Empowering Mayan Women in San Pedro

Empowering Mayan Women in San Pedro

“You have to howl!” Sheri screamed up at me as I summited my first climbing route in Joshua Tree National Park. This would make a lasting impression on me for the rest of my life, to throw caution to the wind and celebrate the accomplishments we have in life, out loud and proud. I could write a book about Sheri, following her adventures of van life from San Diego to San Pedro, and making her home in Lake Atitlan. The story I want to tell you about though is one of true compassion, connecting cultures, and empowering the women in San Pedro La Laguna with Sheri’s Company – She Rides Dragons.

Sheri Keller and She Rides Dragons

Sheri is a wanderer at heart, but somehow San Pedro and the people in this town stole her heart and she chose to stay. Once there, it wasn’t long before she started making friends. One of her closest friends is Dora, a Spanish teacher, and seamstress who has a smile that will light up the whole room when she allows you to see it.

After several months exploring San Pedro and the other small villages in Lake Atitlan, Sheri discovered the Mayan textiles and an idea began to form. After a lot of trial and error, and drawing on her resources in San Diego, she was able to set up a clothing company called She Rides Dragons. I will explain that name a little later.

Sheri is a Yoga teacher, juggler and all-out fabulous performer that brings magic with her wherever she goes, which fits in perfectly with the backpacking town of San Pedro. So naturally making yoga bags, and other clothing items with Mayan adorned symbols was the next step along her incredible journey.

Collaborating For A Cause

Little did I know, that after following Sheri’s journey of fulfilling her dreams – she had started to follow me as I pursued my dreams of being a travel writer, photographer, and videographer – She would ask me to be a brand ambassador for her company, She Rides Dragons.

I was just starting out but flabbergasted that this woman that I had held in my mind as a goddess of adventure was asking me to collaborate with her for a cause. I, of course, agreed, right after I pulled my jaw back up off the floor and re-attached it to my face.

I received one of her clothing items, a full-length ritual robe, exquisitely hand-crafted and designed with more attention to detail than some of the best brands I have seen. Colors are perfectly matched, the fabric is thick, heavy, and you can almost feel the magic of Lake Atitlan flowing out it.

I immediately messaged her when I received it and thanked her profusely. “Sheri I cannot believe how well made this is!” I was nearly bubbling over with excitement, she replied in her usual cool-as-a-cat way “I know, the women here do such a great job. I hope we can continue to make these because the money is so vital for these families”. This piqued my interest, as my first love has always been humanitarian work and travel for a cause.

Sheri explained that the culture in Lake Atitlan is one of strong patriarchal power. The men often drink, and work is often hard to find, with very little pay. For this reason, she specifically buys the fabric for her company from local women and hires local women as seamstresses to make the clothing and bags, weave the ‘tehido’ that become the tassels on those bags, and as translators to assist with different Mayan languages, of which there are many. Some of the Mayan women Sheri works with speak little or no Spanish and having a translator has been crucial in learning about the different textiles, peoples, and towns around Guatemala. The money that the women make goes straight into their pockets, not their husbands, and they decide how it gets spent.

The women put a lot of their income toward their children and putting food on the table. Many of the women have to weave and sew by the light of the fires they burn near their homes as they cannot afford electricity. If a guest comes, they will feed the guest before they feed the children. The families in Lake Atitlan are not beggars, they work for what they have…sometimes to their own detriment.

Sheri has a gift for observational power and has often found families in need of help. With connections all around the lake, she is constantly on the phone, in her ‘magic makers’ circle – trying to help the families and animals that need it the most. I think she tries to fix the major issues in San Pedro and Lake Atitlan because of how much love she has for this place. Her home has been a haven, an animal rescue, a place of creativity and love – and the people in the city all know her as a giving wonderful human being with boundless love and charity. It is hard for her to walk down the streets without people coming and thanking her for one thing or another.

Yet if you point these things out to her, she will often dismiss it as ‘oh its nothing’, or ‘it isn’t as much as I want to do here’.

Meet Dora – A Seamstress and Spanish Teacher extraordinaire

Dora was born and raised in San Pedro La Laguna. She is Sheri’s friend, a seamstress for She Rides Dragons and so much more. Sheri and Dora met at a Spanish school in San Pedro where Dora taught Spanish. It wasn’t until months later that Sheri discovered Dora was also a seamstress and the two of them began working together on She Rides Dragons.

