Straight after my three months in Portugal volunteering with marine mammals, I moved to Indonesia. It was literally ‘Hi mom, I know I've just got home from Portugal, but I'm moving to Indonesia in two weeks’ time to volunteer for another NGO’ :)
This was the furthest I've pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. The first time living in Asia, first time in a Muslim country, first time in a place where most people don't speak English. It was a really challenging time, yet I definitely feel it was worth it. The place I was living/working at is an orangutan rehabilitation center, which takes in injured or orphaned orangutans and takes care of them, trying to get them ready for release back into the wild (and that can take years if we're talking about a baby).
My work included many things from creating an automated model for processing monitoring data of released orangutans to creating maps about planned reforestation projects and using drones to map rainforests, palm oil plantations and illegal logging sites, trying to save endangered orangutan populations, and their dangerously shrinking rainforest habitats.
I've also moved to Java for 3 weeks to create a model to find potential habitat for slow lorises, and giving local staff a basic training in GIS and in using this model. It shouldn't really come as a big surprise then that my first new map style after this was about the forests of the world. It's funny how every time I look at one of my forest maps, I still see orangutans in my head.