30 December 2009

15% down. 85% to go. 53 days.

The Global Citizen Project is 15% funded with $3,081 in pledges as of tonight. Big thank you's to the latest backers, Alison Stein Wellner, Margarite Alvarez and Amanda Castleman for your support.

I've been wracking my brain to compile some kind of heartfelt year-end recap (because isn't that what all writers do?), but have been too overwhelmed and distracted by non-stop, keep-me-up-at-night creative forces to put it into a neat and tidy little blog post. Maybe if I give myself some distance from 2009, I'll be better able to make sense of it all and express it in a thoughful, unhurried fashion. One thing is certain: I am extremely grateful for a lot of people, places and things in my life/world. I'm also completely inspired by everyone who's shown support for The Global Citizen Project. I wouldn't be able to do this without you, and I appreciate every single suggestion, creative idea, and pledge you've shared with me. Hopefully, I can pull this project off and I'll be able to share the rewards of the volunteer experiences with you.

Here's wishing you a wonderful 2010 filled with lots of love, happiness and wanderlust. xo

tasty 2009 memories (plus a cocktail recipe)

We heart the Big Easy. Big time. Rock ‘n’ Bowl at Mid City Lanes, music at Donna’s Bar and Grill and famous drinking establishments with storied pasts make us swoon, but it’s the unforgettable meals we’ve had that makes New Orleans one of our all-time favorite dining destinations.

Earlier this year, we had the pleasure of dining at the Bar Chef Table at Café Adelaide & The Swizzle Stick Bar in Loews New Orleans Hotel with the grande dames of the Big Easy – cousins and co-authors, Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan.

To say it was a mere meal would be a huge understatement – it was a multi-hour, paired cocktail and culinary adventure woven with colorful stories and true Southern hospitality. Reigning over our escapades was Bar Chef Lu Brow and Executive Chef Chris Lusk, a creative tag team of taste that will make your mouth very, very happy.

Recently. Ms. Brow has been left to her own creative devices and just debuted a brand new wave of cocktails. According to the PR peeps:

“Each drink has some New Orleans whimsy or was created for a special New Orleans occasion – all have Lu’s love of her city and her profession crackling in the glass.”

And here are some of Brow’s latest cleverly-named concoctions:

Whoopsie Daisy, Oh What A Night!, Brandy, You’re A Fine Girl, Wild Magnolia (named for the famous Mardi Gras Indian tribe and made with Brow’s own housemade bitters), Sloe Gin Bliz (an homage to Brow’s favorite summer snoball stand) and Bewitched (has ingredients that hail from a local voodoo shop). The drinks start at $9 at Cafe Adelaide and the Swizzle Stick Bar.

Lusk complements Brow’s menu with creative Louisiana-inspired Bar Bites divided into “Tastes,” “Nibbles,” and “Big Bites.” Our faves: Blue Crab Cake Pound Cake with Port Salut “Icing” & Truffled Crab Claws, Shrimp & Tasso “Corndogs” with Five Pepper Jelly, Pickled Okra, Chicory Greens and Crystal Hot Sauce and Beef Bourguignon Debris “Smashed” Po-Boy and Potato Crusted Onion Rings and Roasted Mushroom Aioli.

We know by now you can’t wait to taste Brow’s liquid handiwork, so here you have it:

Red-Headed Stepchild

Lots of redheads in the family– Adelaide was a redhead, and so are Dottie and Ti; and – coincidentally enough – so is Lu. The cayenne rim makes this drink a redhead, too.

Makes 1 cocktail

1 teaspoon super fine sugar
1 teaspoon finely ground cayenne pepper
1 lemon wedge
2 ounces peach brandy
1 ounce Calvados
1 ounce orange juice

Combine the sugar and cayenne on a saucer and mix well. Wet half the rim of a chilled martini glass with the lemon wedge and dip into the sugar-cayenne mixture. Set aside.

Combine the brandy, Calvados and orange juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into the prepared glass and serve immediately. Makes one cocktail.

29 December 2009

aww, shucks. the global citizen project is a "top blog/organisation" on On UR Way Travel

Wow. (Blush.) The Global Citizen Project is mentioned as one of Sasha Peakall, Founder of On UR Way Travel's "Top Blogs and Organisations" in her Travel for Change post. I'm in mighty fine company with Volunteer Global, World Youth International, Inspired Adventures, and i-to-i Life Changing Travel. If you want to learn how to contribute when you travel, this article is a good reminder of that it isn't all that difficult to be part of positive change.

I'm also pleased as punch that Sasha will be featuring The Global Citizen Project in the debut issue of On UR Way Emag coming out in January 2010. Of course, I will be sure to post that link the second it's live. Thanks again Sasha and On UR Way Travel for your support of The Global Citizen Project. It really means a lot to me. xo

making commitments

I'm in end-of-the-year mode, trying to wrap up several projects, check off items still lingering on the "To Do" list and gear up for the final 54 days of fundraising for The Global Citizen Project. Planning this project has been a work in progress, evolving as I go along with your help, suggestions and insights. Thank you.

Since I'm guessing some people may not be keen to the idea of pledging to community volunteer projects to-be-determined, I'm trying to confirm and commit to which programs I most want to work with if The Global Citizen Project meets its $20K goal by February 22, 2010. I just broke the $3K mark, but still have a long way to go -- $16,944 to be exact. As of this moment, I've committed to three of the 12 volunteer projects and I'm currently in communcation with six others. Fingers crossed I can get details squared away with those organizations right after the new year. That leaves three projects left to nail down and I have a general idea of what and where I'd do and go for those blank spaces on my service dance card.

So far, here's what I have in mind for my 12 volunteer projects:

Project/program: Karikuy
Destination: Lima, Peru
Cause: blogging/social media for Perupedia

Project/program: Building a Future
Destination: Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Cause: educational and social development of underprivileged children

Project/program: GeoVisions
Destination: Costa Rica
Cause: teach English/tutor 9-14 year old children in underprivileged school/community

Project/program: Reef Care Curaçao
Destination: Curaçao, Netherland Antilles
Cause: marine conservation
(waiting to confirm)

Project/program: Refugio Infantil Santa Esperanza
Destination: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Cause: abandoned/abused children
(waiting to confirm)

Project/program: Cocoon House
Destination: Everett, Washington
Cause: guest chef/preparing meals for homeless youth
(waiting to confirm)

Project/program: Volunteer Las Tolas
Destination: Las Tolas, Ecuador
Cause: environmental conservation
(waiting to confirm)

Project/program: Sleeping Children Around the World
Destination: TBD
Cause: provide bed kits to needy children
(waiting to confirm)

Project/program: UNICEF
Destination: TBD
Cause: children’s health/outreach
(waiting to confirm)

Three projects TBD: Looking for one in Europe, one that is parks/public lands related, and one more that I'm hoping I'll learn of via word-of-mouth. If you have any ideas for volunteer projects that may fit the criteria bill (or not), I'm all ears. Please feel free to email me or comment.

guest blog post: OneTravel

The Global Citizen Project is featured today as the guest blog post today on OneTravel.com, which specializes in cheap flights. Read it here. Thank you, Aldo Singer for the opportunity!

how can you help?

A lot of people have asked me how they can help make The Global Citizen Project happen. Since time is of the essence – I must meet my funding goal of $20K by February 22, 2010 – right now, I’m primarily looking for two things:

Donations to offer as “Rewards.” “Backers” who pledge funds to my project are offered predetermined “Rewards” based on how much money they pledge. For example, if someone donates $100, I can offer a set number of a specific item as an incentive. Rewards would not have to be supplied until if/when I meet my funding goal of $20K in late February 2010. Also, they can be something small (like X amount of $10 gift cards or a singular bigger ticket item that would be offered for larger pledges).