Dora is so proud that she is able to provide food for her family, can afford electricity, has her own stove, and lives in a very good part of San Pedro. She is able to do much of this because of her work with She Rides Dragons, where she receives pay directly for her work.

Her greatest pride and joy though, is being able to provide a good education for her boys so they can have the best life possible. The best way to ensure survival in Lake Atitlan for the children is to provide education, otherwise, they will be forced to work in the cornfields and coffee farms on the steep slopes of the mountains and volcanoes that surround Lake Atitlan.

Dora is now trying to pass on the love, by getting her Aunt involved. Her sweet Aunt Maria only speaks Mayan and lives high up on the mountain. The home she lived in before her current one was no better than a shanty house with a roof. While she still cannot afford electricity at this time, she was able to afford cinder block floors, walls and a decent roof over her head with a real door. There is a small wood-burning stove on the balcony that she makes tortillas from every morning at 3 am to sell to the local shops so that her daughter can go to school.

There are 36 different dialects of the Mayan language that have survived in this area, and luckily Dora was able to translate from Mayan into Spanish and Sheri then translated into English for me. So trying to communicate in 3 different languages, and get the meaning across was quite comical but we made it work.

Maria, weaves all the tassels for the yoga bags by hand for Sheri. There are many different types of loom weaving that happen and the tradition is passed down over many generations. There are some loom weaving classes in the San Pedro area for tourists, but these women are the real heroes of this story.

Where Does the Fabric Come From?

The fabric for She Rides Dragons comes from all over Guatemala. Fortunately for Sheri, there are fabric markets that offer up incredible inventories so that she doesn’t have to travel to each town when she wants that town’s specific style of weaving or embroidery. There are also traveling saleswomen who visit San Pedro La Laguna. These women make their living by selling second-hand fabrics that their hometowns. The fabric markets, as well, mostly offer second-hand fabrics with a much smaller inventory of new fabrics. When the Mayan fabrics and clothing, huipils (blouses) and Cortes (dresses), are new they are so colorful and bright that you have shield your eyes from their glare when the sunlight touches them.

In order to get the best quality fabric, Sheri takes a 30-minute boat ride across Lake Atitlan – sometimes with waves so bad that people drop on their knees and start to pray (not joking) – to another town called Panajachel (Pa-na-ha-chel). Then it is a long hike up a hill to the fabric market. The market takes place twice a week at the fire station. Sheri has been coming here for four years and has developed a familiar relationship with one of the families that sell fabrics such that when she arrives they know exactly how much fabric Sheri needs, the kind she likes, and it is already, awaiting her inspection.

Sheri sifts through the fabric, sorting, swapping, matching, inspecting for frayed ends or imperfect patterns. After about an hour or so of choosing fabric, then it is a call to her partner, John to check on fabric funds. It is difficult to get cash in San Pedro, they do have an ATM, but can be spotty at best on if it is broken or not.

After some negotiating with the women for the amount of fabric she buys, the fabric is then loaded into large bags for transport back across the lake. I bought a few pieces myself while there because how can you resist the Mayan symbols of Dogs and Dragons!

Grabbing a Tuk-Tuk, we headed back to the dock to take a launcha (boat) back across the lake to San Pedro.

Sewing the Clothing

We hauled the bags back up the hill in San Pedro, grabbed another Tuk-Tuk, and went to Dora’s house to deliver the fabric. Sheri instructs Dora in Spanish once we arrive on the ideas she has for each set of fabric pieces she picked out. Dora makes notes, and patterns are pulled out and set near each pile of fabric.

After a long day, and the afternoon rains coming in we finally get to rest and eat some food. We head back to Sheri’s House. Yet the day doesn’t end there for Sheri, she isn’t one that can sit still for long – despite sometimes needing to. So she gets on the phone with Dora again, to see if she can arrange for another woman who sells huipils – the traditional blouses worn by the Mayan women in Guatemala – to meet with us the next day.

