Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

Hilton’s sustainability goals are intriguing. Corporations, rightfully so, are beginning to bear the brunt of climate change. They have a lot to gain by implementing green practices widely and well. But, they also have a lot to lose if those practices are implemented poorly, or worse nothing is done at all. Travelers are starting to take notice of their environmental impact. Seventy-Eight percent of Americans now consider sustainable travel their new goal. This includes locally sourced foods, social impact activities, and their lodgings. With their 2030 goals, Hilton has set itself on course to become the leader in sustainable travel. But how are they doing it?

*This post is sponsored by Hilton. All opinions, styling, and feedback are my own and in no way influenced by the company. You know my policy: If I like your brand, believe you are working towards authentic sustainable practices, and actually enjoy your products then I will help to raise brand awareness. If not, we don’t work together.

Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

Why Is Responsible Travel Necessary?

The global travel and tourism industry accounts for “10.4% of global GDP and 313 million jobs, or 9.9% of total employment.” Surely that alone is a call for action. A call for change. Not surprisingly, the impact of this trillion dollar industry is quite literally felt around the world. Tourism accounts for eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This large carbon footprint comes from more than just air travel. Events, food, shopping, and lodgings contribute to these outputs too.

While data shows that newer generations value experiences over material items, many remain unsure how to responsibly spend their money. A Nielsen Company survey found that 66% of respondents would pay more to companies committed to positive social and environmental impact. What does this mean? Sustainable practices must be implemented if travel and tourism companies want to capture the market moving forward.

Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

What Are Hilton’s Sustainability Goals?

In May 2018 Hilton announced its 2030 goals of cutting their environmental footprint in half and doubling their social impact. Since then, they have been eagerly working towards reaching these goals before the self imposed deadline. What’s more, they aren’t stopping at these two initiatives. Hilton will also “double the amount it spends with local and minority-owned suppliers, and double its investment in programs to help women and youth around the world.” In order to better understand, Hilton generously accommodated me at the San Diego Bayfront and Hotel del Coronado. Over three days I explored, questioned, and learned about the 2030 goals.

Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

Environmental Impact

Hilton’s sustainability goals are impressive. Their mission to reduce their environmental footprint in half is already well underway with the help of scientific tools. Here are just a few of the things they are doing:

  • Reducing Energy Consumption:

    • With the help of LightStay, Hilton’s award-winning sustainability data reporting system, properties are able to track, analyze, and implement energy efficiency changes. This includes controlling temperatures, monitoring light usage in each room, and water consumption reports. With precision, properties like the Bayfront are able to set conference and event room temperatures. This also includes turning industrial equipment, such as laundry facilities, on overtime to avoid energy spikes.
  • Single Use Plastics:

    • Each of the properties has vowed to cut single use plastic. This includes everything from straws which are now available only by request to water bottles which are being switched out to refillable glass or ceramic alternatives. These two properties deal quite a bit with corporate and social events. One of the easiest ways to cut down on single use plastics is switching out disposable coffee cups and water bottles for more sustainable options. If you’re a Hilton Honors Member (which is free) going keyless and reducing your plastic waste is now simple. Hilton Honors Members can now access their rooms through a A Digit Key in the Hilton Honors app.
  • Renewable Resources:

    • Currently the use of resources remains a local decision – specific to each property. Many of the properties are already choosing to invest in renewable energies. Ft. Lauderdale has three wind turbines, hydro systems have been put in place in New Zealand, and solar panels have been implemented in Hawaii. With the help of renewable credits and investing in research and solutions the move to renewable resources is slowly becoming more corporate. This is in addition to, and with the help of, local and federal governments and renewable energies from partners through the purchasing of credits. Additionally, much attention is focused on the issue of water. Understanding that water sources continue to be pressured, Hilton works with local communities and governments to ensure water usage is equitable, fair, and above all sustainable.
  • Zero Waste:

    • Admittedly this doesn’t always come easy to large corporations but the Hilton properties are making waves. One of their goals is to send zero soap to landfills – something that is already being done at the San Diego properties. Unused soaps are sent to recycling programs where over 7 million recycled bars are then distributed to communities in need. Another issue which they are addressing is food waste. Those banquet dinners that are never touched or those items the kitchen doesn’t end up using are donated to the local communities to help combat food insecurities. Additionally, food that can’t be donated is separated, sent to the local landfill, and turned into compost. That compost is then given to the city farms to help grow food for the local communities.
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

Social Impact

Corporations have a large responsibility when it comes to taking care of the local community. They have the power to uplift or marginalize the communities they operate in. Hilton has made it its mission to uplift those in the vicinity with an eye on global social empowerment.