Collaborations on volunteer projects. For example, I worked with Honduras the past few weeks on a promotion to determine my community project in Honduras. People were able to visit Visit Honduras’ Facebook Fan Page to suggest volunteer programs and opportunities. After one week, I whittled the projects down to five and the public voted on which program I will participate with if The Global Citizen Project is funded (Building a Future). The promotion drove a lot of traffic to Honduras’ Facebook Fan Page, as well as to my blog.

If you are interested in working with me in any capacity for The Global Citizen Project or donating an item as a backer “Reward” please let me know ASAP. I’m very committed to making this project happen and need all the help I can get, so if there is any way you are able to, my sincerest thanks in advance.

28 December 2009

new backer reward. let me woo you with food.

Inspired by Electranola/Earl Scioneux' gumbo success on Kickstarter (and since The Global Citizen Project's funding deadline falls in the dead of Seattle winter -- February 22, 2010 to be exact), I am offering to make my damn good chili in the comfort of my warm and cozy Fremont home for the first 40 people who donate $50 to The Global Citizen Project. Consider it a spicy soiree for a good cause.

Date: Sunday, March 21, 2010.
Time: 6-8 p.m.
Place: Fremont (a.k.a. "The Center of the Universe"), Seattle

P.S. I may even throw in some of my green onion, cilantro, and jalapeno cornbread.

where does the money go?

Why is The Global Citizen Project budgeted to cost $20,000 (or $1666 per month)? Good question. These funds will be used to cover the costs associated with my participation in 12 different volunteer projects in 12 different countries over a 12 month period of time, including:

• Air transportation (will use personal frequent flyer miles when possible)
• Ground transportation
• Room and meals (as necessary)
• Volunteer program fees (seeking low-cost/free opportunities whenever possible)
• Comprehensive travel insurance
• Comprehensive check-up with a travel doctor, plus required/recommended immunizations

This figure is about one third of my usual income (pre-recession), so it’s my intent to live as frugally as possible for the one year period. I plan to focus my energies solely on the 12 volunteer projects, instead of chasing down freelance assignments and filing unrelated deadlines from the road. Instead, I want to share my experiences via Twitter, Facebook and my blog, The Global Citizen Project (all non-paying forums).

Obviously, the volunteer projects expenses will vary, but I should have a better idea of firm monthly budgets once all 12 plane tickets are booked, program fees are paid and I account for room and meals costs. If excess funds are available, I will donate supplies as needed to each of the destinations. I typically take a suitcase of school supplies, peanut butter pouches and hats, socks and mittens when I travel to places in need, so this just means I can bring more : )

24 December 2009

merry merry/fa la la

Here's wishing everyone very happy holidays! Sending big thanks to everyone who has supported The Global Citizen Project. Without the help of my 27 dear backers, I wouldn't be 13% (or $2,226!) towards my $20K goal. I hope Santa is extra good to you all ; ) I have just 60 days left to reach my goal and look forward to making it happen in the new year. In the meantime, here's wishing you and yours very happy holidays!

(photo: snowy seattle, this time last year.)

23 December 2009

comforty corn pudding

Cooking preparations for Christmas Eve are at full-tilt frenzy in my kitchen. My main dish contribution has morphed into hors d'oeuvres, a side and whatever else may inspire me between now and when Ballard Market closes at 11 p.m. I've had a pork shoulder slow-cooking all day in beer, onions, garlic, brown sugar, crushed tomatoes and a spice blend worthy of a mad scientist. The sweet/spicy smell of the pig, coupled with melodic bubbling sounds has been intoxicating the past several hours. When I go whole hog in the kitchen (sorry, couldn't help myself), I tend to make Southern-inspired sides, like brussels sprouts with bacon and shallots, mashed sweet potatoes, garlicky steamed greens, or one my easy favorites, corn pudding. It's fancier than corn bread and its custardy consistency is deliciously decadent.

I've tried several recipes, but here's how I like to make it:

5 eggs
1/3 cup unsalted butter (melted)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk or half and half
4 Tbs cornstarch
2 16 oz. bags of frozen sweet corn (Use fresh when in season. The kernels from 4-5 ears of corn should be plenty.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grease a 2 quart casserole dish. (I like to use an oversized ramekin style dish.)
In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs and sugar. Whisk in cornstarch.
Defrost sweet corn (one minute in the microwave will soften it) and place in food processor with melted butter and milk. Chop until it reaches a chunky consistency(you still want some corn texture here).
Stir this corn mixture in with the egg/sugar mixture.
Pour into prepared dish.
Bake for one hour, or until surface is slightly browned around edges and center is firm to the touch.

Optional: add finely chopped green onions, red pepper, cilantro or jalapeno for added flavor.

Flickr photo courtesy of flydime

22 December 2009

back from blog paradise

Blog Paradise at CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa was a blast. If you were following along on Twitter, I'm pretty sure I (and the eight other bloggers) kept you more than in the loop. Expect a few recaps/posts and photos in the coming days (the hotel is very involved with local community efforts, which really impressed me). A quickie trip south of the border was exactly the 72-hour respite this Vitamin D deficient gal needed right before the holidays.

In other news, The Global Citizen Project broke the $2,500 mark last night with a pledge from Matt Villano. Matt is a dear writer friend of mine, sometimes collaborator and constant source of friendship, laughs and inspiration. Thank you, MJV! So far, $2,506 (or 13% of the $20K goal) has been pledged. I still need your help to meet my goal by February 22, 2010. If the goal isn't met, The Global Citizen Project will not happen, and well, I simply can't imagine 2010 without embarking on this volunteer tour de force. Please pledge whatever you can -- every single dollar helps. I'm also in need to donations for backer rewards and open to any creative collaborations, so if you like what I'm trying to accomplish with The Global Citizen Project, let's talk and find a way to work with each other. I'm in total team-player mode.

Coming up on the media front: I just completed interviews with Lisa Rogak, New York Times bestseller author of Barack Obama in His Own Words and fave online travel magazine, Matador Network. I don't have confirmed run dates quite yet, but promise to post links upon cyber publication. Thanks in advance to Lisa and Julie for helping to spread the word about The Global Citizen Project.

I hope everyone is finding time to breathe this week. I rang the week/Winter Solstice with a most relaxing Monday afternoon filled with hot cocoa and conversation, followed by cocktails and sweeping Seattle city views from the 28th floor of Renaissance Seattle Hotel. Pretty much anything is possible after that.

18 December 2009

the greatest twitter hotel service story yet

(Blush.) So it goes: the Tweetiest wheel gets the please? Apparently so at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore in Santa Barbara, California. When I stayed there for Alaska Media Road Show this past October, I tweeted in jest and some of the best customer service I've ever experienced came into play. I covered the incident for HotelChatter.com, but Hotels picked up on it and deemed it, "The Greatest Twitter Hotel Service Story Yet." Yet of all time? We can't be certain, but for us personally (and we hotel hop like nobody's business - for business), it was bar none the best out-of-the-blue customer service experience we've ever had. Ever.

15 December 2009

three new backer rewards

I've been so caught up in the logistics and promotion of determining where I'd volunteer in Honduras (it's official -- Building a Future in Tegucigalpa won with 49%of the votes), that I've slacked on securing (and posting) new backer rewards. Well, I have three new rewards to add to the mix and must they, they're mighty nice: one night stays at each of the three Seattle Kimpton Hotel properties: Hotel Monaco, Alexis Hotel and Hotel Vintage Park. Maybe you live in the Pacific Northwest and need an urban getaway? Hello, perfect excuse to de-stress and decompress in the New Year! Or maybe an overnight stay at a fancy schmancy hotel is just the incentive you need for an inaugural visit to Emerald City. If that's the case, we can talk and I can help plan an fun-filled itinerary for any first-timers that would make Julie the Cruise Director blush.

