26 January 2011

february project preview: globe aware in costa rica

In February, I am headed to Costa Rica to volunteer with Globe Aware - The Road Less Traveled Rainforest Village Experience. This volunteer travel program offers a unique opportunity to help a small community next to the Carara Rainforest Reserve improve their well being and create a sustainable future in ecologically important areas. This project was chosen with the Travelocity Travel for Good grant I won via WE tv and Ladies’ Home Journal and I am beyond grateful to be able to bring my boyfriend along for the do good adventures.  He's been extremely patient and supportive of my volunteering efforts over the past eight months and I am excited to be able to share a small part of The Global Citizen Project with him -- especially in one of my favorite Central American countries.

The Carara Rainforest Reserve borders a tiny village where volunteers are immersed. Although the villagers love their natural paradise, they have struggled to make ends meet as much of their farmland was taken over by the national park. They hope to create sustainable community-based tourism, and Globe Aware volunteers will work on community development projects to help them reach this goal.

Projects will vary depending on the number of volunteers, which projects were finished with the prior group, what priorities have changed, weather conditions, which supplies are available, and often the interest and fitness level of the volunteers.

Some completed Carara Rainforest Reserve volunteer work projects:
  • Built pedestrian bridges
  • Buried and installed new PVC water pipe to bring new clean water source into community
  • Painted school
  • Built cabinas
  • Planted hundreds of trees
  • Built book shelves for school
  • Built fence around school
  • Set up First Aid center
  • Made oil lamps to line public road
  • Made and installed road signs to community
  • Painted communal hall
  • Built recycling stations
  • Built waste receptacles
  • Painted and installed identifying signs in rain forest
To learn more about Globe Aware and its volunteer vacations around the world, click here.

25 January 2011

media mention: adventures with alyson

Wow. Wow. Wow. What a lovely introduction to my new voluntourism blog from Alyson at Wyndham Worldwide. I am so grateful that I got to meet this "Can Do" woman at the WE Do Good Awards in NYC this past November and am thrilled to pieces that she asked me to contribute to Wyndham Worldwide's Women on Their Way Jane Air Crew. Thank you, Alyson for providing such a supportive resource for women who travel, but also for giving props to women who give back. Read her blog post here.

yours truly is jane air crew's voluntourism blogger

Wyndham Worldwide's Women on Their Way is a fab online resource for business and leisure travelers to find everything they need to plan and book their next trip. The website, www.WomenOnTheirWay.com, includes expert advice on destinations, hotels, timeshare resorts and vacation rentals, plus special deals and packages.

I recently signed on to be Women on Their Way's brand new Jane Air Crew Voluntourism Blogger. Read my first blog post here and bookmark the Jane Air Crew blog page to read regular posts from a rockstar line-up of wanderlusting women on-the-go. You can also friend Women on Their Way on Facebook here or follow on Twitter here. I so look forward to sharing my voluntourism experiences (the good, bad and the ugly - I've seen it all!) with readers, so be sure to check back each month!

05 January 2011

still a few spaces in writers.com travel writing master class with amanda castleman, david farley, thomas swick, edward readicker-henderson and yours truly

Take your travel writing to the next level in the new year! There are still a few spots left in Writers.com's January Travel Writing Master Class with Amanda Castleman and guest critiquers David Farley, Charyn Pfeuffer, Thomas Swick and Edward Readicker-Henderson.

Take your prose to the next level, honing your voice and perspective. Anchored by Amanda Castleman, this extended online workshop assembles a roster of teaching talent that's rarely seen outside of conferences.  Students receive weekly one-on-one feedback, not just Q&A, and assignments ranging from tweets to YouTube, but concentrating on evolving each author's narrative voice. Even the most experienced writers have blind spots and unconscious ticks and we can help retune 'em!

This online workshop starts Monday, January 10 and runs for 12 weeks. The cost is $445 and late enrollment accepted until day 10.  TGCP readers receive a 5% discount with the code MC111CP.

