Category Archives: responsible tourism

Starry, Starry Night

One of the most memorable experiences from my trip to Morocco was the night we spent in the Sahara Desert. From riding a camel into the deep orange desert, to singing and playing drums around the campfire while trying to stay warm in below freezing temperatures… it was all amazing.

But it was the experience of seeing the stars that night that is most memorable for me.

The sun was still setting when we arrived at our Sahara camp. We spent the last few moments of light setting up our sleeping tents and settling into our dining tent as we waited for dinner to arrive. After a while of playing word games while we waited for dinner, someone alerted us to the fact that it would be dark outside by now and we should go out to look at the stars. As soon as we stepped out of our warm tent and I looked up to the skies… I was floored. A vast sea of glittering stars were spread out above me. After the initial ooh’s and aah’s (think 4th of July  fireworks reactions), most people headed back to the tent for warmth. I knew I was experiencing a rare nights sky, so I grabbed a blanket, spread it out on the sand and laid down for the best seat in the house. In a unpolluted night sky, one can literally see layers of stars as if you were wearing 3-D glasses. And the milky way! It looked like a kid spilled milk on the sky and his mom tried to unsuccessfully wipe it up. With a sky so clear I spotted a handful of shooting stars. It was a truly magical experience.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult these days to find yourself below a clear night sky as I did, devoid of light and air pollution. The good news is, there is a group of people trying to preserve said skies.

As I was taking in this magical ceiling above me, I remembered that one of my tourism professors, Dr. Edith Szivas, had told us a about a project she was involved in with UNESCO and the UNWTO called the Starlight Foundation. The aim of the foundation is to “promote the importance of clear skies for the humankind, emphasizing and introducing the value of this endangered heritage for science, education, culture, technological development, nature conservation, and tourism.” The Starlight Foundation has created a certification process, to help promote clear skies for the sake of science and tourism:

The Starlight Tourism Certification System was created with the aim of encouraging, at world-wide level, the improvement of the quality of tourist experiences and the protection of the night skies in Starlight Destinations.The Starlight Certification seeks to guarantee the capacity to enjoy the view of the stars and to discover the associated scientific, cultural, natural and scenic values.

The Starlight Certification makes it possible for the first time to bring science and tourism together, It aims to ensure the quality of tourism experiences involving the nightscapes, the view of stars and the cosmos and the related scientific, cultural and environmental knowledge. Recognition of science as a tourist product and, at the same time, as a working method in tourism, is the foundation of developing this standard. – Source

Looking to find an unpolluted piece of the sky to experience for yourself? Use this Starlight Finder to start your search!

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Dancing Matt Does It Again

Remember Dancing Matt? The guy who taped himself dancing around in different countries from his travels, posted the video online, and then became an instant viral sensation?

Let me refresh your memory…

7 years later and he is still dancing, traveling, and living life to the fullest. He just posted his most recent “Where the hell is Matt” video.

I dare you not to smile/dance along/love the world you live in while watching this.

The day I won the trip of a lifetime…

I woke up on August 29th like any other weekday morning.

Step 1: Turn off iphone alarm.

Step 2: Put on glasses.

Step 3: Check email on phone.

Step 4: Email from Intrepid, could be interesting. I open it and it says “Dear Lizzie, Congratuations for being one of the winners…”

Step 5: WHAT???????????????

I can probably stop with the steps now. So, after seeing my name and the word congratulations in the same email, I realized this was something I should read on the big screen of… my laptop. I whip it open, and before I could open up my curious congratulatory email, my friend Lindsay starts sending me messages to the likes of “OMG!!! YOU WON!!! WHY DID IT TAKE YOU SO LONG TO WAKE UP!!!???” (please note, she lives in Canada and saw that I won on Facebook about 3 hours before I did).

As it turned out, I had entered an Intrepid Travel contest on facebook in early August. The concept of the competition was to win the ultimate adventure, where you don’t know where you are going until you get to the airport. In order to win, you had to identify the person you would want to take this ultimate adventure with and explain why you wanted to go with them in 25 words or less. So, out of 20,000 entries, my 25 words of why I wanted to take an ultimate adventure with my sister WON!

Now we fast forward to today, December 20th. My sister and I leave on our adventure in 17 days. Do we know where we are going yet? No. Do we have any hints? Kinda.

It will be entering the cooler months of the year where we are going = North of the equator? Or, very far south?

We need typhoid and Hep A vaccinations = South America, Africa, Middle East, parts of Asia (ya, that didn’t narrow it down too much)

We need to pack sleeping bags = Camping?

Basically, there is an infinite number of possibilities of what this trip has in store for us. And I can’t wait to find out!

One of the best parts about winning this mystery trip is that it is with Intrepid Travel, one of the pioneers in sustainable/responsible adventure travel. They use public transportation rather than high carbon emitting tour buses. They have participants stay in small locally owned accommodations and eat at local restaurants to help create revenue for the communities they travel through. They educate their travelers and the local people they visit on sustainable tourism policies. Being considerate of the environment, supporting the economic development of local communities rather than international investors, and supporting education. Does it get any better?

So my question to you is, have you ever wanted a trip planned for you, where all you have to do is show up at the airport and go? Could you handle giving up control like that?

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