Here's what's up for grabs with a $250 pledge:

One night stay at Hotel Monaco
This luxury Kimpton boutique hotel is located in the vibrant heart of downtown near Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square and the Washington State Trade & Convention Center. You can read more about the hotel's perks here in a column I wrote a few months ago.

One night stay at Hotel Vintage Park
This charming Kimpton hotel in the heart of downtown Seattle celebrates Washington's Wine Country by dedicating each room to a local winery and vineyard. Recently named to Travel + Leisure's "Best 500 Hotels in the World" list, this luxury property is located in the heart of downtown Seattle in the city's retail and financial center, near the Washington State Convention and Trade Center and the 5th Avenue Theatre. I love the hotel's nightly get-to-know-Washington wine hour and have had numerous out-of-town guests book rooms here.

One night stay at Alexis Hotel
"A work of art" in itself, Kimpton's recently renovated Seattle luxury hotel is committed to the arts community. Recently named to Travel + Leisure's "Best 500 Hotels in the World" list, the Alexis Hotel displays original pieces throughout the richly decorated guestrooms and public spaces. The 121-room boutique hotel is just steps from the Pike Place Market, the Waterfront and Pioneer Square. One word: Library Bistro & Bookstore Bar and its regular scotch tastings. Okay, maybe that's multiple words, but we love the high geek factor of this hotel bar and its regular booze-fueled, educational events.

The fine print: The gift certificate will be valid for one year from date of issue and some blackout dates may apply. Remember, rewards are not delivered unless The Global Citizen Project is fully funded by February 22, 2010.

Photo courtesy of .Bala

it's official. building a future is the honduran community project winner!

The results are in and after a week of voting for which community volunteer project I'll work with in Honduras, 49% of you voted for Building a Future!

Big thank yous to everyone who took the time to peek at the five final contenders and vote, Visit Honduras for playing along on this interactive adventure, and new friends I've met during the voting process via the fantastic world of social media.

Fingers (and toes) crossed that The Global Citizen Project gets fully funded by February 22, 2010 so I can go to Tegucigalpa and make this volunteer project a reality. Right now, I'm at $2,281 (11%) and have 69 days to go. So, please, if you want to help send me to Tegucigalpa, consider making a small donation. Every little bit counts. Thank you and have a great Tuesday!

14 December 2009

xo and high fives

There are some virtual high fives that need to go out this fine Monday night. But first, The Global Citizen Project is 11% funded with 69 days to go. In dollars and cents, that means $2,256 has been pledged as of this post. I still have a long way to go to reach the $20K goal by February 22, 2010, but am confident I can make it happen with your help. So, please, if you like what I'm doing, help spread the word.

Now, back to the thanks...

Thank you, Sasha Peakall of On UR Way Travel for donating advertising space on her site to help drive donations to The Global Citizen Project. That was awfully sweet of you! I appreciate your support and look forward to the January launch of On UR Way E-Magazine.

Thank you Susan and Sean G. for your pledge. Susan is interconnected into my world on several fronts: she's my former roommate from back in the Philly days (our Art Museum area apartment was nothing short of spectacular), BFF to my ex-high school sweetheart, and oddly enough, her husband also went to my high school (even though Sue grew up on Long Island). Even more Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is that Sean's sister, Liz is also a writer (young adult novels) and lives within spitting distance in Seattle. She's also one of the funniest human beings you will ever cross paths with. Ever.

Thank you Sarah and Matt A. for your pledge. I met Sarah, publicist extraordinaire, while living in Monterey, CA. Shortly thereafter, she and her husband made a move to the Bay Area and she's been singing San Francisco's praises ever since. (She also got a really cool job working for Blast Outdoors, a firm that's all about the outdoor lifestyle.)

Also, thanks to Tammy and Julie for making the schlep across the Canadian/U.S. border to come spend some time in Seattle this past weekend. It always blows my mind how as little as 24-hours in the company of good friends can have the restorative powers of a full-blown vacation. (Plus, I really love entertaining for houseguests and showing off Emerald City.) Thank you, Julie, for sharing your South Africa travel stories/experiences and for brainstorming possible collaborative efforts.

you have until midnight (est) tonight to vote

I hate to nag, but since it's for a really good cause -- which community project I'll volunteer for in Honduras (if The Global Citizen Project is fully funded by February 22, 2010)-- please accept my apologies in advance.

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate everyone's input, suggestions and advice in helping to first identify a very long list of worthy volunteer programs in Honduras, but then to vote and and actually determine which project I'll serve. The clock's 'a tickin' and you have until midnight tonight (EST) to weigh in on where you think I should go. I posted some information and links on the five organizations a few days ago, but in case you need a refresher, click here. Please a moment and VOTE here.

Since we're on the topic of one of my favorite countries, I thought I'd share a very insightful written article written by Joanna Haugen of Matador Network that talks about the mixed-media messages surrounding the recent/current state of politics in Honduras, Should You Listen to the Travel Warnings about Honduras?

nine bloggers in paradise. follow me in mexico.

Even if I hadn’t been selected as one of “Nine Bloggers in Paradise” as part of Paradise by Marriott latest clever promotion, I’d still think it was a pretty brilliant concept. Right now, I’m so over ho hum press releases that any inkling of marketing creativity scores huge points with me.

Here’s how it works: Whisk nine bloggers who know how to work social media networks like a pro from their wintery hometowns to the sunny, warm environs of the Marriott’s nine properties in the Caribbean and Mexico and get them to spew all sorts of Vitamin D-fueled commentary for a 72-hour stint. Or as another writer friend of ours noted, Vitamin M – as in margaritas. Oh yes, tequila does warm our heart. Seriously though, I don’t care how I supplement the needs of my almost translucent Seattle winter skin, but will admit, it took all of 2.2 seconds to accept the invitation (it was 34˚F at actual time of inbox arrival).

In a period when publishing is so topsy-turvy and writer’s rates are in the crapper, it’s a creative way to get some instant online buzz in exchange for what is essentially a comped mini-vacation. Sure, it would be nice to get paid for my well-honed, professional insights (a suntan may look nice, but it doesn’t pay the bills), but right now, the thought of escaping holiday mayhem and sticking my toes in some sand is payment enough. So, thank you Marriott Resorts for thinking of me, your dear sun-deprived friend in Seattle.

If you’re thinking of booking travel to warm, sunny destinations this winter, you may want to pay attention to where the nine of us are headed this Wednesday through Saturday. It’s a top-notch group of writer pros who I'm certain will deliver the straight skinny on each of Paradise by Marriott’s properties.

Here’s a cheat sheet of the participating bloggers and where to find us:

Robin Locker of My Melange will tweet from Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort.
Julie Schwietert Collazo of Collazo Projects and Matador Network will tweet from
Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort in St. Thomas.
Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip will tweet from
J.W. Marriott Cancun Resort.
Lisa Overman of of Wanderlust and Lipstick will tweet from Aruba Renaissance Resort.
Aaron Hotfelder of Gadling will
tweet from Aruba Marriott Resort.
Chris Gray Faust of Chris Around The World will tweet from St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino.
Pam Mandel of Nerd’s Eye View will tweet
from CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort.
Barbara Weibel of Hole In The Donut will tweet
from Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino.
As for me, I'll be tweeting from CasaMagnaMarriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa.

If you’re a multi-tasker and want to follow everyone all at once, feel free to follow on Twitter here.