  • Supporting the Local Community:

    • This is done on several fronts. Many of the hotels including the del Coronado are sourcing their food from local farms, fisheries, and vendors. By doing so they are bolstering the livelihoods of those in the area. They go further to support local communities by donating bed linens and towels which are upcycled into needed products.
  • Hiring Practices:

    • Hilton isn’t just committed to hiring locally, they are also committed to supporting our military members. They set out with a goal to hire 10,000 veterans, spouses and dependents by 2020 which they quickly surpassed. Instead of saying enough, they pushed this quota to 20,000 which is still underway.
  • Refugees:

    • Hilton has been engaging with nearly 3,000 refugees since 2016 through volunteering, training, and employment. In 2018, Hilton joined the Tent Partnership for Refugees, pledging to impact 16,000 refugees by 2030.
  • Human Rights:

    • The 2030 goals embed human rights due diligence in global operations. They also work with suppliers to eradicate forced labor and human trafficking in their supply chain. Global brand standards have been set and implemented in the training in anti-human trafficking for all hotels including franchises. In-person training also takes place in hot spots, including around mega-sporting events. Additionally, bespoke training has been developed on the key risks in modern slavery in labor sourcing. This was launched in hundreds of Hilton hotels across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa where recruitment fees in travel and tourism can occur.
  • Inspiring Change:

    • Hilton’s sustainability goals don’t stop at their own doors. They work throughout the industry to drive progress on these issues. As members of the International Tourism Partnership they have contributed to the development and launch of the ITP Principles on Forced Labour.
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

Not All Goals Are Proving Easy

One of the things that is often overlooked is the supply chain. While large corporations such as Hilton have pledged to reduce their environmental impact that doesn’t always mean the resources are readily available to do so. Changing over to eco friendly practices will take time. Before #banthestraw became headline news, Hilton properties such as the Bayfront were already working to reduce single use plastics. While removing straws completely seems like the simplistic way to move forward, that isn’t always possible. Given the volume of guests and events the Bayfront handles on a daily basis an alternative needs to be found. The problem is, because of this volume, suppliers who provide alternatives aren’t always ready to handle that amount of business. This is why not every goal will be easily achieved and many will take time.

Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

Why Stay At Hilton?

I’ve been a long time proponent of Hilton. At first, this was mostly due to their accessibility and property offerings. However, I’ve watched over the last several years as the company has gone above and beyond to accommodate their guests. Team members are always there for you no matter how ridiculous your question may seem. The food, in my opinion, has always sat above any other brand. And now, that they are widely incorporating seasonal and locally produced goods, it is that much better. Amenities such as the Spa at del Coronado never disappoint. I was happy to see the abundant use of organic, natural, and local products which were expertly explained by the Team Members. It is clear after staying at Hilton that the Team Members love their jobs. That love translates directly to you as the traveler making you feel like part of the family: inviting, comfortable, and relaxing.

Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

The Future Of Responsible Travel

No company is without flaw and it will take time to implement these aggressive goals. But, Hilton is leading the way with their 2030 initiatives. As travelers it is our job to ask questions, to demand more, and to support those businesses which are making a positive change. While Hiltons worldwide are undertaking this massive endeavor some will adapt and adopt more quickly than others. All Hilton properties thrive on your feedback. Those that may be a bit slower to adapt need to hear from you. Let them know you support their mission, talk to the managers – they are listening, and ask them about their pursuits. And, most importantly #TravelwithPurpose.

Want More Travel? No Problem.

 

Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

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Hilton’s Sustainability Goals and Traveling with Purpose

Hilton’s Sustainability Goals and Traveling with Purpose

Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

Hilton’s sustainability goals are intriguing. Corporations, rightfully so, are beginning to bear the brunt of climate change. They have a lot to gain by implementing green practices widely and well. But, they also have a lot to lose if those practices are implemented poorly, or worse nothing is done at all. Travelers are starting to take notice of their environmental impact. Seventy-Eight percent of Americans now consider sustainable travel their new goal. This includes locally sourced foods, social impact activities, and their lodgings. With their 2030 goals, Hilton has set itself on course to become the leader in sustainable travel. But how are they doing it?

*This post is sponsored by Hilton. All opinions, styling, and feedback are my own and in no way influenced by the company. You know my policy: If I like your brand, believe you are working towards authentic sustainable practices, and actually enjoy your products then I will help to raise brand awareness. If not, we don’t work together.

Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

Why Is Responsible Travel Necessary?

The global travel and tourism industry accounts for “10.4% of global GDP and 313 million jobs, or 9.9% of total employment.” Surely that alone is a call for action. A call for change. Not surprisingly, the impact of this trillion dollar industry is quite literally felt around the world. Tourism accounts for eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This large carbon footprint comes from more than just air travel. Events, food, shopping, and lodgings contribute to these outputs too.

While data shows that newer generations value experiences over material items, many remain unsure how to responsibly spend their money. A Nielsen Company survey found that 66% of respondents would pay more to companies committed to positive social and environmental impact. What does this mean? Sustainable practices must be implemented if travel and tourism companies want to capture the market moving forward.

Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

What Are Hilton’s Sustainability Goals?

In May 2018 Hilton announced its 2030 goals of cutting their environmental footprint in half and doubling their social impact. Since then, they have been eagerly working towards reaching these goals before the self imposed deadline. What’s more, they aren’t stopping at these two initiatives. Hilton will also “double the amount it spends with local and minority-owned suppliers, and double its investment in programs to help women and youth around the world.” In order to better understand, Hilton generously accommodated me at the San Diego Bayfront and Hotel del Coronado. Over three days I explored, questioned, and learned about the 2030 goals.

Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

Environmental Impact

Hilton’s sustainability goals are impressive. Their mission to reduce their environmental footprint in half is already well underway with the help of scientific tools. Here are just a few of the things they are doing:

  • Reducing Energy Consumption:

    • With the help of LightStay, Hilton’s award-winning sustainability data reporting system, properties are able to track, analyze, and implement energy efficiency changes. This includes controlling temperatures, monitoring light usage in each room, and water consumption reports. With precision, properties like the Bayfront are able to set conference and event room temperatures. This also includes turning industrial equipment, such as laundry facilities, on overtime to avoid energy spikes.
  • Single Use Plastics:

    • Each of the properties has vowed to cut single use plastic. This includes everything from straws which are now available only by request to water bottles which are being switched out to refillable glass or ceramic alternatives. These two properties deal quite a bit with corporate and social events. One of the easiest ways to cut down on single use plastics is switching out disposable coffee cups and water bottles for more sustainable options. If you’re a Hilton Honors Member (which is free) going keyless and reducing your plastic waste is now simple. Hilton Honors Members can now access their rooms through a A Digit Key in the Hilton Honors app.
  • Renewable Resources:

    • Currently the use of resources remains a local decision – specific to each property. Many of the properties are already choosing to invest in renewable energies. Ft. Lauderdale has three wind turbines, hydro systems have been put in place in New Zealand, and solar panels have been implemented in Hawaii. With the help of renewable credits and investing in research and solutions the move to renewable resources is slowly becoming more corporate. This is in addition to, and with the help of, local and federal governments and renewable energies from partners through the purchasing of credits. Additionally, much attention is focused on the issue of water. Understanding that water sources continue to be pressured, Hilton works with local communities and governments to ensure water usage is equitable, fair, and above all sustainable.
  • Zero Waste:

    • Admittedly this doesn’t always come easy to large corporations but the Hilton properties are making waves. One of their goals is to send zero soap to landfills – something that is already being done at the San Diego properties. Unused soaps are sent to recycling programs where over 7 million recycled bars are then distributed to communities in need. Another issue which they are addressing is food waste. Those banquet dinners that are never touched or those items the kitchen doesn’t end up using are donated to the local communities to help combat food insecurities. Additionally, food that can’t be donated is separated, sent to the local landfill, and turned into compost. That compost is then given to the city farms to help grow food for the local communities.
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

Social Impact

Corporations have a large responsibility when it comes to taking care of the local community. They have the power to uplift or marginalize the communities they operate in. Hilton has made it its mission to uplift those in the vicinity with an eye on global social empowerment.

  • Supporting the Local Community:

    • This is done on several fronts. Many of the hotels including the del Coronado are sourcing their food from local farms, fisheries, and vendors. By doing so they are bolstering the livelihoods of those in the area. They go further to support local communities by donating bed linens and towels which are upcycled into needed products.
  • Hiring Practices:

    • Hilton isn’t just committed to hiring locally, they are also committed to supporting our military members. They set out with a goal to hire 10,000 veterans, spouses and dependents by 2020 which they quickly surpassed. Instead of saying enough, they pushed this quota to 20,000 which is still underway.
  • Refugees:

    • Hilton has been engaging with nearly 3,000 refugees since 2016 through volunteering, training, and employment. In 2018, Hilton joined the Tent Partnership for Refugees, pledging to impact 16,000 refugees by 2030.
  • Human Rights:

    • The 2030 goals embed human rights due diligence in global operations. They also work with suppliers to eradicate forced labor and human trafficking in their supply chain. Global brand standards have been set and implemented in the training in anti-human trafficking for all hotels including franchises. In-person training also takes place in hot spots, including around mega-sporting events. Additionally, bespoke training has been developed on the key risks in modern slavery in labor sourcing. This was launched in hundreds of Hilton hotels across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa where recruitment fees in travel and tourism can occur.
  • Inspiring Change:

    • Hilton’s sustainability goals don’t stop at their own doors. They work throughout the industry to drive progress on these issues. As members of the International Tourism Partnership they have contributed to the development and launch of the ITP Principles on Forced Labour.
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

Not All Goals Are Proving Easy

One of the things that is often overlooked is the supply chain. While large corporations such as Hilton have pledged to reduce their environmental impact that doesn’t always mean the resources are readily available to do so. Changing over to eco friendly practices will take time. Before #banthestraw became headline news, Hilton properties such as the Bayfront were already working to reduce single use plastics. While removing straws completely seems like the simplistic way to move forward, that isn’t always possible. Given the volume of guests and events the Bayfront handles on a daily basis an alternative needs to be found. The problem is, because of this volume, suppliers who provide alternatives aren’t always ready to handle that amount of business. This is why not every goal will be easily achieved and many will take time.

Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

Why Stay At Hilton?

I’ve been a long time proponent of Hilton. At first, this was mostly due to their accessibility and property offerings. However, I’ve watched over the last several years as the company has gone above and beyond to accommodate their guests. Team members are always there for you no matter how ridiculous your question may seem. The food, in my opinion, has always sat above any other brand. And now, that they are widely incorporating seasonal and locally produced goods, it is that much better. Amenities such as the Spa at del Coronado never disappoint. I was happy to see the abundant use of organic, natural, and local products which were expertly explained by the Team Members. It is clear after staying at Hilton that the Team Members love their jobs. That love translates directly to you as the traveler making you feel like part of the family: inviting, comfortable, and relaxing.

Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose
Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

The Future Of Responsible Travel

No company is without flaw and it will take time to implement these aggressive goals. But, Hilton is leading the way with their 2030 initiatives. As travelers it is our job to ask questions, to demand more, and to support those businesses which are making a positive change. While Hiltons worldwide are undertaking this massive endeavor some will adapt and adopt more quickly than others. All Hilton properties thrive on your feedback. Those that may be a bit slower to adapt need to hear from you. Let them know you support their mission, talk to the managers – they are listening, and ask them about their pursuits. And, most importantly #TravelwithPurpose.

Want More Travel? No Problem.

 

Responsible Tourism: How To Travel With Purpose

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Conservation Tourism in Belize

Conservation Tourism in Belize

The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak, so we must and we will.

Theodore Roosevelt

Generally speaking when you head for Belize you either choose the beach or the jungle. For a unique and eye opening trip I chose the jungle. Along my travels I was lucky enough to meet this man…Jorge De Leon.

Advocate, conservationist, tour guide, family man, Mayan archeological specialist, hater of hot sauce, and teacher on all things Belize, Lion, as he is known, taught me a lot about the conservation efforts underway throughout the country, specifically in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve in the Cayo District.

Home to over 375 plant species found no where else on earth, and some of the most endangered species including Jaguars, Ocelots, Harpy Eagles, Bairds Tapirs, Black Howler Monkeys, Tree Frogs, Morelet’s Crocodiles and Scarlet Macaws; the Chiquibul forest provides refuge for these species due to its difficult accessibility but, also makes it inviting for poachers looking to benefit from black market sales. Over the years resulting from the lack of critical resources needed to protect the area activities such as illegal logging, hunting, and poaching have gone on unchecked leading to several types of animals being added to the endangered species list. Ever wonder where those Parrots or Scarlet Macaws in the pet store come from?

But one group has stepped up to the challenge of protecting and monitoring the Chiquibul Forest while also providing educational resources and opening up its centers for scientific study and eco-tourism. A proud working member of the Friends of Conservation and Development, (FCD) Jorge takes his job very seriously when it comes to anything that threatens the natural wonders of Belize.

Working with the Belize Government, Forest Department, Institute of Archaeology, BDF and the Police, the FCD trains and employs park rangers to monitor and protect the area which is approximately 400,000 acres. One endeavor of theirs is the protection of the Scarlet Macaw which have seen numbers dwindle in the past several years due to poaching for the illegal pet business. Rangers are employed to protect the nests by monitoring day and night. This often means sleeping out in the forest, disconnected from everything, for several days at a time until the next shift is brought on. In an area where poachers are ruthless this can be a very dangerous job.

As a result of nests being raided the FCD opened the Nest Base Camp. A no thrills site that allows young Macaws to grow and develop under the watchful care of the FCD and the veterinary staff of the Belize Wildlife and Referral Clinic. When the birds are mature enough they are released back into the wild where they can be monitored from a distance to ensure their survival.

Part of the reason the Chiquibul Forest Reserve has enjoyed the development of such diverse flora and fauna is partially due to the low human footprint. This low footprint has in turn also allowed for poaching and other illegal activities to go unchecked. To help combat and educate the local population and tourists the FCD has partnered with several local tour operations to bring people into the region in an educational and non intrusive manner. Be prepared to disconnect yourself from the outside world while experiencing some of the most unique encounters. From scientists, students, nature enthusiasts, or just those curious to learn more, there is something for everyone. To find out more about tours and centers in the area check out Eco Quest Expeditions and Lion Adventure Tours (run by Jorge De Leon). Of course if you are not planning on traveling to Belize there are other ways to help. The FCD is always looking for funding to help equip rangers and provide more hands on assistance in the area. You can donate online and monitor their progress here.

Belize is definitely one of those countries you want to stay off the resorts and head out into the jungle.

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Reformation in Belize

Reformation in Belize

The quest for beauty even physical beauty should be a celebration of self versus a labor of any kind.

Unknown

Being in Belize meant two things: Recognizing natural beauty and understanding conservation. For this trip I really wanted to showcase companies that mirrored these ideologies.

Reformation has long been a favorite of mine and a go-to when it comes to eco clothing. Awhile back I bought this Reformation Aurelia skirt which is absolutely amazing. It kind of makes me feel like a Flamenco dancer. Unfortunately, it is no longer in stock but check back because I have a feeling as the weather gets warmer you’ll be seeing some silhouettes very close to this again.

Reformation prides itself on letting its consumers know what their products are made from, where they are made, and also the carbon footprint involved with each purchase. But, don’t think hippy chic. There clothing is the “it-girls” go to, including Taylor Swift.

I paired the Aurelia skirt with Bondi striped crop shirt also from Reformation. It is still available in white but if crop isn’t your thing you can opt instead for the Moriane Top in Mosman stripe which is very similar. The fabric is lightweight, a bit clingly, but moves with your body like a second skin.

The hat is from several years ago and to be honest I don’t remember where from. Try your local charity shop or thrift store. A lot of people will clean out their closets in the winter and donate summery clothing. The benefit is all yours!

