Tagged tourism

Agradecido: How the Inca Trail showed me my true inner strength

Words by Nadia Ibanez, photos by Alaina Hower, Romina Rossel and Nadia Ibanez

When you carry four day’s worth of stuff on your back. Packin’ heat. Photo credit: Romina Rossel

Editor’s note: The times of day, our wake up calls, distances, anything number related. These numbers might be slightly off because I was likely delirious with bliss and pain on the Inca Trail and also because I’m really bad at numbers. My apologies, I’ll let my travel mates let me know if I miss anything 🙂

Spoiler alert: If you have not seen the finale of “The Great British Baking Show” Season 3, please scroll down few paragraphs until I tell you to stop. I know, a British baking show is a tall order, but I figured I’d offer the spoiler alert so that I don’t get my first piece of hate mail 🙂


“I am never ever going to put boundaries on myself ever again.

I’m never going to say, ‘I can’t do it.’ I’m never going to say ‘Maybe.’ 

I’m never going to say, ‘I don’t think I can.’

I can. And I will.”

These were the words that home chef, Nadiya, said after winning Season 3 of “The Great British Baking Show.” My roommate got me hooked on the show and just a couple days before I left for Peru, I realized I never watched the last 45 minutes of the season finale. I was giving my brain and body a rest before leaving for the trip so I turned the episode on…not realizing it would leave me bawling at the end.

When I heard this contestant say these words, I couldn’t help but put myself in her footsteps. And it wasn’t just because we shared the same name. Feeling like an underdog and having to prove herself (in a group of men, no less), Nadiya had a certain attitude and prowess I started to see within myself.

These words were haunting me because I knew I was about to embark on not only an amazing vacation, but the hardest thing I was ever about to do.


OK, THE COAST IS CLEAR! SPOILER ALERT OVER.

Four days to Machu Picchu…

When Romina asked if I would be interested in hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, I said yes without even thinking about it. She mentioned words like “long trail” and “camping” and “trek”. I still instantly said yes. I had an approximate idea of what the trip would be: Hike and camp for a couple days. Be out in the middle of nowhere. Altitude.

No joke, you guys. I’m not going to lie. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

As I’ve grown as a traveler, I’ve found this weird new habit of deciding to go to a new place or check out a new thing without doing a lick of research. I love the surprise of just showing up somewhere and having no preconceived notion of what that thing would look like. I did it once before when my man took me to Gas Works Park in Seattle and I have loved that moment of awe ever since.

I knew the Inca Trail was going to be insane. Yet, I continued this habit of doing zero research…other than what to pack. I knew I was about to walk — a lot. And I figured that I knew my body enough to understand that it was possible to do this trek. I work out pretty much every day. I’m fit and I can walk long distances without a problem. It sounded like I had all of the prerequisites to do this trip.

I didn’t know anything. No clue how many miles we would do everyday. No idea about the change in altitude or how to treat it. (I ended up getting some meds from my doctor, and hallelujah that worked out.) I had no idea what I’d see and I didn’t mind keeping it that way.

We acclimated in Cusco, approximately 11,100 ft. in elevation, for two days before we left for the Inca Trail. The night before, we met with our guide, Clima, to get a brief on what to expect each day and how to prepare. He named off historical places we’d see, the slowness of what our pace should be when we started Day Two, what we needed to pack, and so much more.

Bright and chipper on day one.

All I kept thinking about was how crazy day two was supposed to be. It would be the hardest day but the shortest distance. We’d have to climb something called Dead Woman’s Pass with a peak of 13,800 ft. What the eff did I just get myself into?

Alas, I played it cool in front of everyone. I even remember telling my boyfriend the night before on the phone, “Oh, I feel so much better now knowing what I’m getting myself into!”


We woke up around 3:30 or 4 a.m. to catch our two or three-hour ride to Kilometer 82 in Piscacucho (9,200 ft. above sea level), the start of our trek. Clima started us off on the trail, teaching us the medicinal values of a few of the plants we’d pass along the way. We were a group of seven friends with one trekker who was dealing with food poisoning from the night before and another who was still nursing a neck injury from a surfing accident. Clima called us the Sexy Llamas but really we should have been the Sexy Tortugas (turtles) because we just needed some extra time. Clima probably thought we’d be hopeless and take forever to everrrything.

