30 March 2010

reading: the lunatic express

This afternoon, I signed The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World...via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes by Carl Hoffman (Broadway, 2010) out of Ballard Library based on fellow travel writer, Jenna Schnuer's recommendation. After giving it a quick looksee, I'm pretty geeked out to read it, although the author touting 159 days of travel over two years did not make me blink an eye.

Here's what Simon Winchester of the Wall Street Journal had to say:

“Carl Hoffman, a courageous and interestingly untroubled man from Washington, D.C., has done a great service by reminding us, in The Lunatic Express, of this abiding truism: that the world’s ordinary traveler is compelled to endure all too much while undertaking the grim necessities of modern movement…Mr. Hoffman spent a fascinating year going around the world precisely as most of the world's plainest people do—not on JetBlue or United or American or Trailways, modes of transport that look positively heavenly by comparison, but in the threadbare conveyances of the planet's billions….He learns along the way a great deal about the habits of the world's peripatetic poor, and he writes about both the process and the people with verve and charity, making this book both extraordinary and extraordinarily valuable….It is a wise and clever book too, funny, warm and filled with astonishing characters. But it also represents an important exercise, casting an Argus-eye on a largely invisible but un-ignorable world. It is thus a book that deserves to be read widely. Perhaps in some airport in a blinding rainstorm in the Midwest, while waiting for yet another infernally delayed American plane.”

(Update 4/19: Hoffman traveled 159 days over the course of one year - not two. Read the book, absolutely loved it and cannot recommend it enough to my fellow adventurers and wanderlusters.)

13 March 2010

resume builder: adult cpr and first aid at seattle area american red cross

This week, I did one of the best things I’ve done for myself (and my community) in quite some time. I got certified in Adult CPR and First Aid at my local Seattle Area American Red Cross. Sure, I travel like a girl scout with a well-stocked first aid kit, but I hadn’t taken CPR since high school (hello, 1991 graduate!) and what did I really know about first aid beyond bug bites, blisters and Bandaids? Thankfully, I’ve never had a major medical emergency while traveling. Home has been a different story, as I’ve faced everything from a head-on collision and E.coli, Edwardsiella Tarda and Plesiomonas Shigelloides to a bevy of broken bones – but nothing that modern medicine couldn’t (eventually) fix. The intestinal critters were pretty gnarly, but I’ll spare you the details.

Friday morning, I woke up at an hour rarely seen by this late-night gal and schlepped to the American Red Cross facility that serves both King and Kitsap Counties in South Seattle. Of the 11 students, I was the only one not taking the class as a work requirement. I was semi-surprised and kind of wished there had been more people taking the course on their volition. (I’m all about the unofficial, non-college credit earning world of continuing education.) My Adult CPR and First Aid class was taught by the deft duo of Ryan and Tracy, both of whom volunteered their time to teach the all-day class. You couldn’t ask for better teachers, and their enthusiasm and ability of convey information clearly was not lost on me. I’m gonna defy everything you probably think about such courses and dare say, that I actually had a lot of fun. We spent the day learning the almighty Emergency Action Steps (Check, Call, Care), how to perform chest compressions and CPR, how to respond to conscious and unconscious choking, telltale signs of stroke, heart attacks, as well as a ton of practical first aid information, including how to splint and sling an injury and treat heat and cold-related injuries.

Originally, I signed up for this class thinking it may come in handy while traveling in places far from modern medical facilities, but walked out feeling like my newfound knowledge could come in handy at anytime, in any place. I cannot recommend this course enough and feel confident that I picked up enough skills in this one-day course to help save someone’s life in a wide variety of emergency scenarios. As soon as I got home, I hopped online to see what other courses my local American Red Cross offered and admit, I’m seriously considering upping my training education. The whole point of The Global Citizen Project is to give back and help others, and the more health and safety skills I have in my personal toolbox, the better equipped I’ll be as a global citizen – both near and far. Thank you American Red Cross, for offering such courses to the community, for making them accessible at a reasonable price, and for offering flexible schedules.