A Long Journey

The next day we head back to Dora’s House to meet with another inspirational woman, Rosa. It is a long journey for Rosa to meet with Sheri. She comes from a small town called Chajul (Cha-hool) that is about twelves hours away by bus. This is how Rosa makes her living, traveling around Guatemala and selling fabrics from her hometown of Chajul. The fabrics are gorgeous and coveted by many women all over Guatemala for their soft feel and durability. Sheri met Rosa 3 years ago when Rosa was traveling though San Pedro and selling fabrics at the Sunday market in San Pedro. Since that time they have developed a beautiful working relationship and Sheri is one of Rosa’s best customers, which is why she is willing to travel all the way from her home to see us.

Rosa arrives at Dora’s house with two large bags full of fabric, Cortes, and huipils. After greetings, how-are-yous, and some water to drink, Sheri, Dora, and Rosa begin looking through the bags. Sheri picks out the fabrics she thinks would be a perfect match for the Yoga bags. Carefully choosing symbols that she thinks would resonate with her ideal customers. After paying her for the items, Rosa takes the remaining fabrics and clothing to Panajachel to sell what she can at the fabric market. Then it is another long journey home, all to help feed her children and keep them from having to work on the farms.

Creating The Clothing Infused With Magic

There are many reports from those who visit Lake Atitlan that there is some kind of magical pull there. They have ‘odd’ dreams, and tend to live more on the wild side of life – yet the local community is very conservative and Catholic.

It sounds a little odd, and I didn’t believe it at first – but waking up the morning after I arrived and seeing the incredible Lake, it made me wonder if it was true. Lake Atitlan was made after a Super Volcano erupted, then imploded creating a caldera for the lake to be born. The lake itself is 1115 feet (389 meters) deep, and 11.2 mi × 5.0 mi (18 km × 8 km) surface.

The Sierra de Los Cuchumatanes mountain range surrounds this lake with the highest mountain, Atitlan Volcano, reaching an elevation of 12,588 feet (3,837 m).  The name Atitlan is a Mayan word that means “the place where the rainbow gets its colors.” There are two other volcanoes that are also part of this range, Toliman volcano, and San Pedro Volcano.

There is so much Mayan folklore and stories that the local Mayans still believe about this place it is hard not to believe it yourself when you are there. The local mythology considers Lake Atitlan to be the birthplace of all creation.

So not only is the clothing and yoga bags that Sheri makes selectively handcrafted, it is done so in a place and by the people that have lived in this area since 300 BC. I really hate describing a place as ‘magical’ because I feel it is often overused – but there are two places I have been so far that I can truly use this with – one is Scotland, and the other is now Lake Atitlan.

A Force For Change

There aren’t many people I have met in my life that have inspired me as much as Sheri and the women of Lake Atitlan who help her. They have a hard life, compared to the rest of the world.

I asked Sheri why she named her company ‘She Rides Dragons’ and she explained the strength of Dragons and their ties to Magic. I think it is more than that though, she is a strong, beautiful woman who is tackling the problems in San Pedro that are much bigger than what one person should handle on their own. She is helping to empower Mayan women to create change in their hearts, their homes, and provides food for the table their children eat at. The children also get to have an education, giving them a chance at a better future than poverty and starvation. If this wasn’t enough, she also rescues dogs and cats in the area – pooling resources to help treat for worms, feeds them, bathes then and raises money to help neuter them. She is known for her healing abilities, yet has seen many animals not make it because of lack of education in the community.

This isn’t about a clothing company, it is about women in Lake Atitlan trying to ride these giant problems – dragon-sized problems. These problems are unruly, difficult beasts that tend to bury most people in depression and anxiety of the acutest kind. Yet Sheri has collected a group of people, women, and literally a whole community to help fight them and she is succeeding at it – even if she doesn’t always give herself credit for doing so.

How Can You Contribute?

Take a look at She Rides Dragons, buy some of the clothing she offers. Now that you know the attention to detail, the love poured into the clothing, and the magical place these items come from – it will be an item that will hold more meaning for you than any other piece in your closet.

If there isn’t anything, in particular, you would like to buy you can also donate to her cause. Her dream is to be able to hire 8 women, to change their lives, and so their children’s lives can change and it will balloon from there. If you would like to donate for Maria the weaver to get electricity, send the donation via PayPal to SheRidesDragons@gmail.com – and make a note for something, in particular, you would like to donate to.

If you would like to help with funding or volunteering at an animal hospital or donate to help with education on how to care for animals and recognize diseases – email SheRidesDragons@gmail.com and she can get you in touch with the right people there.