Starting out strong on day one.
Horses and mules were everywhere on day one.

We started day one and it was hot. We must have been in the desert, or at least that’s what it felt like to me. We were baking and my altitude pills said I couldn’t be in direct sunlight. Grrreat. We made it to our first stopping point after what Clima said would be a five minute hiking sample of what the insanity of day two would look like.

After our five minute intro to the Incan Hills.

Good lord, these hills do not love you. They want to break you down so much so that you can feel every muscle fiber light on fire. It burned and day two was starting to sound even more nuts. After a few more hours of hiking and Learning Corner with Clima, we made it to our lovely campsite alongside the Urubamba River.

Meals in our tent with Florenzio looking over while we enjoyed his delicious food.

The food on the trek was unbelievable. Sure, our blood sugar levels were probably through the roof when it came to meal time everyday so anything would have tasted delicious. But our chef, Florenzio, was fantastic. We had some of the best guacamole, grilled fish, lomo saltado, fresh vegetables and salads, the most amazing popcorn, and hearty soups. Each meal was like sitting down for a private three-course meal from a fancy Peruvian restaurant in our own little tent. One of our porters even took it upon himself to sculpt animals out of food for all of our meals.

One of our porters carving animals from fruits and vegetables.

I will forever be grateful to our porters on this trip. They took care of us in every way we needed, from serving Romina and I Chicha Morada when we’ve had enough of the trail to preparing warm water for us to wash our hands before meals when it was freezing out. While we had a bit of a language barrier, we made friends with each other. I called them my “novios más fuerte” and I will always remember you all.

Washingtón, descansa en paz.

Mis novios mas fuertes y yo 🙂

Saeko and Tony getting amped for day two.

The start of day two was hours away. I popped a sleeping pill, since we had an early wake up call, and fell asleep underneath the stars and to the sounds of the river.

The entirety of day two was a bit blurry. We were to hike up to “Dead Woman’s Pass” (because the shape of the mountains resembled a woman, not because it’s named after a horrendous incident). Clima warned us again to take the trek very slowly. I took the tiniest of steps as we started approaching the peak of the Pass. I could barely breathe. I would take a few steps and instantly have to stop because I felt my heart pounding unlike I’ve ever felt before. Nonetheless, I was determined to finish and I kept telling myself, “The more steps you take, the closer you will be to the peak. Just get there. You are stronger than you think you are.”

The scenery on day two was amazing. We passed through the tundra, mountain ranges, the forest, and up into the clouds.

That entire morning, I kept hearing

I’m never going to say, ‘I can’t do it.’ I’m never going to say ‘Maybe.’ 

I knew that my body was capable of getting to the peak. I realized that I’ve proven myself to my actual self and I started to cry. The closer I got to the peak, the more emotional I was getting. My breathing was becoming even harder and I knew that if I didn’t keep my cool until reaching the peak, I’d have way more problems breathing.

All of us after ascending Dead Woman’s Pass.
Clima, leader of the Sexy Llamas, and Chrissy after reaching the peak on day two.

 

On top of Dead Woman’s Pass.

Finally. We made it to the highest point of our four-day trek. Clima gave us all hugs and congratulated us. We took a group photo at the top and everyone started to head down the crazy steep exit. Clima said I had three minutes until we all needed to get down. Apparently, your body can only handle a few minutes in that altitude. I climbed up a small hill (the breast of Dead Woman’s Pass, if you will) and sat for a moment.

These photos might be my favorite 🙂

“You did it. You f*cking did it. You made it. You are so strong,” I remember telling myself.

I started to cry — like full-on bawling. I couldn’t control it. I was so happy and felt an emotion I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. I had just accomplished something that seemed so unattainable. I will never forget that moment.

Our campsite on day two. It might have been the hardest day but it was the prettiest campsite.

