Monthly Archives: November 2014

International Thanksgiving

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When I first started volunteering as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher with international students, I realized I had the exciting opportunity to not only teach them English, but also United States customs. At the same time, I was able to learn about the students’ native languages and customs (ranging from Chinese to Japanese to Spanish to Arabic).

When Thanksgiving came around, I wanted to teach my students about Thanksgiving because of its significance in the United States. I also wanted to learn about international holiday customs, so I decided to plan an international Thanksgiving potluck. I invited the students over for dinner, where each student brought a favorite dish from his/her home country. 283199_10151332017879524_1675504135_n Everyone who attended explained his/her favorite dish, its significance to his/her home country, and how he/she would celebrate holidays with family and friends. It was an enlightening experience to not only learn about each other’s differences, but also to learn about the many similarities we experienced across borders. I became inspired to think globally any time I celebrate a holiday. I also realized that while our customs and the meanings of holidays may differ throughout the world, we are all united by our love for family, friends, good food, and quality time together. 283269_10151332017904524_85080305_nInspired to have an international Thanksgiving? One great idea is to invite your friends over for “friendsgiving” and have them bring a dish that represents their heritage. I also found this article with international recipes to give you ideas: 10 International Dishes for Thanksgiving. Below is one of my favorite points from the article:

“America is a country of immigrants, so it’s only fitting that we include international dishes in our national day of thanks. Doing so will not only enhance the standard Thanksgiving menu, it’ll help you learn about other cultures. Or just give you an excuse to eat pasta on Turkey Day. Either way, you win!”

I hope this post reminds you of the inspirNational mindset to think global and act local.  I would love hear stories about how you celebrate international Thanksgiving, both in the United States and abroad (in the comments section below). Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Attitude of Gratitude

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Source: Natural Solutions Magazine

Source: Natural Solutions Magazine

‘Tis the season to be grateful. Or I like to think of it as the time of year to remember that we should be grateful every day. An attitude of gratitude has helped me stay optimistic throughout my life, see the good in others, appreciate the small things, and make the most of each day.

I realize, though, that it is challenging to always have this attitude, so I began to research how to be grateful.

Oprah’s November 2014 Magazine featured an insightful exercise to help us cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Below is an image of the exercise that I found on the Silver Threading blog (it’s a fun exercise to try!):

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In addition, Jamelle Sanders wrote an inspiring article with Powerful Lessons in Gratitude. She explains how gratitude leads to success, keeps us humble, and helps us find more meaning in life.

Applying these concepts to my life, I realize more and more each day that I should be grateful. With Thanksgiving just four days away (can you believe it?), I am reminded to reflect on all the changes that have occurred over the past year. I am grateful to have time to notice these changes and how I have grown as a person. I am grateful for my loving family and friends, who have been supportive every step of the way. I am grateful for my boyfriend, who has helped me learn about love, relationships, and how special it is to be able to experience the adventures of life while growing with another person. I am grateful for the opportunity to work in sustainability consulting, where I have been exposed to several industries and learned how companies can have a positive impact on their employees, the community and the environment. I am grateful for the flexibility to have work/life balance, which has helped me practice new skills outside of the office, such as yoga and cooking. I am grateful for the ability to travel and find ways to make it affordable, which has encouraged me to learn about the world and apply lessons in my daily life. Last, but not least, I am grateful for this blog, which has enabled me to pause and reflect on my own life, capture thoughts from those who inspire me, and (hopefully) inspire others as well. Thank you for supporting my blog by reading this post!

As we approach Thanksgiving, it is important for us to take a step back and think about everything that brings us joy and makes us who we are today. What are you grateful for? How can you have an attitude of gratitude this year?

Why Travel? Part Three

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One World 365 uses imagery to provide great insights about the benefits of travel through working, volunteering, and vacationing abroad. Below I captured some of my favorite quotes and images about travel that I have recently found.

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Go on adventure. Take risks. Dream BIG!

Go on an adventure. Take risks. Dream BIG!

 

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“One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do them now.” -One World 365. For me, that means to explore the world and not hold back!

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Inspiration from Harness Cycle in Cleveland

As I said in my Why Travel? and Why Travel? Part Two posts, each of these quotes makes the wanderlust in me grow stronger. Don’t hold back- go on another adventure and be inspirNational!

