The Sonder Project

“ Two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why”

Mark Twain



My name is Nick LaPenna. In a few short months, Ill be graduating the University of Maryland,  closing a journey that I’ll sum up as, well,  “scenic”. While majority of my class mates are meticulously updating their LinkedIn profiles, looking for their first apartment, and trying to nail down that inaugural big job offer, I am taking a much different route, one in which the word “scenic” may be a little bit of an understatement.

            A few months back, I was out to dinner in DC, and as I came back to my car a group of homeless people were standing on a corner asking for money. I did what most of us do, and I either ignored them or said I didn’t have anything to give them. Whatever happened in my brain 11 seconds after that led me to go buy 6 hot dogs, reverse course and feed 6 homeless people on a cold Dc night.

            Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, where I was on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The island has one of the worst homeless rates in the nation, and its very evident day in and day out. I was walking to my car after buying a boatload of Billabong apparel when a homeless guy stopped me and asked if I could get him a sandwich. I declined, saying I had nothing on me, as I continued onto my car. Immediately after that and up to this day, I’ve thought about these two instances. The first, I took door number one, one that would personally set me back on paper, but would help others, no matter how small the scale. In Hawaii, I chose door number 2, which  included only myself and whatever I wanted to do in that moment. 
These two stories have been playing in my head alot recently, and as I leave college I have the chance to enter Door number 1, or Door number 2.
            My post grad decision has become a lot easier.

            With that said, on September 14th of this year, I will be boarding a plane with a backpack, a camera , and a mission: To cross 6 continents, 4 oceans, and go into as many as 40 different countries. I will be Going around the world, to help as many people as I can. Unless Oscar Meyer himself personally donates 7.2 billion hot dogs, I am not under the impression that I'm going to be saving the world one hot dog at a time. This help will vary based on what I come across and  frankly, who I come across. Whether it is helping on a farm in Norway, helping to build a school in Nicaragua, starting an eco friendly project in Auckland, or teaching English to kids in Laos, I am going to make sure that in every country I visit I lend a helping hand to someone in need.

This world is full of 7.25 billion people. It has seen countless wars, fought over territory, religion, and political ideologies. In our own nation, we have the constant quarrel and division amongst races and ethnicities. It is my goal to show, that even though we are broken up into these non-sensical borders that make up 195 different countries, even though we may pray to different God’s, or support different governments, we are all just 1 in 7.25 billion, and we all need a helping hand.

            Through your donation, I will be able to document this journey every step of the way, and eventually, edit and produce a documentary, highlighting my mission. But not just the different locations with their unique landscapes, food, languages, culture or architecture. Not just the life of a 22-year-old nomad traveling around the world on a shoestring budget. But the people I meet along the way and their story. Staying in their homes, eating dinner at their kitchen table, experiencing what life is like from them, and telling their story. 
I will not be going with a group, or a program, or anything of the such. This is simply me wanting to make a difference across borders.

            So, please, donate if you can, as little as one dollar helps. And perhaps just as importantly, like and share this post on Facebook to help spread the word and mission. While there is the choice to donate anonymously, each person that signs their donation will be met with a hand written note and photograph from a stop in this trek. Though I may be embarking on this alone in September, everyone who donates will be just as big a help as I am trying to be. I will make sure your benevolence and magnanimous gesture will no be in vain. If youve made it this far, thank you very much for reading and for any help you can give
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Nick LaPenna 
Benson, MD