Travel Deep and Do Good with @fathomtravel

life jacket

Have you been hearing the buzz about fathom impact travel, a new innovative cruise line from Carnival Cruises? I’ll be honest, I’d never been on a cruise and didn’t really know if it was for me. My adventures with fathom impact travel changed that BIGTIME.

Fathom is a unique experience where you as the traveler become a part of a community on board as well as in the country you visit. I was lucky enough to be on the inaugural cruise to the Dominican Republic. Not only are you offered a variety of activities to experience the Dominican like a tourist but the bigger and more important part of the fathom travel experience is choosing from several impact activities where you’re working alongside local Dominicans, learning about their lifestyle and helping them to make a sustainable future for themselves. The DR is a beautiful island but it’s also an emerging country where education, poverty and lack of jobs is a real issue. What Carnival and fathom have done for a big part of the untapped population on the North Coast is provide thousands of jobs and help to sustain existing coops that employ hundreds of people. It’s a win-win. As you may recall, it’s very important to me to give back when traveling. So this experience was perfect for me.

fathom ship

A little bit about the ship, cruise experience and more on the impact activities from a first time cruiser:

The fathom ship, The Adonia, isn’t one of those enormous ships you may think of when you hear the word cruise. It holds just over 700 passengers, that’s it. The ship has just been redone and I thought it was very nice – classic casual. The food on board was terrific. There was a buffet for the quick bite, a casual sit down dining room for those who like service and, finally, a higher-end restaurant for a little more chi chi experience. All dining options offer a variety of things to eat, of course, with a bit of a Dominican spin!

This week long experience also wasn’t a big boozy trip like I envision some cruises to be. You sail to the Dominican Republic in a day and a half, then spend three days experiencing the island (still staying on board, which I loved…no repacking!!) and then another day and a half sailing back to Miami. During the days we were docked most people weren’t even on board the ship. Now, having said that, of course there are bars and plenty of options for a nice cocktail. AND surprising to me, very reasonable.

cacoa

In keeping with IMPACT TRAVEL and giving back, you will find environmentally and socially aware products on board too. Things from toiletries to items sold in the duty free shops were all about this. I bought two amazing items myself – a Bajalia bracelet made by women in developing regions – providing them jobs and a Krochet Kids top made by families in developing countries supported by this international non-profit.

On board programming offered was about community building, learning about the DR, teaching you to be a great global citizen and health and wellness. And, of course, there was also plenty of entertainment for any and all. The impact activities offered once in the Dominican Republic were things like reforestation, teaching English, water filtration production, recycled paper and chocolate women’s coops, etc. There is something for everyone here. Some activities are more hands on but more strenuous and others are perfect for less active people.

reforestation

Things that I didn’t know or expect about cruising and the fathom travel experience. Next trip, I would do two impact activities in one day and one more on another. This would leave more time to explore the DR on my own or do additional excursions. I had no clue about wifi being so difficult to connect to or the extreme expense of it, so buyer beware and plan to unplug on board. Never having cruised before, I was concerned about motion sickness. I was completely fine but some were affected by it. Apparently, there are these awesome motion sickness bands that almost immediately alleviate the symptoms. Finally, I could have planned and packed better for some of the impact activities so look into this more carefully.

I was a guest on the inaugural Fathom voyage to the Dominican Republic but at a price point starting at $499, I’d say this experience is priceless!

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Why I Donate and Volunteer While Traveling

There is no arguing that donating items or volunteering your time is universally a good thing to do. I especially enjoy doing this when I’m traveling. For me, it’s a wonderful way to feel more connected to a destination. In fact, my favorite travel memories and connections have been when I volunteered or donated supplies to those in need. I am so fortunate to be able to travel and visit different parts of the world. It’s a small thing I can do and it goes farther than many realize.

cambodia habitat for humanity

My first travel volunteer experience was with Habitat for Humanity in Cambodia. It was truly so meaningful to me. I learned so much about myself on that trip. I had never been to Asia before and knew no one on my build. I had never seen that kind of poverty before. But working side by side these people living in poverty to build them a better home was truly so enriching. I will never ever forget the local people working on my build. They were such kind spirits that touched my heart. And, I believe they won’t ever forget me either.

india

But there are other small ways to give back that don’t take a week-long commitment. When I traveled to India I worked with an organization called Globe Drop to find a donation opportunity. I was able to purchase items in India for an orphanage of girls. The purchases helped the local economy and cost a fraction of what it would in the US. It was a win-win. All I had to do was take the time to buy the items and then go deliver them to the orphanage. A small amount of time that went a long way making these girls learning and living experiences better.

jamaica

Another small way I helped on another travel adventure was to collect and deliver children’s books to a foundation in Jamaica that help to educate impoverished children who would not otherwise have an education. People are always looking to give away books over time and, in many cases, they’d like them to go into good hands. I just took a little time to build up a collection and then contacted Rockhouse Foundation and asked if they would like them. They said yes so I packed them up in my bag and traveled to Jamaica. Again, the delivery just took a little time out my day and was so worth the cause.