11 December 2009

next week: i'm a blogger in a paradise

TwI have some non-The Global Citizen Project related, but still very cool news. This past week, I was selected as one of “Nine Bloggers in Paradise,” thanks to the brilliant marketing minds behind Paradise by Marriott (@diamondpr). Paradise by Marriott has seven properties throughout the Caribbean and Mexico and effective Wednesday afternoon, I will swap my Smart Wool socks for warm, toasty sand and SPF (the high temperature today in Seattle was 38F˚) and blog from CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa. I haven’t received my itinerary quite yet, but have been told that my 3-night/4-day south of the border stay includes a tequila tasting guided by a sommelier-esque expert, early morning whale watching (‘tis the season), dinner at the chef’s table, a spa treatment at the hotel’s brand new 21,000 sq. ft. spa (I’m no size queen, but that is huge in spa speak) and oh yes, plenty of time to soak up some sorely missed Vitamin D. Big thanks to Marriott Resort for saving me, at least for a brief respite, from Seattle's wintery weather. Whew.

I promise I’ll continue to blog about every new development on The Global Citizen Project scene, but if you’re so inclined to play travel voyeur (or maybe just need some vicarious cyber sun), follow the adventures of all nine bloggers at #blogparadise on Twitter. Of course, you know where to find me on Twitter (@global_gourmet).

10 December 2009

thank you, sarah for the guest post on volunteering global

I'm very honored that Sarah Van Auken had me guest blog today on Volunteering Global. She started this website in 2005 as a way to educate prospective volunteers about international service trips. Van Auken researches every host organization she can find and gives readers the basic skinny every volunteer should know when considering a program, including the types of work, locations, trip length, accommodations, and more. Volunteering Global has grown to include networking opportunities for prospective, current, and former volunteers, as well as up-to-date information about global travel, current volunteer openings, and pressing issues. Thank you again, Sarah for including me and The Global Citizen Project on your site!

08 December 2009

the top five picks for my honduran community project are in. please vote.

Alright! Let the real fun begin. My top five picks for which community projects to volunteer with in Honduras as part of The Global Citizen Project are posted on the Visit Honduras Facebook Fan Page and it's up to you to vote which one I will participate in.

Since I know you probably don't have spare time play Nancy Drew and investigate what each of these organizations does, I've made it easy for you with a quick blurb about each one and link to its website (if you wish to learn more - I strongly encourage you to do so). Thank you again for all the project suggestions! I really appreciate your input and collaboration on this project. Each and everyone project suggested is a worthwhile endeavor and it was tricky to narrow it down to only five. I am confident that no matter which project you choose for me, that it will make a huge impact in the community it serves. So thank you, please vote, and if you feel inclined, pass the word along.

Here are the five Honduran community project contenders:

Building a Future
It is Building a Future's mission is to transform communities by promoting the educational and social development of underprivileged children in Honduras.

Honduras Outreach, Inc.
Honduras Outreach is a non-denomination, Christian organization dedicated to building life-changing relationships between the people of the Olancho department of Honduras and caring North Americans and other nationalities. The Honduran government had previously identified Olancho as an area with one of the highest concentrations of infant mortality, and poverty. The median rural family income is less than $400 and 68 of 1,000 children die before reaching age five.

Clinica Esperanza
Specializes in providing health care to the people of Sandy Bay and surrounding areas. They serve 1,000 patients per month; 60% are children. They rely on 150+ volunteers annually to help operate their 4,500 sq. ft. facility.

Hands to Honduras
The Hands to Honduras Tela Program is a partnership program bringing together North American and Honduran communities to provide educational, technical, cultural, and humanitarian assistance to the Atlántida coastal region.

Helping Honduras Kids
Helping Honduras Kids' mission is to improve the lives of orphaned, abandoned, abused and/or neglected children on the North Coast of Honduras.

07 December 2009

top five tuesday. vote for my honduras volunteer project tomorrow.

My apologies for being uncharacteristically quiet today. Monday’s are always tricky with deadlines and a late (but festive, fun and delicious) dinner soiree last evening didn’t help with the get-up-and-go efforts this morning.

It's been another great day for The Global Citizen Project (76 days to go!) and the positive feedback and generous pledges keep rolling in. Thank you so much to everyone who's pledged, passed the word along, or taken a few minutes to read my blog. I need all the collaborative love I can get to make this project happen and I appreciate every single contribution.

Here are some of the people who've helped today:

Gadling, one of my fave travel blogs, retweeted information about The Global Citizen Project today. I especially love getting online love from people, places and peers I resepct the heck out of. So, thanks!

I received a generous $100 pledge from Cathey, the writer gal and wanderluster behind the blog Mischief & Impermanent Bliss (thoughtful writing, music musings and beautiful travel pix). She has a Peruvian background, a penchant for Latin America, specifically Peru, and if she lived in the PacNW, I have a feeling we'd hang out and have all sorts of writerly fun. Just saying.

I was also contacted by Sasha Peakall, the founder of OnURWayTravel, a site geared towards encouraging young travelers to explore the world. She’s launching a new e-magazine in January 2010 and plans to feature an article on The Global Citizen Project. Thak you, Sasha! Looking forward to it. I am all about encouraging young minds to participate in the world wide classroom and embrace volunteer travel.

Lastly, do you know what tomorrow is? It's the day when my top five volunteer projects in Honduras are posted on the Visit Honduras Facebook Fan Page and you get to vote for which one I participate in. The winning project will be announced next week, so please take a second to learn about this worthwhile organizations and programs and tell me what you think. Once the projects are officially announced, I promise to Tweet information about each of the programs (so if you're not following me on Twitter, please do @global_gourmet). Thanks!

That wraps it up for this chilly Monday night. I'm going to make some tea, situate myself in front of the fireplace and write for the night. Here's hoping everybody's week is off to a good start!

06 December 2009

media kitty, karikuy and matador network (holy trinity of this weekend's good news)

Whew. A lot has happened in the past few days. The Global Citizen Project hasn’t seen much financial love since its last $1,000 pledge, but has been getting an abundance of feedback, suggestions and media interest. Thank you to everyone who has donated, visited my blog/Kickstarter site, or spread the word about the project. If this project happens, it's because of you.

Media Kitty, my go-to travel industry resource for connecting media with related business professionals, highlighted me in its Friday newsletter, as its “Member Shout Out.” It is a huge honor to be recognized amongst my travel media peers and I want to thank Morgan Sommerville for making it happen.

Late last week, I also got word from Julie Schwietert, managing editor of Matador Network, that a student in its travel writing school will be doing an article on The Global Citizen Project. I’m very much looking forward to the interview. Also, I wrote a blog post for Volunteering Travel, which should go live very soon. I’ll keep you posted of my (ahem)cyber media appearances and promise to post links when articles are live on the internet.

Lastly, I committed to volunteering for Karikuy, a tourism company geared towards humantitarian efforts in Lima, Peru for two-and-a-half weeks in July 2010. I’ll be part of a writing project to promote Peru and its culture (Perupedia). Airline tickets have been secured (thanks to an abundance of American Airlines’ frequent flyer miles). I have faith that The Global Citizen Project will get fully funded ($20K by February 22, 2010), but if for some reason it doesn’t, I’m 100% committed to this project on my own dime. (But it would be really nice if it did happen, so please donate whatever you are able.)

Sending big cyber hugs out into the universe...xo

04 December 2009

nailing details down

Since I'm all about details and organization (Julie the Cruise Director has nothing on me), here are the 12 areas of volunteer service that intrigue me most. Of course, if a community service opportunity comes up that is too good to pass up, I'll certainly consider it.

In the meantime, here are the 12 areas that have the most personal meaning to me:

Animal Rescue/Humane Shelter-related projects
Children/teen projects
Writing/Social Media/Marketing
Heath Education/Outreach
Outdoors/nature (i.e.; parks, forest, etc.)
Hunger-related projects
Reef/Ocean-related projects
Sustainable Agriculture/Farming
Women-related projects (especially if involves women with cancer)

Any thoughts? If you come up with a better idea, I'm all ears. Let's talk.