11 March 2010

media mention: matador network (again)

Thanks are in order for Julie Schwietert at Matador Network for her continued support of The Global Citizen Project and for mentioning it's fundriasing success in today's "How To Fund Your Start Up Org" post on Matador Change.

media mention: blogging: explore the publishing frontier

Thank you to Writers.com intructor, Amanda Castleman, for mentioning The Global Citizen project in her post today on "Micropatronage and blog sponsorship." Blogging Frontier is a online course for blogging beginners that focuses on the art and craft of new media.

win it: grantourismo travel blogging competition

The fine globetrotting folks behind Grantourismo, Lara Dunston and Terence Carter just announced the first of a yearlong series of  travel competitions with monthly prizes. The travel writing twoesome is inviting you to create an inspiring blog post, consisting of a 500-word piece of evocative travel writing and one compelling photograph that motivates people to:

•explore more authentic and enriching ways to travel
•get beneath sthe skin of a place when they travel
•learn to live like locals
•travel more slowly and more sustainably, and/or
•give something back to the places they visit.

FIRST PRIZE is a stay at a HomeAway Holiday-Rentals property of your choice anywhere in the world valued at UK£500 (US$750) and a Viator tour voucher worth £100/US$150.

Visit Grantourism's website for all fine print, details and how to enter. Good luck!

give thanks: bogs footwear

Who says a gal has to compromise fashion for function? Not the design-savvy folks at BOGS Footwear who sent me an incredibly cute pair of waterproof/weatherproof "Classic High Cosmos Berry" boots for The Global Citizen Project adventures. Thank you, Dustin.
These knee-boots are not only warm, snuggly and way stylish, they have these great little cut-outs which make pulling them on and off super easy (a gripe with previously owned practical boots). And hello, retro flowers! Adorable. I don't want to take these boots off. Ever. My boyfriend thinks I should wear 'em with tights (now that would be a fashion statement). I'm thinking I'll test run 'em during Seattle's next rainstorm and be the belle of the muddy dog park (the gals always talk footwear as we've all managed to trash many pairs of shoes in the name of ChuckIt and stick). Either way, my new BOGS are absolutely perfect for my upcoming travels where in many instances, mud, rainy season and jungle/rainforest-like conditions are certain. Despite their girlish exterior, these boots are tough and ready for whatever scenario my tootsies take me to. I'll be sure to post pix of my BOGS in all-weather action. In the meantime, I'd love a little rain so I can splish, splash and play. Thank you again, BOGS Footwear for helping to outfit me for The Global Citizen Project.

08 March 2010

making planning progress

It’s been a busy weekend in the (206). It may seem like I’ve been kinda quiet the past few days, but I’ve been deep in the throes of planning logistics for The Global Citizen Project, plus heaploads of spring cleaning (four garbage bags of clothing, shoes and accessories have been unloaded so far). Thankfully, it’s all starting to come together and I have lots of fun stuff to report.

I planned TGCP on a shoestring budget and have been reaching out to sponsors for some of the basic essentials and supply needs. The response has been far better than expected and many companies have been generous with their support. I am posting a permanent link to all companies that sponsor TGCP, but since I’m a gal all about instant gratification, I gotta say thanks to Magellan's, Naturally More™, Pramex® Mosquito Nets, EcoSMART and BOGS Footwear for their support.

I’ve also been a busy bee mapping my grandmaster volunteering plan and scouting smart airfare options. So far, here are the projects that have been confirmed:

Building a Future in Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Karikuy in Lima, Peru
Playa Las Tortugas in Nayarit, Mexico
Eco Volunteer UP Foundation in Quito, Ecuador
Domitila Wildlife Reserve in Domitila, Nicaragua
GeoVisions, Conservation Partner Program in Los Chiles, Costa Rica
Youth Care in Seattle, USA

In other miscellaneous planning news, I applied for my International Driver’s Permit and signed up for a free Homeless Teen course in Seattle. I also purchased six months of Travel Insurance through World Nomads (via Access America). All backer rewards have been sent (pending recipients have sent me their mailing address; I've followed up twice and shy from kicking into mommy mode - it's just not my style), except for postcards or tsotchkes from the 12 project destinations.

I also got the cutest wedding invitation from my friends Kelly and Paul who are getting hitched in New Orleans next month. Thank goodness for Hotwire for cheap last minute hotel rooms and frequent flier miles to get me there. I’m not normally a wedding attendee kinda gal, but admit, I’m over the moon to celebrate with these two. Congrats! I heart New Orleans.

Stay tuned as the planning process comes together in the upcoming weeks. I'm spending more time than expected to make smart planning decisions and thank you for bearing with me. Stretching a $20,000 budget to cover 12 volunteer projects in 12 countries takes some creative effort and I want to be 100% certain that I'm devoting my time and efforts to be best suited projects for my talents. So far, so good. I am beyond jazzed about TGCP. Thank you.

