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(showing articles 1 to 35 of 35)
(showing articles 1 to 35 of 35)

    Here's a way to brighten your day. Hate your job? Bummed out by crummy "summer" weather? Or maybe the job is fine, but you're stuck indoors on a sunny day? Well, then, take a look at this. Kokei Otosi has the Best Internship on Earth. What will she be doing?

    She'll be doing her part to save the planet we call home, as a intern with the Sierra Club, traveling around to promote the appreciation and protection of nature through outdoor education and adventure.

    You might say she's helping protect the things that make life worthwhile. The things that make it worth working for the weekend. Check out this itinerary. It might even give you some ideas for your own nature appreciation vacation.

    photo whitewater rafting kokei sierra club
    Photo credit: ChuckBaldwin.com

    Kokei, a New York University sophomore, will be:

    • Whitewater rafting down the American River in California;
    • Going on an archaeological dig in Utah;
    • Marching in the Puerto Rican Day Parade;
    • Mobilizing youth at Outdoor Nation in New York City;
    • Camping with Military Families Outdoors;
    • Rock climbing on the Great Lawn at the White House; and,
    • Hiking through the San Gabriel Mountains.


    Oh, and she also received $2,000 worth of gear from The North Face and Planet Explore as part of her internship, along with a $2,500 stipend.

    Kokei will be vlogging during her internship adventure.

    Here's her first video, from Day One. Rub it in, why dontcha. See the subtle Snapple reference at the end.

    Seriously, we're happy for Kokei. It sounds like the internship will live up to its name.

    And not all is lost for those of us who didn't win. The Sierra Club has other outdoor and vacation programs, and will be begin taking applications for 2012 this winter.

    Kokei is on Twitter @SCBestIntern

    More on Outdoor Adventures
    Apply for the Adventurous 'Best Internship on Earth'
    How to Take an Extended Vacation, Around the World, in Style
    Take Your Kid(s) Snorkeling


    As the summer heats up, chocolate lovers across the country will be celebrating the season with a favorite BBQ treat: s’mores. These delicious snacks with graham crackers, toasted marshmallows and chocolate bring joy and happiness to children especially, but they may be linked to the exploitation of children in West Africa. The good news is that just as you can make your s’mores with marshmallows toasted just to your liking, you can also cook yours up with chocolate that reflects your values.

    Ten years ago, reports first surfaced about child labor, forced labor and trafficking in West Africa’s cocoa industry, the largest cocoa producing area in the world. Chocolate companies signed a voluntary agreement committing to ending abusive child labor and forced labor in their cocoa supply chains by 2005, but almost ten years later the abuses continue.

    A research team from Tulane University that investigated company initiatives to address these abuses in West Africa under a contract from the US Department of Labor found that children are trafficked from countries like Mali and Burkina Faso into the cocoa farms of Cote d’Ivoire to produce the primary ingredient in chocolate. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of children in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana were found to be working in hazardous conditions.

    In order to address the exploitation that continues to fuel the cocoa industry, chocolate companies are increasingly committing to using cocoa that has been independently certified to comply with international labor rights standards. For example, Fair Trade Certified cocoa bans the use of child labor, while also providing cocoa farmers with a higher price for their beans which helps to improving living and working conditions while easing the pressure to rely on child workers. Fair Trade also provides farmers, organized into democratically-run cooperatives, with a premium that they use to fund community projects like training and social programs.

    In fact, the top recommendation for companies in the final report from Tulane University is to “continue to scale up its consumption – and publically commit to new procurement targets – of product certified cocoa specifically in the U.S. market.”

    This summer, the International Labor Rights Forum, Global Exchange and Green America are sponsoring a fun activity called “We Want More from our S’mores”. As part of the campaign, people across the country are making their s’mores using Fair Trade Certified chocolate while educating their communities about the problems in the cocoa industry and asking chocolate companies to support responsible cocoa sourcing policies like using Fair Trade cocoa.

    It’s easy and fun to participate and July 4th BBQ’s are the perfect opportunity to join. You can find all the details online here. You can also spread the word by joining Change.org in asking celebrity chefs to post recipes for Fair Trade s’mores.

    More Summer Fun
    Sexy, Sustainable Summer Poolside Fashion (View & Vote)
    From Garden to Plate: Summer Yoga Retreat
    Your Complete Guide to Summer Vegetable Gardening


    Can you ever eat a lobster again after reading this news? It turns out that our clawed friends have self-repairing DNA, which means they would essentially live forever if it weren't for being caught and eaten, or dying from injury or disease.

    When I told my wife this, she didn't believe it. But it's apparently true, and due to an enzyme, although not well known among seafood eaters (including me). Who doesn't love a nice lobster tail once in a while? Drawn butter? Anyone?

    The enzyme, called telomerase, repairs a lobster's DNA, allowing them to live without really aging, and grow to huge sizes, such as the Guinness World Record of more than 44 pounds.

    "How in the world can I ever eat a lobster again?," I told my wife. "They can live forever."

    It just seems like too much to bear, despite the deliciousness and the thought of wearing a goofy bib while enjoying an Ultimate Feast (which has enough sodium to kill you, by the way). Death for death.

    But my wife had a good point. We have to eat lobsters. If we didn't, there would be a food shortage for lobsters, right? Either that, or they might take over the earth. Wasn't "Planet of the Apes" bad enough (especially the remake)? It's like thinning out the deer herd.

    photo giant lobster kingston
    Photo by Tony Bowden/CC

    Have you ever seen a starving lobster? They're all claws. Anyway, jokes aside, this is something to ponder. Will it become a battle cry for vegans everywhere?

    One way to make sure you're eating right when it comes to seafood is to pay attention to sustainable harvesting.

    The folks at Monterey Bay Aquarium have developed an app for that, along with additional Seafood Watch resources.

    On lobster: Caribbean Spiny Lobster is on the "avoid" list, but there are several better alternatives.

    Via: Broken Secrets

    More on Food
    Mark Zuckerberg Slaughters a Lobster and Other Humane Meat Eating
    LA County Schools Get Rid of Chicken Nuggets and Corn Dogs
    Stump Your Waiter, Waitress or Butcher with the iPhone Sustainable Seafood App


    If you watch shows like "Medium" and "Ghost Hunters" itching for a chance to experience paranormal activity, these destinations are your ticket to terror. If you're someone who firmly says you don't believe in ghosts, then you should have no problem visiting these either, right?

    The Paris Catacombs
    Paris, France

    Sure, it’s all crossoints, fake Luis Vittuon Vendors and Moulan Rouge above ground, but just 60 feet beneath this city of love is the stuff that made Hamlet reconsider his dirty thoughts about Rosalinne. The Paris Catacombs is an underground crypt of epic proportions, housing approximately 6 million pulse-less Parisians.

    Due to over-population in graveyards, the Parisians began digging up bodies and moving them to what is now a tourist’s favorite French destination, but was then just the useless outskirts of the town.

    Artistry runs in the Parisian’s blood, so logically the walls of the crypt had to be “ornamented” in bones and skulls. Breathtaking. Literally.

    Tours are not recommended for the faint of heart or claustrophobic. For all others, look into tours and other experiences in Paris at My Parisian Tour.


    The Stanley Hotel
    Estes Park, Colorado, USA

    Any place that gets the creative wheels pinning of Stephen King is naturally ranked high for its freaky factors. Room 217 at The Stanley inspired the cult classic “The Shining.”

    You can’t help but feel bad for this hotel, which probably had no intention of being a destination for ghost-hunters. But it is now. Guests have claimed to see apparitions all over the property.

    See them for yourself by booking a room at The Stanley's official website.

    Edinburgh’s Underground Vaults
    Edinburgh, Scotland

    University students clink their foaming mugs in the local pubs and the accent there, well, it’s just too sing-songy to ever feel a hint of the creeps. But don't be fooled.

    What began as a place for the wealthy to store their goods became a place for dirty deeds. The hidden location drew prostitutes with their clients, murderers with their victims and black market traders alike—essentially, “professionals” in businesses that often go deathly awry.

    The Auld Reekie Tours company is glad to give you a tour. But be warned—poltergeists are known to be active. One tour guide claims “people have left with cuts, scratches, burns and bruises.”

    Lizzie Borden B&B
    Fall River, Massachusetts

    Even though she purchased cyandine prior to and burnt some of her own clothes after—Lizzie Borden was still acquitted for the crime of hacking her father and stepmother into pieces. Ever heard the rhyme "Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41."?

    The home of this charming family has been converted into a B&B. Guests have reported seeing the ghosts of the murdered Andrew and Abby Borden wandering the halls, as well as the lucky acquitted Lizzy herself.

    Love B&B's? Try and get some rest in one of the rooms of the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast.

    St. Louis Cemetery No.1
    New Orleans, Luoisiana

    New Orleans is already a place where voodoo abounds, so generally creepy places like cemeteries just give you extra chills. Especially the St. Louis Cemetery No.1, presumably presided over by the ghost of voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau.

    Mary is said to be living an active after life and manifests herself as a red-eyed black cat or the ghost of her pet snake.

    A second very real danger exists here—muggers and vandals—sitings of which have been reported by visitors.

    Tower of London
    London, England

    Many heads have rolled here, and their bodies have stuck around to look for them. The tower served as a major chopping block during the time of Henry VIII. Expert ghost hunters report a headless Anne Boleyn—Henry VIII’s second wife—strolling the halls. Screams are often heard from the ghost of Guy Fawkes, who was convicted for high treason in 1606 and the ghost of Sir Walter Raleigh frequents the Byward Tower.

    Beechworth Lunatic Asylum
    Beechworth, Victoria, Australia

    Like in the famous Eagle’s “Hotel California”, it’s much easier to check into this place than get out. A total of 8 signatures were required for a patient to be released, while a measley 2 signatures had patients checked in by the thousands. Three thousand to be exact, many of whom turned out to not even be mentally ill. Most died within the walls of the asylum.

    Beechworth was the site of many malpractices, including the famous Darwin chair experiment, in which patients were tied to a chair and spun around so rapidly they would bleed from their nose, mouth, eyes and ears.

    Check yourself in for a visit with the doctor with Beechworth Ghost Tours.

    The Bran Castle
    Transylvania, Romania

    Not the home of Dracula, but close. The original “Dracula” was based on a merciless tyrant—Vlad Dracula—who inhabited The Bran Castle. The surrounding area is overgrown with thick, dark forests and encircled by mountains, creating a feeling of
    complete desolation.

    Those famous fangs may have just been a scaled down version of the real Dracula’s preferred form of execution—impaling to death.

    If you dare, tour Dracula’s hometown. Visit his alleged grave at Snagov Monastery, as well as Dracula’s Bran Castle.

    Are you a believer yet?

    Read More About Unique Destinations:
    The Hauntings at Beekman Mansion
    Top 7 Sustainable Travel Destinations
    10 National Parks Boasting Exotic Wildlife


    Religious, atheist, hippy or hard-core urbanite—everyone needs a little healing now and then. Whether you’re a serenity seeker who travels the world wherever myth and folk lore take you, or you need to get out of the city for the first time in ages, these seven healing locations will feed your soul (or at least give you a good detox).

    The Russian Banyas Sandunovskie
    Banya, Moscow
    This steamy location is said to be overseen by spirits called vannik who will bewitch your clothes, so strip down! Head into the steam room, a wooden structure with a large furnace and the occasional healing fragrance. Attendants will bring in birch and juniper branches that have been soaked in water and slap them against your entire body. I know—sounds rough—but it actually brings your blood to the surface, creating a tingly sensation. When you’ve met your heat capacity, jump into the nearby refreshing pool, but be sure to jump back out before hypothermia kicks in! Repeat as many times as you can handle. You’ll glow like a Twilight vampire afterwards.

    Shrine to Pele, Hawaii
    Sisters will be sisters. These two just happen to cause eruptions and storms. The Goddess Pele is known to preside over volcanoes, while her sister Poliau causes snow storms. When the two fight, Poliahu usually wins, causing Pele to erupt and Poliahu to send flakes to cool down the situation. On the big island you’ll find the most active volcano—Kilauea—that acts in mysterious ways, oozing lava along the ground rather than from the top, making the whole island appear to be glowing. Devotees of Pele leave bouquets, booze and berries here as offerings.