Guest critiquers include:
New York University Instructor David Farley, author of the award-winning An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town (1 week)

Charyn Pfeuffer, a culinary and travel freelancer who is undertaking The Global Citizen Project - 12 voluntourism projects in 12 countries - thanks to social-media fundraising (1 week)

Lowell-Thomas-winner Edward Readicker-Henderson, whose poetic musings on quiet have appeared in AARP Magazine, Forbes Traveler and National Geographic Traveler, among other outlets (2 weeks)

Author and columnist Thomas Swick, whose observations on the trade have been honored by Travelers Tales, Best Travel Writing and Best American Travel Writing (2 weeks)

Explore imagery and epiphanies apt to an area. Sharpen your eye for timely angles and compelling quests. Push your plot arcs further and master the interweaving of action, analysis and reflection.

We’ll delve into the sound of words on the page, as well as how to capture the best quotes from locals and experts. The class will even touch upon investigative tactics: when to tuck that press pass in your hat band... and when to meditate and read poetry for inspiration. Finally, you'll refine your cutting, redrafting and repurposing skills, exploring the same material through different subgenres and editors.

Amanda Castleman spent eight years in Europe and the Middle East, before returning to freelance full-time from her homeport of Seattle. Her articles have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, MSNBC.com, Wired, Salon, Italy Daily, The Athens News and Sport Diver, along with the UK's BBC, Guardian and Sunday Express. Her Honduras scuba article won a 2007 Lowell Thomas award (travel writing's ersatz Pulitzer).

Amanda has contributed to 30-odd books, including Greece, A Love Story and Rome in Detail, plus titles for National Geographic, Frommer's, Michelin, DK Eyewitness, Time Out and Rough Guides. She has launch-edited glossy consumer magazines, as well as a Silicon Valley start-up. Previous gigs include graphic- and web-designing, and staffing and editing on metro dailies. In addition to Writers.com, Amanda teaches through the Richard Hugo House and TravelWritingClass.com, which offers week-long workshops in Rome. Her website is http://www.amandacastleman.com/ and she ego-casts further on the blog Road Remedies.

Not sure if the master class is for you? Take our quiz to find out.

To see the Travel Writing Master Class week-by-week syllabus, click here.

04 January 2011

news: bus bomb kills five in guatemala city

An explosion on a bus in Guatemala City has killed at least five people and left more than a dozen others with serious burns.  Read more about it here.

01 January 2011

seeking balance in the world of social media

Taking a Twitter/Facebook/social media “time out” between Christmas Eve and the New Year was the best thing I’ve done for myself in ages. I’m not one to wax poetic on sappy end-of-year round ups or make New Year’s resolutions, but stepping away from Tweetdeck helped put my cyber priorities into perspective.

There are so many things I love about social media – all of the new friends I’ve made – many of whom I’ve been fortunate enough to meet in real life (or “IRL” in Twitterspeak), being part of an interactive, international forum of writers, travelers, foodies and creative types (few things in my globetrotting world are as fun as Travelers’ Night In, a.k.a. #TNI), and the fact that I was able to use this tool to fund (and now share) The Global Citizen Project.

Twitter, Facebook, blogging and whatever other social media outlets you partake in are all about the give and take of ideas and information. I think people who post, but don’t participate are really missing out, and my brief hiatus made me think long and hard about how I can strike better balance in my personal life while still maintaining an active and fulfilling online presence.

Reality is I put far more value on real world interactions, and even my closest friends and loved  ones don’t know my every move in 140 characters or less like my followers on Twitter do. Sure, it’s been entirely my choice to put my personal life on cyber parade, but the past week has left me seriously rethinking what and how I’m going to use these tools to share in the future. 

Am I experiencing social media fatigue? Maybe. Or perhaps like anything in life, moderation is the key for successful living, especially now more than ever in our weird and wonderful, online world.

Here’s wishing you the best – and balance – in 2011!

Photo by Murray Barnes