10 May 2010

non-profit spotlight: crooked trails

A trip to the Amazon a few years ago sparked our l-u-v affair with South America. Crooked Trails’ travel programs to Peru, India, Nepal, Kenya, Ecuador, Thailand and China, along with its community development efforts, like the Seis Vacas Para Peru program (6 Cows for Peru), sealed the deal and had us running to the alter. The Seattle-based non-profit, community-based travel organization strives to teach the ethics of responsible travel. Crooked Trails Co-founder and Executive Director, Christine Mackay, dishes with me on her commitment to change the way people travel.

CP:  What does Crooked Trails do?
CM: “Crooked Trails is a non-profit travel organization based in Seattle. We take people to live and work with communities around the world. Our focus is cultural immersion and responsible travel. I like to say it’s like a mini peace corp. experience that is in the hands of the communities we visit. We broaden people’s horizons and change lives. At least that is what our participants say.”

CP:  Why do you think this work is important?
CM: “Responsible travel is important because tourism is the largest industry in the world and the impacts on the economies, cultures and environments of people around the world is often negatively impacted because of tourists. It doesn’t have to be that way. Tourism can happen with host communities not to them if they have control over it. So we want to show travelers as well as host communities that tourism can be beneficial and a lot of fun to boot.”

CP:  What’s your favorite place to travel to?
CM: “I was thinking about this in December while I was traveling in Thailand. I had been to Thailand easily a dozen times and spent about 6 months there in total but this visit in December was the first in 5 years. I fell in love with it all over again and I realized that my favorite country is usually the one I am traveling in at the moment. I seem to appreciate wherever I am at any given time the most. It sure makes it easy to pick a place. But I just got back from Bhutan it was an amazing place – very fresh, fragile and traditional.”

CP:  What's your eco-confession?
CM: “I like sound of spa resorts, although I have yet to visit one.”

CP:  What's your eco pet peeve?
CM: “Seeing tourists using plastic water bottles when they could easily filter their own saving themselves money and time as well as the host countries environment.”

CP:  What's the eco thing you can't live without?
CM: “My steriPEN which cleans water in 60 seconds by using ultraviolet light.”

CP:  Name one place you gotta see or one thing you want to do before you die?
CM: “It was Bhutan but I just ticked that off the list, so now it’s Antarctica.”

CP:  Which type of transportation do you prefer: biking, walking, busing, train riding, or driving an eco-automobile?
CM: “I actually like mixing it up. It’s great to combine modes of transport to spice up the travel. I do love trekking though and have done it around the world.”

CP:  Are you more likely to vermicompost or put a bucket in the shower?
CM: “You got me. The only thing I have done close to combining a bucket and a shower is a sponge bath.”

CP:  If you were a character in a movie, who would you be?
CM: “Xena, the warrior princess.”

CP:  Fill in the blank: If I weren't a Travel director, I’d be…a travel writer for National Geographic.

CP:  Which do you prefer, crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
CM: “Now that depends on the bread. Smooth for whole grain bread with seeds, but crunchy for finer breads and crackers.”

Wanna Try?
Crooked Trails, www.crookedtrails.com or (206-383-9828)

Small Changes Add Up
If 10,000 Seattleites sent their kids to school with a reusable water bottle instead of a disposable water bottle each day, it would keep the weight of nearly 130 milking Holstein cows out of the landfill.

Photo courtesy of Crooked Trails

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