    Japanease Onsen, Shikoko Island
    How would you like to bathe in some volcano fault lines? It’s safe, I promise, and Japan is covered in them. Locals often reap the mineral benefits from the springs in the falut lines called “onsen.” Many onsen sights are the seat of a number of baths, each with different healing properties. One onsen hotspot is Dogo, a luxury spa in Ehimekan on Shikoko Island. Here visitors are treated to hot tea, dumplings and a vast veranda draped in tatami mats for meditation and relaxation.

    Yogi at Sunrise
    Photo: Microsoft Yogi at Sunrise

    Lago Atitland, Guatemala
    Hidden up in the Guatemalan highlands you’ll find the mystical village of San Marcos La Laguna. Some of the sites you’ll catch here are three active volcanoes, wild orchids, ancient Mayan communities and Lago Atitlan, a 1,000-foot-deep collapsed volcano filled with water. The belief that San Marcos emits a healing energy could be why meditation and massage centers, as well as yoga studios, have sprung up all along the outskirts. Other activities you’ll find in this calm community: dawn meditation and relaxation yoga classes, tarot reading and energy-channeling classes.

    Table Mountain, South Africa
    This flat-top mountain overlooks Cape Town in South Africa. African legend has it that upon creation of the earth, the earth goddess Djobela made four Watchers to guard each of the respective directions on earth. When the watchers died, the goddess turned them into four mountains, Table Mountain representing the South watcher. Visitors have said that the rock formations within the mountain resemble ancient gods. Rock shrines on top of the mountin represent the chakras of the human bodies, so Yogis and anyone seeking to balance a particular chakra leave offerings to the appropriate shrine.

    Chichen Itza, Mexico
    Natural sinkholes in this pre-hispanic city lead to underground water sources said to be sacred to the Mayan gods and the site of sacrifices for better crops. When the Mayans colonized the city, they built a number of pyramids one of which—El Castillo—has become a popular tourist destination during the spring and fall equinoxes. During this time, the sun hitting the pyramids has been described as creating a serpent-like figure, meant to represent the Mayan god Kulkukan. Chichen Itza is also home to healing stones that have become popular world wide, like quartz and jade. Local spas use the stones for massages and hot stone therapy, before returning the stones to the ground to regain energy from nature.

    Healing massage
    Photo: Microsoft Healing Massage

    Matha Amritanandamayi Mission
    Amritapuri, India

    Have you ever seen those people holding signs that say ‘free hugs”? Well the hugging guru lives at this Hindu religious retreat—literally. Known as the “hugging mother,” this guru has hugged more than 24 million people in the past 30 years. No wonder this spot considers itself the site of a spiritual revolution—that is some hippie, free-loving activity.
    The study of homeopathy also originated in Kerala, the city where the mission is seated.
    Try the signature treatment of sitting nude on a hot wooden bench as two therapists pour hot oil over your body and rub it on with broad strokes to eliminate toxins.

    Thinking about making an escape now?

    Read More About Ways to Unwind:
    Throw an Easy Eco-Spa Party
    8 Yoga Poses That Make You Happy
    9 Healing Herbs and How to Use Them in Your Cooking


  • 08/03/11--07:00: Alternative ways to travel (chan 1181554)
  • For those people out there who love to travel, but like sticking away from tourist hot spots and fancy hotels, try these alternative modes to see a new area.

    Budget Travel:
    Couch Surfing: this program allows people to lend their couches (or a spare bedroom) to anyone looking for a place to stay on their travels. It works via an easy to use website and allows people to sign up and create profiles for themselves (right now there is 3,013,856 members.) There are hundreds of positive testimonials on the site and people that have offered their homes again and again. It's free to be a member and you can offer your own couch up to someone if you live in an area that's worth visiting. Try it somewhere easy, like the next state over from where you live, for a free stay in a new place.

    Work Exchange:
    Woofing: Every want a chance to learn about organic farming (like in Hawaii)? Well now you have it! WWOOF (World Wide Organization for Organic Farming) works as a medium to send volunteers to organic farms all over the world. The published list of "hosts" ranges from small gardens to huge animal farms offering volunteers a wide range of different choices. In exchange for their help on the farm, volunteers are given accommodations and often are treated as family.

    Work Away: Another great way of staying somewhere for free is through Workaway. This site offers a wide variety of places and people in which you can work with in exchange for room and board. This is a great way to learn about a different culture and new trade, while helping someone in need (and making great new friends).

    Volunteering:
    Another interesting, and often easier way of staying somewhere for a longer period of time, is to volunteer. This is a great way to appreciate that you have the ability to travel and get to see somewhere new, while often learning about a different place or culture. There are many different forms of volunteering and some are more intense than others. A good site to start your search is voluntourism, but many others exist around the web.

    Homestays:
    If you can muster up the courage to live with a new family, this could be a great option for you. Adventure Homestays offers places around the world to stay and also student exchange programs if you're still in school.

    If none of these speak to you. Think about a bike or camping trip around your region. Both are great ways to run into places you may have never realized were on a map.

    Like this? Then Check out:
    How to take an extended vacation around the world, in style
    Four ways to write off a trip to anywhere
    6 of the most remote travel destinations around the world


    Thinking of going somewhere hot to heat things up with your other half? Sounds fun... until you think about your average vacation destination and imagine pushing your way through tourists and tourist-minded-merchants around every corner you turn. Irritation and passion are not a good mix.

    Seems Andros is your answer. Andros Island is the largest island in the Bahamas, but somehow it is the least densely populated and nearly untouched by tourism. No wonder Andros is a hot spot for honeymooners—it’s far, far away from “real life,” in more ways than just geographically. It’s one of those few hidden havens that you want to get to before the rest of the traveling population does. One other little detail about Andros that makes it a great place to fall in love or stay in love: the island is bursting with aphrodisiacs- from the plant life, to the food and of course, that steamy, sweat-inducing climate. Here’s how I hunted down some libido lifters.

    blue_hole.jpg

    One night, I went on a group hunting trip for land crabs- a reputed local specialty known to rev up the libido. Land crabs are giant, grayish crabs with claws reaching 4 to 5 inches in diameter. These crustaceans live in holes in low-lying areas near salt water and wetlands and are extremely sensitive to motion, scattering back into their holes at any movement. This obviously causes some trouble with hunting, along with those vicious claws. But the two tricks are “torching”—shining bright flash lights in the crabs’ eyes to stop them in their tracks, and picking them up in just the right way, grabbing them by the back and tilting them away to avoid pinching. Once cooked, we bit right into the shells, dipping gooey dough into the fat that dripped out of the crab. Sounds like a tough way to get in the mood for love, but somehow the thrill of the chase helped!

    Another local food great for piquing passions—conch. The part called the “noodle” is meant to turn you on. Try this delicious conch salad recipe on your next date night.

    Not into seafood? Andros is crawling with aphrodisiac herbs and plants like the Love Vine and bark from the Gumbo-limbo tree, used in the aphrodisiac bush tea.
    bone_fish.jpg

    Of course beyond what you put in your mouth, romance seems to saturate the sweaty air as you take a long lazy day trip relaxing on a Bone Fish boat as you watch and learn the catch and release technique from the pros, take a leap like the locals do into the Blue Hole, the return to your home-like Small Hope Bay Lodge and indulge in a seriously intoxicating Black Monkey cocktail.

    black_monkey.jpg

    It's not uncommon for tourists to decide to stay a few days (or years). Even if you don't find love, you will no doubt fall in love with Andros.

    More content on Island Beauty
    The World's Most Beautiful Beach Art ... from Jersey (Photos)
    7 of the World's Strangest Beaches
    Top 7 Sustainable Travel Destinations


    You've heard of vacations and staycations. What about Traincations? It's what it sounds like, taking a break from work and at-home hassles via the rails. According to some experts, it's becoming the next big travel trend.

    As most folks who have flown on commercial airlines can attest, flying is no fun anymore. Long waits and delays, cramped seats, bland snacks.

    Driving can be fun, but you're supposed to pay attention to the road, not the countryside.

    Trains can be more inviting than planes and automobiles, with more room, food cars, and places to plug in your laptop. Being a low-carbon form of travel doesn't hurt either.

    photo traincation rhone view
    Photo of the Swiss Rhone Valley, by snappa2006/Creative Commons

    The Green Thing blog calls Traincations "So Hot Right Now." Why? More upsides of train travel include less invasive security measures, carrying on your own luggage, and even bringing bikes aboard. To put it another way: "On a train I can use my pen-knife to make a cheese sandwich without getting wrestled to the floor by people in uniforms."

    The blog, highlighting train travel in Europe, says this summer was an especially popular one for Traincations.

    The cats at Global Cool offer more info on rail riding, including tips on Traincation gear, deals and even a Twitter feed where questions and comments are exchanged.

    Global Cool gave away a Traincation this year via its Facebook page to the Gurten Festival in Switzerland, with a musical lineup that included the Arctic Monkeys and Jamiroquai.

    The contest winner gave the train trip high marks.

    It seems for now that Traincations are largely a European thing, since the United States is still working on a newer, faster passenger rail system. Still, there also are opportunities in the U.S., and throughout North America. Chicago and Toronto come to mind. It can be slower, but cheaper.

    Feel free to share you Traincation stories below. Or just gripe about planes and cars. Happy riding.

    More on Train Travel
    6 Essential Train Travel Tips
    5 Reasons You Should Travel by Train
    Bringing Back the Popularity of the Train


    The best part about a trip might actually be looking at the photos after and sharing the stories behind photos with friends. And taking a photo in today’s world has become extremely simple.

    You can take one while you text your friend what time to meet you at a café. But don’t forget—you create a world through your images. Just like you monitor which personal photos you put up on your social media pages like Facebook and Twitter, in order to give what you believe is an accurate and complete depiction of yourself, you must take this same care with photos of others that you take while traveling.

    The tiniest camera phone can be snuck into a sacred place. If you wanted to, you could take a photo of just about anything. But, as always, with freedom comes responsibility. Here are a few tips on being a responsible, ethical photographer while traveling.

    1. Unless you are at a public performance, parade or somewhere where the individuals expect to be on display, always ASK to take a photo. Sometimes language is a barrier, in which case simply smile, present the camera, make a motion to take a photo and see how the subject responds.

    2. It’s tempting to pay your subjects to be in your photo, but this encourages a type of prostitution, so to speak. Individuals in that culture might then offer to pose for photographers in exchange for money, making their ordinary lives look more “photogenic” rather than portraying the reality of it.

    3. Try to develop a relationship with an individual or a group. If you can just spend an hour or a week with them, they will grow a trust for you and usually want you to take photos of their life. Also, those photos will be more genuine because the subject is comfortable with you, and feels they are being in your photo, rather than imagining all the websites they may appear on.

    4. If there is a sign that says “no photos” , that means no photos. Some travelers think that the “no photos” sign at a funeral or wedding only pertains to those in the funeral or wedding. Actually, the opposite.

    5. Capture a large spectrum of images. Many photographers make the mistake, for example, of taking only desperate looking images when traveling to places that are reputed to be impoverished. And while it is good to spread that awareness, not everyone wants to be pitied. There are bright sides of life to such areas, and it would be unfair to not share with others that culture’s ability to have fun and create an uplifting environment, even in the worst of conditions.

    6. Whenever you post a photo to the internet include a caption. Many practices and traditions of one culture may look grotesque or just ambiguous to another culture. Portray the image honestly with a written explanation. You took the photo, now take the responsibility to deliver the message accurately.

    7. Don’t take photos of any illegal happenings you see. It may feel adventurous and journalistic, but you could put yourself in danger.


    You should absolutely take photos of your travels so you can share those experiences with those who are not as fortunate to be able to have them. Just remember your life is multi-faceted and if a camera crew followed you around, you would want them to portray you in as honest and complete way as possible.

    Read More On Ethical Travel
    2011's 10 Most Ethical Destination Countries
    Learn Outdoor Ethics with Leave No Trace
    Is Your Hiking Jacket Toxic? Tent, Too?