Admittedly I am not a light packer. Even if just going to the pool I bring everything instead of being inconvenienced later and running back to my room to grab something. The Maple Whiskey Revival Series Bag from Boston Bag Company was a life saver on this trip. I used it as a carry-on at the airport and also when running around during the day. It held everything and may be the most comfortable bag I have ever carried. When you buy this bag there is a choice for a shoulder strap or not… go for the shoulder strap.

Accessories! I chose a gorgeous necklace from Bliss. I was lucky enough to find them at a local Boston showcase and was really impressed with their mission and pieces. Bliss works with women internationally to produce, market, sell, and invest the money according to how it fits their lifestyles. The women who who make these gorgeous pieces have complete ownership. The company is still building but make sure to check out their page for events in your area and help support a great cause.

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Going Local in Belize for Women’s Education

Going Local in Belize for Women’s Education

… I thought there is no way I would challenge her to a thumb wrestling competition.

There are a few brave travelers out there that will locally couch surf, or happily accept an invite after meeting someone for a few minutes. I am not one of these people. As much as I would like to think of myself as an adventurous traveler, up for anything, that simply isn’t the truth. But, more than anything I want to understand the local culture and if staying at someone’s house isn’t an option, the next best thing is to find local groups to involve yourself in, if only for a day.

So that’s exactly what I did in Belize at the San Antonio Women’s Group. To back up a little bit, at the start of my trip I was looking for a place to understand the local weaving and embroidery that takes place in the country. Little did I know Ryan, from Blancaneaux Lodge who helped to arrange the visit, filled my day with much more and I am so very thankful he did.

Located about two hours from Belize City and thirty minutes from the Guatemalan border the small town of San Antonio is the quintessential Belizean town, home to local farmers, shop keepers, and lots of happy school children. It is also home to the San Antonio Women’s Group which kindly opens its doors to travelers looking to better understand the rich Mayan history the town encapsulates. It is the town of three hills (or temples when translated to Mayan), which were once the location of important Mayan buildings, are now occupied by a police station, bakery, and Catholic Church. The town is still home to the Yucatec Maya many of which have embraced and still practice many of the same traditions their ancestors once did.

Just outside the center of San Antonio you can find a small sign for the Women’s Group. It is located in a nondescript open air building that looks much like any other home in the area next to the Catholic school which provided a very pleasant insight into the days spelling lessons. We were kindly greeted by Timothea and Josefina, the two women who run the center. They told us about the area, the goals of the women’s center, and then promptly put us to work making lunch.

Now if making your own lunch while on vacation doesn’t sound like fun, I understand your hesitation. But let me dispel you of that notion. Thousands of years of tradition, paired with organic fresh ingredients grown across the street, and topped with flavor combinations that would have any five star chef running to learn the techniques is not something you will find very often in life. I left there thinking that I would happily give up my day to grind corn if only it could taste like that and wondered where in our own history did we give up such simplicity that rendered such complex flavors. Still not convinced? They also have pottery making and embroidery if you want to learn those skills. I’ll get to those a bit later.

Using a metate made from basalt Josefina taught me to grind lime-treated maize to create masa. She made it look easy using just a couple of passes but when I tried the first thing I realized is the stone used for grinding is large and heavy. My thumb shook for a day after from the weight and rolling motion. It was when Josefina told me she does this for every meal I thought there is no way I will challenge her to a thumb wrestling competition.

It took me 20 or so passes to get the hang of it and create enough masa for four tortillas which I discretely split into five to make it seem like I had done more than my husband. Using a palm we patted the masa into a circle and onto the fire it went. Mine started to puff up and I got really worried but Timothea assured me this was the sign of a job well done. The puffing means no air is escaping from the edges and creates a texture that is neither fluffy nor dense. A smidge of coconut oil and a quick pass with the salt rendered the most delicious, freshest, simplest tortilla I have ever eaten. All the ingredients were grown in town (with the exception of the salt) and everything used for the meals was for personal use only. None of their crops were sold.

I only ate the one tortilla before we were off again, this time making tamales. (I wonder where the other four tortillas ended up? I’m thinking Josefina took the rest of the day off and had dinner all ready to be served 😉 But, let’s be honest if something tasted that delicious I would keep them too!) The same masa was cooked down. We then patted them semi circular on a palm leaf, filled them with a chicken mixture, and rolled using the same palm leaf tucking the end in to secure them. The stems of the palm leaves were used as a base in the pot while a leaf was placed as a sort of mat at the bottom. The tamales were stacked in the pot and left to steam.

When all was finished we ended up with two tamales each paired with a freshly made salad, and topped with a homemade peanut dressing (the peanuts are also grown locally). Oh, and did I mention to wash it all down fresh squeezed orange juice? The entire experience was somewhat surreal. Sure, I was cooking my own lunch but, I was doing it using tools and techniques that have been around for centuries in an open air kitchen where the ingredients are grown in the backyard. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything, well maybe, a bag of those tortillas for the ride home.

Don’t let the simplicity of the town or the center fool you. The money raised by the  San Antonio Women’s Group goes directly to helping their daughters go to school. Education for girls beyond middle school remains an issue in many rural towns throughout Belize. Many are kept home to take care of the household.  The Women’s Center is leading the way in creating their own business by embracing their history, and turning the tide on women’s education in rural Belize.