04 March 2010

seeking travel advice: ecuador

A dear childhood friend, Jen N. is planning a trip to Ecuador and is seeking some input and suggestions. She's planning on visiting three areas. Here's her basic itinerary:

Jen and a friend are flying into Quito and then thinking of heading towards beaches about mid-way down the coast (Puerto Lopez, Salango, Ayampe, Montanita areas), and then continuing south towards rainforests and working our way up through the forests and Andes Mountains. Some of the places she's started to pull out are the Mindo Cloud forest, Vilcabamba, Tene, Chiche Canyon, Tena, Termas de Papallacta. Then finishing with a day or two in Quito. She's arriving early on a Friday morning and leaving around noon the following Sunday.

If you have any suggestions, I'd love it if you'd comment here and I will pass them along. Muchos gracias!

02 March 2010

prioritizing "to do" lists

This week, I'm in the throes of prioritzing a rather lengthy "to do" list for The Global Citizen Project and determing the next steps, as many decisions will have a domino effect on how others will play out. I'm also trying to catch up on a lot of work, assignments and pitches that got kicked to the curb due to the intensity of the past few months. Next week, I'll be guest tweeting for the fine state of Alaska about my recent travels to the Inside Passage in May and October 2009. Also, I reconnected with a former (fantastic) client, Costco Connection, and will taking a quick trip to Cabo San Lucas sometime this month for a feature on the resort town's changing culinary scene. The inbox is whittled down to less than 100 emails, a number I feel comfortable with. Lastly, just about all of the backer rewards have been mailed, with the exception of Lighthouse Roasters coffee, which will go out tomorrow. My apologies to the long line of people stuck behind me this morning at the U.S.P.S. in Ballard. I'm still waiting on some addresses for a few other items, so if you have some backer goodies coming your way, please get your mailing addy to me a.s.a.p.

Today, I spent some time researching travel insurance. In the past, I've purchased short-term plans with Travel Guard and MedjetAssist, and thankfully, have never had to use their benefits. Planning for a year of travel that will take me to 12 different countries is a bit different than thinking about a two or three week stint in a singular destination and I want to be sure I'm covered to the best of my ability for whatever medical emergencies may arise. Right now, World Nomads seems to offer the best benefits versus price ratio, but I'd love to hear what some other wanderlusters recommend (especially if you've had to make that call and actually use a travel insurance plan's services). I'm going to see what my travel doc has to say, as well, but she drinks the juice of the CDC and can be a bit overzealous with her medical recommendations at times.

I'm also working this week to confirm my 12 volunteer projects and exact dates of committment. Right now, more than half are set in stone. There's a method to my madness for wanting to serve certain projects in certain countries at certain times thoughout the year and making all the projects fit timing-wise into the grandmaster itinerary has been tricky. I'm almost there, though. It's kind like putting together the world's greatest puzzle. I plugged all of my potential flights into a nifty Seattle-based online airfare tracking site, Yapta, to keep an eye on airfares as they ebb and flow (and hopefully drop nice and low). I've used Airfarewatchdog in the past, but thought it best to support a local travel business. After some minor stumbling blocks (as with all new tech things in my world), I think I have the site figured out and yes, will admit to giddiness when Yapta sends me email notification of a price drop in airfare. (It's not quite the same level of excitement, though, as when my BlackBerry would buzz during TGCP Kickstarter funding period and alert me to a new backer.)

Tomorrow, I will take a long look at the steps necessary to apply for non-profit status. If anyone has any experience with this, I'd love to hear about it. Filing paperwork with the IRS, especially during peak tax season, doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun, but it's one the necessary, immediate next steps for TGCP.

That's what I have on tap for the week. It's feels really good to be able to roll my sleeves up and jump into the thick of planning TGCP. I promise to keep you in the loop every step of the way! Here's hoping everyone has a great week. I'd love to hear how you're ringing in this fine month of March...

01 March 2010

recipe: black cod with miso

Tonight, inspired by Monica Bhide's post on iSPICE, I found the perfect storm of ingredients in my fridge to make Black Cod with Miso. I also had wasabi on hand, so I accompanied this buttery fish dish with wasabi mashed potatoes and garlicky snap peas. My apologies for not snapping a photo -- we devoured it before my social media insincts kicked in. I can assure you, it was an easy meal to make and absolutely delicious.