The insanity of day two wasn’t over. We still had to hike down some treacherous steps for a few hours to get to base camp. But we all survived and celebrated. Camp was in the middle of the most amazing mountain range and we arrived with enough time to watch the sunset. We even had our own stream alongside our tents for us to fall asleep to. It was mystical and magical.

Sunrise from our campsite on day two.

Day three was definitely the most beautiful day of the trek. We climbed through mountainsides, the valley, clouds and jungle. We walked through tunnels and hugged the mountainside when the trail narrowed only to show off the massive and dramatic cliffs and drop offs just inches from our feet. Day three was the longest but somehow we didn’t notice because we were surrounded by beauty 100 percent of the time. We learned about the Phuyupatamarka ruins, the indigenous Andean religion, and the symbolism behind the native lands and animals.

We continued crossing through the jungle that seemed to closely resemble the movie Tarzan and I watched and listened as the birds and butterflies flew around us. We could see Aguas Calientes below us, a small town near Machu Picchu and the absolute finish line of our trek and where we’d say goodbye to Clima.

Chrissy and Sara <3

After hours on the trail, we made it to base camp. We shared our last meal with Clima and our porters. I think we all lavished in the idea that day four was going to be a breeze and that we’d end up at Machu Picchu by 8 a.m. the next day.

Near Cloud Forest, in all of her beauty.

Our wake up call on day four was around 3:30 a.m. We started the trek when it was still dark out and we passed through the clouds and vines as the sun started to rise. It was such a magical experience and I took a few breaks to just sit and listen. We finally approached the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu. Unfortunately the clouds didn’t have enough time to burn off by the time we passed so we didn’t get a clear shot of the ruins.

Finding a moment to sit, meditate, and listen on our way to Machu Picchu day four.

Clima gave us a tour of the grounds and taught us the significance of the stones, how the ruins were discovered, how the sun and moon played a role in how people used to live in Machu Picchu and SO much more. We had our own time to roam before eventually making our way to the bus out of the ruins to start the next leg of our adventure.

I wish I had all the words to say about the four days we spent on the trail. Knowing that only 500 people (with only 200 as fellow trekkers) are allowed on the trail on any given day, June 27-June 30, 2017 will always have a special place in my heart.

Walking through the jungle…
In the clouds on day four.
This photo barely shows how steep our paths were on day two and three.

Pachamama, te recordaré. Siempre estoy agradecido. 

Atop Machu Picchu.

And for all of you numbers people out there… (Thanks to Alaina’s Fitbit)

Inca Trail Numbers

Day OneDay TwoDay ThreeDay Four
Hiking: Five hours
Steps: 23,900
Floors: 170
Miles: 8.3
Calories: 2,900
Hiking: Six hours
Steps: 28,000
Floors: 449
Miles: 6.4
Calories: 3,500
Hiking: Eight hours
Steps: 33,000
Floors: 207
Miles: 10.8
Calories: 3,100
Hiking: Three hours
Miles: 4.3

Thank you Alaina for taking these amazing photos. You’ve captured our trip in the most beautiful of ways 🙂

San Francisco Weekend Getaway to Cambria

Written by Meaghan Clark

Anyone who has visited a small coastal California city will likely feel an odd sense of nostalgia when visiting Cambria – narrow streets lined with locally owned antique shops, a sprinkling of ‘for lease’ signs, and a hodgepodge of restaurants offering up everything from Mexican to Italian.

Though bite-size, Cambria is the perfect counterpart to any hectic city lifestyle. Don’t worry about packing the latest fashion trends for your evening outing, making an endless stream of reservations, or book excursion after excursion. Cambria’s appeal is the anti-city where long afternoons spent watching 5,000-pound elephant seals or strolling along Moonstone Beach make you forget about “FOMO” (at least for the weekend).

El Colibri Boutique Hotel, Cambria
Image courtesy El Colibri Boutique Hotel

We escaped for a getaway that began at El Colibri Hotel, a contrast of sorts from the traditional beach motels or bed & breakfasts that line Main Street. Despite its youth (the hotel opened in 2010), El Colibri delivers comfort with in-room fireplaces, a luxurious spa complete with Jacuzzi tub, and educated staff that make it feel right at home in this rustic town.