03 December 2009

the destinations

I sat down tonight and gave some serious thought to the 12 destinations I wanted to volunteer in for The Global Citizen Project. I successfully came up with nine and would love to hear where you think I should go for the other three. Obviously, I have a deep fondness for Central and South American countries, but ultimately the community volunteer projects will dictate the destinations. If something super fantastic presents itself elsewhere, and if it works within the budget, I will figure out a way to make it happen.

I'm committed to volunteering in these nine destinations:

Caribbean, Chile, Ecuador, Europe, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, USA, Canada, plus three destinations to be determined.

So, let's talk. Tell me where in the world you'd like me to lend a helping hand. I don't always like being told what to do, but I want you to.

what is kickstarter?

So, I realize most of you probably don't even know what Kickstarter is. I didn't know until a few weeks ago, either, but I'm not exactly the poster child for tech savviness. Before you part with your hard-earned money in the name of The Global Citizen Project, I encourage you to read more about this fantastic new resource to fund creative endeavors here.

I've done plenty of fundraising the old fashioned way (knocking on neighbors' doors, hitting up co-workers, and guilt-tripping the parents) but Kickstarter allows for far-reaching experience that can be as interactive as you want it to be. Plus, it's plain old fun to check the site every day to see what percentage I've reached toward my goal. There you have it. Check it out. It's very cool.

honduras community project suggestions (so far)

As you know, Visit Honduras is helping The Global Citizen Project figure out which Honduran community project to participate in in 2010. The way it works is between now and midnight on Monday, December 7th, fans of Honduras Institute of Tourism's Facebook Fan Page are chiming in on what programs and organizations they deem worthy. I'm going to do some research and whittle the list down to my top five contenders. Then, the fans will get to vote and choose which project I will serve. Everyone has a say in what I do, so please don't hold back -- I want to hear from you.

Right now, here are the organizations in Honduras that have been suggested so far. Click on any of these to link to their website. If you cross paths with a community project you like, please leave a comment on the Fan Page before Monday, and then check back to vote for the final project.

Thanks again for taking an interest in my project. I'm delighted that you made a quick cyber stop on my blog!

Here you go:

Building a Future
Clinica Esperanza
Club de Safio
Cristo Salva
Hands to Honduras
Honduras Outreach, Inc.
Robinell Mission Enterprises
SonLight Power, Inc.
The LAMB Institute

give thanks thursday

My apologies for taking so long to post all of this exciting news (believe me, I’ve been itching all day to tell you), but today was packed with the launch of my project with Honduras for the public to pick my community project, followed by several deadlines and an afternoon meeting. Now, I am all yours. I built a fire, pulled up a chair and I’m ready to chat.

Sit down for this bit of news – The Global Citizen Project has $2,030 in funds and is 10% funded. I have 80 days to go and the momentum is just starting. I have many people to thank for supporting this project – this is definitely not a solo project – but must thank the two latest backers, Jeanette and Meg.

Thank you to Meg for making a pledge to The Global Citizen Project. I met Meg while on a press trip in Maui with several outstanding ladies, plus Johnny Jet (globetrotter extraordinaire). Like myself, Meg’s an East Coaster transplanted in the Pacific Northwest. She writes about travel and shopping, is one helluva bridge player (her husband is pro) and has a wicked sense of humor.

I must also give thanks to Jeanette, my friend from Denver, CO for her very generous $1,000 pledge. I was speechless when I saw that in my inbox this morning post-shower and was so ecstatic, I didn’t even need a cup of coffee to start the day. I met Jeanette this past June while I was covering Barbecue University at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, CO. (If you love grill marks on your meat, this annual event is a must for you.) The event is hosted by Steven Raichlen, author of The Barbecue Bible, and it’s a really interactive, intimate cooking event where you learn how to cook more than 30 different dishes -- from prep until fire-grilled final product -- over the course of a weekend. Jeanette was there with her family and we got talking about Facebook and cookbooks/all things culinary and travel. We stayed in touch via the almighty social media networking site, Facebook (amen) and I quickly learned that like myself, Jeanette lives life to its fullest. I am always tickled to hear what new adventure she’s up to, whether it’s taking flight lessons (in a plane) or taking flight (trapeze lessons are in the works), or heck, eating donuts for dinner, this is a gal after my own heart – always on-the-go. So, for that, I’m sending a big cyber head towards the Rockies for Jeanette and endless amounts of thanks.

While I’m smiling ear-to-ear and saying thanks, I’d also like to thank Off Track Planet, The Ultimate Backpackers Travel Guide, for helping to spread the word on Twitter about The Global Citizen Project. Also, vtravelled.com, Virgin Atlantic’s new social travel site (which I write for), has been generous in their Twitter love.

Last but not least, I’d like to thank all the folks who are commenting on Visit Honduras’ Facebook Fan Page pick on which community projects I should volunteer for. I cannot tell you how much your input means to me and I look forward to spending some time exploring the websites of each of the recommended organizations.

I think that about covers it. Whew. Got anything on your mind or have any questions about The Global Citizen Project? Leave me a comment and I'll get back to you in a jiff.

sf chronicle article on honduras

Since it's timely with my current Honduran community project promotion on Visit Honduras' Facebook Fan Page, I thought I'd share an article I wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle after my 2007 visit.

Click here to read Copán Ruinas is a boon for eco-tourism and archaeology.

tell me where to volunteer in honduras

Alright, I won't keep you waiting any longer on the mystery volunteer project/destination for The Global Citizen Project. I know you couldn't sleep a wink last night in anticipation of where in the Latin American world I'd be volunteering.

Well, the wait is over - it's Honduras! And YOU get a say in which Honduran community project I serve.

Please go to the Visit Honduras Facebook Fan page to comment on what community volunteer project I should volunteer with by midnight on Monday, December 7th. Then, we'll decide the top five choices and YOU will vote to determine the winning community project. The result will be announced on Tuesday, December 15th.

Thanks in advance for your input and suggestions! Honduras 2010, here I come!

02 December 2009

big news tomorrow. here's a clue.

Drum roll, please and break out your pom poms if you got 'em. Tomorrow morning, I'll announce the details of a very cool collaborative effort I'm in cahoots with with one of my favorite Latin America countries (my first Latin Americam travel destination love, actually). The promotion will determine where I volunteer within this wonderful country and what project I'll particpate in.

I'm a fearless travel writer willing to take on pretty much any terrain, so if there's a specific cause that you feel needs some volunteer love, please let me know. I want The Global Citizen Project to be an interactive, community driven experience, and yes, I'm all ears for volunteer project and destination suggestions. I'm all about give and take, comments and feedback.

Hasta mañana, here's a visual clue about the country I'm talking about.

a toast to sarah doyle for putting me over $1K

Wow, wow, wow! I am beyond thrilled to have passed the $1K mark for The Global Citizen Project -- $1020 to be exact. I still have a long way to go to reach the $20K mark by February 22, 2010, but I'm completely committed and inspired to make it happen.

My world intersected with the latest backer, Sarah Doyle earlier this year on press trip to the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. We were there for the Maui Film Festival and our hotel was crawling with celebrities -- Eddie Murphy, Kristen Bell, Anna Faris, James Marsden, and Tori Spelling to name a few. The weekend was filled with non-stop film screenings, parties, and food-centric activities. Hello, Taste of Chocolate. Imagine the typical five star amenity-laden FS experience on steroids, plus a whole lotta star-spotting and incredible film and you've summed up what Maui Film Festival weekend is all about.

It just so happened this particular weekend was also Sarah's birthday. Since I am all about birthdays (ask my SO about the brightly colored signage and balloons I'd put all along Carmel Valley Rd. when we lived in California), we decided to celebrate and attend the screening of Cash Crop, since it had been getting a lot of media attention and buzz. Willie Nelson (appropriately enough) performed before the show, we brought a bottle of La Fée Absinthe, and well, let's just say, I had more fun than any new friend should be allowed ringing in a new year with Sarah.

