its beauty. Another told me he feels frustrated with how many Americans view the Afghani people because they are not just everything the news reports on. The problems in Afghanistan are complex, but they do not define the people or tell the whole story of the country!    

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My experience in Iran last year was so amazing that it fanned the flame of my desire to experience Afghanistan. The rich history and the culture of the area is far from anything most Americans can begin to understand. And this is what makes it a fascinating place for me to want to experience. It was fun and interesting to dress as was required of us, with head coverings and in modest clothes. It was exciting learning words in a completely foreign language, one you don’t get to learn in school. I was honored to be a part of bridging the gap between two cultures who have a tenuous history, and humbled to meet people as fellow human beings with no prejudice and rather a sense of curiosity, wonder, and awe. I loved the people as much as anything else. I am expecting similar feelings and experiences in Afghanistan.

travel quote: THe world is a book and those who not travel read only one page.
travel quote: THe world is a book and those who not travel read only one page.

Am I scared? Cautious is a better word. I closely follow the news from Afghanistan and after the April 5th elections felt tremendous hope. The Afghan elections were a major victory with almost seven million voters - 36 percent of them women - coming out to say a loud "no" to the terror of the Taliban, and a clear "yes" to the ballot box. I know from my experience in Iran that our guide and driver were very protective of us and would have done anything to keep us safe. I know the same will be true in Afghanistan. Safety will come before anything else.  (Our travel agency has been sending trips there all year...and is always making decisions with safety as the highest priority!)

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I listened to a webinar today by Naomi Simson who talked about “The 2% mindset” where only 2% of the population lives outside their comfort zone by acting in spite of fear, exploring new things, embracing the unknown, going for their dreams, and living without limits. I want to be part of the 2%.

I don't think it's a coincidence that a woman who is willing to go outside her comfort zone in traveling is also the woman who is ready to cheer lead all of us into new friendships and adventures, even in our own cities.  Kathy also happens to be the Ambassador Director for GirlFriendCircles.com, a job she does on the side of her nursing career because she knows that we also have to go outside our comfort zone to build the friendships that enrich our lives.

So in answer to the question, "What does traveling to Afghanistan have to do with friendships?" The answer is multi-faceted!  Going on this trip will give you the opportunity to make friends yourself, to meet your sisters from another country, and because it will expand you and give you more courage in your own friend-making process back home!  I'm in favor of all of that!  :)

Whether Kathy has piqued your interest in joining her in Afghanistan, or whether we've just whet your appetite for travel, in general-- we hope you know that if you're a woman who is open to some adventure and ready to do it in the circle of other women-- you're welcome on any of our trips!

And even if you don't travel with us, I'd love to hear how travel has enriched your life!  Where have you gone and how did it change you? Have you traveled with friends before? Have you traveled with strangers and felt bonded by the adventures? How have you seen your worldview grow? Tell me!

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Other Planned Travel Trips for Women Only:

  • Nicaragua-- is one of our most affordable trips and it's the next one on the docket!  This trip is eco-tourism at it's best; filled with hikes, volcanoes, waterfalls, small towns, good food, and lots of things to help your body exhale from stress.  Come be invigorated with amazing women around you! (optional surfing lessons!)
  • Greece-- I'm leading this trip, you're welcome to join us through all the magical places of this beautiful country.
  • Afghanistan-- you read about it above.  If you have questions, let us know!
  • Chile & Argentina-- 2 countries and lots of culture, food, and wine!
  • Cuba-- Our 3rd and last planned trip to this country-- join us now if you're interested because it's a super special place to visit right now.

All trips, dates, itineraries, and prices are available here: www.WomensTravelCircles.com

An Interview with a GirlFriendCircles.com Ambassador!

With thousands of new members joining GirlFriendCircles.com in the last few weeks from across the U.S. and Canada it reminds me how many women know the value of new friends and are willing to do something about it. For some of you, just signing up and trying to muster up the courage to post your photo, complete your profile, or RSVP to an event will be all you can do to prove to yourself that friendships matter to you. And that's okay!  We all take the steps we can!