Also, if you are interested in learning Spanish, Dora is an excellent Spanish teacher and does online classes starting at $10 an hour. Please contact send me an email (culturetrekking196@gmail.com) and I will connect you to her. I started taking lessons from her and think she is an absolutely incredible Spanish teacher. It is difficult but immersive and I’m learning quickly.

Like it? Pin it! Sharing is Caring

Where To Stay in San Pedro

Returning to the Texas Nightmare |Facing My Rape & Healing From it

Returning to the Texas Nightmare |Facing My Rape & Healing From it

I grab my water bottle and take a few deliberate swallows of the ice-cold water I keep by my bed. I call out, ‘Zoey’, my cute dog, that has been by my side through each and every one of these terrible moments. She helped me survive in Texas when I was too afraid to go to sleep. I would place my hand on her back and concentrate on her slow and easy breathing until my own matched hers. She is so small, yet so fierce, maybe there is a part of her that feels she has to be now — because I was so broken back then. She responded immediately to my voice and army-crawled over to me, too sleepy to stand up fully. I smile, and a giggle escapes, oh my sweet puppy. She knows exactly what to do, I lay on my left side, lift up the sheet for her to climb under and she lays right near my belly. Now that she has comforted me out of the nightmare, it is time to pet her. She scoots her nose beneath my hand and pushes it up quickly several times until I give in with a smile and scratch her soft fur methodically. I am calm again, I just have to get my mind to stop spinning over the ‘next thing’.

Rape & Healing

My trip to Austin for Travel Con was going to be more than just a trip for my website development, it is a trip of significant progress for me. It was just a year ago that even seeing, hearing, or having someone mention Texas sent the flashbacks flooding in and the panic tightening all my joints in the fight or flight physiological response. Now I was going back, maybe not to Dallas – the place that it happened, but to Austin – a city I often used for escape. The last time I was there, was two days before I moved back to Utah. I was still in a trauma fog back then and don’t remember much, but my mind is still afraid of being back in that State. Some people think it is easy to just ‘control your thoughts’, or that you ‘have an agenda for attention’, or…..well I could go on and on — but what most don’t realize is that PTSD is completely and utterly up to your subconscious mind trying to protect you from those terrible things again. What terrible thing? I was raped when I lived in Texas, a week after my trauma a 21-year-old friend from my church was kidnapped and brutally murdered and left in a van in a ditch — 2 weeks before she was to serve a religious mission.

Returning to the Texas Nightmare

Another week passed and my Dad flew into town for an event, and told me (without knowing what had happened) that he and my Mom didn’t love each other anymore and to not be surprised if something happens between them. I couldn’t work because I would have panic attacks trying to see my male patients. I pretended really well for a long time until I finally broke…..I came back home and found Sam….my therapist at the Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake City Utah.
I remember her asking me, ‘What does ‘finishing therapy’ look like to you?’ — I won’t tell you exactly what I said, but I did tell her that going back to Texas was a goal to face the past and be at peace with it. It was two months ago, that I was finally able to stop blaming myself …..it took two whole years to get to this point.

Returning to the Texas Nightmare Rape & Healing

I had led a very sheltered life in Utah, people were kind, they cared about what was going on in your life. I never thought that sort of thing would happen to me, but it did, and it is not my fault no matter what the courts ruled. The one thing I KNEW I could always hang my hat on, was the sweet Nurse who examined me in the Emergency Room at 2am — fiercely hugging me while I wept she said, “I’m so sorry sweety, you were raped, no matter what anyone else says — the damage I saw on you is evidence that this was in no way consensual. I need you to believe me when I say that”, she wouldn’t let me go until I told her I believed her and let me cry into her shoulder for several minutes. I was bruised, had scratches on my face, and it was too painful to shower. I had to tell my boss and take two weeks off of work…..I had antibiotics, injections, pregnancy tests, mental battles….I made it through the fog of trauma, the floating through life praying the Lord would take me—but not believing he would hear me. I don’t know that I will ever see her again, but I know that her words are what kept me alive. Now I’m on the other side, I know what that nurse told me was the truth.