Since then, we've commiserated our mutual loathing of United Airlines (her lost luggage story is the travel debaucle/how not to handle customer service story of 2009, IMO), crossed paths on a Google food group and have shared a lovely cyber comaraderie that I've often missed working as a freelancer. So, thank you Sarah for coming into my world this year, and thank you for putting my project over the $1K mark.

If you want to learn more about the world of food, wine, whiskey and travel, you can check out Sarah's blog, The Epicurean Scribe here.

01 December 2009

i'm $5 shy of $1K, oh my

Pledges were rockin' and rollin' right to my Kickstarter project today. The latest thanks, love, high fives and hugs go to Susan Kim LeComte (a dear, dear writer friend) and Thompson & Company Public Relations (the fabulous Anchorage firm that handles my latest travel weakness, Alaska, and specifically the Alaska Travel Industry Association. Thank you so much for being so darn sweet.

i heart my backers

I got this message today from one of my wonderful backers:

"You are so welcome. I'm jealous. I wish I had the courage to take on such an ambitious and inspiring journey. I hope it happens -- because I want to hear all about it."

Aww. (Wipe tear from eye.) I cannot tell everyone how much I appreciate their support for The Global Citizen Project. I am determined to make it happen and will make sure my dear backers, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, heck, anyone along for the ride gets informative, entertaining and hopefully, enlightening during-play reports from the volunteer field. Cross my heart and hope to die.

12 days of comfort, joy + cheer at hotel 1000 in seattle

Hello, Seattle! Thank you for bestowing us with blue skies, an abundance of Vitamin D and crystal clear views of snow-capped mountains from my deck. When the weather here is good, it's very, very good.

I will be soaking up all sorts of goodness at The Woodmark Hotel in Kirkland, WA this afternoon and evening, but if you're around Seattle, think about swinging by Hotel 1000. 12 Days of Comfort, Joy & Cheer kicks off tonight with a grand celebration that includes a Five Golden Rings Fashion Show featuring the boutiques on the 12 Days Passport, holiday cocktails and bites, and auction. Tickets for the event are $40 and can be purchased at Brown Paper Tickets. Read more about it here.

$5 away from $800. oh yeah.

What a way to start a Tuesday! I got two new backers for The Global Citizen Project - Gary from Anchorage, AK and Amanda. The total towards my $20K goal is now $795. Yay! Not bad considering I launched the project seven days ago I'm and just picking up steam in my outreach efforts. Please keep the pledge love coming!

In other news, Gregory Hubbs, the editor of TransitionsAbroad.com retweeted the details of The Global Citizen Project late last night. Thank you. I'm very flattered, since TransitionsAbroad.com is one the best resources for work and study abroad opportunities. It also fuels my fantasy to pack up and move to South America and live in an Airstream. (A girl can have simple dreams, right?)

Thanks again to everyone who's pledged The Global Citizen Project. I really appreciate it. And, P.S. even if you aren't able to pledge (I know times are tough and it's the holidays), if you like what I'm doing, please pass the word along. That would mean a lot to me. Thank you.

what is seattle sans elliott bay book co.?

The plot thickens for a legendary bookstore. The Elliott Bay Book Co., long a fixture in Seattle's Pioneer Square, may have to shut its doors. It's a long story with plenty of villains. Read about it in Los Angeles Times here.

30 November 2009


People doing good makes my heart go pitter-patter. (Shhh...listen closely. Do you hear it?) Anyway, there are all sorts of warm and fuzzy things crossing my inbox this ho-ho-holiday season, but here are the top three du jour that I feel are especially worthy. Take a sec and check ‘em out.

Passports with Purpose
Take four whip-smart travel bloggers, put ‘em behind a deserving cause in need of funding, and voilà! – you’ve got yourself helluva giant worldwide web raffle.
What is it: This year, the Passports with Purpose’s fundraising effort is supporting American Assistance for Cambodia (AAfC), an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving opportunites for the youth and rural poor in Cambodia.
How it works: Dozens of travel bloggers are hosting giveaways in support of this fundraising effort. For each $10 donation that you make to AAfC, you will be entered in the giveaway(s) of your choice. The drawing closes December 21, 2009 and winners are announced January 5, 2010.

The travel-savvy folks at Wandermelon are hosting a timely holiday gifty giveaway while showing some love for the Four Seasons Resorts’ partnership with Sleeping Children Around the World.
How it works: For every Four Seasons gift card sold between now and December 10, 2009, Four Seasons Resort will donate the cost of one bed kit to the charity. (This year, Sleeping Children Around the World delivered their one millionth bed kit.)
What you can win: Current and new Wandermelon subscribers can enter to win a $100 Four Seasons gift card between now and December 5, 2009. (As in this upcoming Saturday.) Log in here to subscribe.

Let’s Do Lunch! Photo Contest
This promotion is easy. And fun. Especially for the foodies, who like me, I’m sure document every little tasty morsel put in front of them.
How to enter: Document your meal with a quick pic and a few sentences dishing on the experience. Shoot over a pic of your lunch to Let's Do Lunch! from your iPhone or mobile device in one of four categories and 20% of the entry fees ($12 for one pic; $20 for up to four) will go to a local food bank determined by the grand prizewinner. Contest ends January 20, 2010.
What you can win: a Nikon D5000 Digital SLR Camera Kit with 18-55mm VR lens, an HP Pavillion dm3 series notebook, a ThinkTank Airport International camera bag and a bevy of other photogaphy-related paraphernalia.

sue pledged. have you?

Big thanks to the travel writers who have pledged support to The Global Citizen Project - the latest being fellow Washingtonian, Sue Frause. We met a few years ago at Travel Media Showcase in Palm Springs, CA, and despite living in the same state the past year-and-a-half, have been unable to coordinate travel schedules until our paths crossed last month at the Alaska Media Road Show in Santa Barbara, CA. Maybe California is our preferred place of pow wow?

Anyway, Facebook and Twitter tend to be our communication methods of choice, but you can keep up with Sue's adventures via her two blogs: Closet Canuck and Travel Vivant: Aisle or Window?

thank you

The Global Citizen Project is getting all sorts of Monday love.

First, @AFARmedia retweeted the link to the Kickstarter page (AFAR magazine is hands down my fave new publication in 2009). I'm beyond tickled; I'm smiling ear-to-ear. Sigh.

Next up, @manieldack bestowed his VC love and made $25 pledge putting me over the $700 mark. (If you've read about the project, you know I like round numbers.)

Please take a minute to read about The Global Citizen Project, and if you think I'm doing something good, consider making a small pledge (as little as $1) or spreading the word via your social media networks. It's a really easy way to give ('tis the season, right?), and you don't even have to leave your house (heck, your sofa), brave the mall or gift-wrap it to make me (and the 12 communities I hope to serve) happy.

monday's inbox

Monday mornings never come easy for me, especially when I've been up fact-checking a guidebook until 3 a.m. the previous night. Throw in daily noon deadlines and I pretty much roll out of bed, head straight to the French press, turn on my laptop and hit the ground running. I usually fire up Tweetdeck, open Skype and plow through dozens of emails -- mostly from publicists pitching me story ideas. There's usually some confusion on how to spell my name (I get a lot of Cheryl, Karen, and Sharon), or they think I still live in San Francisco (haven't since 2003) and for some reason, think mother/daughter plastic surgery getaways qualify as a "travel story." Umm...that's so Real Housewives of Orange County and so not my beat. I usually just hit "delete" and move onto the next message. No big deal.

This morning, though, the inbox revealed a real gem. A Public Relations Coordinator in the British Columbia sent me a fully written article on her client in Costa Rica "free of charge, along with some excellent artwork to complement the story." Wow. Why have I bothered to travel the world, experience destinations first-hand and then report fairly when I can have access to spoon-fed material from the hired PR mouthpiece? Oh wait, that's because I'm a journalist. I was slightly less offended when I saw that the PR Coordinator not only managed to mispell her own name in the "From" line in the emaill address, but also the client's name in the email signature. Unbelievable.

