Monthly Archives: September 2014

Best Coffees to Celebrate International Coffee Day


In honor of International Coffee Day, here is a list of some of my favorite coffees throughout the world.

  1. Cafe Britt in Costa Rica: I may be biased because my name is in the title of the coffee shop :), but I became so much more appreciative of the intricacies of coffee production after touring Cafe Britt and tasting the coffee varieties last spring. I learned the importance of the amber color of coffee, which indicates freshness. I recommend you experience the Cafe Britt coffee tour and try the Tarrazu and Tres Rios varieties, in addition to the organic and fair trade brands. Also, if you can prepare yourself for a new addiction, try the chocolate-covered coffee beans while there!

    Café Britt Coffee Tour

    Café Britt Coffee Tour

  2. Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee in the Big Island of Hawaii: Kona Coffee has a unique flavor (and in my opinion, stronger than others) that can’t be matched because of its production in volcanic terrain. I enjoyed learning about Mountain Thunder coffee production and also appreciated the teas available there. Whether you are a coffee or tea fan,  I highly recommend sampling the organic varieties!
  3. Café au lait in France: I had some of the best coffee with the prettiest designs (made with milk) while touring the countryside of France. I’m not sure what was better, the coffee or the fresh pastries on the side? I don’t think I’ve found a better breakfast pair than a chocolate-filled croissant and café au lait. I was also fascinated by the coffee machines in France (mind you this was in 2011 and now we have more modern coffee appliances in the U.S.). One day I would love to learn how to make café au lait like the French.
  4. Café con leche from Chocolatería Valor in Salamanca, Spain: I first fell in love with coffee while studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain. I became accustomed to drinking café con leche (the Spanish version of café au lait) while relaxing, studying, or blogging during my afternoons in Spain. Similar to my perception of café au lait, part of the reason I love café con leche is that I often paired it with a churro con chocolate from Chocolatería Valor- iqué rico! I will always think of my wonderful experiences in Spain (more details to come in future blogs :)) when I drink café con leche.

    Café con leche y churros con chocolate de Chocolatería Valor en Salamanca, España

    Café con leche y churros con chocolate de Chocolatería Valor en Salamanca, España

  5. Mocha from Espresso Royale in Ann Arbor, Michigan: Every time I go back to visit my alma mater, I stop at Espresso Royale for a mocha, which makes me nostalgic of the cold winter days walking to class, meeting with student groups, and cuddling up to study with a mocha. Espresso Royale features several coffee blends, delicious pastries (I highly recommend the zucchini bread), and some of the best couches you could ask for (they are in high demand during finals season at the University of Michigan).

As a business professional, my list of coffee favorites keeps growing, as I am eager to try new coffee specialties everywhere I travel! I especially appreciate local coffee shops because they often sell native coffee blends and give you a taste of the local culture by featuring local musicians and artists. For such a staple in daily life, I enjoy learning how each country has its own spin on coffee. What are your favorite places for coffee?


Why Travel?


One World 365 uses imagery to provide great insights about the benefits of travel through working, volunteering, and vacationing abroad. I created a collage of some of my favorite thoughts and images about travel from One World 365.travelcollage.jpg

I don’t know about you, but each of these quotes makes the wanderlust in me grow stronger. Don’t hold back- go on another adventure and be inspirNational!

We Are All Ambassadors


While creating my vision board recently, a word that stood out as significant to me and significant to others who reviewed my board was “ambassador.” I included it because I aspire to be a cultural ambassador. Not necessarily an ambassador in the traditional sense of the word, i.e., a U.S. ambassador, but in the broader sense of being a representative or promoter. There is nothing I enjoy more than learning about other cultures and teaching others about my own culture. Over the past few years, I have pursued ambassador-like work through several outlets, such as:

  • English as a Second Language (ESL) Conversation Circle Leader with the University of Michigan English Language Institute: I met with international graduate students on a weekly basis to practice conversational English and teach them about United States customs. Each week we met at different venues (coffee shops, parks, cider mills, movie theaters, etc.) and discussed colloquial language and common activities that U.S. citizens like to do. It was rewarding to share my background and to learn about the backgrounds of my students through the process. We would compare language differences and customs and develop a greater sense of cultural understanding.
University of Michigan Campus Tour with my Conversation Circles Group, Fall 2012

University of Michigan Campus Tour with my Conversation Circles Group, Fall 2012

  • Positively Cleveland: I attended a Positively Cleveland luncheon while interning in Cleveland two years ago. I learned the importance of speaking positively about where you live, as you are a representative. Those who have never visited your city may have preconceived notions that will not change unless you convince them otherwise. Positively Cleveland teaches the importance of having pride in where you are from (specifically Cleveland, in this case) and communicating that pride. A thought-provoking quote I came across on their website makes this idea hit home:

“If you don’t like what people are saying, change the conversation.”