I will be posting later on the pottery tutorial and embroidery that also helps the center to flourish so make sure to check back in a couple of days.

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Eco Travel

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

Ibn Battuta

Get ready to pack your bags! These 5 Eco Hotels will have you thinking there is no other way to travel.

Luxury Eco Travel

1. Blancaneaux Lodge: Belize

I may be a bit biased because I’m sitting in the Blancaneaux lounge writing this article. Blancaneaux Lodge is the perfect combination of luxury, seclusion, wireless disconnect, conservation, and some of the most amazing once-in-a-lifetime experiences.  Situated in the Pine Ridge Forest Reserve you are surrounded by the Belizian jungle, which is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The rooms are all equal in their luxury offerings from personal infinity pools, outdoor showers, to hammocks, and river views. Did I mention the food is somewhat mind blowing! But don’t be fooled by the relaxing ambiance there is plenty of do. Check out the Mayan ruins, learn how to make authentic tortillas at the San Antonio Women’s Center, venture into the jungle via boat, kayak through caves, hike to waterfalls, enjoy the sunrise on horseback… I could go on forever.

2. Malakai Eco Lodge: Uganda

Don’t let the simplicity of their website fool you; Malakai Eco Lodge is an escapists dream. From your arrival you will be attended to with the utmost importance making you feel as if you’re queen of the lodge for your stay. The artistic flair throughout the property including the unique characteristics of each cottage will not disappoint. Take a swim in the pond, explore the local jungle swamps, sweat it out at the outdoor gym, watch the multitude of birds in the vicinity, and chow down on some local favorites. The one downside… you won’t want to leave.

3. Heron Island Resort, Australia

Located just on the Great Barrier Reef the location speaks volumes. Heron Island not only dazzles with various activities but the environmental initiatives make this experience nothing short of unique. The island is listed as a World Heritage listed Marine National Park meaning all flora and fauna is protected. The resort goes further by running their own power generators, potable water production and wastewater treatment. These eco friendly steps have ensured that visitors are able to snorkel and dive, watch turtles hatch, enjoy guided bird walks, and enjoy private beach picnics in the most pristine environment where natural world is abundant. Don’t forget to enjoy a treatment or two at Heron Island Resorts Aqua Soul Spa.

4. Resort at Paws Up: Montana

Set on a 37,000 acre working ranch don’t be surprised if in addition to seeing Black Angus cows you also see a couple hundred resident Elk roaming the property. Paws Up is glamping on steroids with no lack of attention paid to eco alternatives. Indulge in the Montana wilderness with fly fishing, trail riding, cattle driving, whitewater rafting or repelling. At the end of an activity packed day head to your luxury tent and listen to the river, stare up at the glittery sky above you, or listen to some western tales by the fire. Make sure to check out their various spa and health amenities before you pack up to leave, if you can pry yourself away.

5. Soneva Kiri: Thailand

The Soneva philosophy can be summed up in two words: SLOW LIFE. What is really means is Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences and the owners aren’t joking. Enjoy lunch in a tree pod, try not to gasp at the stunning architecture, and soak in all the natural beauty. If you feel like hiding in your room you won’t be disappointed in your personal infinity pool and butler service. But, if you want to be more social head to the open air cinema, or chocolate and ice cream parlor, or gaze at the stars at the observatory. Before you head out take a dip in the pristine waters and hike through the untamed jungle.

I don’t know about you but I’m ready to pack up and head out. But, which one first!

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Something Old & Nothing New

Something Old & Nothing New

“I’ve always had a keen sense of history. My father was an antiques dealer and he used to bring home boxes full of treasures, and each item always had a tale attached.”
― Sara Sheridan

If you haven’t been already or at least heard of it the Brimfield Antique Show is a must do! Starting in the 1950’s the Antique Show and Fair has become the largest and most well known in the country. Running approximately half a mile along Route 20 in Brimfield, Massachusetts the Brimfield Show offers up something for everyone! For the past couple of years I have made it a habit to go with no agenda other than to look around and find inspiration. From furniture, to home decor, fashion, garden pieces, buttons, bowling balls, pub signs and much much more you can easily make a weekend out of it. And, in case you needed one more reason to go you can sometimes spot celebrities from near and far including lifestyle maven Lauren Conrad.

The Show is open three times a year during May, July and September. So if you are looking for something to do with the family, by yourself, or perhaps on a first date you are in luck… there is one more showing this year from 8- 13 September!

With so much to see and find there are a couple of things you should know ahead of time to make your visit a success!

1. Make a Plan

Part of the excitement is not feeling overwhelmed so make sure to check out the Brimfield Website ahead of time to find out all the details including dates, opening times, maps, vendors, and parking information. Don’t forget to download the Brimfield Flea Finder! A great app that uses GPS location to help you navigate your way around along with a host of other features including general info.

Saturdays tend to be the busiest. But, if you are willing to visit a few less vendors  then go on a Sunday. Most of the parking is free (drive down the entire strip first before deciding on a spot and you can find spaces right in the middle!), there is still plenty to see/find, and admission costs are virtually non-existent to many of the fields. Also by Sundays all the vendors are packing up and ready to leave so you will get the best bargains!