Returning to the Texas Nightmare Rape & Healing

I recreated the scenario of that night with my best friend and travel companion Breanna. Funny thing, I was still able to move my arms and legs, relay complex thought processes to her, I was able to tell her no when she asked me questions she knew I wouldn’t like. I hugged her at the end of that experiment, sobbing to her that I finally believed it wasn’t my fault……I knew without a shadow of a doubt I had been drugged. My cloak of shame was removed and the shame turned to anger & now I am reassigning many of those terrible memories a very different emotion.

The next step was to revisit my personal nightmare in Texas with a new set of glasses I had just put on. I was combining my love for travel writing, education, and meeting supportive travel blogger friends in Texas. No one knew how much this meant to me, how many nights before my flight I woke up sweating from the nightmares — I was finally strong enough to sit with my feelings and mourn for all that was lost & was going to Austin to claim my future back. Starting this website was a healthier way to cope than alcohol, overeating, or overspending to numb the pain and loss. It has given me hope again in humanity, reminds me that the world is my oyster and my story is not over yet.

I packed my things mechanically a few days later, I couldn’t chicken out now….I was so close. I packed, unpacked, repacked, unpacked, downsized, had my roommates tell me what to wear. I dove into preparation for my first travel conference, TravelCon 2018 with Nomadic Matt. This gives me something to create, to look forward to and be proud of. Now I want it to grow as I am growing, so I can use it for good & help those who may not be as lucky as I am for being able to have a fresh start.

Returning to the Texas Nightmare Rape & Healing

I got on the plane and couldn’t sleep, so I bought a Scientific America magazine, and started reading about a dry and watered down subject I was totally uninterested in. It worked like a charm, and soon I was drooling onto my shirt with the gentle hum of the propellers outside of my window as my white noise.
I awoke to the intercom blaring and the all too familiar ‘bing-bing-bing’ with the flashing seat-belt sign. We were starting our descent into my memories of Texas. I refused to cry on the plane, so took out my hand sanitizer, put a generous helping on my hands and let the pungent alcohol acost my nostrils. I thought about the bike ride I had signed up for at 330pm. I knew it would be hot and humid, but I was so ready to create some fun memories. (I will do a separate post on this, but for comic relief — I had died my hair the day before, and it has a red tint to it. Ladies, you know what happens when you sweat after dying your hair……yep, it was pouring down my face tinted red like the movie Carrie .)

TravelCon 2018

This is where the magic happens for me. Hearing the speakers, listening to their struggles, their fears, and being in a space of learning filled me and exhausted me. There is still so much to do and things I do not know. One class is all it took for me to have the courage to share this story.

Rape & Healing
Thomas Swick

It was a writing class with Thomas Swick, former Editor for the Florida Sun. I sat in this room of 12-13 women who were all there to learn how to share their stories. He asked us to share our ‘human element’ that is so often missing in travel writing. There are so many frills, flowing dresses, perfect scenes created….that we have forgotten what it is like to be expressive.
He painted a picture with words like an artist paints on canvas…..being an artist, I finally was able to see how writing could be an art as well. I thought of my Grandfather before he passed away he looked me straight in the eye and said, “You are so talented and so special to me, promise me that you will take art lessons or do something artistic. That’s the only thing I want you to promise me”. I have often thought I had failed him in this promise, but now I see I am creating a masterful work of art by creating this website and sharing it with the world.
I felt that sinking feeling of truth that comes into your heart when you know you have to do something, even if it is terrifying. The thing that was at the forefront of my mind, my story, my trauma, my healing, my promises…..I knew I needed to write this…..but how much was too much? I asked Mr. Swick, if there were taboo topics, or if he felt disturbing topics needed a trigger warning…..he said no, so if you are disturbed, I’m sorry…..blame him, lol.

Returning to the Texas Nightmare

I could tell he was a little uncomfortable when I asked him this, he was a former editor (they don’t typically like it when things were vague). So I took the first step of courage, and asked him, “Being fully transparent about this is really difficult for me, because I’m terrified of what will be said about me or to me, but here it goes. I was raped in Texas, and this is my first time being back here since it happened. Is sharing that story inappropriate or sharing too much?”
The room fell silent, and I didn’t dare look around the room. Mr. Swick sat back in his chair, stared at me with his wisened eyes, and gently stated, “I’m so sorry………I think your story could help a lot of people and needs to be told”. I fought back the tears when he said this, I was so afraid of being seen as damaged, or that I was doing this for the attention. This was such a HUGE journey for me to come back to Austin or even Texas and I needed to release the pain, fear, joy, and pride I was feeling in an artistic way.
After he said this, the other women in the room began to speak words of encouragement. They shared their story of mental health challenges, and how important it is to not be ashamed to write about it…..but just be ready for the internet trolls. The feeling in the room was such, that we went over time, and lingered after for a little while, sharing in a shared truth. I was humbled, overwhelmed and astonished at the reactions I received.