    How much do you set aside for helping the planet, as in living more sustainably? Do you spend more for organic food, offset your carbon emissions or maybe even ride a bike (that counts, bikes aren't free). There are a number of businesses that donate at least 1% of their sales to support about 2,600 environmental organizations around the world. And that number just grew by one, as in Outside Online, an outdoor publication. Does that sound funny? An online outdoor mag called Outside?

    Either way, the partnership between 1% for the Planet and Outside will span print, digital and broadcast media. And it's one more reason to check out both organizations, you might say.

    photo outside mag dirt sail
    Photo Credit: Outside Magazine

    It's estimated that the 1%-Outside effort will reach millions of consumers annually. Besides Outside Online, there's the printed Outside Magazine, and Outside Television (the last one may require an extension cord).

    Other 1% media friends include Mother Jones, Utne Reader and CSR Wire. In total, there are about 1,460 business members. In 2010, 1% member companies donated more than $20 million, a 30% increase over 2009.

    Want to know more about 1%? Funny you should ask.

    [one percent] of the story from 1% for the Planet on Vimeo.

    More on Sustainability and the Outdoors
    Jack Johnson Among Musicians Donating 1% to the Planet
    Travel With Piers Morgan: Growing Sustainability in the World's Most Unsustainable Places
    Making Conservation as Common as McDonald's


    I needed to get away, regroup, think about who I am, where I have been, and where I’m going. There was one destination that I felt was calling my name- Hollyhock. Situated on Cortes Island in British Columbia, between the glaciers of Vancouver Island and the Coast Mountain range of the mainland, is Hollyhock Retreat, a healing oasis that guests can’t help but make repeat pilgrimages to. The retreat oozes peacefulness and is extraordinarily verdant. I guess that's what founder Rex Weyler was looking for... yeah, same guy who founded Greenpeace International.

    The pristine property consists of 44 acres of old-growth forests where bald eagles, black tailed deer and barred owls dwell. Guests spend their days traversing the meandering trails that lead through the trees to the water’s edge where gaggles of geese congregate protecting their kin. When not strolling along wild mushroom strewn paths or driftwood dotted beaches, yoga, tai chi, meditation and massage help unfurl frayed nerves and mangled muscles. Dance performances, farmers markets, and cultural activities take place only a few miles down the road in the town’s center where you just might run into a local like Dr. Andrew Weil (yes, he has a house there). Hollyhock is a place where, no matter how still you sit and how quiet you are, you still won’t hear anything but the nature that surrounds you… that and the thoughts in your head. And that’s exactly what I needed.

    While every day at Hollyhock offers a treasure trove of healing activities, minds are encouraged to further expand and bodies are led to dance through an array of focused and intensive expert-led workshops including photography, drumming, poetry, even the zen of business. But for me, this was a personal workshop- I was working on myself. I went with intention. I was seeking certain clarity, looking for specific answers. And my questions were constantly in the back of my mind- allowing every conversation or experience I had to resonate, in some way, with my focus…

    Here are 3 days in the life of my Hollyhock experience:

    Take Off and landing on a Sea Plane! This was my first sea plane experience, and despite major nerves (I actually have a fear of flying), the flight was calming and beautiful, flying low over the ocean, so close that we could see a pod of migrating whales!

    Walking around the Point on Cortes Island was one of my daily activities. Not only was it an amazing opportunity to just be with myself, listening to music, processing long overdue issues in my mind, but it was amazing exercise!

    … even getting lost wasn’t so bad as I skipped from one rock to the next, navigating the terrain like you would stack blocks in Tetris- always looking two steps ahead.

    You can’t buy an oyster on Cortes Island. That’s because it is naturally so ripe with sea life that if you feel like eating oysters on the half shell or having a clam bake, you simply go down to the waters edge and pick some up. Some areas are so littered with shellfish that you can’t help but walk on them. They are literally under every step you take. Finding oysters or clams is as difficult as bending down and opening your hand! Talk about a bottomless oyster bar!

    Hollyhock may be known for healthy, vegetarian cuisine, but I didn’t expect to literally pick my salad! Between the hotel’s massive organic herb garden and the myriad of greens that you find lingering by the water’s edge, you pretty much can’t go hungry. Here I learned about Sea Asparagus…

    About once or sometimes twice a week Hollyhock has an oyster BBQ on the beach. Those oysters that I went hunting for in the afternoon, we got to eat them fresh just a couple of hours later. I even attempted to shuck them! Here’s my attempt at Shucking Raw Oysters

    Because this was a personal workshop- working on myself, I was constantly searching, seeking, taking in, and analyzing. And finally I came to some amazing conclusions just from watching a dance class… Confession: Time to Let Go

    It’s interesting how, even when away, you can fall into rhythm, create new norms, and design routines that make you feel comfortable. This was my final morning at Hollyhock, before it was Time to Say Goodbye to Hollyhock.

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    It’s amazing to be surrounded by the people you love in a beautiful, exciting new place. But a lot of parents forgo traveling with their kids until they become older, worried that it will be too much of a hassle, that they won’t enjoy the experience as much, neither will their kids and that there will be a ton of additional expenses. My parents took me all over the world when I was little and I know that it has had a huge impact on who I am today. To be entirely honest—it has given me an advantage in many ways. Potential employers, new friends, new love interests have all said there is an openness about me that they just don’t find in people who haven’t traveled. To give your kids the chance to develop that same quality, here's some perspective that might ease your anxiety about packing up your strollers and using those precious miles.

    Little kids are harder to travel with than teens
    Ever notice how a little kid can be entertained by pushing a button over and over again on a talking teddy bear? Compare that to a kid in his teens who is saying constantly “I’m booored!” Yes, you need to watch your little ones a bit more to make sure they don’t wander off or make a mess, but they are very easily entertained and won’t try to pull you away from the museum you went to visit as much as a 12 year old will.

    Little kids won’t remember the trip anyways
    They subconsciously remember it. Kids who are exposed to different cultures at a young age become much more comfortable with and accepting of “otherness” than kids who barely travel outside of their state or country. Added bonus: you DO remember the trip. And you will cherish forever the photos of you holding your baby in a Gondola, or playing with him under a waterfall. That amazing, innocent time combined with a new, exciting destination is an unmatchable experience.

    We can only eat at restaurants that have kids menus
    It’s true that countries outside the US don’t have the designated “kids menu” loaded with hot dogs and mac and cheese. But they do understand that kids have special dietary “needs” (preferences) and most are accommodating—willing to make a smaller portion and adjust the price, or remove ingredients the kids won’t eat. And hey, if your kid is forced to eat a foreign food here or there—good! He will have a more evolved palette that he will thank you for later when his date is impressed with his knowledge of exotic foods.

    Traveling with babies means triple the luggage
    The hospitality industry had the same thought, which is why many hotels today provide most of the necessities for traveling with babies on site. Call your hotel ahead of time to see what they offer so you don’t over pack.

    We need a jam-packed agenda or our kids will get bored
    First off—cultivate a little spontaneity in your children! As any seasoned traveler knows, the best experiences are a little off the map and are found more through word of mouth than any tourism guide. Don’t cut yourself or your kids off from those hidden gems by packing your day with back-to-back guided tours. Also—kids can get worn out from a too-rigid schedule!

    Jet lag is harder on kids
    Not even! You know how hard it is to put kids down for a nap at home—use that to your advantage when you’re traveling. Kids in general are less aware of when it’s time to sleep. They will usually be surprisingly bright-eyed when you will be the one craving some caffeine.

    Luxury Hotels Are Not Kid Friendly
    As snobbish as it may sound, one thing my travels definitely cultivated in me was a love of the finer things. Experiencing 5 star hotels with fresh fruit baskets placed on mahogany tables looking over the most popular promenade or beach, attendants spritzing you with Evian poolside and servers who fold your napkin while you’re in the bathroom has made me want to work very hard to eventually provide those things for myself and my family. But, more to the immediate point, luxury hotels will actually work harder to cater to your family’s needs than a mid range hotel. You did shell out the big bucks after all…

    Are you eager to make your child a citizen of the world yet?

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    When you're packing for a trip, it helps to have a list. One more thing you might want to add, besides clothes and a camera, are art supplies. But what if you're flying instead of driving? Is there a TSA requirement? I hope not, because your next trip could result in a map on They Draw & Travel, if you've got the skills.

    They Draw & Travel features maps illustrated by artists from around the world. And the term applies to professional and amateur artists. Hint: If you can't get your brushes, paint, markers or canvas through airport security, you might want to pack them carefully in a suitcase, or wait until you get home to sketch out your maps-ter-piece. That's a new word.

    They Draw & Travel was created by Nate Padavick and Salli Swindell, a brother/sister design and illustration team who work under the name of Studio SSS and live in Ohio and Massachusetts, respectively.

    What follows are a few examples from the site, of places people have visited, hope to visit, or like to call home.

    What location would you draw? What would you include? The site also is a wander-ful resource if you're looking for a place to go, and unusual spots to visit.

    You can sign up to submit a map right here. See the TDAT site for full maps. These are only snippets.

    1. Europe, by Ina Ahoi

    photo map of europe they draw travel

    2. Division Street Love in Chicago, Illinois, by April Nemeth

    photo map wicker park chicago they draw travel

    3. Valencia, Spain, by Rai Josep

    photo map they draw travel valencia spain

    If you think this site is unique, you must not have seen its sister, They Draw and Cook.

    Really. A collection of illustrated recipes.

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    Have you saw, I mean, seen the latest trend in music? Actually, the proper verb is saw. And maybe it's not a trend. But if you thought saw-playing died with Jackyl's "The Lumberjack," you're wrong. It's still going on, sans chainsaws that run with two-stroke engines. Astoria, New York, recently hosted the ninth annual NYC Musical Saw Festival. People came from all over to play music using saws. And people came to listen. Boy, does this music sound weird. There's no way to describe it, except maybe "Wooo ooooo."

    If you're making plans for 2012, you might want to consider the 10th annual festival. It's bound to have even more teeth than last year. Teeth, like you use on a saw to cut wood. Performers at the festival twist and turn and "play" their saws with string quartets and such.

    Take a listen here, to Saw Lady, from Ameriklectic. Wait for it ... she's in the middle.

    The Saw Lady's real name is Natalia Paruz, founder and organizer of the event. Now how does this fit in with Planet Green? No, we're not a sponsor. But the planet wouldn't be green without trees. And saws like these would be out in the forests, cutting down trees, if it weren't for these musicians. Talk about environmentally friendly music.

    This may be one event to keep your eyes on for next year. Paruz says she's hoping to hold the 10th festival in July 2012. The NYC Musical Saw Fest holds the Guinness World Record for the "Largest Musical Saw Ensemble," set in 2009. If you have 3D glasses handy, take a look at "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from this year. Or at least squint and listen.

    Apparently, making music with a carpenter's handsaw, like you see here, has been around for 300 years (that's a long trend). The Astoria fest has seen players come from as far as China, Japan, India, Germany, Sweden and Canada.

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    The best pizza. The most beautiful women. The finest wines. Plenty of cities claim to have these. But which cities are competing for a medal that means a greener, possibly longer-lasting planet? These ten cities have committed substantial budgets and time to making public transit not only accessible, but also appealing.

    10) Honolulu, Hawaii
    It’s not only the city’s efforts that put Honolulu among the top ten. Honolulu residents play a large part—they are bus lovers. Honolulu is in fact the only city on this list without an urban rail system. This is soon to change though, as the city is looking to build a 20-mile above-the-ground rail system that will transport residents to neighboring Oahu. No wonder Hawaii is considered the happiest state.

    9) Seattle, Washington
    Offering its residents the traditional bus and rail systems, what makes Seattle unique is its monorail right in the city center, as well as ferries. Seattle gets extra green points for being ranked the third-highest per-capita transit spending in 2008.

    8)San Diego, California
    We all know the famous San Diego trolleys that have graced the big screen many times. This social form of transit moves passengers through the city and even into the suburbs. San Diego is also a stop on the major southern California Metrolink passenger rail system.