But for some of you, you may feel as though you have a bit more in you to move you forward in your friendship journey.  This is an interview with Kathy Lombardo, a GirlFriendCircles.com Ambassador, who I was lucky enough to meet at my Chicago Book Party last month!  She lives 30 miles outside of Chicago in Darien, IL and knows what it's like to feel discouraged at the lack of stuff going on in her area. But her willingness to respond with hope has made all the difference!  She's a 46 year-old Neonatal RN who decided to not only make her own friendships happen, but to also help make it happen for others! You don't have to become an Ambassador to be inspired by her story and see ways you can make friendships happen for you!

Meet Kathy Lombardo, a GirlFriendCircles.com Ambassador, whom I was lucky enough to meet in Chicago last month!

Here's my interview with her:

Shasta:  When you first joined GirlFriendCircles.com, you were undoubtedly hoping for tons of new friendships in your area, but since you live 30 miles outside of Chicago, we weren't that robust in your area, right?  So what did you feel and how did you respond?

Kathy: Yes, when I first joined GirlFriendCircles.com last Spring after hearing you interviewed, the web site told me that there were not enough people in my area to match me with. I was disappointed because I had been so excited to find an avenue for meeting other women who I thought may have a similar desire for the kind of friendship I was yearning for. I was also surprised because I did live close to one of the largest cities in the country. Thus…I got off the computer that day dejected.

Eventually, you decided to take matters into your own hands and become an Ambassador for GirlFriendCircles.com in your area!  What prompted that?  Was it a hard decision?

I do not remember what prompted me to take matters into my own hands but I know that I had chosen to continue to receive your blog and various e-mails. In fact,I ended up using one of your blogs about how you wanted people to feel in your presence as a template for the vows I used in a marriage-to-myself ceremony last Fall. Then I think I must have read something about becoming an Ambassador in one of your e-mails? Regardless of the prompt though, I remember that it was about 6 months after I had first logged on to GFC that I decided to get back on and “make this work” for me. I decided that instead of dejectedly giving up on my dream,  I was instead going to do whatever I could to make it a reality. If I was going to go down; I was at least going to go down fighting! This made my decision to become an Ambassador a no-brainer. In fact I was eager to do so, believing it would lead me down the path to what I was looking for, or I'd at least die trying……lol! After reading your book, I realized I was doing exactly what the heart of your message is, “creating a meaningful circle of girlfriends”. As you say, “friendships don’t just happen” and I clearly realized this and was going to go from wishing for it to intentional action to create it.

That's amazing Kathy. How glad so many of us are that you decided to come back and give it another shot! So, after you then signed up to help be this catalyst for friendship, what are some of the first things you did?

After I signed up I spent time navigating my way around the GFC website, which I hadn’t really done when I first went on. I created a profile with a picture and went in search of friends. I had not seen this feature previously because I don’t think I really understood how GFC worked. I then went about “friending” many women in the city and in the suburbs. I also found the Calendar and created an event. The first event I created was to a book launch party in the city last November, which I was helping out with. Four or five women signed up to go and only one was able to make it but I did meet her that night, and brought back the book for another. It was a small start but it was a start and I was very hopeful!

When did you first sense that things were changing?  What signs did you start to see that gave you hope?

I think I first sensed that things were changing when I decided to take action. There was an immediate shift in me, which translated into a shift in my circumstances. “Friending” women on my own, putting my work zip code as well as my home zip code, finding the Calendar, and creating events is when the hope really kicked into gear! I saw that there was more much for to this than actually just waiting to be matched.

Having been an Ambassador now for 6 months (is that right?), what would you say have been the pay-offs or benefits for you?

Yes, about 6 months, maybe less. The benefits have been tremendous! Just making the decision was a huge benefit. But then deciding to put my all into it is what has given me the biggest rewards. I took it very seriously and put up events as suggested and went to events and ConnectingCircles as much as possible, asked questions of Maci, became a book circle leader, signed up with Big Tent with other Ambassadors, posted questions and answered them in the forum, put up fliers, followed-up with people, and continued to do all of that over and over.

