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Advice Giving Back Journal

Addressing The Privilege Of Travel

For many, seeing Instagram accounts full of gorgeous photos of exotic and distant places will always be just that – distant places. The colors, sounds, smells, experiences of physically being in those foreign worlds may be an experience only had by the people who can afford them. It is incredibly important to be aware of the privilege and honor it is to explore the world.

To be able to pick and choose most of the experiences we have is a privilege. To essentially see the best of a certain place without having to endure any of the “bad.” We curate trips to look idyllic, oftentimes without appreciating the realities of the destination as it exists before we get there and after we leave.

Let’s recognize the privilege of having the ability to take time away from work, to spend valuable time planning a vacation, and the overall financial impact traveling can have. Not only from a financial perspective is it important to recognize privilege, but also from a physical and mental perspective. If you are someone who does not have to worry about how to physically or mentally get yourself to and from a destination, this advantage may rarely be considered or appreciated.

My hope is that being aware of the ease and ability it takes to travel can help us to stay fully present and appreciative of our experiences – particularly with the hiccups that can happen. Delayed flights, lost luggage, too long or short of connections can be inconvenient experiences, absolutely.  However, if these experiences don’t completely drain your bank account, cause you to lose your job, or have any other damaging consequence, we can take solace in the fact that we get to do what some only dream of doing and seeing.

We know we may have opportunities and experiences others don’t have or won’t have. What can we do about it? Here are a few things to consider.

Be Real

Back to those amazing Instagram layouts with stunning color and beautifully dressed women with no one else in sight. I am drawn into these photos. I want to have that experience. I want to feel like I am in the perfect moment.

But how often are those pictures very carefully curated? My guess is that it takes a lot of work to make those photos look just right.

If you have time and resources to make these gorgeous shots – that’s fantastic! Keep at it! If not, know that photos are your memories of your experiences. It’s okay to be real in them.

When we are real in our pictures, we are real with the world around us. Perhaps some moments you may have a quiet moment in a stunning location. Capture it! And when you don’t, take in the chaos of the moment and all the imperfections that go along with it. When we acknowledge reality versus a created moment, we can share with others our genuine experiences.

Authenticity can help us to feel more connection. Not just to others but the places we see. And connection with others and the world around us is a vital part of understanding our privilege.

I am guilty of this. I want my Instagram to be impressive. I want to share with others my travels because they have shaped me and inspired me. And, I understand the incredible privilege I have in being able to do and see the world as I do. I believe the least we can do is be genuine and authentic when sharing our experiences.

Encourage Small Traveling

There is beauty and excitement in many parts of the world if we look for it. Yes, Cinque Terre, Cappadocia, Marrakech, Phuket Island are stunning gems in this world. And we can still fully appreciate the new distillery in central Wisconsin, the exposed brick buildings in northeast Minneapolis, or the big sky and plains in southern Oklahoma. Our adventures can include top name attractions, and they also don’t.

Travel and exploration does not have to be done on a large scale or thousands of miles away to count as vacation. There are cities or countries actively being torn apart by war, famine, or other crises. It is important to remember there is beauty there, too. 

Support Local Businesses or Causes

Doing some research to support local communities where you travel can be a great option. Markets where locals sell their produce or handmade crafts, or dining at restaurants that are not right in a city center can be ways to support individuals and families who may be impacted by tourism.

Depending upon your resources and time allotted, find local charities for causes you support in the areas you travel. This can be a long term travel goal for yourself! For example, if you are visiting an area that has been recently ravaged by a hurricane or other natural disaster, see where you can donate time or money for housing, food, or other necessities.

Recognizing our privilege can be uncomfortable. What is even more uncomfortable is not having privilege. Travel in itself pushes you out of your comfort zones. It can force us to feel uncomfortable, and this may be part of the reason why we love it. Personal growth is a fantastic side effect of travel. Now, let’s push ourselves further to be authentic and aware of the world around us while doing something we love.

Understanding and addressing the privilege of travel is something we should all aspire to do. Conscious travel and eco-travel ideas is something we’re incredibly passionate about… and we’d love if you’d check out our other posts on traveling consciously and mindfully here!

Advice Journal Travel Planning

13 Of The Most Romantic Destinations In The World

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day coming up this week, today we’re sharing an unexpected list. Say goodbye to tips and tricks for dating and love, say hello to romantic destinations! So, whether you book your trip there with someone special, or just for yourself… get swept away with us today. From the lush countryside, the quiet of starry nights in the jungle or the hushed, full life of a bustling city… we narrowed down our list to include the destinations we believe are provide own unique kind of romance!

