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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?

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Local Travel – Values To Take On The Road

Local Travel. It is a simple concept that most people can understand. You can apply it to local travel within your own community, as well as traveling like a local to destinations outside of your home base.

I recently came across the Local Travel Movement blog, through my connections with WHL, an e-marketplace for local accommodation providers.  While reading about the Local Travel Movement, I discovered their Local Travel Values (as shown below):

  • If you are mindful of the local people, you put yourself in the locals’ shoes and discover what they really think.
  • If you are mindful of the local environment, you put yourself in the heart of it, feel its beauty and power, and do what you can to preserve it for the future.
  • If you are mindful of the local culture, you put yourself in the local mindset and share in activities and experiences as locals do.
  • If you are mindful of the local economy, you put your money into local business and ensure that your tourism benefits the right people.

These are exactly the type of travel values I would deem appropriate for supporting sustainable tourism. With all of the different sustainable tourism terminology out there, that I mentioned before, it can be confusing for a new traveler to know how to travel the “best” way. But, the concept of Local Travel seems to fit the bill perfectly.

My challenge to you: keep these Local Travel values on hand and put them into practice when you plan and embark upon your next vacation. You may be surprised to find your travel experience more fulfilling and meaningful than ever before.

Traveling Sustainably Is Easy When You Are Visiting San Francisco

Excellent, my first reader question (courtesy of my mother):

We’ll be in San Francisco for several days in a couple of weeks with family from the Midwest.  Do you have any suggestions for activities other than the large tourist attractions that would support the local community?

San Francisco is a pretty magical city to visit with everything you could ask for on a vacation in the wee space of a 7×7 square mile box. Because of its limited space resources, San Francisco has taken innovative steps to become one of the top Green cities in the U.S. The city excels in sustainable values with its vast public transportation network, strong biking community, well-preserved parks and green spaces, and support for local shops and restaurants.

But to answer the question more specifically, with regard to looking for tourist worthy activities that support local communities in San Francisco, I have the following ideas…

San Francisco is well-known for having distinctive neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has its own eclectic style and feel and consequently each neighborhood, aside from Union Square and the Financial District (which are full of chain stores and restaurants), is filled to the brim with local SME’s (small and medium-sized enterprises). Therefore, you can pretty much walk around any neighborhood in the city and easily support the local community by supporting their local businesses.

One idea for getting to know some of these unique neighborhoods, while supporting and interacting with the local community, is joining one of the San Francisco City Guides walking tours. City Guides is a non-profit organization that runs primarily off of the support of volunteer guides. The tours are free and no reservations are required, unless you are a group of 8 or more. The guides are locals themselves and this promotes a healthy interaction between visitors and hosts who are both excited about sharing knowledge about the city they love. Tours range from general neighborhood walks of Japantown or West Portal, to themed ones like Ghosts, Sinners and Secret Places and Billionaire’s Row: Outdoor Broadway Architecture.

Another great destination to visit in San Francisco that will help support the local community is taking a trip to the Ferry Building. While it is slowly starting to become a tourist hot spot, it is still a local hangout and brimming with locally sourced shops and places to eat. Furthermore, if you visit on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday you can enjoy the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market which takes place just outside of the Ferry Building.  Visiting the market and sampling the local food, such as the pork sandwich from Roli Roti, will help support the local Northern California agriculture industry.

Does anyone else have any suggestions on places to take visitors in San Francisco that support local communities and/or would be sustainable travel options?

For more information on “Green” travel options in San Francisco, visit the San Francisco Convention and Visitor Bureau’s website dedicated to the topic: http://www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com/green/

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