Sailing in Seattle Rape & Healing

I went back to my Airbnb and started to think about what I was going to share, and not share. I started reading Mr. Swick’s book, The Joy’s of Travel; and while reading a thought popped into my head, “Share your truth”. I started to silently cry (well maybe not quite silent, lol) in my room at this thought. So many years of self-doubt and torture, so many sleepless nights and self-destructive behavior due to poor choices OTHER people had made. I don’t want revenge anymore, I just want to feel whole again, feel like I have reclaimed my future and know exactly what a ‘life worth living’ is for myself. All of this came crashing down on me at that moment when I realized…..I needed to share my story, my truth.
I hope in sharing my truth, it allows you to face those demons within yourself. You aren’t alone, it is bloody scary to face those demons, but you can do it. I guarantee that the battle is worse when you try and do it alone…..reach out…..get the support that is there…..you got this.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Rape & Healing

Don’t give pre-determined labels to people based on your previous experience. What you deem to be cookie cutter definition may not always be what the real truth is. I was a triathlete, and now have health problems from putting on so much weight after my trauma. I was a kind, bubbly, giving person that was known as the anchor for my friends; now I get anxiety from being in a crowd of people. Mother Teresa said, “The hardest battles fought are the ones inside our own mind”, this has never been truer for me than now. I am winning my battle though, I am fighting the good fight, I’m not giving up because Zoey needs me, my sister needs me, and I know that by speaking my truth I will help others as well.

I don’t know that my voice will change the global conversation about this. I don’t know that comments or responses to this will be kind. What I do know, is that I have remained true to my own voice……I have shared my truth……and want you to know that there is hope. If you have nothing else, don’t lose hope.

As Always……Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See You on the Flip Side. 

What Does Responsible Tourism Mean?

What Does Responsible Tourism Mean?

This post may contain affiliate links, for more information read our full disclosure The travel industry is throwing around this term: Responsible Tourism or Sustainable Tourism. So what does Responsible Tourism mean? Each year we travel, consume, photograph and share on our social media channels, exposing friends and family to expand their knowledge of the cultures of the world.

The world gets a little bit smaller, those in different countries can see your social media posts on Instagram and Facebook and may compare it to your lives. Animal rights, environmental responsibilities are becoming more and more talked about….especially the use of plastic. Stop and question what you think you know about plastic vs paper bags, look at the whole environmental impact. Look at how the production and use of plastic impacts and effects low-income households, did you know there is an actual place called ‘Cancer Alley’? In our ever-increasing virtual connection, what can we do as travel addicted wander lusting Instagram posting fiends to be more responsible when we travel? First things first….to understand what it is.

What does Eco-tourism mean

Responsible Tourism is a multifaceted approach, which includes:

  1. Minimizing negative social, economic and environmental impacts while traveling
  2. Generating greater economic benefits for local people and enhancing the well-being of host communities
  3. Improving working conditions and access to the worldwide industry
  4. Involving local people in decisions, markets, and trade that affect their life and chances at life.
  5. Making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, embracing the diversity.
  6. Providing more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues.
  7. Provides access for physically challenged people
  8. Is being culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.
What does Eco-tourism mean

There are many different ways that this can be addressed and focused on. The Culture Trekking Community is one that focuses on numbers one, five, six and eight. Creating a community where ideas, religions, cultural idiosyncrasies are both shared, respected and embraced. As the Community grows I want to improve awareness on environmental impacts as well as fight the uphill battle of having more meaningful human connections. Today I will focus on the latter.

Where the idea started for my own Responsible Tourism:

The video was quite graphic when I saw this 2 years ago, but it really impacted me in so many different ways. The moral of the story is…..you don’t know what you don’t know until you educate yourself on how small choices like using single-use straws can impact the environment. I now carry a reusable metal straw in my purse at all times. This video is where responsible tourism started for me….watching this turtle in so much pain made me feel like I needed to do more for the environment.