WHERE TO EAT

Linn’s

Quintessentially small town appeal is the bread and butter at Linn’s, or rather the olallieberry at Linn’s. This mogul family owns much of the West Side in the shape of various restaurants, gift shops and packaged goods. Linn’s Easy as Pie, Linn’s Restaurant and Linn’s Fruit Bin are all equally comfortable in setting as they are hearty in country samplings. As cliché as it might seem, no one here will bat an eye – order up an olallieberry pie, warmed, or a breakfast pastry to savor the sweet local flavors of Cambria.

Indigo Moon, Cambria fine dining, best restaurant

Indigo Moon

For any San Franciscan, finding an outdoor space is an anomaly, In Cambria, Main Street is lined with patio after patio, but Indigo Moon isn’t just packed because of its tree-lined deck and star-filled views. The food or is equally as spectacular for both lunch and dinner (plus weekend brunch), with hearty portions and favorable pricing. Highlights from brunch included the eggs benedict, grilled chicken, brie and apple sandwich, and spice rubbed wild salmon salad.

Robin’s Restaurant

Robin’s is the Ritz Carlton of Cambria. Precocious (but not too pricey), Robin’s Restaurant offers unique cuisine in a fantastic setting. A landscaped deck offers prime outdoor seating for brunch, lunch, and dinner and the eclectic menu caters to every taste bud in your party. Don’t be concerned about sharing a pasta special, Thai noodles or a curry alongside artisan cheese plates or spring rolls – the flavor combinations are always on point.

WHAT TO DO

Upon arrival, kick off your shoes and take advantage of your proximity to Moonstone Beach Boardwalk where locals typically enjoy sunset. The rocky beach is breezy and warm, and the perfect welcome to your Cambria stay.

Image courtesy Hearst Castle
Image courtesy Hearst Castle

Cambria often gets overlooked. Its seaside neighbor, San Simeon, boasts one of the world’s largest estates in the States. Hearst Castle is a short drive away and well worth the visit. Book your tickets for a Sunday morning Grand Rooms Tour (extend your stay with a Cottages & Kitchen Tour) and forget the crowds or lines.

As your bus tour winds down the road back to ground level, keep an eye out for Piedras Blancas Light Station, your next destination. Reserve a tour and escape into history alongside the rocky shores.

While you’re in San Simeon, stop at the vistas to view the elephant seals where, depending on the season, hundreds or thousands of elephant seals bask in the warm sand and sunshine of W R Hearst Memorial State Beach.

Nitt Witt Ridge, Cambria tourist attractions

If you’re ready for an unusual encounter that’s been marked as a historical landmark, escape to the Nitt Witt Ridge a collectors obsessed-turned museum that offers daily tours. After your experience, sample the day’s tastings from local brewery Cambria Beer Co. (open daily).

WHERE TO SHOP

Cambria shopping, Garden Shed

Garden Shed is an oasis within walking distance of downtown, offering an eclectic collection from local artisans. With DIY in their blood, everything in the 6,000 sq. ft. indoor/outdoor space is appealing in their unique displays, friendly faces and original collections. Peruse for the afternoon, or if you’ve got a green thumb and ample outdoor space, find something for the garden.

Wineries are ingrained in any city dweller escape, and Cambria offers a great selection of local vineyards offering weekend tastings on State Route 46.

Stolo winery Cambria wine tasting

Local favorite is Stolo Family Vineyards, located just off the beaten path. The Stolo family lives on the property where their 94-point Syrah was created, as well as refreshing and ceremoniously scrumptious Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. The $8 tasting fee is a steal compared to any Napa getaway, and bottles ranging from $25 to $50 are a must, as they can’t be purchased anywhere else.

Thank you again to El Colibri Hotel for hosting us and Archer and Hound for setting up our destinations. Feel free to check out more things to do at Visit Cambria.  

