In 2010, TWB co-founders Jan Zahler Zoochie and William Zoochie were traveling through Morocco, a nation where over 70% of the population is under the age of 17. Driving their rental car over back roads and through small towns and villages, they noticed children playing soccer with tin cans and bottles. In the marketplace of the next town, they hit upon the idea of purchasing some balls to give out at random on their journey. The balls were only about $2.50 apiece, so they purchased ten of them – the small shop owner got a little economic boost, Jan and William got the means to interact with the locals and spread a little joy during their travels. $25.00 was a small price to pay for all the exuberant smiles, excitement and shouts of thanks those ten balls elicited from the clusters of kids who received them over the next few days. It was such a great experience that Jan and William purchased three more balls when they arrived in Fes and handed them out to groups of children playing in the medina. These experiences were among the most highly cherished memories of their 3 1/2 week trip to Morocco. Thus, the idea of Travel With Balls was born.
Jan Zahler Zoochie
Jan thinks ‘travel with balls’ doesn’t only apply to giving soccer balls away on a trip –it’s also the best way to journey through Life – that is, live it with passion and tremendous gusto! A true 7 on the enneagram, Jan is an enthusiast who is interested in just about everything. She has traveled in over 50 countries and has fond memories of paddling a canoe down 145 kilometers of the Whanganui River in New Zealand, staying in a grass hut and drinking millet beer in Swaziland, and going crazy during Carnival in Trinidad & Tobago for ten straight years. When she’s not traipsing around the globe Jan writes (essays, articles and poems), sings in the Agape International Choir, and eats and dances her way through LA’s ethnic communities. She loves outdoor activities and has completed the California AIDS Ride (7 days, 576 miles of hell on a bike…), the LA Marathon and the Avon 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk. Jan has a grown son, Michael, and is married to her soul-mate, William Zoochie. A formally trained but religiously unaffiliated Spiritual Director, Jan is a fervent believer in both meditation and merlot.
William is living proof that you can take the man out of the Peace Corps, but you can’t take the Peace Corps out of the man. 35 years after his Peace Corps service in the East African country of Uganda and the Pacific Island nation of Tonga, William is still finding ways to combine his love for foreign travel with his passion for helping folks. A committed environmentalist, William is a one-man recycling center (which sometimes drives Jan crazy) and is known for bringing his own reusable containers for leftovers to restaurants. His dream is that, someday before it’s too late, humans will wake up and realize that we share this precious little planet with millions of other species who have as much right to be here as we do. William failed to inherit the fear (or is it the sanity) gene and he has bungee jumped off a bridge over the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe, spear-fished in the shark-infested waters of Tonga and parachuted out of a perfectly good plane in New Zealand. The final proof of his insanity is that he is a lawyer who tries to win a measure of justice for the little guy in the American “justice” system.
Starr is plotting his eventual escape from the University of Oregon. After he graduates he intends to pursue his dream gig of traveling the world for National Geographic as a photographer or filmmaker. Some of his exploits give new meaning to the term ‘travel with balls’ – a couple of years ago he spent the summer in Alaska photographing and filming grizzly bears at close range. Like his Uncle William, Starr has great appreciation for the Earth and would like to convince people that it’s not a great idea to rape, pillage and plunder the planet that we are so utterly dependent upon. Since he’s originally from LA, it’s probably inevitable that, in addition to his photography and documentary-film interests, Starr is working on some screenplays. Starr’s talents stretch beyond the artistic – he is the unofficial world-record holder for eating the most pieces of garlic naan (Indian bread) in the shortest amount of time. During his freshman year living in the U of O dorms, Starr was voted “Most Likely to Indulge in Philosophical Musings Without Being Completely Stoned” by his peers.