Category Archives: india

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.

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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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Filed under cambodia, india, jamaica, travel

Catrinka – Every Bag has a Story

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I’m very excited to tell you about this amazing company I’ve discovered Catrinka that makes ethical fashion accessories from around the world. BUT there is so much more to these bags and accessories than that… Every bag really has a story because these bags are employing women in countries that meet Catrinka’s ethical criteria.

Catrinka is about leveraging the power of women and girls to invest in each other and the future. Catrinka pieces are made by women, who invest twice as much of their income in their families as men. And with each bag sold, Catrinka provides a week or more of education and mentoring in crucial life skills for adolescent girls on the margin, so that they have the tools to take charge of their own future. Girls who have the ability to postpone marriage and childbirth beyond the age of 12 or 14 can make a better life for themselves, and then invest in the next generation.

Now, this all sounds well and good but even better is that these bags are just wonderful. I’m in LOVE with their new Indian Summer Collection. India is a colorful country I recently visited and this collection reflects that wide range of brilliant colors. India is also a place of extreme poverty and opportunities for women are far less than men. Here are the stories behind the Indian Summer Collection.

The Kanta Weekender

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The Kanta Weekender is a hand drawn Indian street scene embellished with hand embroidery and mirrors by a mother-daughter team in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. The bag is named for Kanta, the 33 year old daughter on the team. Bhagwati, Kanta’s 52 year old mother learned the embroidery craft from her mother and taught Kanta when she was 10. Kanta and Bhagwati were both born and raised in Jodhpur, known as the blue city for its tradition of washing homes in light blue. This dreamy bag fits this imagery perfectly, don’t you agree?

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The embroidery work used for the snowflake pattern comes from Chikankari, originating out of Lucknow, and is called the Ulta Bakhiya stitch. The mirror work is traditional to Jodhpur. Each panel takes 2 days to complete. Locally, Kanta and Bhagwati are known for their hand embroidery talents, and Catrinka is excited to bring their work to the world. Each bag made provided 3 days of fair work to women in India. The sale of each bag will provide a week of life skills mentoring for adolescent indigenous Mayan girls through Catrinka’s NGO partner, Redmi.

Lalita Beach Bag

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The Lalita Beach Bag is a Lola Approved item since it is SO PINK! And, PLEASE, don’t the “beach” fool you. This bag has become my full-time summer bag. The inside is lined with contrasting fabric and 3 pockets perfect for holding everything from your iPhone to your favorite lip glosses. lola_blackpinkThe bag was stitched and assembled from market fabric in a small woman-owned workshop in New Delhi by a number of women including Lalita. The workshop was established in 1996 with the motive of reviving the dying arts of India, and providing regular work to home workers – women in India who traditionally work irregularly from their home to earn income while also retaining responsibility for their work at home. The workshop’s directors also run and fund a girls school that offers free tuition and midday meals. Each bag provided 1 day of fair work to women in India. The sale of each bag will provide a day of life skills mentoring for adolescent indigenous Mayan girls through Catrinka’s NGO partner.

Anita Bucket Bag

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I just adore the Anita Bucket Bag. It reminds me of a dear friend, also named Anita, who just loved colorful things and would have worn this bag with true style. The bag was stitched and assembled from market fabric in a small woman-owned workshop in New Delhi by a number of women including Anita. The workshop was established twenty years ago to preserve the dying arts of India, and providing regular work to home workers. The workshop’s directors also run and fund a girls school that offers free tuition and midday meals. Each bag provided 1 day of fair work to women in India. The sale of each bag will provide a day of life skills mentoring for adolescent indigenous Mayan girls through Catrinka’s NGO partner.

Educating a girl is the single most effective way to reduce poverty around the world, and can literally change the world. We invest in girls because when girls have full access to their rights and are empowered and supported, they transform structures of poverty and inequity. That not only positively impacts their own lives, but entire communities, countries, and the world.
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More on Catrinka’s NGO Efforts

Since early 2014, they have been working on a pilot project with a Population Council program called Abriendo Oportunidades (AO) and one of their NGO’s, Redmi in Guatemala. AO is a community-based initiative (it was founded by the first female Guatemalan doctor) to provide education and life skills mentoring to indigenous Mayan girls aged 8-19. In Guatemala, 14% of girls start secondary school, 3% graduate, and only 1 in 10,000 goes to university. There is enormous work to be done to make it possible for these girls to access the life skills and basic education they need to survive, and the further training and education they need to thrive. AO has found that many girls who enter the program between the ages of 8-12 face enormous pressure not to continue past age 15, because they need to generate an income. The pilot project with AO is to develop a mentoring program for these girls (aged 15-19), which will give them an excuse to spend time in their safe spaces; while they are there to be educated on reproductive health and other crucial information by the mentors in our program; to develop their social network with their peers; and to practice and deepen their financial literacy skills.

HOW LOVELY that you can do all of this just with the purchase of a beautiful bag!