2. Wander

Try to arrive early in the morning and spend at least an hour just getting yourself acquainted with the show. Look for fields, vendors, and items that are most appealing and then move one. You can come back to them later! One of the biggest mistakes people make is buying the first thing they see and then finding that same item later on at a much lower price! Get lost and just take it all in!

3. Talk to the Vendors

Get to the know vendors! They will become your best friends. Not only will they help you find what they are looking for but they can direct you to other vendors who will have what you seek. Aside from immediate satisfaction of making a new friend and not getting lost they can tell you about specific items including the back stories. Almost every item has an interesting story attached to it! Take the time to enjoy a bit of history. Make sure to grab their cards! You never know when you might be on the hunt for something in the future.

4. Bargain

Bargaining is a must at Brimfield’s. I have never met a vendor that was not willing to negotiate on the price. The later in the week you go the better your chances will be of getting an absolute steal! You have to be willing to walk away if you can’t see eye to eye. Trust me whatever you are negotiating over can be found somewhere else at the show!

5. Get Frustrated and Move On

At a certain point you will probably become frustrated. Maybe you couldn’t agree on a price, maybe you couldn’t quite recall where you found a certain item, (This is why having vendors business cards is important. Give them a quick call to help navigate you back to their location!), maybe you brought your kids and they are tired, or maybe it is just too hot and you are exhausted! It is perfectly okay and normal to get frustrated! Take a quick minute to regroup and remember you are there to have fun and explore! Keep going – it will be worth it!

6. Take a Break

Don’t forget to rest now and then! All that walking, negotiating, and searching will have you exhausted. It is okay to take a break – it will all still be there when you are on the move again. There are plenty of seats around and you can always pretend to be testing out the merchandise!

7. Fall in Love

You will inevitably fall in love with an item or two or maybe three or four! It’s perfectly normal! Enjoy all the little details, the items, the people, and the inspiration around you. Even if you walk away with nothing in your hand you will still have amazing memories!

8. Stay Hydrated

If you go in July or September it can get really hot really quick. Bring a couple of waters with you! If you happen to forget or like me drink it all immediately you can find it there along with tasty treats to keep your energy levels up. And, don’t worry about restrooms they are everywhere with hand washing stations.

9. Dress Appropriately and Carry a Big Bag

Like I mentioned, it can get hot quickly so dress comfortably. A hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen are must haves! Closed-toe-shoes over sandals is advisable as you will probably have your feet stepped on a least once and you will be walking on gravel, dirt, grass, and pavement. I learned the hard way the first year that some items are too big/awkward to be carried by hand. Bring a big bag to carry away all your treasures!

10. Be Prepared for the Unexpected

You will find all sorts of fun, intriguing, beautiful, and purposeful items. Take the time to enjoy it all! It is the unexpectedness of Brimfield’s that truly makes it unique!

Happy Antiquing!

I would love to hear about your experiences at Brimfield’s. Make sure to drop me a note so I can share all your finds and advice!

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Is Patagonia Really Worth The Investment?

Is Patagonia Really Worth The Investment?

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”
― Jack Kerouac

In both the outdoor apparel world and the eco fashion world Patagonia has quite a reputation. It is known for quality goods that will last a lifetime and are shockingly good for the environment, both in production and in recycling. Realistically, most of us aren’t hiking everyday and/or eco fashion still isn’t quite on the radar. So what about Patagonia for everyday wear?

I have seen Patagonia outerwear just about everywhere you can imagine. From the mall, to a University classroom, to a jacket to wear out to dinner, museums, worn around the city, hiking and many, many other places. There seems to be no end to its versatility. It also seems that every teenager has a fleece or two to throw on at a moments notice. Did I miss a trend somewhere along the lines?

Not really. Americans have had a healthy obsession with athletic wear as day/night wear for quite some time now. Patagonia takes it to the next level in both style and price point. Nicknamed “Patagucci” because of some of the items often jaw dropping price tags, I wanted to see if it was all style with no substance so I decided to give them a try on my trip to Iceland. As a modest hiker and someone who was in need of versatile clothing I thought it was now or never to invest in a few pieces.

Here is what I bought:

1. Better Sweater Jacket in Dusk Blue at $139

2. Down Sweater Vest in Navy Blue at $89

3. Atom Sling in Feather Grey at $49

First impressions at the store: There weren’t as many options as I had hoped. I’m not a big online shopper. I like to try on for fit and feel the weight and texture between my fingers. For this very reason I headed to REI in Framingham, MA. Unfortunately, the end of the winter meant that heavy duty Patagonia items weren’t the top sellers at the moment and therefore size and inventory options were limited. However, I was happy to see a variety of vests and fleeces. In terms of versatility I liked the idea of a vest because I could pair it with other items or throw it on when I needed a quick warm up. The zip up sweater was also a great choice because I could layer it both under and over other options. As for the bag… well who doesn’t love a great bag to go with their outfit. I liked the sling style of the Atom bag and it held a lot more than I was expecting.

It turned out Iceland was windier than I thought and as a result it felt incredibly cold on some days. There were moments I literally couldn’t feel my fingers or lips. I was definitely surprised by Patagonia. I wore their gear towards the end of the trip and with the help of a pair of gloves felt the warmest I had been during my ten days there. The vest is made with 100% traceable goose down and 100% recyclable polyester. Don’t let the recyclable part throw you. Like their website says “it’s worth its weight in gold”. As for the sweater, it is made from a polyester fleece that is ridiculously warm! It also has the Bluesign technologies seal of approval. This basically means that apparel baring this mark has used only chemicals, materials, and processes that are safe for the environment, safe for workers, and safe for the consumer. It is a win-win for everyone involved.

