Eco-Building Blocks for a Growing Nation: A New Wave of Construction in Guatemala

Hug it Forward school children in front of the bottle wall

Hug it Forward school children in front of the bottle wall

 Eco-Building Blocks for a Growing Nation

A New Wave of Construction in Guatemala

 

Two major problems I’ve seen in most impoverished countries are insufficient construction and severe environmental concerns. Guatemala, my home for four of the last seven years, is no stranger to these issues. But, that’s not to say no one cares.

 

Not only does Guatemala contend with massive litter problems, chemical runoff in its lakes, and no organized recycling system, but Guatemala City also houses Central America’s largest landfill. To compound the problem, an entire community survives by finding recyclables in the dump, living on food waste, and building homes out of unsanitary materials.

 

Even away from the landfill, many homes and public buildings, like schools, are a mishmash of scavenged cinder blocks and scraps of tin. My second year living here was spent volunteering for an NGO, Las Manos de Christine, that assists a small public school in the village of El Hato, only a few miles outside of Antigua, the country’s pristine tourism capital. It was in trying to build a new English classroom in El Hato that I became aware of some of the awesome ecological building projects happening here.

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40 Images of Greece That’ll Make You Want to Go NOW

Greek_Flag

40 Images of Greece

That’ll Make You Want to Go NOW

 

Despite the news today that Greek Banks have reopened their doors for the first time in 3 weeks, the country remains on the brink of a major financial crisis. But what does the threat of a “Grexit”– the hyperbolic term for Greece dropping out of the eurozone and reverting to its old currency, the drachma– mean for travelers?

 

According to Andreas Andreadis, president of the Greek Tourism Confederation known as SETE, there is no cause for travelers to be concerned. “Greece is beautiful, peaceful and quiet. I don’t believe there’s a risk of a strike or protest,” he said in an interview with CNN. “In the worst case scenario banks will have capital controls, but that will not affect tourists. Money will be available and credit cards will work. Greece is the best value for money this year.”

 

The truth is that Greece’s financial issues ensure that strong currencies such as the U.S. dollar and Euro will stretch further than ever before. And because we loved the country so much during our 16-day island-hopping tour, we wanted to share 40 of our favorite images of Greece, which we hope will encourage you to book your ticket to the cradle of Western civilization asap….

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PHOTO GALLERY: Bolivian Amazon Wildlife

Caiman in the Bolivian Amazon

Caiman in the Bolivian Amazon

Bolivian Amazon Wildlife

 

When most travelers think of exploring the Amazon River, they generally plan an expensive tour to Brazil, Ecuador or Peru. Very few people visit the Bolivian Amazon. Their loss!

 

Extending through nine countries in South America, Amazon River Basin access is much more varied than most people know.

 

We discovered that Bolivia offers an excellent, budget-friendly alternative to countries like Brazil. There are cheaper tours with vastly smaller crowds, yet the region is just as biologically diverse as others in the Amazon basin. This logic ultimately sold us on visiting Bolivia.

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Downtown Asheville: The South’s Green, Progressive Mecca

Art Deco Buildings in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

photo courtesy ExploreAsheville.com

Downtown Asheville

The South’s Green, Progressive Mecca

 

If you want to understand the essence of downtown Asheville that exists between the dichotomous extremes– with the outlandish opulence of the Biltmore Estate at one end of the spectrum, and grungy backpackers in a drum circle at the other– head to the Pack Square Cultural District, at the bustling heart of the mountain town.

 

Walking down Biltmore Avenue from historic Pack Square, we pass indie record and bookstores, clothing boutiques ranging from hip to hippie-fied, an old-timey general store, an art house cinema, the lively patio of Wicked Weed Brewing, an endless array of farm-to-table restaurants, and the legendary Orange Peel music venue, all in a span of 10 minutes.

 

Buddhist Monks in downtown Asheville's Pack Square

Buddhist Monks in Pack Square

 

Although it’s well past lunchtime on a Monday afternoon, the people-watching here is extraordinary. There are slick urbanites dressed all in black, aging Boomers, bearded hipsters, stroller-pushing Earth mamas, fresh-faced college kids, blue-haired lesbians holding hands, red-robed Buddhist monks, dreadlocked hikers fresh off the trail and tattooed cowboys busking for spare change… again, all in a span of 10 minutes.

 

It’s an eclectic, colorful mixture of left-leaning progressives, all of them drawn to this tiny mountain town, which many residents describe as “an island of blue in North Carolina’s vast sea of red.” And we’re here to find out why.

 

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7 Important Life Lessons I Learned in the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Sea Lions Line Gardner Bay Beach on Español Island

Sea Lions Line Gardner Bay Beach on Española Island

7 Important Life Lessons I Learned

in the Galapagos Islands

 

The first time we traveled to the Galapagos Islands five years ago, I felt as wide-eyed and full of wonder as Jack Skellington when he discovered Christmas (What’s this? What’s THIS?!?! La la la la la la).

 

Animals with no fear of humans? Four to five different species hanging out together peacefully on a five-foot square rock?! Sea lions that swim up to you when you’re snorkeling, enticing you to play?!? What IS this magical nature-lover’s utopia?!?!?

 

Returning to the islands on an 8-day, 30-passenger small-ship cruise with International Expeditions a few weeks ago, I was no less impressed with the astounding natural beauty this remote Ecuadorian archipelago has to offer. But because I knew what to expect this time around, I found myself more focused on each memorable moment my daughter and I shared.

 

Here are seven important life lessons I learned from the Galapagos Islands:

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