    7/6) Salt Lake City, Utah (tie)
    Providing public transportation to an extensive urban and suburban population (approximately 1.7 million) requires a large investment—one that Salt Lake City has made, putting it at a tie as number 6. TRAX—Utah’s light rail system—is currently undergoing expansion, anticipating four new lines to the three-line system. This will give easier urban access to the suburban population.

    6/7 San Jose, California (tie)
    Most of the San Jose area receives its public transportation from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which provides both bus and light-rail lines. The city ranked even higher in the safety category, reaching number 3 in the top 10 in 2008.

    5) Portland, Oregon
    In the public transit world, Portland is famous for its Free Rail Zone, an area in downtown Portland where light rail and streetcar rides are free 24/7, seven days a week.

    4) Boston, Massachusetts
    Boston was a trailblazer in the public transit movement. Since 1631 Boston offered ferries that connected the city’s peninsula to the mainland. Today, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority provides multiple options to commuters, still running commuter ferries, as well as buses, rail lines and the “T”—it’s subway system.

    3) Los Angeles, California
    63. That’s how many hours in delay each driver in Los Angeles is estimated to experience per year in traffic. That could be the reason for the city’s popular public transit systems, including the L.A. metro bus and rail systems that run Monday through Friday. This system includes 2,600 buses and a 7.9-mile rail system track.

    2) New York-Newark, N.Y.-N.J.-Conn.
    To be expected, New York City is ranked number one in passenger trips as well as government spending per capita on public transportation. On an average weekday, the public transit ridership is estimated at over 8.4 million customers. The 2010 budget for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in the area was $13.4 billion. A more staggering figure—the city made up 40% of the nation’s public transit trips in 2008.

    1) Denver-Aurora, Colorado
    The area offers commuters bus and light rail lines, as well as airport shuttle services.
    Denver’s MailRide bus lines carries shoppers over the mile-long 16th Street mall at no cost, seven days a week. Currently, the city is taking on a multi-billion-dollar project to expand its transit system by increasing light real, commuter rail and rapid bus transit lines.

    Are you considering moving now?

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    So, you spent (mumble) amount of money on your plane ticket, train ticket or gas for the car. You sent out countless emails to make sure everything would run smoothly while you were away from work. You DIDN'T buy that plasma TV because it was that or this trip. And now, you're sick. Falling ill while traveling is one of the most frustrating, "why universe, WHY??!" things that can happen. Try these tips so that it doesn't happen to you and so that you can explore a little more than your hotel room bathroom.

    1) Sleep. I know. It is SO tempting to stay up until all hours in a new place to experience the night life and to wake up at the crack of dawn (maybe you haven't even gone to bed yet) to experience that great breakfast spot the locals buzz about. But you won't be experiencing any of that if your lack of sleep tares down your immune system and suddenly, you're sick. Be reasonable about when you go to sleep. Let yourself sleep in a little--it's vacation, after all. And take naps when appropriate! Hey, you've made it to this beautiful beach or lakeside, you've seen the view. Now doze off a little.

    2) Watch what you eat. You want to try the local fare, of course. But you don't need to become a local over night. Try maybe one or two new items a day and in small portions so that if you do catch a bug, it's not too bad. Try to avoid street foods, salad bars and raw fruits and veggies unless they have thick peels like bananas or grapefruit.

    3) Stay hydrated..the right way. Research ahead of time whether or not it is safe to drink the water at your destination. If not, be sure that buying water bottles is one of the FIRST things you do when you arrive, so you don't get desperate and sip out of the faucet. Better yet, pack water bottles.

    4) Take a daily time out. Vacations can perpetuate stress--the opposite of what they're meant to do--if you over do it. Make sure that somewhere in your jam-packed schedule of hikes, tours, local markets, shopping and dining that you set aside some time to just sit at a park or in a local promenade, watching the world go by and not partaking, just for fifteen to thirty minutes.

    5) Bring your pharmacy. Almost. Before you pack your cute sun dress or that white linen suit you finally get to wear, pack your prescriptions as well as the actual prescription in case you need a refill. Check the website of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to see which shots you need before traveling to your destination. Also, bring a medical kit filled with: bandaids, hand sanitizer, antibiotic cream, pain killers, sunscreen, bug bite cream, digestive aids like antidiarrheal or anti-bloat medications, antacids, cold medicine and a thermometer. GET travel health insurance. Do it. If anything goes wrong, it's worth much more than you pay for it.

    6) Don't pet anything. You know your neighbor's dog and your boss' ferret back at home. But you don't know what that seemingly harmless looking creature in a new place could be carrying. If you are bitten or scratched by anything, immediately wash the cut out with soap and hot water and go to a medical facility to have the cut examined.

    7) Work out! It's easy to forget to do this on vacation (for many, exercise is the antithesis of vacation) but it keeps you healthy at home and on vacation. Do it in fun ways by hiking up to a great view, joining in on a frisbee game in a park or volleyball game on the beach.

    8) Wash your hands. Especially on vacation when you might be having a few too many cocktails and forget to wash before leaving the bathroom.

    9) Research health professionals in the area. Don't fall mercy to whatever clinic happens to be next to your hotel if something goes wrong. Research ahead of time or even ask the locals while you are still healthy who the best health care provider is in the area.

    10) Try the local remedies. Not only for treatment, but for prevention. A lot of homeopathic remedies are very enjoyable. Find out what sort of massage the area is known for, or if there is a high quality spa or a shop known for great homeopathic remedies and products. If anything, it's an experience.

    It's a lot of preparation, but so worth it.

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    There are two kinds of staycations. The kind where you want to completely relax and treat your city as though you are a tourist in it, experiencing all of the things that are so fill in your city here. And then there is the type of staycation in which you want to feel like you’ve gotten far, far away. As in, to another country, without having spent a dime on airfare and skipping the jet lag. I recently took the latter kind when I realized my dreams of traveling through South America might stay just dreams until my dreams of a larger bank account came true. I took a South American “staycation” in Los Angeles. Here are a few places I “travelled” through.


    Coupa Café
    If you’ve seen The Social Network, then you’ve seen Coupa’s coffee cup. The original Facebook Headquarters in Palo Alto are right around the corner from Coupa Café’s Bay Area location. Mark Zuckerberg used to refuel his brain on Coupa’s Venezuelan Coffee. A little secret about Venezuelan coffee, it is nearly impossible to find anywhere other than Venezuela and Coupa Café. Coupa has coffee farms in Venezuela that grow coffee beans explicitly for them. I started my meal with the Degustacion—a little taste of many traditional Venezuelan bites like fried plantains wrapped around a light cheese, mini arepas filled with cheese and ground beef, and cachapas—corn griddle pancakes. My main course was the Pabellon—a hearty and dynamic dish of spiced shredded beef, black beans, rice, sweet fried plantains and cheese. As a digestive (or just for something delicious) I had their spiced hot chocolate, melted down from Venezuelan chocolate. This accompanied the only dessert that has ever made me lose all control—their Tres Leches cake, soaked in three types of milk and topped with creamy meringue. Beverly Hills shoppers might be passing by, but in the thick, jungle plants, hand-painted tiles and warm yellow walls of Coupa, you don’t realize Wilshire Blvd is a block away.
    419 North Canon Drive Beverly Hills

    Pabellon at Coupa Cafe
    Pabellon at Coupa Cafe

    Tres Leches Cake at Coupa Cafe
    Tres Leches Cake at Coupa Cafe


    Puerto Madero Market
    If there is one thing Argentina is known for besides beautiful women, it’s their carnivore culture! They have mouth-watering meats. Puerto Madero market is a clean, well-organized Argentinian market in Santa Ana, complete with a small café. Here you’ll find shining cases of Argentinian sausage, Chorizo, as well as other specialties like Pan Dulce and Empanadas. In the café you’ll find hand-made sandwiches stuffed with the famous meat.
    2715 Manhattan Beach Blvd. Redondo Beach

    Chorizo
    Chorizo

    Tropicalia Brazilian Grill
    Located near the great Greek theater, Tropicalia is a perfect place to grab some Brazilian grub before a show. Most Americans think formal Churrascarias when they think Brazilian food, but Tropicalia is small and cozy with plate glass windows, wood tables and Los Feliz locals in no hurry. Its romantic wine bar offers over 50 wines by the glass as well as imported Brazilian beers. You wouldn’t expect it, but this restaurant is known for it’s salad—the Salad Brasileira, made with lettuce, toasted cashews, tomatoes, plantains, avocados and hearts of palm with balsamic-dijon vinaigreete. Another favorite is the Braziribs that are barely on the bone to begin with. These are braised for hours and seasoned with a pepper sauce, a combination of BBQ sace and Indian curry, and served with yucca flour on top.
    1966 Hillhurst Ave Los angeles

    Just like on any ordinary vacation, I gained weight and took long food-induced naps.

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    What's the point of traveling half way around the world only to sit in a tour bus and "see" the sights? Next time you travel, don't just sit there, get in there! Ask the tourism bureau about festivals, find out about local favorite activities and foods, then go and experience them! Your vacation, and your life, will be richer because of it. Here's a sampling of what you can do when in Switzerland. But first... how to navigate, and not be afraid of, the amazing train system.


    Transportation


    Don't Be Afraid... How to Travel By Train
    Traveling by train in a foreign country can be terrifying if you don’t know what you are doing. But it doesn’t have to be. Arm yourself with information and the trip can be easier and more enjoyable than renting a car and driving to your destination yourself. Here is what you need to know to navigate the train system when you travel.


    Fitness


    Curious Goat Along the Chestnut Trail
    Forget about sitting in a tour bus all day "seeing the sites" on a vacation. Enrich your experience by getting outside, sweating, touching, smelling, tasting, and really getting a sense of your travel destination while burning calories! I went on a hike along the Chestnut Trail in Ticino Switzerland... with goats. Now THAT'S a cultural fitness experience I will remember.

    Trotti Biking Down Mt Titlis
    Forget the gym or traditional workouts when on vacation. Instead, hike, count your steps by wearing a pedometer, or hop on a Trotti bike and soar down the mountain like I did! It's a calorie-burning, muscle-toning workout that’s super fun too!

    Insect-Eating Plants... Hiking Barefoot through the Moorlands
    Did you know that there are carnivorous plants? See them (and feel them at your feet) while hiking barefoot through the Upper Moorlands.


    Beauty Secrets


    Kneipp Beauty Gush
    One of my favorite things to do when I travel is explore the local beauty techniques. In Switzerland, the Kneipp Cold Springs treatment is a popular local destination for preventative healing, improving the immune system, minimizing arthritis, and promoting natural beauty. When it comes to beauty, the idea is that you spray the water on your face in a specific manner in order to fight wrinkles, minimize the signs of aging, maintain skin’s radiance, ease acne and eczema. It was exhilarating!… But you can also do the technique at home using a hose.


    Food


    Risotto in Ticino!
    Sure there’s cheese and hiking, but Switzerland is also known for amazing wine and… risotto! Ticino, Switzerland, the Southern-most Swiss town that’s a stones throw from Italy, grows the delicious short grain rice called Loto risotto. Grower Margarit talks about her favorite simple risotto recipe.


    Culture


    Contact the tourism board BEFORE you go (every city has a tourism board) and find out what local festivities are happening. It's a great way to get a taste of the culture, meet the people, eat the food and get a rich experience of the destination. This is the Alpabfahrt Festival in Schüpfheim (Entlebuch)....

    Summer camp is over for the Swiss cows as they come home from the Alps ready for their milk to be made into delicious Summer cheese, with a slightly more herbal flavor thanks to the fresh grasses and clover in the Alps. But the cows don't just stroll down the mountain and back home... there is serious fanfare! The town of Schüpfheim (Entlebuch) puts on a festival called Alpabfahrt, closing the streets and of course selling local sausages and beer to help add to the festivities. It's quite the Swiss tradition!

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    We work and work and work, but for what? Ideally, so we can eventually relax. We work so that we can put a roof over our heads that we can relax under. We work so that we can enjoy beautiful meals at restaurants with our friends. That is why we work. But we can forget that, and we can put off those activities to work some more.