Hello Betty Fish House Celebrates a Great Year of Amazing Food

By Andrea Verdin

I love birthday parties. There’s something great about celebrating achievements that have occurred throughout the year, and the Hello Betty Fish House celebrated all of its accomplishments at its birthday in style: Beats ~ Boards ~ Bites ~ Brews.

As a part of the beautiful Oceanside landscape, Hello Betty Fish House is more than just an adorable restaurant — some serious eats can be had here.

While the downstairs restaurant features more formal dining options, such as whole fried fish, Betty linguine, and a whole seafood boil, I was instantly drawn to the upstairs patio. This patio has a great view of the Oceanside Pier, and guests can sit back in the open air deck, grab a drink, eat some tacos, and watch the sun set.

Chicarones
Oyster shucking presentation
Smoked Octopus
Chips and smoky salsa served in campechanas
Oysters freshly shucked by Executive Chef Nick Schultz
The Open Air Deck of Hello Betty Fish House
Caramel Panna Cotta
Shrimp skewers
Fabulous crab cake sliders
Mexican Brownie
The set is gorgeous

If you ever get a chance to head to Hello Betty Fish House after work, I highly recommend coming on an empty stomach and gorge on tacos. eat the calamari, eat avocados, and devour the mahi mahi.

For more information on Hello Betty Fish House, head to their website.

Zambia jeep safari with Wild Planet Adventures

Experience Extraordinary Zambia Safari Tours with Wild Planet Adventures

by Andrea Verdin

It’s time to plan your summer getaway, so the Wander team has begun to look at ways to get the most out of your vacation. We’ve been looking both at international and domestic travel, small weekend getaways and elaborate international excursions.

If you’re the type who loves diverse travel, looking for a chance to see exotic wildlife and stay in the middle of nature, then see Zambia – Africa’s Hidden Safari Gem – with Wild Planet Adventures.

zebras

The safari season in Zambia is year-round, but the best wildlife viewing is from July through October, so you want to make sure that you plan with this in mind. Because African safari travel is such a popular getaway, it may be hard to choose a travel company to plan a safari with. However, Zambia safari tours are a head and shoulders above all others for several reasons.

Wild Planet Adventures founder Josh Cohen explained that Zambia is one of Africa’s least visited countries, and since his company specializes in intimate encounters with exotic wildlife, this was a perfect option for his guests.

“Guests have the ability to see unusual animals and their behaviors that might not always be seen,” explained Cohen.

The reason Zambia safari tours are markedly different from other African safaris is the lack of tourism and jeep congestion.  With less than 860,000 annual visitors compared to South Africa’s 9.5 million, Zambia ranks among the least visited African countries.

canoe safari

“Unlike East African countries where it’s common to find up to 50 vehicles chasing a lion, Zambia boasts remote sectors where guests are unlikely to see other vehicles,” said Cohen, who explained that his Zambian tours do not require his guests to be in caged busses. “Safari-goers still enjoy 360 degree views from open jeeps instead of being crowded into nine-passenger mini-vans.”

Without numerous vehicles surrounding the same animals, there is no risk that animals will lose their ‘wild’ instincts.

“Wild Planet Adventures goes to great lengths to preserve the authentic safari experience by combining truly isolated and remote locations with master guides who exemplify tracking as an art form, so travelers see authentic ‘wild’ animal behavior while minimizing adaptation,” Cohen said.

lion at shumba camp

In addition, guests can choose to combine tours, so they can experience walking, jeep, and canoe safaris. This allows for a broader experience of animal exposure.

“It’s an adrenaline rush,” said Cohen. “Once we saw a herd of elephants surround their matriarch while she gave birth. On our canoes, we enter watering holes where herds of elephants and hippos just walk across, right in front of us. When these factors come together, you get a superior experience.”

shumba camp

Of course, just because you are in the middle of the safari doesn’t mean that you have to stay in an uncomfortable tent on a lumpy cot.

