After exploring a few new destinations in the U.S. during the month of October, in November I traveled to Guatemala – my first international trip since the summer. The day after I returned home, I made a quick visit to New York City for the 2017 Travel+SocialGood Global Summit, and then spent a weekend sightseeing in Hampshire County, Massachusetts. This month’s travels exposed me both to global perspectives on sustainable travel as well as to unique and memorable local experiences in the U.S. and abroad.
My first trip to Guatemala was 11 years ago. I went for about a week with a friend, and for most of the time, we stayed in an apartment (thanks to her mom’s time share) on the outskirts of Antigua. It was definitely a vacation – we visited the big tourist spots in town, took some group day trips and chilled out by the pool. It was lovely, but this trip was completely different. I traveled with Ryan of GoodTrip Tours, a sustainable travel company that focuses on travel to Cuba and Central America, and got to see the “real” Guatemala by participating in several local experiences offered by Cambio NDG, a language school that benefits the NGO Niños de Guatemala (NDG). I got to tour a women-owned organic coffee operation, make sweets in a family’s home, see how “chicken buses” are made, and more. Not only did this trip help benefit local guides and businesses, I left with a much deeper understanding of the country and culture.
I had a fun afternoon learning how to make Guatemalan sweets from Maria Bernarda, the mother of my Ninos de Guatemala tour guide, Christian. Here I am with Christian, his mom and three of his siblings in their home in Antigua.
New York City
Right after I returned from Guatemala, I drove to New York City to attend the first day of the 2017 Travel+SocialGood (TSG) Global Summit as a member of the TSG Media Network. The Summit was held at the United Nations, an incredibly impressive structure and an appropriate venue at which to have such importance conversations. It attracted hundreds of travel industry professionals from all over – tour company operators, bloggers and writers, social entrepreneurs, and many others all committed to making sustainable travel more accessible to the average tourist.
Sitting in an enormous tiered auditorium, we got to listen to a series of speakers including ambassadors from Israel, Uganda and Botswana, who talked about the importance of tourism for their countries’ economies, as well as leaders from G Adventures, The Nature Conservancy, TravIndy, and other corporations and nonprofits who shared a variety of initiatives that are helping ensure travel has a more positive impact on both people and the planet.
“There are ways to make money and do some good at the same time, and reduce your harm.” – Jamie Sweeting, President, Planeterra Foundation
Hampshire County, Massachusetts
One of the best parts of blogging has been the opportunity to take another, closer look at places I’ve been before. Having lived in Massachusetts for nearly 10 years now, I’ve been to Hampshire County in the western part of the state several times (My first press trip was actually to the Pioneer Valley.) This time, though, I got to check out some unique businesses and attractions that weren’t previously on my radar thanks to the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council.
For two days my friend and fellow blogger Vicky of Buddy the Traveling Monkey and I drove around through farmland and small towns to see the area’s highlights. We stopped by the innovative Mill 180 indoor park in Easthampton, tried to blow glass at the Snow Farm craft school in Williamsburg and toured the impressive Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton. And we ate everything from authentic Korean at Gohyang in Hadley to cider donuts at Atkins Farms Country Market in Amherst.
I tried to make a blown-glass Christmas ornament at Snow Farm. However, it developed a crack after drying, so I went home empty handed.
I’m making my first visit to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for a reunion with old friends – we met studying abroad in Strasbourg, France – and then I’ll be heading to the Jersey Shore for the first time since college before spending the holidays with my family in New Jersey.
Banner image: Carmen, of the small batch, organic coffee company Cafe Carmen, explains the process of growing and harvesting her coffee plants.