    For some, travel or even a massage isn’t always a choice. But, the truth is, if you don’t fit in a few moments of total relaxation every day, your performance at work—and in every part of your life, including relationships—will go down. Taking “me time” isn’t selfish. It’s actually a way to re-fuel so you can do the things you do for others, better. There is a way to make “me time” all the more valuable. Don’t just use those moments to escape your reality. Use those moments to change the way you feel about your reality.

    Los Angeles hypnotist Kristin Ellingson helped me do this through Invitation Hypnosis. This is a state of deep relaxation in which you can trick your own mind—so to speak.

    Woman under Hypnosis

    Without realizing it, we can be resistant to change. We can tell ourselves, with our conscious mind, that we like partners who are loving and generous, but our subconscious mind takes over and says “no, you like difficult partners who come with turmoil.” We can tell ourselves that we will have a more positive attitude about work, but our subconscious mind says “but everything about this place makes you cringe!”. Kristin can help those who are caught in a stress rut by training the subconscious mind to say what your conscious mind wants it to.

    The first hour or so was spent discussing my life and finding what my biggest point of stress was. From there, Kristin asked me to come up with a few words that, if I could embody them, would help me combat that stress. I chose fearless, energized and empowered.

    After putting me into a state of deep relaxation through a few mental exercises (not strenuous at all), Kristin encouraged me to envision a body of water, then a gift placed in front of me, and then a building. It was up to me what type of water, gift and structure it would be. And once the image was fully fleshed out, Kristin repeated those words: fearless, energized, empowered. She repeated them at a time when my brain was so relaxed, and my subconscious mind was essentially “off guard” that those words were really able to enter my brain. My subconscious brain wasn’t saying “you’re not empowered, you’re not fearless, you’re not energized” like it usually does. It was accepting the words I wanted it to accept.

    Today, when I envision that place (for me, a clear blue Caribbean ocean, a box of black Converse and a sky scraper) I instantly feel those adjectives.

    Taking a vacation is amazing, of course. Travelling and exploring new cultures is one of our biggest joys (especially those who read this site!) but one of the best things we get from travelling is a new perspective on our ordinary lives. Everyone deserves to develop that new perspective, even those who don't have the time or can't afford to travel. Through Invitation Hypnosis, you can train yourself to not feel the need to jump on a plane to escape negative emotions. You can take a mental vacation, right in your office, and come back from it maybe even liking your office a bit more.

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    You may recall a post earlier this year on plans by soulful folk musician Ben Sollee to embark on a second, two-wheeled tour. That is, a tour on a bike, towing a cello (since he's a cellist). I remarked back then that he'd have to park his "clunky old van" after a road show, and pedal his music for a while. Well, the tour dates have now been announced. And just in time, because his van broke down.

    To refresh, Ben is from Kentucky, his newest CD is "Inclusions," and his bicycle trek is officially called the "2011 Ditch the Van Tour." The tour was planned for the summer, but you know how that goes. It's already fall here in the U.S.

    The Ditch the Van Tour dates run from Oct. 27 in New Orleans to Nov. 13 in Florida:

    • Oct. 27 - New Orleans, LA, Preservation Hall
    • Oct. 30 - Gulf Port, MS, The Lynn Discovery Center
    • Nov. 1 - Mobile, AL, Saenger Theatre
    • Nov. 2 - Gulf Shores, AL, The Hangout
    • Nov. 3 - Pensacola, FL, Vinyl Music Hall
    • Nov. 5 - Panama City, FL, A&M Theatre
    • Nov. 13 - Orlando, FL, Orlando Calling Music Festival.


    As the tour name suggests, Ben and his band will be moving by bike from show-to-show, pulling their instruments and gear behind them. Why? Do they just need the exercise?

    "Sollee’s goal is not a novelty, or a nod to the green trend," according to a rep, "but a chance to gain a deeper connection to his fans and surrounding communities," which is the inspiration behind his latest musical release.

    As for the van, a story at NPR notes that Ben and his crew stopped by to play a Tiny Desk Concert in July. They arrived "after a particularly frustrating couple of days on the road. Their van broke down, forcing them to get towed to their next gig" in Burlington, Vermont.

    The first Ditch The Van Tour was in 2010. Besides biking, Ben also will be traveling conventionally. See the tour section on Sollee's site for more info.

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  • 11/03/11--06:19: Is Space Tourism a Bust? (chan 1181554)
  • Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic spaceline is still in the works. Still. As some potential passengers jump ship. The latest to give up his ticket is venture capitalist Alan Walton. If you have an extra $200,000, now's your chance to snatch it up.

    It seems that even the 1%ers (shameless Occupy Wall Street reference) are being careful about how they spend their dollars these days, based on a report at physorg.com. Walton was among the first folks to sign up for this spaceflight, which involves being sent on a suborbital trip, 60-some miles high, for a feeling of weightlessness (and a potential awesome new Facebook profile photo).

    It's hard not to blame the ship-jumper. He's been waiting for seven years, is 75 years, and is concerned about project delays. But all good things, and innovations, take time, right? Also, he got a full refund. That's good customer service.

    It was back in 2004 that SpaceShipOne became the first privately paid for, manned ship to make it into space. The first commercial passenger flight was forecast to occur in 2007.

    So much for that schedule, and those interested in what you might call the ultimate travel experience. Earlier this year, Virgin Galactic showed off SpaceShipTwo during its first feathered flight.

    This month, Virgin Galactic inked a $4.5 million contract with NASA for up to three charter flights on SpaceShipTwo, for engineers, technologists, and scientific researchers to conduct experiments in space.

    So there are still those out there who are committed to, and interested in, non-NASA, non-Russian commercial spaceflights.

    According to the Virgin Galactic website, bookings are still being taken, for more than 400 astronauts who will make the trip (some day). Maybe if they threw in some sky miles?

    According to the physorg.com article, other companies in the space race include XCOR Aerospace, Armadillo Aerospace and Blue Origin, the last of which is headed by Amazon rocket man Jeff Bezos.

    More on Space Travel
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    It’s happened to you. Your friend comes back from his travels, gives you a gift, and you think to yourself “he totally got this at the airport gift shop.” But every travelling gift-shopper means well! They just don’t always know where to find the most meaningful and unique gifts because, well, they aren’t in their own town. If you’re travelling and buying gifts soon (which is very likely with the holidays coming up) try these tips so you’re not that friend giving the shot glass from the airport bar.


    Support Local Artists
    One thing you can be sure will be original is art from local artists. If you happen upon a street fair, or even just one sole artist selling his work on the street, don’t pass by quickly like you normally would with street vendors. Check out his work. It might capture the scenery, history, even sentiments of the place you are visiting. Your true art-enthusiast friends will love this.

    Follow That Shopping Bag
    If you see a local who has obviously just been on a little shopping spree, ask them where they went! Ask them what items they simple cannot be without in their particular hometown—this could be a kitchen tool specific to the local produce, shoes meant for a sport that is unique to that area, even a bottle of the local’s favorite alcohol.

    local shopper
    Photo: Microsoft Images Shopping Spree

    Go To The “Boring” Places
    What does this mean? Drop into a pharmacy or grocery store. You might find something that to you seems completely novel, but is actually an everyday necessity for the locals. During my travels, I’ve literally picked up antacids just because of the beautiful or even funny packaging. It’s entertaining for me, and it carries the pulse of that place.

    Souvenir Shops Are The Last Places For Real Souvenirs
    The only tip you might get from a souvenir shop is if you notice a certain place depicted on many of the shot glasses, in much of the replicated art or on postcards. If you see this, ask the shopkeeper where that place is, why it is so special, and go there and get a souvenir.

    Actually Develop Your Photos
    I know. Who does this anymore? But you brought that camera for a reason. And no uploaded pic on Facebook or Twitter can sit over a mantle, or be a magnet on a fridge. Print your photos and give them away as gifts.

    family photo albums
    Photo: Microsoft Images Family Photo Album

    Make Videos
    These aren’t necessarily for your friends—giving them a video of your adventures might just seem very self-involved of you. But think of your parents, grandparents, even siblings who you don’t see often and who are always asking you to write or call more. Don’t just shoot your weekly email or make that monthly phone call. Send them a video. They will feel instantly closer to you.

    Trade
    You might be wearing a T-shirt or hat that, to the locals, is the funniest or coolest thing they’ve ever seen. Offer to trade. Right there and then. Your t-shirt for the local’s. Your hat for his. This gift is obviously for your more open-minded friends who don't mind a used gift. But it comes with a great story.

    Don't these beat any department store buys?

    Read More About Giving The Best Gifts
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    The Anti-Gift List: 15 Things Everyone Gets and No One Needs
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    Planning makes perfect. Or maybe that's practice. If you're planning for a Spring Break trip (me too), you might want to consider these Top 10 Emerging Destinations for Green and Sustainable Travel from a site called Greenloons. 'Loons? It seems they're only loony about guiding people to spots that have been certified as green.

    "Traveling sustainably in new destinations helps raise living standards and can create environmental reverence by emphasizing conservation education and advocating sustainable activities that lessen degradation," says Irene Lane, Greenloons founder.

    That's right, you can tell that to your friends: I'm not just going on vacation, I'm helping people. And why not? There are worse ways to spend your money. These folks also are in tune with family vacations. If you have (and take) the kids, they’ll be able to give quite a fantastic presentation on “What I did on my vacation.”

    So without further delay ...

    1. Jordan


    photo Jordan Petra greenloons
    Flowers blooming at the Monastery at Petra in Jordan.

    Greenloons says Jordan’s “eco-lodges combine local heritage and educational experiences while exploring a mix of modernity, ancient wonders and nature. Think horse or camel safaris, Bedouins, the endangered Arabia oryx, Petra, the Dead Sea and trekking through Dana Nature Reserve.

    2. Borneo


    photo orangutan mom baby borneo
    Mother orangutan with her baby, Borneo.

    Borneo boasts “'jungles, beaches, caves, exotic wildlife and more than 5,000 diverse and endemic plant species are revealed by, among others, trekking the relatively untouched Mt. Kinabalu and exploring the Kinabatangang River, home to wild boar, orangutans, elephants, king fishers, macaque and proboscis monkeys. Award-winning eco-lodges harvest rainwater, use solar power and manage wildlife rehabilitation.”

    3. Philippines


    photo Philippines Igorot Banaue
    The Igorot people in Banaue, Philippines. Credit: Dylan Waters

    National Geographic named the Philippines as one of it’s 20 Best Destinations for 2011 and the island of Palawan (top right) as its top eco-destination.

    4. Belize


    photo Mayan Caana Belize Jaguars
    View from the Main Mayan Temple called Caana at Caracol, Belize with the Temple of the Jaguars to the rear of the plaza.

    This one has a special place in my heart. A relative went here and, as the saying goes, all we got was a hat.

    The ‘Loons say “Belize offers more than 87 distinct types of ecosystems, making ecotourism the lifeblood of its economy. Along with 150 identified species of mammals are rainforests, Mayan temples, the world's second longest barrier reef and an abundance of eco-lodges educating travelers about the fragility of its ecosystem.”

    5. Botswana


    photo lion cubs botswana greenloons
    Lion cubs swimming in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.

    Botswana “favors low volume, high quality, environmentally conscious safari travel into the Okavango Delta and Kalahari Desert, the savannahs of the Moremi Reserve and the forests of Chobe and Linyanta Game Reserves.”

    Rounding the (last but not least) bottom of the list are Poland, Croatia, Guyana, Argentina (home to Perito Moreno, one of the world's only advancing glaciers) and Ethiopia.

    Ethiopia?


    photo Ethiopia greenloons
    Blue Nile Falls near Bahar Dar in Ethiopia.

    Its gems include Lalibela, called one of the greatest spiritual-historical sites of the world.

    Have you visited any of these? Either way, this list is something to ponder, especially when you stack it up against more popular destinations. Some of these are pricey, but sound much more memorable than a lot of McResorts out there, if you can afford it.

    By the way, Greenloons says it only lists award-winning ecotour operators that adhere to environmental and other standards by numerous recognized third parties, including the United Nations Global Compact. So your money goes to good use, it seems.