“Zambia has the same high end camps that other African tour camps have,” said Cohen. “Overall, Africa has high standards for its guests.”
There are a lot of safari travel options for guests to choose from when planning Zambia Safari Tours, with options for every budget.
For detailed tour itineraries on all of Wild Planet Adventures wildlife eco-tours and safaris, call toll-free 1.800.990.4376, visit http://www.wildplanetadventures.com/ or contact trips@wildplanetadventures.com.

 

WPA Zambia from Wild Planet Adventures on Vimeo.

Volunteerism: For Those Looking to Travel and Give Back

As a luxury and travel website, Wander magazine wants to take a moment to remind readers that you can visit exotic parts of the world doing one of the greatest things in the world – giving back to those in need through volunteerism.

We are all for traveling on luxurious, fun trips, but volunteerism, a blend of overseas traveling and volunteering, has begun one of the most popular ways to give back. Essentially, you become the charity you donate to. You are the action, the change in the world. You get to see your time and money make an impact immediately, while working with others looking for the same adventure you are.

From Australia to South America, there are plenty of places for you to reach out and make a positive impact, while traveling to a beautiful, exotic part of the world that you might not have seen otherwise.

To help us get a better glimpse of volunteerism, the Wander team has reached out to some international volunteer programs that are looking for an adventurer with a heart to serve others.

International Student Volunteers: Two Week Volunteerism Trips

Ranked as one of the Top Ten Volunteer Organizations” by the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy in conjunction with the U.S. State Department, International Student Volunteers (ISV) offers two-week volunteer placements in teams in numerous countries around the world such as Costa Rica, Thailand, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, Australia and New Zealand.

ISV courtesy photo
ISV courtesy photo

ISV has sent over 30,000 students around the world, even giving academic credit to students for their hard work.

This isn’t just a vacation that students take during their spring break. According to Narelle Webber, the ISV International Program Director, ISV partners with local non-profit, voluntary citizens’ groups in each host country to set up safe, meaningful, sustainable and life-changing volunteer projects with achievable goals that benefit the environment and local people.

ISV courtesy photo
ISV courtesy photo

Volunteers with ISV could very well be providing water and sanitation, building or maintaining community facilities, or helping teach children about health, environment, and English language.

For those who are more passionate about helping in an environmental aspect, ISV has environmental projects involving long-term scientific research in tropical rainforests and endangered species, animal care and sanctuary maintenance, and habitat restoration.

“Volunteers have done everything from monitoring dolphin behaviour, tagging and collecting data on sea turtles, to planting thousands of native trees in incredible locations,” said Webber. “Our mission is ‘to support sustainable development initiatives around the world through life-changing volunteer and responsible adventure travel programs designed to positively change our world and to educate, inspire and result in more active global citizens.’”

ISV courtesy photo
ISV courtesy photo

While most participants are university students, ISV doesn’t require only students volunteer, nor do volunteers have to specifically trained in special fields. Volunteers can be as young as 15, and although ISV has a few projects that require students to be studying certain things like veterinary science or medicine/health, ISV provides all the training needed and ensures that tasks are appropriate for volunteer’s skill level.

The ISV adventure tours are jam-packed with cultural and eco-adventure activities, so that after two weeks of working hard, volunteers can explore their host country and experience its diversity in an ethically responsible way.

“ISV tour leaders challenge and motivate students to push outside their comfort zones while having fun,” explains Webber.

ISV programs operate between May and September, and November and February each year. Applications are open now for each upcoming season.  For more information, check out their website.

Projects Abroad – Spring Break Spent Preserving the Earth

If you’re looking to make an impact on the environment, Projects Abroad is playing an important role in contributing to the preservation of the earth. With ten Conservation & Environment projects on four continents, Projects Abroad is making great strides in conservation work and promoting environmental awareness in communities around the world, with the help of dedicated volunteers.

Founded in 1992 by Dr. Peter Slowe, a geography professor, as a program for students to travel and work while on break from full-time study, students were originally sent to Romania to teach conversational English. After a few years just sending volunteers to Eastern Europe for teaching, the company expanded to sending volunteers of all ages around the world on a wide range of projects.