Paris, France

It’s a cliche that is just oh so true. Paris oozes a romance. With its rich literary history, dense and delicious culinary treats, opulent architecture and lush music… how could you not be swept off your feet?

Falling in love? Check out our guide to Paris’s most beautiful locations, our art lover’s guide to the City of Light or our literary guide to the city.

Siena, Italy

“La bella vita.” A beautiful life. It’s waiting for you in Siena. Enjoy slow living, savoring each and every moment, the nuances of every nook and cranny of this small Medieval town as you take in the evening sunsets of Tuscany.

Siena sound up your alley? Check out our round up of our favorite Tuscany towns and why we’re always dreaming of the Tuscan region of Italy.

Bruges, Belgium

There isn’t a more charming destination than Bruges. Get lost in the weaving canals, cobbled stoned streets and medieval, cookie cutter, leaning buildings. Bruges really lays it on with its quaintness.

Kauai, Hawaii

The “garden island” of Hawaii is essentially Jurassic Park come to life. Hike the tropical greens of the Na Pali Coast, learning how to surf with locals, sipping on fresh coconut water and watching the sun set over the cliffs of the island.

Tropical islands sound like your perfect romantic destination? Check out some of our other favorite islands in the world.

Kyoto, Japan

The historic, ancient city of Kyoto bedazzles the traveler with its classic Buddhist temples, gardens and imperial palaces. Spend hours taking in the city’s Shinto shrines, classic homes, bamboo forests, exploring the Gion district (once home to geishas) and taking in the city’s incredible cafe culture. Even if you only have a short stay in Kyoto, it’s sure to romance you!

Amalfi Coast, Italy

The coastline of Italy is flush with romance. The rugged shoreline swell with some of the bluest, clearest water to swim in. Imagine yourself sunning yourself on the shore and spending the next afternoons exploring the pastel hued shops and cafes, relaxing under the lemon trees and staying in terraced villas that dot the coast. See why it’s the perfect place for a solo trip or a the ultimate girls getaway!

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is the laid back city of your dreams. Nestled in the Catalonia region of Spain, it’s the perfect match for the traveler looking for the most delicious foods, wines and landmarks. Take in the modernist art and fantastical architecture of the city as you party into the wee hours of the night with locals.

New York, New York

NYC is often considered an acquired taste. But if it’s for you, there’s no place more romantic in the world. Enjoy the swirling, messy, bustling streets, the quiet historic boroughs, the smells and colors of the city that never sleeps.

Venice, Italy

Venice may possibly be gone in the next hundred years. But that means you absolutely must fall in love with this lagoon lying capital sooner rather than later. Imagine yourself dizzying lost in the canals of the islands, hearing the water lap beside you as you sip wine and nosh on delicious pasta outside of the Renaissance aged buildings.

Spend your time getting lost in this city, and you’ll find yourself utterly in love with Venice.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Lush, tropical Buenos Aires awaits for the traveler looking to feel the hot heat of the sun kissing their shoulders. It’s the perfect mix of cosmopolitan, culturally rich, history and beach-y. Lie on the shore of the South Atlantic Ocean in between stops to the balconied palaces and colorful streets.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Bundle up your scarf and gloves, sip on delicious coffees and fresh stroopwaffles while dodging the bicycles that whisk by. Take in some of the world’s best art in museums and window shop in some of the coolest boutiques. Amsterdam is truly a charmer.

Game Reserve, Botswana

The game reserves of Botswana is where travelers can find themselves incredibly close to the wild, untamed nature you could only dream of. Get in touch with the wonder of this world in beautiful Botswana. Safari exploration sound like your ultimate trip? Do your research! There are so many types of incredible safaris for any kind of explorer.

Porto, Portugal

The seaside city of Porto languidly sits awaiting visitors to find themselves lost there. Feel the seaside breeze while you explore the narrow, cobbled streets, Baroque buildings and impressive bridges, stopping whenever you fancy for delicious port wines and tapas. How could you not fall in love with this place?

Has the spirit of romance inspired your bucket list? What is the most romantic destination you’ve ever visited?

Advice Journal

4 Simple, Yet Important Lessons Traveling Teaches You

Traveling is one of the best and most rewarding things you can do with your life. If you’re reading this blog, you probably already agree! It allows you to see all the amazing places the world has to offer, from beautiful beaches to busy cities. But traveling leaves you with more than lovely memories — it teaches you valuable life lessons, too.

Don’t Be Scared – It’s Really That Simple

I wouldn’t describe myself as particularly brave; however, when I first told people about my decision to travel alone for seven months, a common reaction was: “That’s so brave. Aren’t you scared?”