Irish Fairytales Really Do Come True

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Here’s my latest post, Irish Fairytales Really Do Come True, originally posted on Pink Pangea.

Fairytales are imaginary for some, but I learned while traveling to Ireland that fairytales really do come true.

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In 2010, I embarked on journey to Ireland with my mom through CIE tours. We visited Dublin, Donegal, Sligo, Galway, Killarney, Cork, and the Aran Islands. This was my first international trip as an undergraduate student, and it could not have come at a better time for me with all the transition that college brings. It reminded me that the seemingly impossible can be possible, and that I should enjoy life like a fairytale. Ireland opened my eyes to natural beauty in Europe that I had never seen before.

What makes Ireland so much like a fairytale?

1. The green landscape is sprinkled with over 30,000 castles and castle ruins.

One of the most famous is the Blarney Castle, which I had the opportunity to tour. The Blarney Castle is located near Cork, Ireland and dates from before AD 1200. The castle holds the blarney stone, a block of bluestone, which has many legends about its meaning. Some says that “it was the Lia Fáil—a magical stone upon which Irish kings were crowned. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery).” So for those who think I like to talk a lot, I blame it on the blarney stone which I kissed while touring the castle!

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Several castles have also been converted into hotels, giving travelers the opportunity to live in a castle. I had the opportunity to stay at Clontarf Castle, which was originally built in 1172 as an inner city of defense sites protecting Dublin. The castle was then occupied by the Vernon family for 300 years and was converted into a hotel in the 1990’s. Learn more history here.

2. Breathtaking scenery has been preserved for centuries, despite industrialization and population growth.

Regardless of Ireland’s long heritage, the country has maintained famous natural landscapes. It is by far the greenest country I have ever seen. Two of my favorite scenes were Cliffs of Moher, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the coastal cliffs of Ireland, and the Aran Islands, where Irish charm and the Celtic language are combined in tiny islands off the shores of Galway.

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3. The people are very charming, especially the men.

Unlike other places I have traveled, Ireland makes tourists feel welcomed like long lost friends, and women are appreciated for who they are. The charm shines through the witty humor and generous nature of the people. On the topic of charm, Ireland has Lisdoonvarma, a matchmaking festival every September that is Europe’s largest singles event. My tour group friends and I promised each other that we would return to Lisdoonvarma in our 30s if we were still not married.

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4. Every place and landmark has a story or a legend, including historical figures, fairies, and leprechauns.

Irish folklore is world renowned, and I enjoyed hearing stories from the locals and the tour guides at each destination. Every story or legend (and every word for that matter) sounds like a song or a riddle. It is no wonder that “Ireland is the only country in the world that has a musical instrument – the harp – as its national symbol. The oldest known harp in existence is housed in Trinity College, Dublin. It dates back to at least 1300.” Read more about this on Irish Central.

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5. The beer is magical.

Okay, this is a stretch, but I can’t write about Ireland without mentioning Guinness, a staple name in Irish history. Guinness beer goes back to 1759, when Arthur Guinness first began brewing ales in Dublin. To this day, you can tour the Guinness brewery and learn how to properly drink beer. I credit Guinness for first capturing my interest in and taste for beer.

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6. Lucky charms are real.

The Irish embrace luck through various symbols, such as the shamrock, which brings good fortune, and the claddagh ring, which brings good luck to any relationship or marriage. I purchased a claddagh ring because I loved its symbolism (the heart represents love, the hands represent friendship, and the crown represents loyalty) and how the direction I wear the ring indicates my relationship status (if I turn the heart to face outward, it means that I am single because my heart is open; if I turn the heart to face inward, I am in relationship, because my heart has been captured).

My trip, in a nutshell, reminded me that fairytales exist and that we can find them in our daily lives. I was honored that this realization came to life when visiting the land of my ancestors. Some may joke at the tales of the Irish, but they truly are inspiring and remind us to not take life too seriously, to find beauty in each step we take, and to find joy in each day. Below are a few of my favorite Irish quotes:
“May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light. May good luck pursue you each morning and night.” -Irish Blessing
“Continual cheerfulness is a sign of wisdom.” -Irish Saying
“There are no strangers here, only friends that have not yet met.” -William Butler Yeats

What do I wish I would have known before I left?