I called out the agency's erroneous ways on the cyber super/social highway (a.k.a. Facebook and Twitter) and thankfully, my email response to "Sylivia" was far kinder than that of many of my colleagues who received the same slap to their journalistic integrity. Some journos may want to take the easy route. I'm not that gal. I seek a path of authenticity and I'm willing to work as hard as neccesary to find it.

29 November 2009

kickstarter up

Whew. Those IT folks at Kickstarter sure are speedy. After a short, off-line hiatus, the site is back in action and ready to accept your pledges for The Global Citizen Project. So, please, help put me over the $750 mark tonight. My $20K goal is ambitious, but I'm go getter kinda gal and your show of monetary love will help send me to 12 countries over 12 months to volunteer with 12 different programs. As always, big thanks in advance for your time and consideration.

kickstarter down

Wah. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost in OT to the Baltimore Ravens and Kickstarter's site is down for "unexpected downtime." At least my chili and corn muffins turned out to be the perfect sofa tailgate fare. If you're interested in donating to The Global Citizen Blog (that's why you're here, right? I kid.), please check back tomorrow. Hopefully, the tech fairy will pay the site a visit tonight and all be right once again in the world of fundraising by the morning. Fingers crossed.

28 November 2009

the river real

When I embarked on a river voyage down the Amazon in August, nothing could have prepared me for the otherwordly beauty of Peru, the Amazon and its people. It was a fairy-tale trip of cultural immersion come true.

Two dozen of us spent eight days in a blissful state of unplugged idyll on International Expedition’s Amazon Voyage – meandering several hundred miles along the Amazon River, from Iquitos to the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve and back, on the small, yet amenity-equipped riverboat La Amatista (“The Amethyst).

We walked through rainforests, watched sunrises from our boat, listened to the most beautiful symphony of howler monkeys, horned screamers, flocks of parakeets and fluttering bats and butterflies, and had an acute awareness of every inch of skin that was exposed to the sultry humidity of the jungle.

It was the people, though, who most stirred my soul. Here are four of their stories.

He had a quiet, confident presence, but Robinson’s wild intelligence, understanding of his surroundings — he was born in the rainforest, after all — and his encyclopedic knowledge and passion for all living creatures was what was infectious.

With exaggerated trills of the “r” (that I couldn’t quite master), our tour guide deciphered the differences between the Amazon kingfisher and its Ringed species counterpart — we stopped counting different bird species at 102 varieties. He pointed out breadfruit and jackfruit trees and unfolded the medicinal benefits of the fer de lance tree in treating snake bites.

But what impacted me most was this point he made: “Activism about animal rights is a luxury of education.” When our skiff happened upon a young woman who’d killed two caimans, he delicately explained to her the benefits of at least allowing the amphibious beasts to mature long enough to reproduce. Robinson respected the environment, yet he understood the Ribereños’ (or river people) necessity to survive.

The river people — small communities of hunters, fishermen and gatherers — are simple, yet they’re hardly poor. It’s a different reality than what we’re accustomed to. Yet their standards of living are no better or worse than ours, and the Ribereños’ simple contentment is enviable. Robinson hopes increased tourism to the rainforest will bring more eco-conscious eyes to the Amazon, and ideally enabling hunters to become artisans and slowing the draining of the Amazon’s natural resources.

The children eyed us as we stood before a classroom in a village named “August 11th.” Nearly 20 students ranging from two to 12 years old sat attentively at their desks lined in four neat rows.

It didn’t take much prodding for George, our able tour guide and natural born entertainer, to have the kids singing, “How are you my friend, how are you?” As we gringos stumbled through simple “muy bien” responses, I recommitted myself to learning to speak Spanish. No excuses, this time.

Like Robinson, George was born in the rainforest and had been inspired to become a tour guide by a similar school visit when he was a child. His enthusiasm for inspiring the young Ribereños resonated in the intuitive connection he had with the children. Under his tutelage, we recited and learned one another’s names. The students recited their national anthem (not an easy task, as it has seven stanzas); we got off easy singing “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”

Friendship came easy with Ernesto, as well as the other Peruvian tour guides on the boat — Rudy, Fernando, Hernando, Robinson, George and Laura.

Ernesto, the Peruvian poster boy for following your dreams and finding happiness,
grew up in Ocongate, a village 2.5 hours east of Cusco. The second-youngest of six children, he knew by the age of six that he wanted to be a tour guide and a farmer.

His curious British accent (he learned English by listening to British music) belied his copper-brown skin and dark, wavy hair and I couldn’t help but feel a sweet affection for the kind-hearted, kid-at-heart as we exchanged stories and ideas and pored over maps of South America during the course of the trip.

After carefully climbing the steep, uneven steps to a rustic coastal village, we came face-to-face with an ear-to-ear smile and sparkling deep brown eyes. Bany, an 11-year-old girl, held out a section of watermelon that I happily accepted.

Immediately enthralled by the curiosities that we were, Bany stayed close and an entourage of her young female friends soon followed suit. She placed chicken feathers in my hair and I pulled her raven locks back with my blue silk scarf. She giggled as my face was painted with fiery streaks of achiote (a pigment made from seeds). When it came time to say goodbye, Bany grabbed my hand and indicated to Ernesto that she wanted to show us something.

Halfway up the hill, she announced that she wanted to watch us kiss. Taken aback, I reacted rather clumsily. Without skipping a beat, though, Ernesto snatched the opportunity to have an impromptu talk with the inquisitive young girl about intimacy.

Bany’s eyes widened as Ernesto explained that she’d have more opportunities in the world if she waited just two years longer than the other girls to have a baby. When he conveyed the conversation to me in English, I was moved almost to tears by his thoughtful gesture.

The Company: The 10-day Amazon Voyage is run by International Expeditions, which also organizes nature travel tours. Prices for this trip start at $3048, not including round-trip airfare to Lima. Occasionally, IE offers a $500 per person discount.

Travel: My itinerary started in Seattle, with a layover in Houston before arriving in Lima, Peru. The group of less than two dozen guests convened at Swissôtel Lima for an overnight stay before a flying to Iquitos and boarding La Amatista the following day. A valid passport is required for travel to Peru, but no visas are required. There is a departure tax from Peru, which is currently $30.25 USD.

What You’ll See: Expect to see more than 100 bird species, as well as three-toed sloths, pink and gray river dolphins, squirrel monkeys, woolly monkeys and a large variety of tree and plant species. Don’t expect to see a jaguar. Hernando said that in the 70-plus trips he’s led on the Amazon, he has only seen one – and only for about seven seconds.

What You’ll Do: The trip balanced boat and land excursions. At least one or two big adventures were planned each day, including village and classroom visits; hiking in the rainforest in the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve; fishing for (and later eating) piranha; swimming in the Amazon; canoeing; searching for bats after dark; shopping for local artisan products; drinking Pisco Sours as the guides and crew played musical instruments; learning about the medicinal benefits of plants from a local medicine man; and educational seminars on everything from the local politics and people to in-depth information on the Amazon and its history.

a ten spot closer to goal

I'm not going to dwell on the fact that I need $19,315 more in pledges to make The Global Citizen Project happen. No, no. I'm a P.M.A. kinda gal (positive mental attitide). Thankfully, I do have 85 days until deadline and I'm going to kick into overdrive after the holiday weekend, so watch out. Girl on a mission. I am however, gonna high five the latest backer - Wade Alin from The Atomica Project. He's a music maker who releases his work on USB drives. Cool, right? Thank you, Wade for your support.

press release

It's official. Read it here and pass it along. Thanks in advance for spreading The Global Citizen Project love.

slow saturday

It's been a slow day in fundraising-ville. I know launching The Global Citizen Project the day before Thanksgiving was going to pose some logistical issues, but rest assured, I am gearing up for an all-out friend, family, and social media outreach effort on Monday. I've dusted off my event planning/fundraising skills (honed while volunteering for four years at the Women's Cancer Resource Center in Oakland, CA on the annual "Swim a Mile" event) and I'm ready to make the wish of volunteering with 12 projects in 12 countries over 12 months a reality. I admit, it's one heckuva ambitious plan, but if you know me, you know one of my resume builder's is making things happen. I am committed to making this happen and hope that you show your support and pledge as little as $1 to the big picture. Thank you.