My parents, in particular, were super anxious at first. My mom asked me several times if there wasn’t anyone I wanted to travel with. Preferably a guy… even better, a very tall and strong one. But there was no one who I could imagine spending seven months with and who shared my exact ideas and plans for backpacking.

So, I boarded the plane by myself, and although I’d told everyone that I wasn’t scared, I did have a nervous feeling in my stomach. If I’m totally honest, the first couple of days weren’t the kind of liberating experience I had in mind. I didn’t know how to approach new people in hostels (more about that in #3), didn’t sleep well in a room full of strangers, and I was scared about someone stealing my passport or credit card.

Eventually, solo travel grew on me. Like all things new and unfamiliar, you need an adjustment period. It turned out to be the best decision and one of the greatest experiences of my life! And that’s despite the fact I did end up having my credit card details stolen and more than 2,000 Euro taken from my account! I managed to block my account and get a full refund, so, in the end, it wasn’t that bad!

Things will happen while traveling, regardless of whether you’re going solo, with a partner, or with friends, and being scared won’t change anything.

The Importance Of Trying New Things

This one goes hand-in-hand with the previous point: you won’t only learn not to be scared, but also how to embrace new opportunities and things that happen unexpectedly.

Before leaving Germany, I planned to always say “yes” during my journey.

Consequently, I ended up rock climbing in Salt Lake City, paragliding over Hawaii, sleeping outside in the Australian Outback, and eating bugs in Thailand.

None of this was planned and I think I’d have said no if someone had asked me back home. I’d never been interested in climbing, heights, meeting reptiles at night, or snacking insects, yet every single experience was amazing!

Push Yourself – Talk To People

As mentioned earlier, I had a hard time approaching people at the beginning of my journey. I didn’t really know how to start a conversation or ask someone if they wanted to do something together without sounding needy.

I don’t think of myself as a shy person, but it just felt odd! So, whenever I was in a hostel, I waited for someone to approach me. I was lucky that this happened a lot — as is often the case in hostels — and I slowly overcame the weird feeling of throwing myself into a conversation with someone new.

The longer I traveled for, the more outgoing and confident I became! The vast majority of people I met along the way were great! We went on amazing trips together, had interesting conversations, and even better parties. I’m still in touch with many of them today, and two even became very close friends.

Being able to start conversations easily and confidently is a skill that I still benefit from today. From professional networking to making friends in a new city, traveling has taught me not to overthink starting conversations anymore.

Be Open-Minded

On one hand, meeting new people is very interesting, but, on the other hand, it can be challenging. Most travelers will have great stories to share and you’ll get along with them well.

There will, however, be people with opinions that are fundamentally different from yours. In my opinion, however, those are the most interesting.

When abroad, I always do my best to stay away from other German travelers. It’s not that I don’t like them, but rather that I feel like I can talk to Germans any time! But I only have the chance to speak to someone from Malaysia, Australia, or India at that given moment. I love hearing their personal stories and finding out more about their country and culture — and, if they’re interested, I’ll tell them about mine.

The open-minded attitude I got from traveling helps me every day, as I currently have colleagues from about 40 different countries. I love being part of such an international environment every day!

Needing some more encouragement?

Check out more insightful lessons from the road here, words of affirmation for the woman nervous to travel alone here, and lots of helpful tips for introverts traveling solo can be found on this post.

Journal Latin America

Lessons Learned From A Live Volcano

As a child I obsessively read about volcanoes. I was mesmerized by the story of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that devastated the town of Pompeii in Italy, back in 79 AD. Around age ten, I saw the movie Volcano, which tells the very fictional story of a volcano erupting in downtown Los Angeles. “It’s hotter than hell” the film’s tagline read. Later, I became fascinated by Katia and Maurice Krafft, who were wereFrench volcanologists who died in a pyroclastic flow on Mount Unzen, in Japan, on June 3, 1991. Often first to arrive at the scene of an active volcano, this couple was famous for the daring footage they’d obtained of volcanic eruptions.

My interest in volcanoes has carried well into adulthood. Most recently, I fell in love with Werner Herzog’s documentary film Into the Inferno (2016).Herzog finds that volcanoes are mysterious, violent, and beautiful. He states that, “there is no single [volcano] that is not connected to a belief system.”