Here's how you can make Black Cod with Miso at home:


3/4 cup mirin
2 cups white miso paste
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 black cod fillets, about 1/2 pound each

  1. Bring the saké and the mirin to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil for 20 seconds to evaporate the alcohol.
  2. Turn the heat down to low and add the miso paste, mixing with a wooden spoon. When the miso has dissolved completely, turn the heat up to high again and add the sugar, stirring constantly with the wooden spoon to ensure that the bottom of the pan doesn’t burn. Remove from heat once the sugar is fully dissolved. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Pat cod fillets thoroughly dry with paper towels. Slather the fish with miso mixture and place in a non-reactive dish or bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Leave to steep in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
  4. Preheat oven to 400°F. Preheat a grill or broiler. Lightly wipe off any excess miso clinging to the fillets but don't rinse it off. Place the fish on the grill, or in a broiler pan, and grill or broil until the surface of the fish turns brown. Then bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

back in action

Thank you for bearing with my social media hiatus as I caught up on sleep, allowed the whirlwind of the last 90 days sink in, had a few, much-needed celebratory moments and attended to a long list of post-project admin details the past few days. I'm still in awe that so many people rallied on behalf of The Global Citizen Project to make it a success with just 7 hours to go). Wow. The funding state of affairs was a little touch and go one week out, but so many people pledged, increased their pledges and put out APB's on behalf of the project. Thank you so much. Your love and enthusiasm is beyond inspiring. It's been a little strange not fundraising 24/7 or being such a round-the-clock slave to social media, but I'll be back in action this week as the real adventure begins. Stay tuned and hang on tight - the journey you helped make possible is just beginning.

Maybe you've been grateful for a social media time out (I know my tweets were getting awfully repetitive there at the end), but I know I've missed you. Here’s what I’ve been up to the past few days:

My inbox was slammed with more than 500 emails upon the successful funding of The Global Citizen Project last Monday afternoon, so I've been slowing working my way through these thoughtful messages and notes of congratulations.

I’ve been a busy bee packing up and mailing backer rewards – more than 100 in total. The BF has been been extremely helpful, wielding a box cutter, packing tape, and whipping up custom-sized shipping boxes for everything from body butter to water bottles. Everything, but coffee and postcards will go out today (a lot has already been shipped). I should have coffee ready to mail by tomorrow, and I want to wait a few days until I'm in a calm, happy place to pen the postcards from Seattle.

On Friday, I swung by Foodista, the cooking encyclopedia everyone can edit, to pick up a One Laptop per Child (OLPC) donation from CEO Barnaby Dorfman. Barnaby volunteered translating at a medical clinic in El Fuerte, Mexico a couple of years ago, where they treated 300-500 people per day. He just set down the OLPC XOs with no instruction and the kids figured 'em out -- I'm excited to do the same with whichever project this OLPC will land. Here are some pictures from Barnaby's trip. Thank you Barnaby for the OLPC XO donation and to everyone at Foodista for being such rockstar cheerleaders.

I enrolled to take a First Aid & CPR Class with the American Red Cross in Seattle. It's probably time. I haven't sucked face with a blow-up doll in the name of safety since high school.

I’m trying to finalize the exact 12 project itinerary ASAP and still need to connect with two one-month sponsors to determine those projects. Otherwise, I have a pretty solid plan and am waiting on final confirmations from the slated projects before moving forward. Excel is my friend.

Tomorrow, I will make an appointment with my travel doctor for in a few weeks (once I have my project itinerary nailed down). I'm slightly scared of what Dr. Dell's reaction will be when I run The Global Citizen Project by her -- she thinks my travels are pretty wacky already and I always leave with a sore arm, balloon animals (I'm an injection wimp) and piles of informational material and health warnings.

Also, now that life has far fewer distractions, I'll get back on Rosetta Stone this week for a Spanish refresher.

Last, but not least, the last round of backer thanks go out to:
  • April and Con Williamson
  • Bill Dillard
  • Cindy Duffer
  • Jerome Hodos
  • Kathleen Sweeney
  • Leah Reimer
  • Lindsey Wildman
  • Lisa Rogak
  • Lola Akinmade (Lola’s pledge put TGCP over the $20,000/funded mark!)
  • Marcia Rowland
  • Mckenzie Brown
  • Sydney Smith Gordon
Big huge thanks and high fives to all 223 people who helped fund The Global Citizen Project. This has been one big collaborative effort and if the success of TGCP doesn't renew your faith in people, I'm really not sure what will. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm so looking forward to getting down to TGCP business this week. XO