27 November 2009


This post has absolutely nothing to do with The Global Citizen Project, but media mentions put a big 'ole smile on my face.

My disdain for Black Friday was quoted today in Jennifer Worick's hilarious blog, "Things I Want To Punch In the Face." That's all I'm saying. Read it for yourself and laugh. Out loud. She's that funny.


Black Friday marks the beginning of a five week barrage of holiday advertising and it's enough to suck every last little bit of fa-la-la spirit from the season. Especially when I hear about people camping outside of Target and waiting in seven hour lines just to get in the door. It embodies everything I dislike about American consumerism and I can think of 100 things I'd rather do than engage in acts of retail S&M.

Call me Ebenezer Scrooge, but materialism, Macy's and a lack of religious convictions has left me feeling pretty noncommittal about the whole holiday season. I gave up holiday gift-giving more than a decade ago -- unless it's bringing a host/hostess gift to a soiree. And that's because I was brought up to never arrive at someone's home empty-handed (a good rule to live by). I also send handwritten thank you notes; another dying bit of etiquette I was taught at a young age. I don't buy a Christmas tree, string lights or bake snowflake shaped sugar cookies. Believe me, I enjoy reaping the secondary benefits when others do, I just don't find enough significance in those tasks to do them myself.

Instead, I've made conscious decisions to eschew the stress and pressures of the season and have stumbled upon solace in the most unexpected of places -- during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. By slowing down and taking a few steps back from seasonal madness, I've been able to embrace a calm and find personal meaning from the sidelines. Here's hoping everyone finds meaning this holiday season.

26 November 2009

give thanks. gobble gobble.

Here's wishing everyone a very happy Thanksgiving! I have a lot to be thankful for, but right now, I am grateful for a low-key, long holiday weekend, that the people in my immediate world are healthy and happy, and that my dear friend, Alex survived one of the crappiest years imaginable. I'm in constant awe at how she manages to handle challenge after challenge with such grace. Thank you for being an inspiration and such a great friend.

Now, off to mix some maple syrup and cayenne pepper into the sweet potatoes. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

25 November 2009

rock and roll. $625 in pledges and it's not even time for happy hour yet

It's not even time for happy hour here yet in Seattle and The Global Citizen Project has been backed $625. (Blush.) It is amazing to see the power of Kickstarter and I'm blown away by people's kindness and generosity. I am very appreciative and will do everything I can to make this project happen. And if you like what I'm doing, I'd be forever grateful if you'd pass the word along via your social media networks.

Big gobble filled thanks to Amy and Andrew.

wow. i am blown away. (and very thankful)

Day One of The Global Citizen Project isn't even over, and already $500 has been backed. I haven't celebrated Christmas in years (commercialism killed it for me), but it sure felt like ten types of festive when I opened my inbox this morning and saw all sorts of generous, project-backing love. Thank you so much Clare, Michael, Roland and Peter. I really appreciate it.

24 November 2009

the global citizen project is live on kickstarter

I did it! My Kickstarter project just launched on Kickstarter. You can check it out here. I'm trying to raise $20,000 between now and February 22, 2010 so I can volunteer with 12 projects in 12 countries over 12 months. Let the fundraising fun begin.

yay. i got a kickstarter invite

I got a Kickstarter invite thanks to Rick Marson and the Nancy Drew-esque power of the Google. I'd been scouting for an invite on Twitter for a good 48 hours, when I decided to search the Blogosphere for some kind-hearted, invite-wielding souls.

Well, I stumbled upon Marson's blog, shot him a comment and within a few short hours had a reply and an invite in my trusty inbox. Wow. And thank you. Here's wishing Marson lots of luck with his super spooky iPhone app project. (I'll post details once he's up and running on Kickstarter.)

Anyway, I'm going to jump into the deep end of the pool sans water wings (at least metaphorically) and hope to post my plans for the The Global Citizen Project on Kickstarter tonight. I'm ready to make this happen. Sit tight and stay tuned -- I have a feeling this is going to be a fun, fulfilling ride.

23 November 2009

what is "the global citizen project?"

“I never went to Europe,” my mother sighed in a Percocet-induced state of delusion. (That comment was followed up with “And I can never have sex again,” but I readily ignored that statement.) It was a Thursday night in 1990, exactly two weeks before my mother’s 38-year-old body would surrender to metastatic lung cancer after a brief, half-year battle. At the time of her diagnosis, I was 17 years old, and the “C” word made me take a step back, examine my life and redefine what I wanted it to mean. As a result, my mother’s words have inspired me to live my life fully, spontaneously and with purpose. Okay, maybe it’s also been influenced by some strong-willed Taurus tendencies (the blessing/burden of sharing a birthday with Earth Day), but regardless, I’ve made deliberate choices to live a life of travel and authenticity.

January 2010 marks the 12-year anniversary of my career as a freelance travel, food and lifestyle journalist. 2010 also marks the 20th anniversary of my mother’s passing. Nice round dates, numbers and new years seem like a good time for introspection, and I’ve decided to refocus my personal and professional efforts.

So, here’s what I propose. I’ve given a lot of thought to what aspects of travel teach and inspire me and it comes down to the beauty, virtue and power of the people I cross paths with. Over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to spend time in communities around the world, including Honduras, Costa Rica, Peru, and Chile. It is clear to me that despite the countless cultural differences, we all have dreams, we all strive for happiness and, really, we’re all not so different.

In an attempt to understand, connect and contribute, it is my plan to swap my BlackBerry for a backpack and volunteer around the world as part of what I’m calling, “The Global Citizen Project.” I would like to volunteer with 12 community projects in 12 countries over 12 months. I know it’s impossible to save the world with bite sized stints of service, but I want to give something to the bigger picture, spread the love around, share my experiences in an editorial capacity via this blog, social media and a eventually, a book, and promote responsible travel and volunteer tourism.

I am in the process of creating a “wish list” itinerary of volunteer projects I feel my skills are best suited for, spanning 12 different countries and 12 areas of service (i.e.; health education, eco-tourism, reef conservation, sustainable farming, national park service, etc.). I am seeking a KickStarter.com invitation (fingers crossed) to help fundraise money for this project, as well as brainstorming creative sponsorships. Thankfully, I have a lot of frequent flyer miles banked, but am fairly certain, no matter where I go, I won't log anywhere near 150 flights in the process. I promise to keep readers posted with details as they come together. Right now, I'm shooting to embark on this adventure in June 2010. I’m very much a “Believe it, achieve it” kinda gal (ask me how my first book got published sometime), so if anyone has any insights or ideas to share, please feel free to shoot me an email at cpfeuffer@yahoo.com. Thank you for reading.

a little bit about me

My favorite color is green. I dig hardware stores, mint chocolate chip ice cream, mid-century furniture, being near water, being near mountains, road-trips, the first night of staying solo in a hotel, things that are salty, handwritten thank you notes, being barefoot, all products relating to the almighty pig, Monday afternoon matinees, collecting stamps on my passport, meeting new people, studying maps, independent bookstores, beets, Marimekko patterns, hard cheese, raw fish, rare meat, Sin City in 72-hour spells, Scrabble, and anything with bubbles; especially if it's pink.