Wow.  I am so touched how seriously you took this.  Thank you so very much. You really dove in, far more than most people are willing to. But, that's everything you gave.  Can you tell me what you received from doing that?

OK...let me try this again.....personal benefits to me? A sense of hope. Feeling good about putting action and intention into something that is important to me. Seeing the truth that the things most precious to me in life take not just desire but intention, action, and commitment. I have learned that the more intention, action, and commitment I put into something the greater the reward will be. I have learned that I am able to co-create the things in life I have longed for. I have learned that giving up does not serve me. I have learned that the status quo, while safe, does not serve me. I have learned to let go of what does not serve me or bring me happiness and that the only way to have the life that I truly desire is to let go of my fear, be willing to risk rejection and disappointment, put myself out there, and be patient!

Beautiful.  Love it!  And now the flip-side.  To be fair and honest, what has been the hardest, or most disappointing part?

Hard? Nothing! Honestly, nothing has been hard. It has been sheer joy for me to be so involved. Being an Ambassador could practically be the job description for who I am as a person. It suits me, it lends itself to the gifts God put me here to share with the world, and it is completely me! It comes naturally to me and I am good at it…not to be a braggart, just to speak the raw truth of it. This is who I am. As you describe in your book, I am a 100% initiator and bringer together of people!

I think the most disappointing part has been something that you actually spoke about in your book. I appreciated reading in Chapter 6 you saying, “I cringe when I hear that….several women cancelled their attendance at a ConnectingCircle the day before-or worse, someone simply didn’t show up.”  I absolutely lean in the direction of naivety and thinking that everyone has the same jolly, happy, this-is-so-fun, let’s-do-this attitude as I do. But the truth is that even people who take the time to sign up for GFC have different levels of desire and commitment. And all I can really worry about is to continue my own level of desire and commitment, knowing it will lead me to who and where I am supposed to be. I also appreciated reading you say that, “The girl who showed up may feel embarrassed or frustrated, but she has proven to herself that she is willing to be present for something that she says is important in her life. I believe that energy will serve her.” These sentences touched my heart because that is a principle I think I have spent my life standing on even if not everyone else who has been in my life has.

What has been one of your best memories as an Ambassador so far?

Well…that is an easy one! It is at your book launch party when I asked you a question and one of the women I was with told you I was an Ambassador.  Then after telling you my name you said, “Oh yes, I know you. Maci told me I HAVE to meet you and that she thinks you are great and so wished she could have come here just to meet you!” I felt like a mini-celebrity! It was awesome to see that all the effort I had been putting in was really, really paying off….  I was with a large group of women I had met through GFC, was meeting you, was being sought after by other women there, and got to meet a woman who was there that night as the result of a flier I had put up in a Caribou coffee months previously and many, many miles away! It was an amazing night!

Look at all the friendships Kathy has helped make happen! It made me SO happy to see the love and joy among these women!

Well that was a highlight for me, too!  What a difference you've made Kathy.  It's amazing how one woman can just start reaching out, and how much others will respond to that!  What a difference you've made!  Okay, last questions, if you were to give advice to others who might be willing to be Ambassadors in their areas, what would you like to tell them?

Like Nike says, “Just do it”, or more specifically, DO IT! It has been worth every moment of effort I have put into it and has changed my life in so many ways! It is not really “hard” and the rewards far surpass any time and effort that it may take. I would also definitively say that patience is required, as is tenacity. It didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t happen with the first event I created. In fact, the first 3 events I created were attended by either only one other person or no one at all. But I was patient and tenacious and would not give up!! And look, I am now being interviewed by YOU!!!  :)

Oh how grateful so many of us are that you didn't give up.  Thank you for continuing to post events, for not taking it personally when people didn't RSVP, and for continuing to reach out and introduce women to each other. I'm so very thankful for you!

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If you're interested in possibly being an Ambassador for Friendship in your area, go here. But whether you sign-up or not, I hope you got lots of good ideas from Kathy's story and that it gives you the courage necessary to go post an event on the GirlFriendCircles.com calendar in your area and maybe send out a few "Let's Connect" requests to introduce yourself to other women nearby!  Make your friendships happen!