Ask First

I heard a story last week that has stuck with me so I thought I would share it with you all….

… a man went to a small African village and noticed the lack of water supply. The women of the village walked 15 miles every day with water vessels upon their heads just to have enough water to sustain the village for one day. So, as any of us I think would admit, the helpful thing to do was to build the village a well. He did.

He returned later after the well had been built and noticed that no one was using the well and it remained untouched and vacant. Perplexed, he asked why this was and why were the woman still walking 15 miles every day just to get water. He soon learned that this journey for the women became a sense of comradery and community amongst one another. It was their opportunity to get out of the home environment and enjoy the time spent with friends and fellow women in the village. Thus, no need for the well.

Before assuming people’s needs it is always important to ask first!

Thank you Ted Martens for this perspective.

photo by


Elevate: Inspiring Transformative Travel

As I continue on in my journey of following my passion for sustainable tourism and figuring out ways that I can give back and create positive impacts throughout the world via travel, I am beginning to surround myself with inspiring and impactful thought leaders in the realm of sustainable tourism. Today, I thought I would share one of these admirable people with you.

Her name is Dominique Callimanopulos. She is the founder and president of Elevate Destinations in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her inspiration for the creation of Elevate stems back to when she was younger. She traveled a lot and during this time and she witnessed in her words, the “gap in resources” between her life at home and the communities that she was able to visit. (Her revelation moments…)


Now Dominique and the Elevate crew are making extraordinary and unforgettable positive impacts throughout the world. They run 121 different types of trips in 29 countries, sprawling over almost every continent. Their mission of transformative travel aims to transform both travelers and destinations through travel and meaningful experiences. Many of these trips include service and volunteer trips. Elevate offers Donor Travel trips where the donor has the opportunity to travel to the communities they are supporting. This is creating a deeper connection, increased cultural exchange and long lasting impressions on the donor and the community.


Elevate also offers Urgent Service Trips to Haiti. Not only is Elevate connecting volunteers to disaster relief programs on this trip but they are ensuring that their efforts are socially and environmentally sustainable.

Elevate Haiti.

In my email interview with Dominique she said, “Our donor travel programs for international non-profits have helped to raise millions of dollars to address a wide range of issues, including water and sanitation, women’s empowerment, poverty alleviation and more. Our Urgent Service volunteer trips to Haiti have raised funds for youth on the ground.” Additionally, Elevate provides carbon offset options for all land portions of travel and also encourages offsetting your flights. They partner with the most sustainable accommodations in the areas they visit, ensure their partners are following sustainability guidelines and much more. Not only is Elevate managing to accomplish all of these initiatives, but on top of everything they are donating 5% of the net cost of all private trips back to non-profit and local community partners that support conservation and social efforts.

Taken at Elevate’s Giving Back Safari

It is important to remember that while the world may be our oyster we must honor its beauty, preserve cultures and the environment, lift up communities by asking them what they need and travel to contribute the fabric of the world rather than taking away from it. Elevate is doing just this. Support people, initiatives and companies that are paving the way for this to exist in the future.

You know how it is.
Sometimes we plan a trip to one place,but something takes us to another.
– Rumi

Lastly, her words of advice to me were, “focus on creating lasting partnerships both with tour operators and trusted non-profits that are engaged for the long term in community-led initiatives. Cultivate a network of colleagues working toward similar goals, participate in associations to leverage your impact and innovate”. If you are passionate about responsible travel and respecting the environment and communities that we get to be witness to I would love to connect and share with you.

I thank Dominique and the Elevate crew for your work and inspiration. I urge you to check ’em out.


All photos courtesy of Elevate Destinations

Our World Is Getting Smaller

Cordillera Blancas-Peru
Cordillera Blancas-Peru By: Axel Nilsson


For many travelers and especially adventure travelers to set out on a journey means to an extent disconnecting. Disconnecting from the stresses at home, from the high demand lifestyles, from ourselves, from the internet and our devices and the ability to always know exactly where we are at every moment… I will be the first to admit that this is my preference of travel. My most recent trips abroad I have left my phone in the cup holder in the car at the airport with it awaiting my forsaken return.