I have hiked a dormant volcano in Costa Rica and peered into the active crater of one in Nicaragua. But I yearned for more. I wanted to see the lava, to feel the rumble of the earth, to hear the boom and watch the ash billow up into the sky. So it must have been fate when I struck up conversation with two backpackers late one night in a Nicaraguan bar. I asked them what their most memorable experience in Central America had been, and they responded by showing me photos and videos of, you guessed it, an up-close view of a violently erupting volcano. Not long afterwards, I had my partner convinced, and we booked flights to Guatemala. We were going to hike Volcan Acatenango, which at the summit gives you an up close and personal view of Volcan Fuego, Guatemala’s most active volcano.

In preparation for the trip I began to research the Acatenango hike, and soon I was worried. Bloggers claimed the hike was “excruciating.” Hikers wrote that despite their experience, it was incredibly difficult. Some reported bad visibility, or miserable weather.

I thought about my sentient lifestyle: eight hours daily in an office and I didn’t even own hiking boots (you can hike in running shoes, right?). I wondered, what if we went through the grueling hike and Volcan Fuego wasn’t visible? I have a bad runner’s knee. I carry two inhalers. My anxiety about how hard this hike would be grew, but there was no way I’d back out. I had to try to see this volcano.

My incessant Googling yielded few details about what to expect, and so in preparation all I could do was the obvious. I began going to the gym and invested in good hiking boots. I made sure to pack warm clothes for the summit, and some rehydration salts in case they were needed. I scanned forums for recommendations about guides and tour companies. Next thing I knew, we were en route to Antigua, Guatemala.

In the spirit of our backpacking approach to travel, my partner and I booked ourselves into a hostel in Antigua and decided we would book our guide for the hike in person rather than in advance. Operating off our past experiences, we were sure we would get the best price this way, and we were right. After shopping tour companies and hostels around town, we settled on hiring the guide through our hostel. The hostel allowed us to borrow some extra warm clothes, and we left our main baggage in one of their lockers.

On climb day, we were picked up by a shuttle. Our group was approximately 9 people and we were driven to the base of Acatenango. There we bought walking sticks, extra snacks, ponchos (for the rain) and beer (to celebrate the summit)! Our guide explained that we would stop often to rest, and we should go slowly. A short walk up the road, and we began on the path. Some of our fellow climbers warned us that backpackers had told them the first leg of the climb was the hardest.

They were absolutely right. The dirt path was steep and within minutes I felt myself going faint, eventually collapsing to the side of the path, certain that I was going to vomit. I lay on the ground, staring at the path ahead with dread. But I remembered what one of the backpackers had mentioned – in the first leg of the hike your body is acclimatizing to the altitude, and this makes it the hardest. Behind me I could see our guide half carrying one of our group’s climbers, urging him forwards. I peered ahead at my partner, who had also collapsed. As I lay on the ground trying to recuperate from what was only a 20 minute hike at that stage, I contemplated quitting. I could see in my partners face that he was thinking the same thing. But the thought of giving up pained me. I was so close to that volcano.

After some rest, our bodies did acclimatize, and the feeling of faintness and nausea subsided. We went slowly and often stopped. As we climbed the landscape changed quickly, from lush farmland to humid jungle, eventually evolving into a barren landscape scattered with few trees. Our group was silent while climbing.

It felt meditative to stare at the boots in front of me. I fixed my eyes on them and focused on keeping pace. The steep terrain was never-ending, and I constantly dreamed of when it would flatten. After five hours, our guide announced that we were almost there. Those last kilometers were painful, and our spirits were low. Using our phones, my partner and I listened to our favorite songs, singing as we walked. Focusing on music, humming along to the same song over and over, gave us strength.

We reached base camp in the early evening. At an elevation of 12303 feet, this left the summit (740 feet higher) to be hiked the following morning. Our base camp had several tents set up, and our guide distributed sleeping bags. As our fire got going, night fell, and the magic began. The clouds had slowly parted, and not too far off in the distance we saw a magnificent scene. The perfectly cone-shaped summit of Volcan Fuego.

As we ate our dinner, we felt the earth begin to rumble and looked towards Fuego. Suddenly, lava exploded into the sky like orange fireworks, followed by a huge “bang” as the lava flowed down the sides of the mountain. My partner andI gasped, mesmerized.

Instantly we knew: the hike was absolutely worth it. We stayed awake late into the night watching the volcano work its magic. I eventually tucked myself into my sleeping bag, but sleep was impossible with the ongoing interruptions of the mountain. I woke several times to poke my head out of our tent and stare at the eruptions.

Our guide had explained that at 3:45am we should get up for the final portion of the hike: the summit. We would hike through volcanic sand in complete darkness to reach the highest point of Volcan Acatenango, and from there we would have a clear view of Volcan Fuego. The summit hike is somewhat dangerous, and so it is only done if the weather permits. Our guide explained that he would assess the weather in the morning.