It isn’t just the plastic straws, it is garbage that is left strewn about in all the different places that I visit. I remember walking behind someone in Yellowstone National park…..they dropped a wrapper on the ground (a large one). I was so frustrated by this because they had a bag they could have easily slipped that wrapper into. I picked it up and gave it back to the tourist, who naturally acted like they dropped it by accident (even though I watched them look around before dropping it). It is not that hard to slip those wrappers into a pocket, a bag, in your shoe….anything but on the ground. Taking a few more steps to ensure your rubbish gets into the proper receptacle is not as hard as you think…..as Nike says ‘JUST DO IT’!

Another video that truly impacted me was one man in India, who returned to his home to find the beach he loved filled with garbage. He knew he had to do something so he started knocking on doors and aims to be that change he wishes to see in the world. Take a look at the video & then I want to think about how much of a difference we could make if each of us committed to picking up 3 pieces of trash wherever we travel to. What about taking an extra garbage bag on a local hike in your hometown? We could all use a few more squats in our day, right?

Why am I showing you all these videos? A picture is worth a thousand words (or so they say), but I feel that videos are the way to make an impact that can create change. What is better than a video? Visiting a place like the Washed Ashore Gallery in Bandon Oregon (several displays are located throughout the United States, see the Washed Ashore Exhibit Locations for more information) can both teach our generation and the generations below us how to protect our earth and save our oceans.

Traveling can be an exotic thing full to the brim with activities that will make your friends envy your life & maybe even despise you a little. The more I travel the more I realize that I want to make a difference in the world, no matter how small it is. Ecotourism and Volunteering for cleanups and service can help connect our communities, open minds and hearts, and help start the change we wish to see in the world.

Supporting Companies with good causes:

What does Eco-tourism mean

Save the Baby Turtles!

A Blogger friend of mine in Fort Lauderdale Florida was able to participate in the nighttime protection of hatching baby turtles. These baby turtles get confused by the city lights and instead of going into the ocean (following the moon), they follow the city lights. This leads them to be run over or crushed by bikes, cars or fall into holes they cannot get out of. What these volunteers do is once the baby turtles hit their 10-foot periphery line, they gather them up in a bucket and take all the confused little fellas to the ocean where they set them free. They also move beach chairs and sandcastles to allow for the mothers to come to the beach easier and lay their eggs. Check out her post on Saving Baby Sea Turtles and how you can help or participate!  

Soul Flower Clothing Company

As soon as I found this clothing company, I know I had found my tribe. Just look at their tagline:

Soul Flower is a natural clothing brand for kind souls and free spirits. Mindfully made with natural fibers and heartfelt art, we design our threads with kind vibes from start to finish. We seek inspiration in the simplicity of everyday life – in nature and in music, in free-spirited adventures and in like-minded souls. We create clothing in a way that supports our planet, spreads a positive message, and most importantly — helps you express yourself.”

what does responsible tourism mean

Beyond the message of Freakos‘. When looking into building your eco-friendly and ethical wardrobe, look no further.
The inks they use have a low impact on the environment with citrus solvents being utilized. They reuse paper boxes and packing materials to ‘keep the story going’. All cotton that is used in their clothing is organic cotton, recycled fibers or hemp. Not only do they focus on the clothing, but they also decreased the catalog printing and now use recycled paper with soy-based inks. They are also green office certified (aka: energy wise usage of products and environmentally savvy).

Why is this important? Small companies like this are able to be more environmentally friendly and I support those who make an effort to do so whole-heartedly! I feel privileged to be able to collaborate with this company as I love their manifesto, Soul Flower’s practices, and policies and their clothing is SO COMFORTABLE!

What does responsible tourism mean?