peru1

My most recent volunteer/donation experience was in Peru. My friend and I found an opportunity to help orphan children with their school work and play with them for a few days in Cusco. To see their smiles every day brought so much laughter and joy to us. The same organization, Peru Trek 4 Good, that connected us to the orphanage also collects clothing and toys for poor people living in the mountains. My friend and I were able to bring three suitcases full of clothes, coats and toys to be delivered to a small Andean community as Christmas gifts – more than 200 parents and children. Again, so many people have things that they want to give away that others could really use. It was just a matter of collecting items, paying to get them to Peru and delivered to the organization. We were thrilled when we saw all the happy faces at Christmastime.

peru trek 4 good

This week I’m off on another volunteer adventure in travel. I’m excited to be participating in a new concept in travel – Impact Travel with Fathom. I will be cruising to the Dominican Republic and doing a few service projects over the days I’m there. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty and see the smiling faces of locals there. You really learn so much through these experiences and get more locally connected. I think Impact Travel is the way forward. You’re helping out others, raising awareness and empowering people to think about traveling and giving back.

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How to Survive a Pickpocket While Traveling

I’d like to thank Lola’s Travels for sharing this article with their readers. It is an excellent source for anyone looking to explore the world and go on new adventures. I particularly enjoyed her most recent article on her favorite finds in Porto, Portugal!

Being pickpocketed can potentially ruin a vacation. You lose any money you’re carrying on you, some forms of identification, and a number of important cards. If you were home, you could probably deal with it, but away from your main base of operations, you don’t have the resources you need to land back on your feet after a day or two. Getting more money in a foreign country isn’t so easy, and you need to deal with the ramifications of someone running around with a lot of identifying information.

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Here are some of the things you should do after you’ve been pickpocketed:

Act Quickly

After you’ve been pickpocketed you have a very small window of opportunity to respond before others will use your cards and identification for their own ends. Perhaps the pickpocket uses your cards to buy themselves dinner after a clean getaway. They might also sell the contents of your wallet (minus the cash, of course) to someone else to throw law enforcement off their scent. You might have an hour or two at best.

Do not use this time to panic. You will have plenty of time to panic later and to be perfectly honest it doesn’t seem to do anyone much good. Take the following steps instead:

  • Call your credit card providers. Try to have a list of these beforehand so you can quickly go down the list.
  • Call your banks. If anything you have can be traced to an account, call the bank and tell them to be on high alert.
  • Call any other related services and business who you might have some sort of card or identification with. It is unlikely a pickpocket will do anything, but you can have a new card ready for when you get home, and you can rest assured knowing that the old card was deactivated.
  • Call your place of employment if it applies to the situation.

Have an Emergency Contact

Whenever you travel you should have someone to call in case of an emergency. Ideally this person should have the means and inclination to get you home out of an emergency (you can always pay them back later) or guide you to someone who can help. You should have this person’s phone number written down (ideally memorized) and someplace safe (in your hotel room is probably okay). After you contact your financial service providers, call this contact and see what the two of you can do.

If you can work out an emergency plan beforehand, that will make things all the easier for you. There are several services that allow one to send money to someone in a foreign country, and the fewer logistical hoops you and your contact have to jump through the more easily the situation will resolve itself. Give your contact a copy of your itinerary and your important information in a sealed envelope they can open if needed. This is all extremely important if you are travelling alone.

Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket

Don’t carry everything you have in one pocket or wallet. Try to have a backup plan available just in case something happens to you. Surviving a pickpocket is so much easier if you have some extra cash or a backup card stashed away, letting you know where your next meal is coming from. It will allow you to continue to enjoy your travel once you have the details sorted out.

Also try to keep your passport in a safer place than your pocket, as not having one on you makes getting home that much harder. You need to have some identification on you, and your passport will be it if your main wallet gets pickpocketed. Make a habit of keeping it with some spare cash so that you can survive in any situation.

Use the Internet

The internet is your very best tool when recovering from having your wallet stolen. There are websites that can direct you to the right phone numbers to call, where you can have money sent and where you can eat for cheap while having little more than the change in your pocket. You can usually either use your smartphone’s data plan or find some network you can access. Even if you have to pay for internet access it is worth having those tools to get you through the ordeal.

Just make sure that you are using a Virtual Private Network while you travel so that you don’t have to deal with cybercrime and identity theft after you’ve already been pickpocketed (or before you even check in to your hotel). It’ll allow you to use public networks without any fear and access your Netflix account in lieu of more expensive entertainment. They are generally a good investment for any traveler and allow you to have another form of protection.

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Pickpockets often use different methods to snatch your wallet and often have different end goals in mind, but they are all a menace that you can protect yourself against. If you find yourself a victim, remember the above tips and you will make it through just fine. Do you have any stories to tell about pickpockets while you were travelling? Do you have any tips to add to those listed above? Please leave a reply below and join the conversation with your fellow travelers.