We awoke with good news – we could summit. I packed some water, grabbed my walking stick and put on my headlamp. The hike was straight upwards and excruciating. The volcanic sand and dirt made every step more challenging, and it was difficult to maintain balance. We stopped often to rest as people felt lightheaded from the altitude. The sky began to lighten as we climbed, and slowly the incredible view revealed itself. In the distance we could seeAntigua, Guatemala City, and a string of other volcanoes. After 1.5 hours, we reached the top of Volcan Acatenango. A closed crater, the terrain was rocky, sandy and barren.

I sat in the volcanic sand at that summit in silence with a view stretching for miles. Volcanic terrain in the distance, the sun rising, a speckle of lights that was the city of Antigua, and right in front of me Volcan Fuego, magnificently erupting.

I felt an immense sense of accomplishment and wonder. Amazement that my body and my mind, despite the pain, got me to that summit. Amazed that I was finally seeing in real life the feat of nature that had fascinated me since childhood.

That volcano reminded me of the magnitude of this earth, the power of nature, and in a way, my own insignificance. In that moment, Volcan Fuego was a portal to all of the unknown on this earth. The countries, cultures, landscapes and people I will never know. But at the same time, it was a lesson in my own potential. It was a dream that I’d dreamed and made reality. Perhaps Warner Herzog is right. All volcanoes are connected to belief systems. What is yours? Climb Acatenango to find out.


Post-Travel Depression: It’s Real… And Here’s How to Beat It

After living for two years in New York, I was excited to catch up with my friends back home in Indonesia. When I shared my stories, however, the people I thought would be happy for me, brushed me off and changed the conversation immediately. I felt hurt.

I’m very grateful to come back with a new perspective.  This journey of self-discovery is not always pleasant. Many times the stress of living abroad outweighs the happiness. After contemplating and reading similar experiences online, I understand. Post-travel depression is real. And it’s one of the hardest lessons of being a traveler. This article covers what the post-travel depression is, and how you can keep it in check when adjusting to life back home.

What Is Post-Travel Depression?

Like it sounds, post-travel depression is a feeling of sadness that hits you at the end of a trip. Sometimes it can even begin in the days running up to the end. The longer a tour lasts, the more intense the post-vacation blues may be. Additionally, post-travel depression can seriously affect your mental wellbeing and continue for as long as weeks or months. When you’re feeling the travel blues, you may experience, exhaustion, loss of appetite, and the urge to book another trip.

After traveling, your ways of thinking have changed so much because of the customs, culture, and influences you’ve received. When you tell your experience to friends and family they seem does not care. You’ll realize nothing changed back home as if time has stopped. This rejection can be hard to deal.

Here’s how to beat it!

See The Positives In Being Back

Remember that traveling wasn’t always a laugh. What about the time you got pickpocketed on the first day? Or when you can’t communicate because you don’t speak their language? Or the horror of that hostel room! Be prepared for the negativity from your loved ones and shift your mind to see all the positive of your hometown.

Find Support

Meet up with a friend that has the same travel bug as you or better still, have survived the experience. And it’s best to do this in-person.  They’re the ones that will understand the most what you’re going through and will never brush you off. They know adjusting to the old routine is tough. This will help lessen your attention on how you wish you were still abroad.

Set Up A Time To Exercise Every Day

When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. According to WebMD, endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. The feeling that follows a workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.

Embrace Your Backyard

Have a look around there must be some historical places in your town that you never visit before. You can have a great travel experience on your doorstep. And it’s cheaper!

Create An Escape Fund

After coming back from your trip, your travel fund sunk to zero. It’s time to top up that fund. You don’t have to start your full-time job immediately, but it’s nice to think outside the box on how to have enough money so you can be on the road again. Maybe sell your travel photos to travel media?

Help Out Other Travelers

While you were traveling, it’s likely that you ended up relying on the kindness of strangers at multiple points throughout your trip. This kindness is what makes your trip memorable. Aim to pay it forward by helping out your friends or tourists in your home. You have the local advantage. Help them navigate the city safely. When you found a lost tourist looking at a map, guide them to the right address.

Be Vigilant About Thoughts That Give Rise To Negative Emotions

Travel Soul Therapy perfectly sums it up, “Do not destroy preciousness of your travel experience by longing for it after you come back by making a mental delusion of conceptualizing it into a “thing” to crave for and wishing to “possess” or “keep” it. Merge with the flow of reality of change by bringing your awareness to the present moment.”