However, today I am writing about the benefits of our world getting smaller through this connection. We have access to the world at the tip of keyboards. I recently have taken on an internship position that partners with the Brazilian government to work with high school students teaching them English. I have already gotten to know them immensely through a private facebook page where we share all kinds of information. We also use skype and google plus to connect with one another. Right now I also have a sister in Colombia and another in Costa Rica (one mind you is 21 travelling solo) which through good ole FB I have been able to stay in touch with. I just received a message from a very good friend from Montanita, Ecuador that he made to the small surfing town. These outlets are amazing ways to make new connections and connect with the ones we love. Not to mention the occasionally fb stalking of my friends that are travelling abroad and perusing through the libraries of photos and following their journey along the way.

This has created somewhat of a conflict with me deciphering the line of disconnect and connect and questioning how much of these outlets are inhibiting us from truly running wild and free.

What is your opinion?

Photo: Taken by Axel Nilsson in the Cordillera Blancas, Peru. (a friend that has been trekking through South America for eight months.)

Carbon Emissions: The Downside to Travel- think Carbon Offsetting!


For those of us that have a passion for seeing the world, we typically share the same passion in preserving the world in which we get to experience.

I recently was shocked to hear that tourism is the 4th largest industry in the world and carbon emissions being emitted into the atmosphere due this industry alone is contributing to 40% of CO2 pollution. Not only is this number staggering, but it is also important to understand that emissions coming from airplanes is much more dangerous because it is going straight into the troposphere which in turn causes greater potential damages from the pollution. Enough depressing facts (although important to become aware of..)

So, what can we do as vagabonds, travelers, adventurers and wanderers to give back to the atmosphere? Carbon Offset. The idea of carbon offsetting looks for ways to counter your carbon output by reducing carbon somewhere else. A very practical and easy way for us to picture this is by planting a tree. However, a roundtrip flight from Denver to Los Angeles for one passenger emits 1.26 tons of CO2, that a lot of trees! You can only imagine a flight from here to New Zealand.

Don’t distress, thankfully there are many programs that are being implemented to make this process easier. For example, United Airlines offers a carbon offset option to your itinerary before you proceed to checkout. These contributions are being made to ongoing carbon offset programs. Also, many tourism outfits are implementing carbon offset options as well.  I have included the link to United’s program. Additionally, there is a link to sustainable travel international that allows you to calculate your entire carbon output for your full itinerary.

Fun fact: FIFA is implementing plans to carbon offset the entire 2014 World Cup!

Have you ever heard of carbon offsetting? Is carbon offsetting something that you think is important? Would you consider offsetting your next adventure? Do you think offsetting is working?

My Confession


I find myself today sitting in an almost entirely empty computer lab with inclement weather outside that has slowly and continuously cancelled all of my events of the day so far, with which I could have spent the time elsewhere being incredibly productive… I have spent the last 45 minutes expressing my stress and frustrations to a very supportive friend that is also along for the cancellation train today. He has challenged me to write about it… so here it is.

I am currently enrolled in 22 college credit hours. I am taking 18 at my school, Metropolitan State University, of which are all upper division and another 5 with another school to prepare for a fellow program that I am working on this summer in Brazil. I am the Co-Founder of Student Startup which right now I am currently working on a massive branding project with our graphic designer on top of all of the other major things that are in progress in order for us to launch. I am a fellow with US-Brazil Connect that requires weekly assignments, communication with my students and submitting feedback on my students progress. I am running a fund-raising campaign to get me to Brazil. Oh yes and I also work… I am a humble waitress that is paying the bills in order to make all of this other stuff come to fruition. My social life thus feel non-existent at the moment. Most importantly, I am in the process of identifying and branding myself as the altruistic adventurer and where I want this venture to take me. I cannot lose site of this, this is my passion, my dream, my life. To give back, to create positive change in the world.

Whew, thank you for making it to this part of my post. Now that I have ranted about all of the beautiful things that are creating this “stress” in my life I am grateful that my friend has put me up to this challenge. It is important in life to remember that when we ask the universe to show us our purpose and honestly commit to that experience it lays it on us! Also, in this process it is important to be able to step back, out of the madness, and feel that joy, success, inspiration and beauty that is happening all around us. Because, as we all know, it is about the journey that gets us there. Thank you my friend and supporter, Brian. Hope you all are soaking in the madness.

If you all have any advice or words of inspiration that of gotten all you through challenging moments I would love it if you shared. It is our connections that feed our souls… genuinely, thank you.