Guest Post by Jess, a self-confessed travel addict who has her own blog http://www.tripelio.com where she also writes about her adventures and experiences.

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My Favorite Finds in Pretty Porto, Portugal

porto

I was so excited to finally make it to Portugal and in particular Porto. Everyone I know that goes to Porto falls in love with it. I did too. I mean, what’s not to love?! The weather is great, the people are so friendly, the food is fantastic and the city is so very charming. It doesn’t hurt that it’s inexpensive to visit. All of this is enough to make you love Porto but I’m lucky enough to also have friends that live there. This almost ALWAYS makes a visit to a new city more fun. It most certainly did for me and Porto. I cannot wait to go back again and see and do more but most of all to see my wonderful friends there. Here are some of my favorite things about Porto, Portugal.

taylor's port

P – is for Port. DUH. This is a “must do” when visiting Porto. The wine caves are all different from each other and have lots of fun tasting options and tours. My favorite was Taylor’s. They pair their ports with either orange flavored or salted chocolates. I’m not even that big of a fan of sweets but OMG that was one fabulous way to taste the difference in the ports and get the most out of them.

sunset at ela's bar

O – is for Ocean. Porto is on the Atlantic Ocean and I particularly enjoyed this as I live on the other side of the Atlantic. Plus, I love the beach. So do the Portuguese. It didn’t matter what day of the week or time of day, people were taking full advantage of the warm sunshine and I just loved that attitude. Also, you can find amazing beach bars for great drinks and some of the best & freshest seafood. I can highly recommend Ela’s Bar. It was good, we went there twice and BONUS it’s the perfect sunset viewing spot.

tapabento

R – is for Restaurants. I had so many great meals in Porto but one of my favorites was Tapabento. In a quaint cafe sort of setting, Tapabento’s food was so yummy and very reasonable. 8 of us ate for just over $100 USD total and that included lots of bottles of awesome Portuguese wine.

taste porto food tour

T – is for Taste Porto Food Tours. I’m obsessed lately with food tours while traveling. Let’s just say you get to try some of the best the city has to offer and get a bit of sightseeing and historical tidbits in to boot. Taste Porto Food Tours was so good, we repeated almost all of it again on our own 2 days later. Notable stops were the Balhao Wine House for their outstanding olive oil and sardines and Leitaria Da Qta Do Paco for their famous eclairs.

porto tiles

U – is for Unique Tiles. I knew that Porto had loads of tiled buildings but I had no idea how diverse and beautiful they would be. Definitely something that makes this city so pretty and unique. You cannot help but fall in love with them.

porto cruz

G – is for one of the best Gin and Tonics I’ve ever had was at Porto Cruz. The tunes and view were also pretty fantastic. A not to miss spot if you ask me!

portuguese wine

A – is for All The Wine you can drink for ridiculously cheap! I knew Portugal was famous for port but didn’t know they had such delicious wine. We certainly did not hold back on partaking. One of my favorites was only 6€. I didn’t make it to Douro Valley where you can go wine tasting but will definitely do it the next visit to Porto.

swing station dancing

L – is for Late Night Fun. I had no idea how lively Porto would be. It is truly a city that is alive. One of my favorite activities was going to the train station for drinks and swing dancing. That’s right, swing dancing. The Portuguese in Porto like to shake their groove thing and it was one of the more fun things I’ve ever witnessed. I even pretended to know a bit and danced too.

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“Time to Take a Map” Necklace from comuse

It’s no secret that I LOVE TO TRAVEL. So, when the founders of comuse contacted me to review their world map necklace, I did not hesitate. Comuse is an online store that sells travel inspired items meant to spark and reflect your sense of adventure. I’d definitely say this store does exactly that.

time to take a map necklace

“Time to Take a Map” necklace is a zinc alloy gold-toned world map. The 4 x 1.75 inch pendant is on a 17 inch adjustable chain and is quite the statement piece. EVERY TIME I wear this necklace I receive so many compliments. I’ve worn it casually and dressed up – it really goes with anything.

With the holiday season around the corner, do you have a wanderlust traveler in your life that would like this amazing necklace or would you just like one for yourself? You can go to comuse and include this unique promo code LolasTravels for 15% off all orders until December 31, 2015.

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OR you can enter to win one right here. Lola has an extra to give away. For your chance to win, leave a comment on this post and tell me where in the world you would like to wear your world map necklace. I just wore mine to Machu Picchu!! This step is required.

Also, follow the steps listed in the widget below for your comment to count, and for additional entries.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest starts Monday, October 26 at 12am EST and ends Monday, November 2 at 12am EST.

Comuse  is an online venture run by husband and wife team, Neel and Dawn Bulchandani. Ideas sprout from dream-seeds. Such is the case with the birth of comuse. Neel and Dawn adore travel. They also relish opportunities to inspire travel in others. That, braided with their desire to work together more, brought about comuse. Now, they get to champion the dreams of others in tangible ways via advocating travel, adventure, discovery, wonder, whimsy, and the eminently hopeful reality that every person can be a positive change agent for their environment and the world.

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