  • Teaching English as a Second Language at El Barrio with the Centers for Families and Children in Cleveland, Ohio: I lead ESL classes with Latin American adults preparing for the business world. I get to know each of the students individually and relate our lessons to their countries of origin. I talk about my background in the United States and relate to them with my experience learning the Spanish language. The students look to me as a representative voice of language and customs in the U.S. I take this as a great responsibility and want to have a positive influence on their perceptions of speaking English and living in the United States.

Thinking through this further, I realized that we all can be ambassadors. Every single one of us is an ambassador to our hometown, where we live now, our profession, and our individual cultures and customs. As we travel and meet new people, we represent the outlooks and perceptions of our origin. Considering ourselves to be ambassadors, it may change how we portray where we live and what we do. We should stop thinking about our actions on an individual level, but rather how they affect the locations and groups we represent. For example, if we are rude to others while we travel, the people may start to generalize about our home country, profession, and more. With an ambassador lens, we become more focused on how our actions affect others.

We are all ambassadors in our daily lives. It’s your choice. What would you like to represent and promote? What kind of ambassador are you?

Why Everyone Should Go Camping


Last weekend I went camping at the Kanawha State Forest in Charleston, West Virginia. At first thought it may seem crazy to leave modern conveniences and sleep outside in the wilderness for a weekend, but my trip reminded me why camping is one of the best travel experiences.

Kanawha State Forest

Kanawha State Forest

Camping reminds us to:

  • Live in the moment. Without technology, we are able to avoid distractions and notice our surroundings with all of our senses: the color of every tree leaf, the smell of crisp air, the taste of warm s’mores from the bonfire, the sound of crickets and squirrels, and the feeling of a cool breeze.
  • Appreciate the small things. Without modern conveniences such as running water or television, we begin to appreciate the things that we do have. We can be entertained by playing Frisbee or talking with our loved ones instead of having to watch television.
  • Play like a kid again. While camping, it is perfectly acceptable (even for adults!) to run around the woods, play on swing sets, skip rocks, jump in puddles, and get muddy. We become nostalgic of our childhood and are reminded that we are always kids at heart and can still have fun and play.
  • Recharge. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of daily life. We may forget to go outside as often as we should or we may not get enough sleep. Camping helps us get more fresh air and have a natural sleep cycle; we may actually want to go to bed when the sun sets and wake up when the sun rises!
  • Be humble. As we walk and sleep amongst giant trees, bugs, and wildlife, we are reminded that there is more to the world than us.  The world does not center around us as people, we are just one small part of the circle of life.
  • Care about the planet. When we actually have to live in nature, we begin to understand why it is important to take care of the environment. We need clean air, clean water, and healthy landscapes in order to survive and thrive.

My camping trip could not have come at a better time, as this week marks the United Nations Climate Summit, which unites leaders from UN Member States and local leaders from the public and private sectors. The summit promotes  “action and solutions that are focused on accelerating progress in areas that can significantly contribute to reducing emissions and strengthening resilience – such as agriculture, cities, energy, financing, forests, pollutants, resilience and transportation.” Politics aside, the summit inspires us to think about how we are impacting the planet and what we can do to reduce our impact. Morgan Freeman narrated a powerful video to open the summit: What’s Possible: UN Climate Summit Opening Film. Camping brings these thoughts and discussions to life. I am inspired to think of how I can live sustainably and remember to be grateful for the nature that surrounds me.

Why do you like to go camping and how does it help you have an inspirNational mindset?

Repurposing Maps


Now that we use Google Maps, GPS, Mapquest, and SYNC directions, it is crazy to think that paper maps are becoming old-fashioned. Rather than letting them collect dust, what can we do with all the old maps we have collected over the years?

Lately I have noticed how much vintage maps interest me. Perhaps it is because I am sentimental, and especially appreciate maps that represent Michigan and my hometown. Perhaps it is also because I have the travel bug, and am always eager to discover and explore new places. With this second reason in mind, I purchased an old map of the world to document all the places I have visited and to decorate one of the walls in my apartment. One of my lifetime goals is to visit every continent, so this will help me keep track of everywhere I have gone and would like to go.


This week, I also learned about my University of Michigan Pi Phi sister, Ashley Thompson’s exciting project for her entrepreneurship class, called MAP IT: Custom City or State Blocks. She is repurposing vintage maps from the 1950’s into artwork on wood blocks. Check out her Etsy site here. The blocks are available for a great deal and she will customize them for you with whichever state or city map you would like!


This is just the beginning of all the fun and crafty things you can do with maps. Brit + Co outlines 35 Clever Ways to Repurpose A Map. So, if you’re feeling crafty this weekend, and you have old maps laying around the house, now you have a fun project! Let me know if you know of other interesting ways to repurpose maps.