Projects Abroad currently has projects in 29 countries and recruitment offices in the UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Holland, Hong Kong, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and the United States. The benefit of volunteering with this non-profit is the fact that you can find nearly any type of service that you would enjoy.

Projects Abroad Courtesy Photo

For instance, animal and nature lovers can join Projects Abroad to protect the Amazon Rainforest by running the Taricaya Ecological Reserve in Peru, which has partnered with Projects Abroad since 2001. The reserve has an animal rescue shelter, which after six years, has seen birth of a howler money and the release of a rescued anteater into the reserve. The rescue center at Taricaya is leading the way in animal rescue in the Amazon and has been officially appointed the first Animal Release Center in this part of South America. Over 40 different species in all have already been released back into their natural habitats, including a jaguar, a puma, and two tapirs.

Those driven to teach can head to Costa Rica, where Projects Abroad is collaborating with three schools to demonstrate environmental awareness and teach sustainable development. Projects Abroad volunteers assist with education, training, and the building of ecological strategies that will aid the social development of these three communities in an innovative and sustainable way. For the next year, volunteers will be working on bio-gardens, recycling separation centers, recycling containers, and a butterfly/hummingbird garden for each school, plus educational resources to run environmental awareness projects.

For ultimate adventure lovers, Projects Abroad has a brand new program in Fiji: shark conservation. So far, over two-hundred volunteers have worked hard on scientific shark research, mangrove reforestation, recycling, and shark education initiatives. Last month, volunteers giving an educational talk at a multi-cultural school had the privilege to be joined by Ian Campbell, the Program Manager for the World Wildlife Foundation’s Global Shark Program. Campbell described the day as “inspiring” and also said that the project is “possibly the most important shark project in the world.”

Projects Abroad courtesy photo

According to Christian Clark, the US Deputy Director for Projects Abroad, volunteers aged 16 and over are welcome, but even 4-year-olds are welcome with parents who consider family volunteer options.

“We actually just had an 87 year old join us,” said Clark. “It is our philosophy that anyone willing to help out should be able to volunteer. We do have some programs for specific demographics as well, including our High School Specials for teens, Global Gap for gap years, Alternative Spring Break Trips for university students, and Projects for Professionals for skilled volunteers.

For more information about Conservation & Environment projects, please visit www.projects-abroad.org/volunteer-projects/conservation-and-environment.

Cross Cultural Solutions: An Open-Ended Opportunity to Serve

Cross Cultural Solutions (CCS) boasts a hefty amount of places for you to volunteer. With programs around the world, including Brazil, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India (Dharamsala and New Delhi), Morocco, Peru, South Africa, Tanzania (Bagamoyo and Kilimanjaro), and Thailand, volunteers have nearly endless options on where to lend a helping hand.

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According to Danielle Key, CCS program specialist and three-time Brazil Volunteer, those interested in CCS can not only choose where they want to volunteer, but also get to choose the start date that works best with their schedule, along with how many weeks they would like to participate for.

“We offer start dates year round and our programs are generally available from 1 to 12 weeks in length with some longer term options to include gap year programs,” said Key. “Our volunteers work in partnership with local people on sustainable community initiatives within the areas of education, social services, and public health.”

CCS attracts those who are people-to-people oriented, and are looking for a strong emphasis on the opportunity for cultural exchange. Volunteers can do anything from teaching English, care-taking for elderly community members, improving the quality of care for individuals with disabilities, to supporting individuals affected by HIV/AIDS.

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As an added element for volunteers, CCS offers cultural and learning activities throughout their program such as in-depth orientation, discussions on social issues, insight into cultural norms, language assistance, guest speakers, and special events.

“These activities will help you to learn more about the culture in which you are working, so that you can immerse yourself more fully into the experience,” said Key. “Free time is also a component of the overall program design. Weekends and evenings are your personal time to absorb the program and/or possibly do some ‘adventure travel’ on the side, whether independently or with new friends.”
For more visual information on the CCS programs, check out CCS’s Flickr site at http://www.flickr.com/photos/crossculturalsolutions/.

For a greater idea of what it’s like to volunteer with CCS, check out this video.