    More on Family and Eco Travel Destinations
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    It’s the holidays and you want to see your family! You understand the effects of travel on the environment, but you look forward all year to jumping on that plane to see the cousins, grandparents, aunts, in-laws—whoever—that you haven’t seen in far too long. You can’t always choose how you get somewhere and what sort of carbon footprint that will leave, but you can choose a travel company that keeps the environment in mind, therein counteracting your holiday carbon footprint. These 5 companies have a reputation for planning great green trips and giving back to the environment:

    Cabin in the Woods
    Photo: Microsoft Images Cabin in the Woods

    Natural Discovery
    This company seeks out and promotes eco friendly accommodations of all shapes and sizes including large resorts, bed and breakfasts and even small, rentable cabins across England, Wales and Scotland. If you book your vacation through the company, Natural Discovery uses multiple methods for offsetting the carbon footprints it encourages like donating energy efficient light bulbs to many of the properties listed on the site. The company also offers a Discovery Break package, which includes information on local history, culture and cuisine.

    Nature Travels
    Get ready to spend all your time outdoors as this company takes nature enthusiasts canoeing, timber rafting, horse riding and kayaking through Sweden. During the winter, adventurers can enjoy cross-country skiing and dog sledding. Nature Travel donates 4.15 Euros per patron to Climate Care, as well as 2% of its profits to conservation efforts. Only local, small-scale service providers that meet sustainability criteria are used in the packages.

    National Geographic Expeditions
    This company caters to the adventurous, offering eco-tours, eco-expeditions and National Geographic Expeditions on all seven continents. 100% of the proceeds from the site go to National Geographic research efforts. Tours often include schools, workshops and markets where local artisans sell their products.

    rainforest
    Photo: Microsoft Images Rainforest

    Small World Journeys
    This company organizes trips to some of Australia’s least-touched natural destinations in groups of no more than 10 people. Not only does the small group make for an intimate, up-close experience, but it also lessens the environmental impact of the excursion. The company plants a tree in the Australian rainforest for every single person that books a tour with them and donates 2% of net profits to conservations organizations.

    mountain biking
    Photo: Microsoft Images Mountain Biking

    Pure Mountains
    This quaint company hosts patrons in its very own farmhouse located in the Sierra Nevada Natural Park in Andalucia, Spain. Cycling enthusiasts can mountain bike through some of the most pristine mountain regions in Spain by day, and experience fresh meals made from local ingredients by night in the farmhouse.

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    Sustainable resort development doesn't have to be an oxymoron. Meet Stanley Selengut, who created Maho Bay Camps, a 114-unit campground on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, in 1976. It was built to be an economically viable and environmentally friendly camp, compatible with National Park mandates. It's now one of the most profitable businesses on the island. And as with any good story, there's more.

    Maho Bay was built by locals on hand-dug footings to minimize impacts to the land. How refreshing, and quieter than heavy machinery. Beep beep beep.

    Maho Bay is considered a pioneering development by leaders in the ecotourism field. To go along with the resort, there's a "Trash to Treasures Art Center," which focuses on the re-manufacture of waste from the resort into saleable craft items and fine art.

    photo trash-to-treasure-maho-bay

    This is all according to the International Ecotourism Society, and another refreshing item. How many times have been been at a resort, and wondered where all that trash goes? Doesn't waste give tourists a bad name, too? Stanley has helped turn this around, and it seems that other resort owners could learn a thing or two.

    Stanley was recently the featured speaker at an Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference put on by society in South Carolina, USA. He also was given a Lifetime Achievement Award, which is noteworthy. Stanley sounds like an unsung hero of the sustainable development movement. How about a tip of the hat to him?

    photo tent-trees-cactus-Stanley-Selengut

    A little more on Stanely's background and Maho Bay Camps. The spot now has a sister eco-resort called Estate Concordia Preserve, which takes in 51 acres and features "utility self-sufficient cottages, super insulated villas, solar power, cisterns to collect rainwater, and other green building processes," according to a conference brochure.

    Stanley has been telling his story for some time, speaking at schools and conferences around the world, and holding workshops at his resort. He even helped establish the International Ecotourism Society.

    More on Eco Tourism and Travel Destinations
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    Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. However you celebrate during December, you don't need to fly to do it. Think about it. No airports. No delays, or overpriced foods, or announcements that you can't quite make out, or sitting next to someone you'd rather not. How about getting stuck with the middle seat? Convinced? Try these five green holiday trends on for size, via Greentraveller, with five no-fly holiday ideas.

    The list, published recently on the Reuters Business Traveller site, puts an emphasis on the carbon emissions you'll keep out of the atmosphere. But you don't need to be a greenie to appreciate these. Greentraveller calls them Five Green Holiday Trends for 2012.

    1. Trips to the Mediterranean, by train and ferry. Although the site originates in the U.K., an idea like this can be done stateside, too. See a previous PlanetGreen trend post on Traincations.

    2. Ride a bike. The Summer Olympics are coming to London next year, so get started early, Greentraveller advises. This one probably applies best to those living in warmer climates, and not Michigan, where this post is being typed. Kayaking also is an Olympic sport, along with swimming. Again, for warmer climates, unless you enjoy a Polar Bear Plunge, a popular semi-sport in winter country.

    3. Look at the stars. You don't need to be an astronaut (although NASA is hiring) to do this. Greentraveller suggests a train trip to a ski resort. You also could make plans for the Northern Lights, which made a Must-See list earlier this year.

    4. Hire a bike. That is, find a rental bike and tour your favorite city (especially handy when your car doesn't have a bike rack). The U.K has an electric bike network, too. Places like San Francisco also peddle electrics.

    5. Hoof it. Take a foot tour. You can find a few ideas via another Planet Green post, on Atlas Obscura.

    Whatever you do, have a great end of 2011. And get planning now for 2012.

    More on Vacation Ideas
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    If you're familiar with the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, you may want to pick up "Redwood to Deadwood," a book by Colin Flaherty about hitchhiking across America. Hitchhiking? In this day and age? And living to tell about it? Now that's an adventure.

    That may be the cynical Detroiter in me (I grew up down there). Or maybe I've seen too many hitchhiker horror movies.

    According to author from Wilmington, Delaware:

    "Before I tucked my thumb in for the final time, I’d run with wild horses, visit a pot farm, hunt big game, poach big game, get chased by a helicopter, get into family feuds, ride in cop cars, reconnect with old friends, make new ones, get tired and exhilarated, scorned and accepted, kicked out and invited in.

    I know how to cook muskrat, squirrel and rockchuks. And, oh yeah, I almost got murdered."

    Like I said, hitchhiking can be dangerous. The book includes stories from and rules of the road --- for those thinking of taking their own adventure. Flaherty, 53 at the time, spent three months on the road for this book.

    Several critics and regular ol' readers have given a thumbs up, or sideways, to this book about "thumbing it."

    A favorite, from Dr. G at Amazon.com: "this book will entertain and inform you ... it may even inspire you to go out there, roll the dice, stick out your thumb and give it a shot yourself. I mean, he lived to tell the tale, right?"

    For those interested, there's also hitchwiki.org.

    Just don't forget to bring your charger. "Would you mind if I plugged this into your cigarette lighter for a bit?" This is strictly an e-book, for those new-fangled e-readers like the Kindle Fire. You also can read it on your computer or laptop.

    What do you say? Have you hitchhiked? Is it a new way to see the world? Or is it a mode of travel that is passé?

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    I’m the first to admit that an out-of-town attitude includes skipping out on my regular workout. But that’s the great thing! It's your opportunity to try something new, work new muscles, and maybe even LOSE, as opposed to GAIN weight! I know... the holidays can be brutal for your diet. You're too busy, tired, and full to do your entire regular workout routine. Instead, slip in several quickie workouts into your day, every day, to keep your metabolism stoked and naturally burning off even more calories for you.

    When it comes to holiday travel, immediately get your head in a fit mindset. Here's how:

    BURN CALORIES JUST GETTING THERE
    The surprising fact is that you start racking up calories burned even before you arrive to your destination. Yup, the hour it takes to pack (or unpack) your bags burns up about 118 calories. Then just the act of travelling (lugging your bags through a busy airport, negotiating the signs in a foreign train station) can burn an average of 117 calories per hour. You can even burn calories while waiting around at the airport! Here’s how:


    Carry-On Bag Curls-

    Do curls with your carry-on or purse to tone your biceps, shoulders, back, even your core. It can be a total upper-body toning session. Don’t worry if you tire yourself out, you’re about to be sedentary on an airplane seat for the next several hours. May as well make the most of your freedom of movement now!
    Terminal Lunges-
    You may look like a bit nutty lunging around the terminal, but honestly, who cares? It’s not like you are ever going to see these people again. With generally an hour to kill, why sit around and twiddle your thumbs when you could be getting a good leg and butt workout?
    Calf Raises-
    Feel the need to be a little more discrete? I get it. Calf raises are a great way to tone your legs without being too obvious. It’s perfect for those long boarding lines. You don’t have anything else to do, so why not work out?
    Wall Sit-
    No available seats? Great! Instead of sitting on the disgustingly dirty floor, pretend to take a seat with a wall sit. Push your back up against the wall, step your feet about 2-feet from the wall (the length of your quad muscles), then bend your knees so that your hamstrings are parallel to the ground (as if you’re sitting on a chair). Hold this position for as long as you can- which will likely be only about 60 seconds.

    More Pre-Flight Quickie Workouts:

    Mile High Quickies
    More than pre-flight workouts, when in-flight, don’t just sit there, burn some calories! These seated exercises will help you to get your metabolism pumping, your blood flowing (& so you don’t get blood clots in your legs).
    Mile High Quickie photo.jpg

    Hotel Room Quickies
    Staying in a hotel or taking up a small space within a relative's house? You can STILL slip in your workout (you can even do it on a bed!)! Try Hotel Room Quickie Workouts to burn calories without going anywhere!

    For traditional workouts, try yoga. It’s the perfect vacation workout because you can do it in your hotel room or even on the beach. I make up my own routines. I also like to explore the destination that I have traveled to by walking it (instead of driving it). Forget sightseeing in your car, ask the concierge for the best walking routes. You get in some exercise and get acquainted with the place at the same time.

    Because I'm a big believer that you can indulge on vacation and Not gain weight.


    ****
    Laurel House is a Fit Living Expert, 3x published author, and believer in living a life of balance. See more of her "Quickie Tips" on her website QuickieChick.com. Her 4th book- "QuickieChick's Cheat Sheet to Life, Love, Food, Fitness, Fashion and Finance on a Less than Fabulous Budget" (St. Martin's, May 2012) is available NOW for PRE-ORDER.


    Alison Levine has been lured by arresting mountains and snow capped peaks. Though she climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, trekked up Mt. Everest as team captain of the Ford sponsored American Women's' Everest Expedition, and cross country skied the arctic circle to the North Pole (her first time on cross country skis)- the “top of the world,” she considers “extreme sports” a relative term. As she says, “For some people it sort of conjures up visions of skiers flying off of huge drop-offs and ledges -- doing all kinds of things that ‘regular’ people don’t really do. I feel like many of the things I do are things that anyone with a desire to push themselves a bit could do. It’s just about getting out there and trying something new.”

    For Alison, anything that is out of her comfort zone she considers “extreme.” “When I think about extreme sports, golf comes to mind. Really. The thought of spending all day walking around chasing after a little ball and trying to swat it into a little hole seems ‘extreme.’ I don’t think I could ever do it. To me, that is crazy. But I do realize that walking 100 miles across the Arctic Circle (which I just did in April) might sound crazy to other people. But anyone who can withstand the cold could do this trip! You just need to be able to drag a sled and a hefty sense of adventure along with you.”

