Coffins are usually final resting places for the dead, right? But as former Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar Andy Stoll discovered while staying in Tokyo, they're also a comfortable spot for the living to read, listen to the radio, watch TV, and sleep.
OK, so they aren't really coffins, Stoll admits, but the tight quarters in one of the city's capsule hotels can certainly bring a coffin to mind. Stoll chalks it all up to one of the many unusual experiences he's had during his two-year odyssey around the world in search of Rotarians, their projects, and stories of the lives they've touched.
Sponsored by RI District 6000 (Iowa, USA), Stoll studied film and media at the City University of Hong Kong in 2006-07. After getting his master's degree in media cultures, sold almost all his possessions, armed himself with a video camera and equipment, and set out to circle the globe, documenting his every encounter through video, blogging, and photo galleries.
Read about Stoll's globetrotting experiences
So far, he's visited more than 25 Rotary, clubs including Rotaract and Interact clubs. He started in the United States, then trekked through Asia, and is now traveling in Africa. "I knew that Rotary was in many places of the world," says Stoll. "But I found Rotary in unexpected places. Some of the projects I've seen so far show me that Rotary has figured it out. Rotarians show so much enthusiasm toward bringing good to their communities."
Map Stoll's current location
Inspired by his experience as a Rotary Scholar, Stoll organized 10 to the Top, a project to take 10 Tanzanian students to the top of Africa's highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro. Eighteen Rotary clubs from 10 countries contributed a minimum of US$200 each to the project, giving the students the opportunity to experience something they never would have otherwise. The purpose of the adventure was to help the students improve their self-esteem, teamwork, creativity, environmental awareness, and leadership skills.
In late December, Stoll and three film assistants climbed alongside the students to Kilimanjaro's summit. He hopes to turn what he filmed into a feature -length documentary.
Having a cow
At every resting stop, Rotary club, famous landmark, and mountaintop, Stoll is accompanied by a stuffed toy cow he purchased at a flea market before his journey. He bought it because there was nobody to take a picture of Andy while he hit a new destination, so instead of the cow snapping a shot of him, he used the photogenic tiny bovine to mark where he has been.
Stoll's journey to see the world isn't over. He doesn't follow a set-in-stone itinerary and so he wakes up every morning not entirely sure where the day will take him. He could run out of money or become lost – which doesn't bother Stoll at all, who says that not knowing what's around the corner just makes the experience more rewarding.