Category Archives: Supporting Local Economies

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.

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Day 4 in Morocco

We are closing in on the end of day 4 of our 15 day trip through the Best of Morocco and I am already amazed and smitten with this country and it’s people. Equally, I am impressed by the quality of learning and experiences Intrepid offers on it’s tours. I cannot imagine having a 1/100th of the experience I have had so far if I planned this trip on my own.

Here are the top 5 lessons/facts I have taken away from my experience so far (not in any particular order):

1) Moroccan history and culture is ingrained with respect for humanity and tolerance for all religions. While the country is 98% Muslim, over a thousand years of their history indicates they have always welcomed, protected, and included Judaism, Christianity and Muslim faiths in their country without war or persecution. The rest of the world could learn a lot from this country.

2) Everyone should follow the rule of the Moroccan spice of life. Indulge in 15 minutes of crazy everyday. This includes laughter, dance, celebration, etc. If you do this it will keep you happy, healthy, and wealthy.

3) Camel meat is delicious. No joke. Moroccan food in general is pretty amazing. I have indulged in olives, tangine, couscous, lentils, moroccan whiskey (aka moroccan mint tea), harira soup….

4) Moroccan man love melts my heart. I love the affection that is shown between male friends here. From the way they great each other with hugs and kisses to the dance moves they share when moved by their favorite traditional tunes.

5) Pigeon poop is the key to soft and colorful leather. Gross, but kind of fascinating.

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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?

Agritourism – A Family Friendly Travel Option, And So Much More

A friend recently asked me, or rather begged me, to offer her suggestions on sustainable tourism options for families with toddlers. It didn’t take me long to uncover, in my opinion, the perfect form of sustainable tourism that has the ability to entertain all ages: AGRITOURISM.

As defined by the UC Small Farm Program, agritourism is “a commercial enterprise at a working farm, ranch or agricultural plant conducted for the enjoyment or education of visitors, and that generates supplemental income for the owner.”

Good for the kids: For children, participating in agritourism is a great way to have fun while experiencing what Irene Lane describes as “teachable moments.” By visiting a farm or ranch, children are given the opportunity to learn about where their food comes from, how plants and animals live and grow, and about the value of natural resources. An example of some popular agritourism activities include: farm tours, pick-your-own-fruit opportunities, animal farm visits, craft fairs, and other family oriented agricultural events.

Why is agritourism becoming so popular? I was thumbing through some old Ode magazines the other day and came across an article on agritourism in the April/May 2010 issue. Ode describes this new wave of agritourism as farms “opening their doors to a public hungry for a up-close look at how their food is grown or raised.” Similar to the attraction tourists have towards the unknown and authentic when they travel, the production of food has become an unknown entity to us. This has made agritourism a thriving niche market around the world, particularly for the American market, whereby they seek authentic food and farm experiences for personal education and fulfillment.

Agritourism around the world: Agritourism opportunities can be found worldwide. In Italy, agritourism has become a huge niche market due to the country’s visitor attraction being strongly associated with food and wine. Italy has even created a new form of accommodation called, agriturismo. Agriturismo are farm holiday accommodations often manifesting themselves as historic country farm houses. Staying at an agriturismo allows the visitor to learn about the family who run the farm, take part in farm activities, participate in cooking classes, etc. This is a unique opportunity to get to know both the history and culture of Italy, while supporting the local economy. You also get to enjoy your vacation surrounded by a beautiful rural setting and delicious local cuisine.

My most memorable agritourism experience? Visiting the Surrey Hills Llama farm in Surrey, England. In addition to offering treks with the llamas, the farm owns The Merry Harriers, a pub praised for their use of fresh and local produce. My teachable moment from the experience was learning that llama’s have big personalities. Louis, pictured on the left, likes to be at the end of the pack while on a trek. To make sure he is the last llama, he hangs around waiting and eating while the rest of the llamas and trekkers move along down the trail. However, once he can no longer see his brethren, panic sets in and Louis goes running to catch up to them! My friends couldn’t help but laugh hysterically every time Louis and I would disappear from the pack, and then re-emerge at lightening speed.

Resources to plan your own agritourism holiday:

California: Check out the California Agricultural Tourism Directory. They have a list of farms and ranches you can visit, upcoming events, and farm trails you can follow if you are up for a multi-agritourism adventure.

UK: Go to Farm Stay UK for more information on booking a Farm focused holiday in the UK.

Canada: Trail Canada offers a great comprehensive guide to different agritourism ideas throughout the country.

Everywhere Else: Agritourism World provides a worldwide search engine to find the best farm stays and ranch visits at your next holiday destination.

Sustainable Travel? There’s An App For That

There seems to be an app for everything these days. From different knock off versions of scrabble, to camera effect apps that make you and your nearest and dearest look fat, old, and/or bald.