Overall, I have to commend Patagonia on their creative genius to reuse and manufacture goods that the consumer will 100% benefit from. From the rugged terrain of Iceland to a dinner date in the city, Patagonia has become synonymous with style and sustainable fashion. As for the nickname “Patagucci” I don’t really think it is warranted. I personally own several other outdoor apparel items that are neither as warm, durable, or stylish and all cost much more. Patagonia is definitely worth the investment.

In case you needed one more reason to invest in Patagonia apparel they have several options under their “Worn Wear” program. This includes everything from repairs both professionally and DIY, to buying and selling used items, to taking in your worn out Patagonia apparel and transforming it into something brand new. Talk about serious sustainable commitment. You can read more about their Worn Wear Program here.

I hope all of you that want to get to experience the beauty and tranquility of Iceland at some point in your lives. But, I also hope that we all help to do our part in preserving the natural beauty of such places by investing in companies such as Patagonia. With the continued rate of pollution from the fashion industry it will inevitably have a negative impact on the places we hold so dear if we all don’t make a change. One small purchase can make an enormous change!

For more information on Patagonia, to read more about the company, and to shop for apparel make sure to check out their website.

This article was not sponsored or promoted by Patagonia or Bluesign Technologies. All apparel mentioned and worn in the article and accompanying pictures were purchased by myselfA huge thank you to REI in Framingham, MA for helping me to pick out the perfect pieces!

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What I Wore (Iceland)

What I Wore (Iceland)

Lengthy lists were written detailing the most minute necessities: three pairs of socks, two pencils. spare batteries, rope.”
― Barbara Hodgson, The Tattooed Map

Packing is something that I have learned over the years. I’m not a naturally organized person so putting outfits together ahead of time doesn’t come easy. However, there is some serious benefits to being organized before you leave. This was the first trip where I laid out my clothing and accessories and carefully selected each piece. It made the entire trip so much more enjoyable as I wasn’t wondering what to wear each day. Here are a couple of the outfits I chose. A lot are repeats from this winter, it was pretty cold,  with a few new pieces added in!

Day One: I chose a Tory Burch mock turtleneck from their winter collectionand a pair of JCrew straight legged pant. They are very similar to the current Martie Pant. I paired them with a pair of Alligator flats from Brooks Brothers, a cross body bag I picked up from Marshalls, Mulberry Scarf (similar), and a rain coat from REI. I always wore a long sleeve basic shirt and nylons underneath everything! It was pretty cold.

 

Day Two: I was still in Reykjavik which meant I could wear none hiking attire :). I only packed one pair of jeans and wore them frequently. I probably should have brought two. These ones are the Alyssa High Rise Skinny from Abercrombie and Fitch. I find they are the best fit. They were paired with Louise et Cie Andora boots from Nordstrom and a junky knit scarf and sweater in black from Zara. Lastly, my Barbour International Quilted Jacket was a staple! I picked it up in Scotland a few years ago and it has become a repeat wear ever since.

Day Three: I decided to keep I opted for my jeans, Salomon hiking boots, Mulberry Scarf and chunky sweater from Banana Republic.

 

Day Four: I wore the same items from the day before only I included my REI raincoat and Coach gloves. I actually repeat wear quite a few items 🙂

 

Day Five: We did some light hiking so instead of boots I opted for Mizuno Wave Rider 18 sneakers in Black/Silver, Under Armour All Weather Legging, my Barbour Jacket, and junky scarf from Zara. I wore a sweater from Zara underneath but in reality it was so cold my jacket never came off 🙂

 

Day Six: We spent most of the day in the car so there was no need for a jacket however, I did opt for a blanket scarf from De Bijenkorf, sweater from Vanilia, leggings from Abercrombie & Fitch, and hiking boots. The life jacket was complimentary from the boat tour operator and the gloves I “borrowed” from my fiance.

 

Day Seven: We did quite a bit of hiking so I decked out in Patagonia. It was incredibly warm and comfortable but there will be more details about each individual piece in the Look on Location post!

 

Day Eight: Was all about Under Armour! I chose All Weather legging, zip up hoodie, and paired it with my hiking boots and Mulberry Scarf. This was the day I definitely could have used a heavier coat. We traveled to the northern most point in Iceland and it was unbelievably windy and cold.

 

Day Nine: I picked up this awesome cape from Geysir. It is handmade from local wool and unbelievably warm! I can’t wait to break it out again this winter. I layered it over a black chunky sweater from Banana Republic and wore my Zara scarf when out riding. It wasn’t really the temperature so much as the wind which made layering essential.

 

Day Ten: The last day we picked up a few gifts for friends and family and then was off to the airport. This meant I didn’t have to layer up! I wore my Mizuno sneakers, leggings from BCBG and Eileen Fischer ethically sourced poncho from Nordstrom.

I’ll be posting a packing list soon that will cover everything from clothing to electronics for the perfect 10 day trip!

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