  • Be prepared to use the British pound in Northern Ireland and the euro in the rest of Ireland. While currency values fluctuate, at the time I traveled to Ireland, it was much more expensive (compared to the U.S. dollar) to travel in Northern Ireland, so be sure to plan accordingly.
  • The Irish people seemed to love American music as much as (if not more than) Americans! I attended a Pink concert in Dublin (last minute decision between my mom and me) and I was fascinated to see how much the Irish folk loved Pink and sang every word of every song. On the topic of concerts, I recommend that you attend a concert while traveling to Ireland (or any foreign country for that matter) because it helps you get a taste of the local experience.

I encourage everyone to visit Ireland for a little Irish luck and fairytale memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Feel free to comment if you have any questions!

View the original post on Pink Pangea. Also check out my friend’s guest post, an Irish Year Abroad, about her experience studying at Trinity College Dublin for a year!

Airports Are Meeting Places

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In addition to my post, A Chilean Act of Kindness, I wrote another story during the travel writing workshop with Pink Pangea. As I mentioned before, the workshop was a great way for me to meet writers from around the world and learn how to improve my travel writing. During the workshop, we were asked to write about an airport experience. I was amazed to hear other traveler’s airport experiences. In particular, I was fascinated by one traveler’s story, who described airports as an emotional melting pot. When you look around at the people at an airport, some travelers are filled with excitement to go on their next journey; others are filled with sadness as they kiss their loved ones goodbye; others are anxious to get through security; others are stressed preparing for their business meeting; others are mesmerized by their significant other as they go on their honeymoon; and others are relaxed as they are about to go on a beach vacation with family. Airports truly have meaning to people, and it is interesting to think about this (especially for frequent travelers) who often get lost in the hustle and bustle of travel and forget about the significance of going to an airport. Below I am sharing the story I wrote about one of my favorite airport experiences, demonstrating that airports are meeting places:

My first experiencing traveling alone in an international airport was one that I will never forget. I was flying from Paris to Pisa to Florence at the Charles De Gaulle Airport. Most people around me were speaking French (and I am only an English and Spanish speaker), but I was comforted when I noticed a woman sitting next to me who was carrying a British passport. I started chatting with her about her travels. Her name was Amy and she told me she was a graduate student at a fashion school in Florence (Pollimoda Firenze). She was originally from Turks & Caicos and was traveling to Paris for a vacation.

We had such a great conversation throughout the flight that we decided we would try to get together while in Florence. We exchanged e-mail addresses and were testing fate because this was before the days that I had a smart phone and I was betting whether my hostel in Florence would have internet access for me to reach out to her. Fate wanted us to get together again, because I was able to get in touch with her after arriving to Florence.

This was my first time traveling alone, so I was excited to have a new friend who could join me in my tour of Florence. I met Amy for drinks and appetizers- I’ll never forget the delicious grasshopper drink I had for the first time in a quaint plaza near where she lived. We walked throughout the city and she told me stories and historical facts about Florence (I was so grateful that she had a professional camera to take photographs!). It was also interesting to learn what it was like being an international graduate student in Florence. Then she (bravely) gave me a tour of her apartment and neighborhood. Similar to my Chilean Act of Kindness story, we might have both been crazy in this situation since we were technically strangers to each other, but again, we trusted our guts (some sort of traveler trust that I have observed more and more as I have gone on more trips) and knew we could explore the city together. I remember being fascinated by her fashion projects throughout her apartment and knew that she was going to make a name for herself in the fashion industry one day.

Exploring Florence with Amy

Exploring Florence with Amy

Not only did we have a wonderful time together in Florence, we kept in touch via Facebook. She moved to New York City for an internship the following year, which coincided with internship interviews I had in New York. After interviewing, I met up with her for cupcakes to catch up on life since Italy. What makes the world even smaller is that she shared an apartment in New York City with the older sister of one of my high school classmates. Now, we continue to keep in touch via Facebook and she is successfully launching a luxury resort scarf business, sea sage, while living and working in London.