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Filed under fashion, india, travel

15 Fabulous Airplane Shots

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I’ve loved to travel for most of my life and in the past few years I’ve made a bit of a job out of it. While it’s not always terribly lucrative, it has been fun. I DO really LOVE to TRAVEL. I like virtually everything about it. BUT I didn’t always love to fly. Now I’ve truly grown to love it. AND, to me, one of the best things are some of the amazing shots I’ve gotten from the window seat of an airplane. I hope you enjoy the view!

aerial miami beach

Flying over Miami Beach. One of my favorite views.

aerial thailand

Up in the friendly Thai skies. Aren’t the clouds so gorgeous?

aerial atlantic sunset

Catching sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. What a sky!

aerial london

Descending over Londontown. Ello River Thames.

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Leaving beautiful Bali. What stunning blue water!

aerial china

Sunset somewhere between Mongolia and China.

aerial iceland

The stunning south coast of Iceland.

aerial greenland

Brrr! Greenland below.

aerial jamaica

Coming in for a landing. Welcome to Jamaica, mon.

aerial india

Sunrise goodbye to India.

aerial boston

My pretty hometown of Boston!

aerial english channel

Last bit of land before the English Channel en route to Paris.

aerial harbor island

Pink sand beaches of Harbor Island, Bahamas. Wow!

midnight sun iceland

Seeing the Midnight Sun in Iceland!

aerial new orleans

Saying goodbye to the mighty Mississippi River in New Orleans.

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Filed under airlines, bahamas, bali, boston, iceland, india, jamaica, london, miami, mongolia, new orleans, travel

Visiting Bangalore India

A Culturally Rich Experience that is Dirt Cheap

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At the beginning of the year I visited my sister in Bangalore India. Bangalore is pretty modern for an Indian city and is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Known as the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore is the country’s IT/start-up hub. I felt it was the perfect intro into India as I saw all sides of things. I absolutely loved it. India is the most colorful chaotic place I’ve ever visited and that was just Bangalore.

Transportation

India Rickshaw

Rickshaw rides in India are a must. You DO have to negotiate prices so beware but it’s still a very affordable way to get around albeit not the fastest or cleanest.

But guess who is in Bangalore too…Uber!! Can you believe it?! It cost me $1 for a 10 minute ride and $3 for a 30 minute ride. I kid you not! I have the credit card statement to back this up. Not only was it cheap, it made going from point A to point B so much easier because of their GPS App. Let’s just say, getting around in Bangalore isn’t totally straightforward.

Beauty and Fashion

India Henna

Other things I enjoyed on the cheap in India were a manicure for $4 and having henna on my hands and forearms for $10.

India Sari

Another cheap indulgence in Bangalore is getting a sari made. I had one made and so can you for approximately $50-75. Next visit I’m bringing other clothes to copy and have made – it’s so inexpensive!

sandals

My favorite shoes are sandals and this is one thing I definitely bought plenty of on Commercial Street for anywhere between $4-8.

Food and Booze

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One of my very favorite types of dark rum just so happens to be Indian. As I stood in a liquor store baffled at which liquor I should choose, my sister’s friend asked “do you like rum”? Naturally, I said yes and he proceeded to lead me to the altar of Old Monk! I was in literal heaven gasping out loud. A bottle was $4. I’ve never been happier with a booze purchase.

Church Street Social India

Dining out is also super inexpensive in comparison to loads of other cities. Bangalore has plenty of posh spots like Church Street Social. A no-holds-barred brunch there for my sister and me cost a grand total of $12. It is my favorite breakfast on record…who couldn’t love bacon stuffed pancakes with eggs on top?! One evening we also hit up the trendy and fun Humming Tree where dinner & drinks for my sister and me was a whopping $25. Oh and there was live music!

Philanthropy

Orphanage supplies India

It’s a bit of a passion of mine to try to do some good while traveling. Even in small ways. GlobeDrop helped me out in my visit to India. I discovered GlobeDrop through Twitter and quickly became obsessed. They vet out organizations that can use supplies in locations all over the world. They make it very easy, putting you in touch with these organizations and you can decide from there what you’d like to donate. I chose the Ashanilaya Orphanage in Bangalore. The orphanage shared a link to all the things they could use for their children and suggested buying it in country to give back to the economy. Truth be known, I didn’t have room to tote all of the intended items around pre-orphanage visit, so this idea suited me. In addition, ALL of the things I donated cost me less than $100 USD and there is NO WAY it would have cost so little in the United States. Doing good felt great!

Girls of Ashanilaya Orphanage India

Culture

So now that I’ve proven how cheap Bangalore India can be, let me express how culturally enriching this trip was. As you can imagine, hiring rickshaws and getting services like manicures, henna and having a sari made means you have to mix it up with the locals. One lucky thing is that many Indians speak English but nonetheless it still isn’t your every day interaction and I loved it very much. Indian people want you to be happy with their services by in large and they have such a pleasing way about them. You also get a glimpse into how these small business owners dress and eat. How they are curious about you too. I found India extremely open, friendly and accepting of tourists. I cannot wait to return and learn more about this country and their culture.

A Bit about GlobeDrop

GlobeDrop aims to be a global trendsetter when it comes to responsible travel, volunteering and global giving. We created this web app to make it easier for those who like adventure travel and giving back to places they visit.

Instead of money, adventure travelers give back contributions are made through in-kind donation. This is to directly provide for the tangible necessities of the organizations and to boost the community economy by buying the items from local merchants.

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Filed under bangalore, india, travel