    Mt Kilimanjaro

    Alison’s extreme adventures all began in celebration of her new state of good health. Just eighteen months after her second heart surgery to repair a life-threatening condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, she first ventured into the world of extreme sports by climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. She borrowed a backpack, gore-tex jacket, fleece jacket, and gore-tex pants (she bought her own hiking boots), went to Africa by herself and hired a guide at the base of Kilimanjaro. “After that, I immediately felt this connection to nature and the outdoors and I began to set my sights on more difficult and more technical peaks. At the time, I had plenty of frequent flyer miles so I knew I could travel to just about anywhere in the world, but I was a graduate student so I had no money. I soon figured out that if I could fit everything I needed into a backpack, I could travel almost anywhere.” trekking. Dan Wallace. Dreamstime.com.jpg

    Alison immediately caught the extreme sports itch, burning through her frequent flyer miles and climbing everything she possibly could. Before she knew it, she had climbed the highest peaks on 6 of the 7 continents. “I like to say that I "accidentally" climbed the highest peak on 6 continents, since it just sort of happened without really planning for it,” she confessed. “Though I hate to use any derivation of the word "accident" in the same sentence with climbing.”

    Cross Country Ski Across the Arctic Circle

    While some of us might take our first steps on cross country skis in a controlled environment, one day at a time, Alison has a tendency to go to extremes. Sponsored by 85 Broads, a woman’s networking organization, Alison decided to cross country ski across the Arctic Circle to reach the geographic North Pole. She admits that she was out of her comfort zone (therefore defining it as extreme in her eyes).

    cross country skiing. Jeff Whyte. Dreamstime.com.jpg
    “One of the most challenging parts of skiing to the North Pole was dealing with the ocean currents carrying us in the wrong direction. Since we were crossing the polar ice cap there is no land, only floating ice – so we were traveling across an ice mass that is always drifting. And, unfortunately for us, we were usually drifting in the opposite direction of where we were skiing (go figure). Mentally it was very tough to spend 11 hours moving in one direction, only to wake up the next morning and discover you were further away from your destination than you were when you started out the previous day. But, we finally managed to reach the Pole. It was both exhilarating and exhausting.”

    snowy ridge. Rcaucino . Dreamstime.com.jpg

    When You Know It’s Time To Take Up Golf


    Alison certainly did this most recent trek for herself, but she also did it as a statement for women everywhere. “We wanted to send a message to all of the women out there who are trying to balance work and family and fitness and every other element of life that we often struggle with. There were times when I thought we would not make it. That said, I never gave up on the goal of reaching the North Pole. The whole experience of drifting backward made me think a lot about the paths we choose in life. Sometimes we all must take a few steps backward before we can move forward. And the bottom line is that we keep walking and we keep moving and we keep taking deep breaths – and if we continue to push ourselves and continue to believe we can do great things, we will make it to our desired destinations…” wherever that may be. “People often ask me what I am planning to do when I can no longer climb or do things like ski to the top of the world. I guess that is when I will take up golf.”

    ***
    Laurel House is a Fit Living Expert, 3x published author, and believer in living a life of balance. See more of her "Quickie Tips" on her website QuickieChick.com. Her 4th book- "QuickieChick's Cheat Sheet to Life, Love, Food, Fitness, Fashion and Finance on a Less than Fabulous Budget" (St. Martin's, May 2012) is available NOW for PRE-ORDER.


    “Welcome to the United States!” I was home. Well, almost. The friendly Customs agent sat in his booth in the muggy Oahu airport. “Hello Ms. House,” he said with a warm smile, “where are you traveling from today?” “Palau,” I replied, via “Guam.” He asked me a series of routine questions then scrunched his nose as his smile twisted to a frown. “Is there a problem?” I asked with a lump in my throat. “Yeah, there is actually,” he responded, not even looking up. “A problem” is probably the very last thing that you want to hear from a Customs agent, especially after 22 hours of travel… He then picked up a phone and called for assistance. An hour and a half later, after the Agriculture agent verified that I wasn’t attempting to contaminate this country with bug-infested fruits and vegetables from overseas- an unusual search that consisted of opening bottles of Aspirin, anti-anxiety Chinese herbs from my reputable Santa Monica, California purveyor, reading letters in my journal, looking through photos and pulling out every article of clothing (yes, even the embarrassing and dirty unmentionables) from my bag and placing them on the conveyor belt for all to see; a seemingly endless investigation by a drug-sniffing dog; a private-room interrogation consisting of invasive questions and an (in my opinion) unwarranted thorough search of my body; followed by yet another grilling by two plain-clothed Homeland Security officers demanding answers to personal and intrusive questions; and, finally, I asked the all important question: "Am I being arrested?" (something I learned form watching too much "Law and Order"). The answer was no. They didn't have enough evidence to detain me. So, having rights, I asked why I was being searched. FINALLY I was given the information that this whole production was prompted by: the suspicion that I was trafficking ecstasy into the United States! Apparently, I fit the description of a mule- what a compliment! Since they uncovered not one illegal item, I was released from the intimidating, and rather unwelcoming, clutches of the United States government.
    small islands on Palau.jpg

    I must say, my run in with our country’s guardsmen slightly tainted my trip to one of the most beautiful and untouched countries I have ever visited, but, somehow- now that I am removed from the whole incident- it was all worth it. Here’s why…

    Paradise Found

    I arrived at sunset to the open-air lobby, with an undisrupted view of the Pacific Ocean and some of the 300 “emerald” islands of Palau (a little-known gathering of islands located between Guam and the Philippines), to the Palau Pacific Resort in Koror- the capital of Palau. As I stood in awe of the fluorescent orange and magenta aura seemingly emanating from the wave-less water, my hands were relieved of my luggage, which was replaced with a fruity drink. If you could bottle perfection, this is what it would look like. From that moment on, everything seemed picture perfect, as though I had accidentally stumbled upon Paradise, where you can ride your bike around an island all day and not see a single person, where you can sting-lessly snorkel in a lagoon amongst literally millions of pulsating jellyfish that slide along your body, where you can kayak through caves, or take a speedboat into a clay-filled lake and give yourself an all-natural mud body facial. It’s no wonder that “Survivor” chose Palau as the destination for Season 10. pretty hole in the island.jpg

    The hotel was filled with other like-minded adventure-seekers, some of whom were scheduled for 10 days worth of guided dives to many of the world’s most illustrious spots, like “Big Drop Off,” which Jacques Cousteau hailed as the best dive wall in the world. I was there to kayak!

    Kayaking the "Secret Spots"

    I caught a speedboat to another area of the island where I was deposited into the hands of Ron Leidich, who is likely one of the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable kayaking guides in existence. His exuberance could incite enthusiasm in even the most blah, disinterested of people. Our kayaks were placed in our boat and we took to the water, off to some of the “secret” spots around the surrounding islands. About 30 minutes out, we pulled up to our first of many coral-filled lagoons, where I was instructed to careful swim to get into our kayaks but not to put on my fins in order to avoid causing underwater ripples that might disturb the fragile coral beds. Exotic fish darted in and out of the vibrantly colored reefs, schools or pinky-size newborn fish timidly peaked out of their hiding places. But this wasn’t our kayaking destination. It was around the bend, through a hole. coral in palau.jpg

    We sat and waited. It was time, Ron announced. We had to book it to a cave that, at only certain hours during the day, allowed access to a lake that was usually locked within the walls of an island. A hole linking the ocean to the lake was exposed only during very low tide, and only for a few hours. There was about a foot and a half (maybe) of air space between the water and the ceiling of the cave- just enough room to lay back in our kayaks and slowly push ourselves through. Once we reached the other side Ron opened his storage space and pulled out lunch- a plate of rice, meat, and vegetables (which turned out to be a traditional Palauan lunch amongst the locals), followed by a meal-size plate of fresh islands fruits!

    Swimming With Sharks

    swimming with baby sharks in a cave.jpg Refueled, we ditched the kayaks and swam through the cave, stopping in the middle for one of Ron’s fervently details descriptions of what we were seeing… which is when he revealed that along the sides of the cave- about 1 foot from where we waded- was a breeding ground for sharks! Oh, but not to worry, the mother sharks rarely came around during the day, if at all. Sure enough, when we placed our snorkel masks on and submerged our heads, Ron flashed his underwater light against the walls and there, lurking in the shadows, were about 8 sharks! SO, they were only about 2-feet long, but SHARKS none-the-less. I did probably the worst thing I could possibly do when in the presence of people-eating animals- panicked! My instincts took over as I feverishly flapped my fins, causing much more of a stir than I should have, and got the hell out of that cave!

    On the other side, with the sun gently beating down into the water, illuminating a garden of coral that most can’t even imagine exist in such colors, the images of “Jaws” were instantly erased… to the point that I completely forgot about the sharks. We casually swam for an hour before returning to the cave, where, at about the same midway point in the complete darkness of the rising cave water, I felt something brush past my foot. SHARK! Yes, again, I went into frantic mode, actually allowing a scream to burst through my snorkel as I kicked my way to the other side of the cave and jumped into my kayak with such zeal it flipped over. At which point I couldn’t help but hysterically laugh at myself, while tears of residual fear poured from my eyes.

    WWII Hideout- A Stuck Moment in Time

    wearing a found helmet in a Japanese WW2 pill box on an abandoned island.jpg Next stop, a tiny island once occupied by Japanese military during the Second World War. This was one of Ron‘s secret finds that he only reveals to a special few. Somehow, I made the cut. He pulled a wooden ladder from the boat that constantly accompanied up (just in case we got tired of paddling), positioned it along the rock wall of the island, then scrambled up. Once at the top, he leaned over with an exuberant grin and offered me his hand. As we navigated the rocky ridge, I noticed empty beer bottles scattered about, which, according to Ron, remained from the Japanese occupation. But, he assured me, the best was yet to come. We continued up the short trail to the entrance of what looked like a cave. “This is not for the claustrophobic,” Ron warned. I followed him in and discovered a bunker, but, yes, the best was yet to come, hidden in a hole was a sake bottle and a Japanese war helmet, the metal weakened from the salt and water. “Put it on,” Ron insisted. I gently placed the historical hat upon my head so that he could take a picture, but quickly took it off in order to avoid upsetting the ghosts that still lingered… hey, you never know! On the other side of the tiny island was another bunker, but this one had words in Korean. “It was probably written by a Korean slave of the Japanese,” Ron knowingly revealed. “It explains the village where he was from, describing the surrounding mountains, his family name, and he tells his parents that he loves them and will see them again. He wrote it in both Chinese and Korean since Chinese is more of a universal language. He probably died here, and he knew he would.” My eyes misted over... again. The rest of the day was equally mind-blowing and eye-opening, though thankfully not tear-inducing.


    Dolphins, Monkeys and Bettlenut


    freaked out on a plane.bmp
    There are truly too many stories to recount. Suffice to say that I swam with dolphins the next day, then took a private (door-less!!!!) plane to Anguar- an island inhabited by all of 200 people (the landing strip was a field of small bushes and dirt), was given a bicycle by one of the few locals, road around the entire island- with monkeys swinging from the canopy of trees above-and finally settled on a deserted beach that doubled as a graveyard for downed planes and abandoned ships and carriers from the war. For a second, I admit, I feared that my bettlenut-chewing pilot (that would be the mind-altering substance chewed by a majority of locals) might not be able to navigate us back to the plane, forcing me to REALLY survive Palau. Thankfully he felt comfortable enough to fly (despite the fact that I was shaking with fear). And, yes, I did kiss the ground the second we landed.
    plane on the runway in anguar.bmp

    I survived- both Palau and Homeland Security. Paradise lost, was found.


    If there is one thing I have learned from being a travel writer, it’s NEVER CHECK YOUR LUGGAGE (except for extreme circumstances where lots of luggage is a must). Why?
    1st of all, many airlines now charge you to check.

    2nd, I don’t like to have to stand with the masses waiting for my luggage to finally come slowly creeping around the luggage carousel…

    3rd,… if it ever does come. Yeah, lost luggage isn’t just a thing you “hear” about. It has happened to me and it’s not fun.

    4th,... it's greener! If you don't check, that means you are being careful with the amount of luggage that you are bringing, which means less weight, which means less fuel.