So I was thinking, if there is an app to make you bald, there must be an app, or multiple apps, that can aid you in making more sustainable travel choices on your next vacation or weekend excursion.

I dug around the internet searching for mobile apps that might help the average traveler participate in sustainable tourism and found these 3 gems: LocalEats, Green Travel Choice, and World Customs and Cultures. Combined, these apps will help you cover all the bases of sustainable travel: supporting the local economy, supporting the environment, and supporting the local community and culture.

LocalEats – This app is hosted by www.WheretheLocalsEat.com. It is a great resource to find the best eats in town while supporting the local communities economy. The purpose behind the website and app is that it promotes local eateries in cities as opposed to large chain establishments. By supporting local businesses, you are supporting the local economy, as opposed to giving your money to international investors who are less likely to be connected to the communities they do business with. Favorite App Feature: The app has a ‘search nearby’ function. So, as long as your phone has GPS functionality, LocalEats can identify where you and produce a list of all the best local eats options in your immediate area.

Green Travel Choice – This is a pretty simple app that calculates and tracks your total carbon emissions as you travel. You can enter your starting and ending point and the app will produce a chart for you listing what your carbon emissions will be for 9 different transportation choices. For example, if I were to travel from where I am sitting right now, in Davis, California, and go to New York City, these are the carbon emissions I would potentially produce:

  • Hiking/Biking – 0.0lbs
  • Train/Subway – 573.9 lbs
  • Bus – 684.6 lbs
  • Motorbike – 1167.8 lbs
  • Small Car – 1409.5lbs
  • Medium Car – 2114.2 lbs
  • Large Car – 2970 lbs
  • Medium Hybrid Car – 1761.8 lbs
  • Airplane – 1872.6

I think the most interesting result here is that taking an airplane to NYC creates almost the same carbon emissions as driving a hybrid to NYC. This is a great resource to help you realize how your travel choices affect the environment. This app, however, could improve itself by offering a carbon offsetting program where you can donate money to tree planting to offset  your carbon footprint. Favorite App Feature: By purchasing the Green Travel Choice app, you get a $15 discount code for membership to the International Ecotourism Society (TIES).

World Customs and Cultures – I recommend this app to any international traveler. The value get from this app is that it covers a huge variety of country specific customs and cultural eccentricities. By studying up on the country you are visiting ahead of time, you can save yourself from potentially embarrassing and/or rude interactions with the local people. Topics covered range from communication styles, to eye contact rules, to local taboos. There is also a great greeting component that goes over the expected greetings between different relationships with people: man/man, man/woman, etc. If you have ever been to Europe I am sure you have encountered the awkward “how many kisses do I give this person” moment. This app could have saved you from that experience. Favorite App Feature: The random button. Every time you hit it, it will tell you a random cultural custom or ritual from around the world. Example: In Cameroon, sometimes the forefinger and pinky are extended and used to mime Dracula teeth, making fun of someone for having bad teeth.

Those are my mobile app recommendations. What are yours? Do you use any apps that help you travel more sustainably? Make better choices in your everyday life? Get you more connected with your community or other communities?

Eat Local, Eat Cheap – California Restaurant Month

As I previously mentioned in my Sustainable Tourism post, part of traveling sustainably is supporting local economies. One of the most fun and self-indulgent ways to do this is through food. Particularly in California, where most of our food is locally sourced, eating out means you are supporting local agriculture, as well as local business owners. Additionally, visiting local eateries allows you to experience the local culture of a destination, by tasting their culinary delights.

The California Travel and Tourism Commission has decided to kick off the new year with California Restaurant Month.

So, what does this mean and why is it so cool? Let me tell you…

Throughout the month of January, cities and towns from Northern down to Southern California will be holding Restaurant Weeks. Each destination is doing it a little bit differently, but the underlying theme is that some of the best restaurants, cafes and bistros in California, for their designated week, will be offering discounted prix-fixe meals just for you. For 1 entire month you can enjoy the seasonal and local culinary concoctions of some of California’s best known chefs, but for a fraction of the price.

You can go to official California Restaurant Month website to see the list of participating cities, as well as the dates of their participation.

For those living in or near Sacramento, or just want a reason to come visit me, our Restaurant week starts TOMORROW! Dine Downtown runs from January 7-16. 30 of Sacramento’s best restaurants will be offering top class 3 course meals for just $30. To see who is participating, what the menus will look like, and to book your reservations in advance, go here.

So what about those of you not from California, or not planning to visit the sunshine state this month? Don’t worry! Many cities and states across the nation are planning similar events this month! Here are some examples. Check out your cities tourism board to see when they are hosting one.

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