When I initially bought a one-way ticket to Mexico City, reactions were mixed. Well-intentioned family members warned that it was a dangerous and dirty place, while friends who had been there raved of the culture, food, and vibe of the city. My mother practically begged me to change my flight to go to Europe (big thanks to U.S. news for all the fear mongering about Mexico), but something had been calling me there for months and I was done ignoring it. Being a voracious consumer of all things travel-related, I knew that Mexico City was quickly becoming a hotspot for social entrepreneurship, foodies, and A-list travel bloggers. Armed with my camera and a long to-do list, I decided to suspend all expectations and plunge head-first into my first real solo trip abroad.
I’m very fortunate to have a job I love. I’m also very fortunate to have a job that allows me to travel.
I work as a design consultant for a human-centered design firm. But what does that even mean? Clients come to us with some sort of need, and our teams will do research to understand it better--to uncover the pain, desires, and motivations of the people they are intending to serve. Then we’ll take a step back, synthesize all these findings into a first messy arrangement of data, organize these arrangements into areas of opportunity, and eventually build and test solutions to meet real, human needs. As a designer who is deeply curious about the world, human behavior, and actually making a real impact, it’s really fun, I must say. I’m one lucky girl.
This post was originally published by Unearth the World, an organization that matches travelers with responsible and meaningful volunteer opportunities abroad. If you are interested in intentional and ethical volunteer travel, I encourage you to check out their amazing projects!
As the world becomes increasingly connected, the idea of “global citizenship” has taken on new meanings. Being a global citizen goes beyond simply traveling or being aware of world events. It’s a sense of shared identity. And in a time that seems consumed with fear of “the other,” I believe that now more than ever we need to understand the transformative power of global citizenship and what it can mean for our world. How can we strive to be true global citizens who also happen to carry American passports?
Those of us who spend our time drooling over travel blogs and keeping up with the social impact space have likely noticed the emergence of a buzzword in the sector: “impact travel.” The phrase is tossed around quite freely but it remains unclear as to what the term actually means—or at least what it should mean.
With busy lives, schedules, and distance in-between, it’s difficult for my family to get together, let alone plan a vacation together. This past July, my parents and sister were privileged to plan a long overdue family vacation, back to one of my favorite cities—Rome. With tickets purchased, we ventured across the pond to experience the Christmas season in Italy. Rome—a Catholic city—really dresses up for the holidays. Here’s a glimpse into our vacation. (Hint, most of it involves eating a lot of bread and drinking really, really good Italian wine and coffee).
This June I was lucky enough to take a two week trip to Greece with family and friends. Along with hitting the major tourist trail spots of Santorini and Athens, we decided to spend five days in Naxos, the largest island of the Cyclades. Though Naxos garners some attention from Europeans, it is not as popular with American tourists as the glitzy Mykonos, the revered Crete, or the uber famous Santorini. Because of this fact, Naxos remains a somewhat undiscovered location and is ripe for the picking. So, why should you add Naxos to your must-see list?
One of the beauties of my job is that I get to travel (a ton!). This past year I have been to numerous cities within the US (think New York, D.C., Denver, Detroit, Colorado Springs, Boulder, San Diego, LA, Louisville), and was even able to explore outside the country in Beijing (albeit pretty quickly). While constant travel like this can be difficult and mentally and physically exhausting, my hope is that I can use it as an opportunity to further explore the world around me and unearth more of the beauty that is all around.
Here are a few snapshots from my travels, taken on the road (with an iPhone!!) and as inspiration as I continue my design career. Enjoy!
It's October now, and I'm finally getting around to catching up on the blog. This year has been a bit wild–full of crazy adventures, a few health scares, and the ability to take part in some truly mind-shifting work. But...no excuses. I'm here now and excited to share with you a bit about what's been on the agenda.
In May, I was ending a work engagement and had the opportunity to participate in a workshop in Beijing. I jumped at the chance, having never been to China, and knowing I had the luxury of tacking a few days of travel onto the end of my trip.
So, almost 7,000 miles and a 14-hour flight later, I landed in the second largest city in the largest country in the world, with a bit of jet-lag and a lot of excitement about what was to come. The first two days of my trip were occupied, but by day three I was out on my own, and eager to see all the city had to offer. Slight dilemma? I only had three days. Here's a peek at what adventure those days unearthed.
In the summer of 2013, I had the privilege to travel to Kathmandu, Nepal, where I worked with a Fair Trade handicraft organization called The Association for Craft Producers (ACP).
At the Association for Craft Producers, I worked as a textile and product designer, with a focus to create products that were both contemporary and relevant in a global marketplace, yet that sought inspiration from traditional Nepali motifs and handicraft design.
Outsourcing in the untraditional sense, ACP works with over 1,400 artisans from 15 districts of Nepal, the majority (over 90%) women. This outsourcing model allows women to work from their homes, maintaining their relationships with their families, educating their children, and contributing their income to their home economies. Because of the financial and working contributions these women maintain within their families, the women of ACP also receive greater support and respect from their husbands and fathers—an important point for a male dominated society. ACP also provides other benefits to their workers in the form of a savings program, school scholarships which focus on the education of female children, a retirement fund, medical allowance, and paid maternity and paternity leave, among others.
There is a myth circulating out there that most people can simply not afford to travel. While there are many people around the world lacking the political and economic freedom to travel, the majority of Americans are not in this group. If you’ve been dreaming of international travel but feel that you are held back by financial constraints, read on! I will give some of my favorite quick tips for traveling on a budget.
As many of you know, Katie and I traveled to Guatemala in December for an investigative research trip. Our goal was to expose others to important cultural vantage points and find and spotlight meaningful travel experiences, bridging the gap between people situated in different contexts and cultures. Meaningful travel is important for a variety of reasons, namely helping to put money back in local economies, engaging an empathic vantage point, and revealing systems, ideas, and insights that are focused on human beings and their unique situations and environments.
We recently published a post about our time with Y’abal Handicrafts, an organization based in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala doing amazing work to support female artisans and families all across the country. Here are a few others we discovered in our time exploring Guatemala.
Let us know if you are interested in getting in touch—we have contacts with these organizations and would love to connect you if you know of a way your skills, talents, or resources could be helpful in supporting these initiatives.
From an early age I remember listening to my my grandparents marvel about the wonders of the Emerald Isle. Though they had not been born there, they were children of second generation Irish immigrants and had visited a couple of times. My mom has had a calendar showcasing photos of Ireland hanging in the laundry room for as long as I can remember. She had always wanted to visit the land of her ancestors. So last year I put plans in motion for a family trip across the pond. Easier said than done, obviously, as there are way too many places to see in Ireland than we could cover in a road trip that was less than two weeks.
As many of you know, Rachel and I recently completed a two and a half week research trip to Guatemala. We fell in love with the country and believe that it should be on everyone’s travel list! I've already written about why you should resolve to travel more this year, but why should you make the trip to Guatemala?
During our trip to Guatemala in December, we had the pleasure of meeting with Allison Havens, Director of Sales and Marketing at Y’abal Handicrafts in Quetzaltenango. With a background in textile and product development among artisan groups and cooperatives, I was blown away by the quality of product, it’s attention to detail, and its adherence to global design trends. We sat down with Allison to learn more, and followed up for a more extensive interview, outlining Y’abal’s work, impact, and forward-thinking approach.