Go Philanthropic: Travel With a Purpose

25 06 2009

I love it when travel isn’t just about ticking a list of sights off one’s list. Even better when it leaves a place a little better than one found it. GoPhilanthropic is a tour company that combines travel philanthropy, sustainable travel and luxury vacations, allowing those who want to travel the luxu ry route to feel good about their choices. It’s a way of leaving a footprint without leaving a carbon one. Travelers stay in luxury eco-conscious resorts and hotels and participate in meaningful exchanges with local communities. All itineraries are customized for individual interests and GoPhilanthropic provides carbon offsets for all trips. Now that’s a good trip.

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South Pass: One More Reason to Love Argentina

23 06 2009

South America has a great system of buses that traverse the entire continent. And yet for travelers the system is still a bit complicated. There is a moment of panic when you arrive at the us station, laden with baggage, and then have to figure out which bus companies run to your desired destination and which offer the best times for the most value.

Enter South Pass. Think of South Pass as the Eurail pass of Latin America: a flexible bus pass allowing unlimited travel through seven different countries, with regular departures from 260 cities. The buses are the same comfortable buses, complete with reclining “bed” seats to make the journey easier, and there is no worry that you’re overspending on multiple bus trips.

With passes for anywhere from 10 days up to 25 and buses that run between Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguy, Uruguay, Bolivia and Peru, South Pass makes getting around easy, so you can focus on other, more important things. Like enjoying yourself.





Sweden in New York

21 06 2009

We’ve already established that the Swedes are great at their design. They also, incidentally, know how to throw a great party. Friday, June 19, was my birthday. It was also the day of the Swedish Consulate’s annual Swedish Midsummer Festival, when New York’s Swedish community convenes on Battery Park to eat herring and decorate the May Pole. Despite the storms that have stolen our New York summer, Friday we had a lovely reprieve, rendering the evening, with its huge ivy-covered cross, floral crowns and the setting sun glinting off the lady in the harbor, rather magical. I’m not Swedish, nor have I been, but yet again, I’m a fan.





Thought-provoking Video

21 06 2009

I recently came upon an article in the Times about a new school controversy. It seems people are actually finding it problematic that a video, The Story of Stuff, is being shown in schools and causing children to think about consumption. This controversy is not surprising to me, but it is shocking. I checked out the video myself, and yes, it is political. But it’s also upbeat and solution forward, and it’s a serious of lovable cartoon characters.

Most of all, though, it’s realistic. It’s the very dose of reality that most people in our society need. When I think of all the stuff I have/need/want, it’s one thing, but when I watch this video and really, truly think about what goes into making that stuff, it changes the whole need/want aspects. I’ll admit I’m not suddenly the anti-consumer (I still love my shoes), but I’m certainly more thoughtful about what I consume. And every little bit helps.

So truly I don’t really see where this could have a negative impact on anyone, especially children, to whom much of comsumer culture is based (gadgets, individually wrapped food and the list goes on…). Anyhow, it’s worth taking the 20 minutes to watch the video. And it’s also worth taking a few additional minutes to check out the website. There is much to be done and it’s one small, but important step.





Hola Mate

18 06 2009

One of my favorite things about Argentina was the mate ritual. In South America, yerba mate has been known as the “drink of the gods” for centuries. The bitter tea takes a little getting used to, but it is packed with vitamins and insanely healthy. It is also a tradition in itself.

Mate is the national drink of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil. And drinking mate is not just healthy, it’s ritual. Mate gourds, usually metal or wood or a combination, are gorgeous, artful creations.  The gourd is shared between a group, filled with hot water each time and passed from person to person, each of whom drinks the entire gourdful of tea through the bombilla (straw filter) before pouring more water and passing the gourd. It’s a sharing of friendship and an honor to share another’s mate.

All this is a long way of explaining that mate is yet another thing I wish I could have brought back from Argentina in unlimited supply. But now I’ve discovered the next bet thing: Guayakí is a company that not only sells gourds and mate but that does so with a larger purpose in mind. The company partners with small farmers and indigenous communities, aiding in conservation and community development in the sub-tropic cultures of South America. Named for the Aché Guayakí people native to the mate forest, the company practices a business model called Market Driven Restoration, allowing consumer purchases of yerba mate in North America to support indigenous communities and sustainable agriculture and reforestation projects in Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

Namely, not only can I feel good about enjoying my mate again, I feel good about helping save the South American landscape I’ve come to love so much.





Oh the Places You’ll Go

15 06 2009

I realize I’ve yet to write about my mother’s recent visit to New York. I love having visitors because it means not only that I get to play tour guide, but that I get to see the city in a new light. And often I get to see new things altogether. This time around it was ladies only, my mother and her best friend, Aunty Bee, who was introduced to my mother through Gaga, much like my mother found me a good New York friend.

This trip we covered much ground, and found entertainment in some unexpected places Our travels started out at the tip top of the island, with  visit to The Cloisters. We didn’t do the museum itself, but wandered its gorgeous grounds and the lush woods that is Fort Tryon Park, so quiet and serene it feels worlds away from the city in which it resides. We made our way back on the M4 bus, which is a fabulous (and economical) way to see the city. We rode it down to Columbia, where we hopped off for a stint, only to jump back on to ride down Fifth Avenue past the parks and museums.

Other highlights included the stunning views of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, a few hours at the Chelsea Market and a couple more (no joke) ogling the dish heaven that is Fishs Eddy (this is what I mean about unexpected entertainment) and sundry incredible street entertainers. For more of the fun (and lost of street entertainer video), see here.





Waiting for Is Worth It

9 06 2009

Much as I sometimes complain about my experience at NYU, I’ll say it was a good experience. I found a few great professors and met some great people, but more than that, it did two things.

It brought me to New York, city of vibrant people, where summer brings an array of free arts and culture, from the Atlantic Avenue Art Walk this weekend, where vairous stores and galleries along Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue opened themselves up to display cool artwork (the best, I’d say, was the screenprinting) to the Museum Mile Festival this evening, where, despite the promise of thunder showers, countless throngs are likely to show up for street food and games and, oh yes, free admission to some of the cities favorite cultural hot spots along the famed Museum Mile.

It also gave me an opportunity to acquire inexpensive tickets to Broadway shows, which is how I got to see, on Friday night, Waiting for Godot. Now, I’ve studied Godot, and seen it twice before, but never with Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin (and John Goodman and John Glover), who make the absurd premise of Beckett’s masterpiece more lighthearted than bleak, in a way that has audiences laughing with joy even as the cringe at the poignant pathetic situation in which the tramps, Estragon and Vladimir find themselves. It was, well, worth waiting for.