    5th, because it’s quick! Not checking means that you don’t have to wait in line to check your baggage. Just check-in online, print your boarding pass, get your fab behind to the airport and deliver yourself directly to the security check-in line. Ok, yes, now you have to unload insane amounts of contents onto the belt- your computer in its own bin, your liquids in another, and of course heave ho that huge roller bag up so it can be thoroughly scanned. But really, all of that doesn’t take much time… if you’re prepared for it (which is why having a designated place for each item in your bag is ideal). Then on the plane, just place your roller in the overhead compartment and your shoulder bag w/purse under your seat and you’re golden! Another Quickie Tip: get a seat as close to the front as possible so you can be one of the first off the plane and on with your life!

    What does "never-checking" translate to?
    Technically:
    1 carry-on bag
    1 personal bag
    carry on bag.jpg

    Here’s the QuickieChick way:
    -1 carry-on (this is a rolling carry-on)
    -1 shoulder bag
    -1 purse (I make sure to leave room in my shoulder bag to stuff my purse in it when going through security and getting on the plane. They are sticklers about this)

    WHAT'S IN THE BAG:

    Rolling Carry-On
    -Sneakers plus enough exercise socks for every day
    -Havaianas flip-flops (to walk around in- obviously, but also in case the hotel room floor is nasty)
    -Exercise shorts or pants (enough for half the trip- you can always double wear them)
    -Panties (enough for everyday, plus 2 for exercise and 1 sexy panty… you never know)
    -Bras (both exercise and daily wear, plus 1 sexy… you never know)
    -James Perse cozy t-shirt and boxer shorts to sleep in (plus for a Quickie Workout in Bed)
    -Go-with-anything chunky necklace
    -Lavender and flax-filled eye pillow
    -Bathroom bag filled with non-liquid essentials, as well as a solid deodorant (doesn’t count as a liquid). This bag also includes a mini stain-remover, an array of just-in-case medications, pain reliever, Benadryl, tampons, band-aids, tweezers, razor, and urinary tract infection pills (just in case).
    -Oh… and wear your wedges on the plane. They aren’t the most ever comfortable, but they are bulky and take up unnecessary space in your bag, plus you can take them off on the plane anyway.

    Those are my musts. Beyond the basics are up to you based on where you are traveling to. Be strategic with you packing. Plan your outfits, then have 1 alternative in case you feel puffy or have a change of plan. DO NOT over pack- you don’t have the space.
    *Tip- Roll your clothes (even your underwear). Somehow this folding alternatives saves a ton of space. Then stuff your socks into your shoes.

    Shoulder Bag
    -I always pack my computer because I have the inability to travel and not work. Up to you.
    -Baggie of in-flight and arrival essentials including: Green Tea bags, EmergenC, Airborne, lavender antibacterial hand wipes, protein bars (enough for every day away).
    -Kindle (or another ebook reader)
    -Whatever actual book I am currently reading
    -At least 2 magazines- generally a fitness magazine, plus a “trashy” magazine- can’t help but love the gossip.
    -Baggie of carry-on liquids (for easy access to pull out during security). I love Naturopathica and Burt’s Bees travel packs (I also have the full size versions)
    -Chargers and electronics cords
    -Business cards (you never know when you will meet someone)
    -Flip cam (in case I need to shoot a Quickie Workout like this one that I shot on a trip to Maui)
    Quickie Workout thighs photo.jpg

    Purse
    Keep in mind that you want the purse you bring to match most of the outfits you have planned. Bring whatever you would normally bring in a purse, but slimmed down a bit. Just make sure to include:
    -Makeup (for touch-ups in case you need to look decent upon arrival)
    -Antibacterial Handwipes (Herban Essentials, for Urban Disorders)
    -Tissues
    -Gum (I always carry at least 2 flavors)
    -Ginger chews…. I love the sweet, savory, spiciness
    -ipod and headset (to shut everyone else out)
    -Wallet- obviously
    -$60- at least! You never know…
    -Business cards (you can never have enough. I keep them in every purse)
    -A pen

    What's in your bag?


    As your friends start cluttering their Facebook walls with Spring Break pictures, you don’t need to feel left out just because you couldn’t get out of town! No matter the location, all those pictures have the same thing in common: exuberant meals, exotic landscapes, silly looking cocktails, cute furry animals from the local zoo and maybe a coconut bra. And you can accomplish all that in your own town. Here’s how:

    Kids playing with a dog
    Photo: Microsoft Images Kids playing with a dog

    Pet Shelter
    It’s not quite a zoo, but your kids will love it even more. If you’ve been meaning to get your children a dog, Spring Break is the ideal time to do so. Your kids will be home for at least a week, meaning they can get accustomed to walking the dog, cleaning up after it, and being part of the potty training process if necessary. Not to mention, Spring time weather is perfect for potty training!

    Popsicles
    Microsoft images Popsicles

    Make frozen treats
    Find BPA-free popsicle molds. Get your favorite frozen fruits, organic juice and vanilla ice cream if you want a creamy variety and blend them all up. Fill the molds and stick them in the freezer for a couple hours. For the grown up variety, skip the popsicle molds and pour the blended contents over some rum for unique flavored daquiries.

    Hikers
    Photo: Microsoft Images Hikers

    Finally go there
    Have a unique spot in your own town that you’ve toyed with the idea of visiting but always decided, “Forget it—it’s a whole day’s thing”? Take that day, now! Go visit the hiking trail that takes you to the top of town, or the nearby waterfalls, the explorable caves. Whatever your town has to offer, that you’ve always kicked yourself for never checking out, check it out now.

    Farmer's Market
    Photo: Microsoft Images Farmer's Market

    Farmer’s Market Buffet
    Most vacations include a pretty impressive spread of food. Patronize your local Farmer’s Market and don’t just get the stuff you need. Ever notice how many exotic and innovative items there are there? Of course you have! But you pass them up because you ask yourself, “When am I going to use plum flavored honey sticks?” Get them now! Get all the funky foods you’ve always wanted to try there, and set up a home buffet. Your family will feel spoiled.


    A beach vacation
    If you struggle to stay away from errands, chores and regular, non-vacation, tasks, be a real tourist and book a room at a boutique beachside inn in your town. Or a cabin if you live in the mountains.

    Apple and Strawberry Picking
    It’s the season! Pack a picnic and drive to the nearest strawberry patch or apple orchard.

    Volunteers

    Volunteer
    This is a great time to teach your kids the importance of volunteer work. It’s hard to get them into it after a long day of school. Also, if your kids have been complaining about not getting to go on a vacation like their friends, it might be a good dose of reality to get them to volunteer at a unity shop, a soup kitchen, or an organization that puts their life in perspective!

    Read More About Fun Things To Do This Spring:
    Outdoor Adventure: Take Your Kid(s) Snorkeling
    Get Your Skin Ready For Spring With These Easy Recipes
    Spring Cleaning: Kitchen Garbage To Crafty Goodies


    So, what's happening? Is Planet Green going away?

    PlanetGreen.com will remain online, while on television, Planet Green will become Destination America.


    Will I still get PG on my TV?

    Planet Green will continue to be available on television until the official launch of Destination America, which takes place on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, 2012, though elements for Destination America may be seen on air as early as Thursday, May 24. After the switch, viewers will see Destination America in their program guide instead of Planet Green.


    Why is this happening? Why not keep Planet Green on TV?

    Planet Green was launched in the midst of an exciting environmental trend in the U.S. and what we found is that while consumers enjoy sharing information and best practices with other like-minded fans, they prefer to do that via online tools and social media.


    Does Discovery not care about the environment? Where can we find environmental news and information moving forward?

    While Planet Green won't be on TV, Discovery outlets will continue to be a great source for news and information about important environmental issues. Planet Green's sister site, TreeHugger.com remains the internet's leading source for news and information related to environmentalism and sustainability. Discovery News is another great place to find similar information. Discovery also plans to continue to invest in environmental programming and initiatives, such as the epic series, Frozen Planet. And if you want to view past Planet Green content and videos, you can still access those on PlanetGreen.com and Planet Green's YouTube channel.


    What is Destination America?

    Destination America is a network that celebrates the people, places and stories of the U.S. Original series will cover such diverse subjects as American food from Tex Mex to barbecue; American mysteries from Jesse James' lost fortune to Area 51; America's heroes from those who embody the values of our past to those who invent the technology of our future; as well as never before seen footage of America's iconic landmarks, including Yellowstone National Park to the Everglade swamps. For more information about Destination America, please visit: destinationamerica.com


    When will the network switch happen on my TV?

    Destination America debuts on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, 2012.


    I'd like to purchase episodes from Planet Green shows. Where will those be available?

    Some programs that aired on Planet Green will be available in iTunes under the show name.


    Please contact viewer relations at http://extweb.discovery.com/viewerrelations with any comments and questions regarding Destination America.


  • 04/20/12--11:48: Top 5 National Parks Features (chan 1181554)
  • It's National Parks Week on Planet Green, and we're celebrating! Take a look at our top online features exploring the splendor of our nation's natural majesty, then tune in April 23 - 27 on TV for a fantastic programming lineup capturing the preserved wilds of our country. Help us preserve the national parks through the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks: check out nationalparks.org.

    Top 5 National Parks Features

    1. 9 Most Picturesque National Parks from East to West (SLIDESHOW)

    2. Are You a National Parks Wiz? (QUIZ)

    3. 10 Best National Parks for Hiking

    4. 10 National Parks Boasting Exotic Wildlife

    5. 5 Ways You Can Support National Parks Now

    The programming line-up for NATIONAL PARK WEEK is as follows (all times are 8-9pm E/P):

    Fearless Planet: Grand Canyon – Monday, April 23
    Following the life story of the Grand Canyon – from the moment of its birth to a painstaking period of growth over billions of years, and through the dramatic events that created this massive and breathtaking landscape – viewers get a rare look at how this powerful sight came to be.

    National Parks: Extreme Maintenance – Tuesday, April 24
    There’s more to national parks than wilderness. This one-hour special explores another side of frontier activity happening behind the scenes as the National Park Service preserves and protects in ways you wouldn’t expect.

    Secrets of Hawaii’s National Parks – Wednesday, April 25
    Hawaii is the epitome of an island oasis that every American dreams of. With lush land of astounding contrasts and ongoing creation, from pools of paradise to black sand beaches, viewers will be whisked away on a romantic ride.

    Wonders of the National Parks – Thursday, April 26
    From the world’s largest concentration of natural arches and a grand tapestry of canyons to the ongoing pyrotechnics of a volcano, a grizzly gathering and an international biosphere reserve, these definitive wonders are too awe-inspiring to miss.

    Secrets of Denali National Park – Friday, April 27
    We’ll uncover a back country Mecca for all who seek solitude and vast open tundra where wildlife roam free. Adventures include rappelling from the icy edge of a glacial crevasse to reveal a glorious frontier.

    For more on the preserving and enjoying the national parks, visit nationalparks.org.


    Planet Green, soon to be named Destination America, and National Park Foundation (NPF), the official charity of America’s national parks, have partnered to spotlight the country’s natural marvels during NATIONAL PARK WEEK. Beginning on-air on Monday, April 23, Planet Green will host five nights of programming from 8-9 PM (E/P) dedicated to highlighting the wonders of national parks, and hoping to inspire viewers to visit the breathtaking landscapes themselves. NATIONAL PARK WEEK runs from April 21-April 29, inviting people everywhere to enjoy, explore, learn, share, and give back to America’s nearly 400 national parks with free admission to parks across the country. For more information about celebrations, volunteer opportunities, and park deals happening nationwide, visit www.nationalparkweek.org.

    Check out our Top 5 National Parks Features.

    As previously announced, kicking off on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, Planet Green will become Destination America – the first network to celebrate the people, places, and stories of the United States. This National Park Week event serves as a preview of the natural history-themed programming to be featured on the network in the coming months, continuing a commitment to discover the untamed beauty of America’s majestic grounds.

    ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION
    You are the owner of 84 million acres of the world’s most treasured memorials, landscapes, ecosystems, and historic sites -- all protected in America’s nearly 400 national parks. Chartered by Congress, the National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks. We work hand in hand with the National Park Service to connect you and all Americans to the parks, and to make sure that they are preserved for the generations who will follow. Join us in supporting your national parks -- this is your land. www.nationalparks.org.