This story reminds me that airports can seem overwhelming, but they provide an exciting way for us to meet new people who may turn into lifelong contacts and friends. Every time I travel, I find that the people I meet at the airport and during my flights provide some of the most interesting conversations. So, while you are at the airport asking yourself “are we there yet?” and are concerned about having enough elbow room on the airplane, maybe you should pause, look around you, and spark conversations with your fellow travelers. We all have stories to tell, and we can learn so much from each other. Airports are and alway will be great meeting places.

20something profile: Brittany

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Check out my feature on the 20somethings Blog!

20somethings Blog

295388_10150338114779524_7810111_nThis post was written by Brittany, who has traveled throughout the world:

What are your career aspirations, and what have you done to fulfill those aspirations?

My vision is to have the greatest positive impact on the world as possible, through business, writing, travel, education, and community engagement. With a holistic perspective of business, I am passionate about finding the intersection of business strategy and sustainability.

Through sustainability consulting, I have worked with Fortune 500 companies across industries, developing sustainability strategies and reports/communications, analyzing and benchmarking sustainability performance, and facilitating workshops and stakeholder engagement initiatives. I capture sustainability trends and best practices from client engagements through blog posts and articles on SustainGenuity and GreenBiz Shift Happens.

View original post 752 more words

7 Amazing Things To Do in Costa Rica

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Last April, I traveled to Costa Rica for the first time. I have wanted to go to Costa Rica since I first learned about the intersection of business and sustainability, and it was exciting to see my dream come true. Here I share my top recommendations for places to see, activities, things to do and ways too help conservation efforts. Read the original post on One World 365.

Why Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is world renown for being one of the first countries to put sustainability efforts into practice. According to the Costa Rica Tourism Official Website, Costa Rica “covers only 0.03 % of the surface of the globe, [but] it proudly shelters a 5% of the existing biodiversity in the entire world. 25.58 % of the country is composed of conservation and natural protected territory.”

The exotic wildlife and green reputation have always made me want to explore Costa Rica. In addition, prior to this trip, I had traveled to Spain and South America, but wanted to learn about the Spanish and indigenous influences in Costa Rica, given my Spanish language and literature studies as an undergraduate student. Lastly, I have always heard that Costa Rica is the happiest country in the world, so I was curious to see how the Costa Ricans live with such an optimistic outlook.

What are some of the amazing things you can do in Costa Rica?

  • Learn about the intricacies of coffee production at Café Britt: You can go on a tour to learn about each step in the coffee production process and the history of coffee production in Costa Rica. Then, you can try all the rich coffees. One of my favorite things to try was the chocolate covered coffee beans!

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  • Go swimming in La Catarata de La Fortuna: This was one of my favorite travel experiences because it was so refreshing to swim in the waterfall and it was empowering to know that I could climb rocks barefoot to reach the springs.

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  • Relax in the hot springs in La Fortuna, and overlook Arenal: If you are staying at a resort in Arenal, I recommend getting a hot stone massage, which uses lava stones from Arenal! I had a wonderful time staying at Hotel Arenal Manoa.

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  • Take a break from modern transportation and go on an adventure ride (horseback ride, boat ride, and bike ride) from La Fortuna to Monteverde! Anywhere Costa Rica offers a great three-hour adventure. This was one of the highlights of my trip because throughout the experience, I was able to get to know the tour guides and learn about the local lifestyle in Costa Rica.

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  • Go on an evening hike through Monteverde: Traditionally, we think about touring rainforests during the day in order to see the vibrant colors and diversity of the flora and fauna. You will begin to understand nature at a whole new level by going on a night tour, where you will see creatures that only come out at night. Beware, you will likely walk next to tarantulas and snakes, but you will feel one with nature, which should help you overcome any fears.
  • Shop for souvenirs that help with nature conservation: I purchased a painting of a macaw on a macaw feather, which helped raise money to protect macaws in Costa Rica. I also purchased morpho butterfly earrings and a necklace to help with butterfly conservation and educational initiatives in Costa Rica.
  • Spark conversation with los ticos (the Costa Ricans): Get a taste of “la pura vida,” which is a positive and friendly attitude that defines the local people. I was very impressed and inspired by “la pura vida” mindset, so I described examples in my blog post, Living La Pura Vida.

I hope you have the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and enjoy “la pura vida” as much as I did. iBuen viaje!

Read more about my travel experiences on One World 365, where I have a few articles and am listed as a feature travel writer.