Photo by Susan Portnoy via TheInsatiableTraveler.com
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The Future of GGT
My buddy Tony and I couldn’t have been more different: I was a long-haired, arty music business major with tattoos and earrings, he was a soft-spoken, short-haired, seemingly conservative science major. We connected at the pizza place where we worked, bonding over our mutual love of music– jazz, funk, reggae and hip-hop in particular– often trading CDs that inspired us.
With him on bass and me on vocals, we eventually formed a band together and began working our way up in the Atlanta music scene. I was a marketing intern for a major record label at the time, and used my connections to garner some interest from industry A&R reps for our edgy, alternative rock-rap sound. (This was 1992, when such things were not yet considered passé.)
But fate threw a curveball right in the face of my rock star aspirations: Upon graduating from Georgia State University, Tony signed with the Peace Corps and shipped off to teach fish farming in the central African nation of Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the world. I quit playing music, embarking on a career as a music journalist instead.
Cheetahs in South Africa
Tony and I kept in touch regularly over the next five years, as his Peace Corps projects moved him from Burundi to Gabon, and later Zambia, with only brief journeys to visit home in between. Every month I’d send him a package filled with new music, magazines and letters from home, and he’d send back music, photos and letters about his life in Africa. Our friendship gradually grew deeper, and I fell in love with the continent through his stories.
Tony was the first person I ever knew who went on an African safari. The stories he brought home from his trip to Kenya & Tanzania (which included incredible photos and National Geographic-worthy video of a lion on top of a floating hippo carcass defending his prize from hostile crocodiles) left me delighted for him and determined to see Africa for myself. And his Peace Corps experience ultimately inspired me to pursue my own crazy dreams…
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.
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….
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.
photo courtesy ExploreAsheville.com
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 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.