Guilt-Free Souvenir Shopping


Over the weekend, I shopped at the Cleveland Flea Market where I found vintage clothing and house ware, artisan jewelry and gifts, local food trucks, and great toys made from recycled materials for my nieces (can’t spoil the birthday gifts just yet :)! I also strolled through the local shops in Tremont (a neighborhood of Cleveland) and came across the sign below, which reminded me of the importance of shopping locally.

Sign outside of April Snow, one of my favorite boutiques in Tremont

By going to local stores, we are supporting the local economy and sustainable business by reducing distribution and transportation costs. Shopping locally and supporting the local economy is one of the many ways I justify my purchases and leave stores feeling “guilt-free.” Mirroring habits of my generation (Millennials), I also aim to support causes with my purchases, such as shoes from TOMS, an inspiring company that donates a pair of shoes for every pair of shoes you purchase.

Thinking more about it, as I have traveled over the past several years, I have found ways to purchase souvenirs without feeling guilty. I have to admit that growing up, I wanted to purchase every trinket in sight. Now that I have moved every year for the past six years, I am realizing the hassle of collecting trinkets everywhere I go. I’m only in my 20s, and as a travel enthusiast, it’s scary to think how much I could collect in a lifetime if I purchase trinkets every new place I visit. Recently, I have gotten into the habit of buying souvenirs that are in the following “guilt-free” categories:

  • Artwork: Paintings, drawings, etc. are a great way to decorate your home while remembering your adventures. Over the past couple years, I’ve purchased several small paintings/plaques/drawings that I have now turned into collages in my new apartment. Art is a good souvenir, as long as you are selective (i.e., only purchase items that will fit will in your home) and there is a general theme (i.e., I’ve noticed that many of my pieces have a red tone, which has been convenient for decorating).
  • Jewelry: Unlike souvenir t-shirts or even most clothing items, jewelry can be timeless. It is wearable, and therefore useful, so that it doesn’t just collect dust on your shelf. I’ve now purchased jewelry (casual jewelry…it doesn’t have to be diamonds!) in almost every place I’ve visited, especially if it is native to the location. For example, I purchased butterfly wing earrings and a necklace from the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica as a memory of my cloud forest hikes and to support butterfly conversation efforts.
  • Photos: What better way to capture all of your experiences? More than saying a thousand words, pictures tell a story and trigger thoughts, emotions, and memories of your best and worst experiences while traveling. Now with smart phones, social media, and the cloud, you can share, organize, and store photos instantly!

I came across the following quote that perfectly summarizes guilt-free souvenir shopping (if only I came up with a quote for my categories before William Morris :))!

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris

And better yet, I came across The Top 5 Most Valuable Souvenirs and I absolutely agree with each one. If you want to purchase something tangible during your travels, my guilt-free recommendations are above. But, as Sarah Vedomske highlights, the most valuable souvenirs are intangible and will inspire you to live with an inspirNational mindset.

Linking Our Past to Our Future


“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”             -Native American Proverb

I saw this quote this week while completing the UPS sustainability personality quiz, and it made me stop in my tracks. If we change our perspective about how we look at the world around us, how will we change our behavior?

We should remember that the world is not only ours, but belongs to the generations that come. This is the premise of a sustainable mindset that can be translated across disciplines, from science to politics to business.

In July, I experienced this sustainable mindset first hand when visiting the Big Island of Hawaii. The Big Island preserves its natural, historical landscape, with volcanic rock composing the terrain, homes built of natural materials around the green and black sand beaches, and petroglyphs scattered through the forests and parks. The locals are one with nature, and cherish the natural beauty that the island provides.


One interesting symbol of sustainability I came across was the green Hawaiian turtle, or the “honu,” as the Hawaiians say. I snorkeled with honu at the beach of Fairmont Orchid Hawaii and saw them swimming at the black sand beaches throughout the Big Island. I learned that honus are sacred to Hawaiians. Besides knowing that honus are adorable, I was curious to learn about their symbolism. I came across this article, which describes the significance of honus. Honus have existed for 150 million years! According to Hawaiian mythology, honus are “a bearer of good luck, a frightening monster to be released among enemies, a living bridge that brings two lovers together and the foundation of some of the [Hawaiian] islands.” They tend to swim around coastal waters and are “prey to pollution, speed boats, fishing nets and plastic and trash in the water.” To protect them against plastic pollution in the water, Big Island grocery stores no longer use plastic  bags. This is one example of how Hawaiians are protecting their land and heritage, and thinking about the future.


As a token of the sacred symbol and a reminder to live sustainably, I purchased turtle earrings made out of shells. I aspire to live like the Hawaiians, appreciating my surroundings and remembering that any path I take will impact those who follow me.

What other symbols of sustainability have you noticed in your travels? How have they changed your mindset to think about generations to come?