To all my big headed ladies out there (I’m talking literal, not egotistical) – this is the place you should get your headbands! Every time I wear these headbands I feel a little better about myself, I read the inspirational message printed on it and cannot help but feel inspired to finish out the day with a bang! Plus, let’s be honest, sometimes a girl just needs a headband to decrease the stress of doin’ da hur….ya feel me? To get your headband:

What is responsible tourism

The other items I have personally tried and fallen in love with so far are the yoga pants and shirts. If I’m being honest, I wear the pants EVERYWHERE! Not just because the pants are comfortable, but because they have the most adorable prints on them that inspire me to continue to be Eco-friendly in my day to day life & inspire me to live a simpler life to help have less of an impact on the environment.
I wore the shirt for two days in a row people! I know that’s gross but it has been so hot over here, and it is so light, airy and cute with the little leaves on it… I couldn’t resist

Personal Note: It is sooooo hard to find cute and comfortable clothing as a curvy woman — so to find a company that caters to my desire to be eco-friendly and embraces those of all shapes and sizes really just gives me warm fuzzies and I want to shout out from the rooftops how much I appreciate and love them for this.

You don’t just have to participate in environmentally friendly activities at destinations you visit. You can start being environmentally friendly to companies just like Soul Flower. Check out Soul Flower Summer Specials today!

Other Ways to be a Responsible Tourist:

Be Respectful of Religions and Cultures:

Look at local customs and rules when entering churches across the world. Do not make derogatory jokes or compare those within the country to something you deem as ‘more sensible’ or ‘better practices’. Do not impose your beliefs on those within the country unless prompted to. Respect the cultural idiosyncrasies of what is considered ‘normal’ for that country.

What is responsible tourism

The bottom line is, just because something, someone, or a country as a whole does something different than what you know to be normal — doesn’t mean that it is wrong. There are some exceptions where it endangers basic human rights, practices, or harms/mutilates any animal or human being (obviously). Even if you do see something wrong, intervening as a tourist could land you in jail – be careful, be cautious and if you have a concern about the country/destination use a guide that you can ask questions about what is appropriate or if you can do something/intervene without landing yourself in jail.

Be Respectful of Shop Owners Overseas:

Do not take photos of products, items, or anything in different countries that could affect their livelihood. Do not get offended if they ask you not to take photos, there is a reason! Unnamed countries citizens will visit these economically struggling countries and take photos of their products and produce them at a fraction of the cost, but they are not authentic products.

What is responsible tourism

Moroccans, for example, rely on their skill and artistry of furniture, clothing, architecture, woodworking to profit from their craft and provide for their families. How many times have you visited a country and thought, ‘Oh I can get that back in my own country, I don’t need to buy it here’. This is why it is so important….so many countries rely on tourism and the money it brings in to put food on the table. So please….before you take a photo in a store, ASK the owner if it is ok.

Be Aware and Educate Yourself on Regional Issues:

What is responsible tourism

Human trafficking, terrorism, and so many more unsavory things happen in this world. I have too much of a tender heart to focus in on the negative all the time, so rarely listen to the news – but I do search for those individuals who have the capacity to handle situations such as this. I support them, I share their stories and donate when I’m able to.

It is important to be sensitive to cultural and religious practices (as part of Responsible Tourism) that help to positively define a culture, but that never means we should tolerate those who continually violate the basic human rights of food, safety, and shelter.

With having experienced Rape and sexual assault myself, the topic of sex trafficking is a very passionate topic for me. Operation Underground Railroad is a team of individuals of highly specialized individuals who have years of experience in special forces, law enforcement working proactively since 2013 with local governments that I wholeheartedly support. This is a video that had me in tears for how grateful I was to the men & women who do this. Please support them in whatever way that you can….
If you would like to Donate to O.U.R. please feel free to do so, if you are unable to donate, then try and Volunteer for O.U.R. to help aid in their efforts.

Small changes can make a big difference:

Wear environmentally friendly products:

  • Keep any soap while camping at any location away from runoff areas (at least 100 feet).
  • Bury or pack out your human waste. Look at the requirements for each camping spot you visit for their rules and regulations.
  • Wear environmentally and Ocean friendly sunscreen as this often washes off the ocean, causing damage to coral and marine life.
What is responsible tourism

Biodegradable products:

  • Bringing your own straws, skip the straw at Starbucks. If this doesn’t make sense, please keep watching the video of the Turtle above until it does.
  • Get a recycling bin or start a recycling group in your neighborhood. (More information below on recycling that could be available in your country).
  • Make a list of low-cost companies that produce Biodegradable Products and keep a list. Hand the list out to anyone who uses straws, show they alternatives. Don’t force it down their throat — educate with KINDNESS! Honey works better than vinegar when trying to entice people to change their daily habits or companies to change the status quo.
What is responsible tourism

Utilize the Reusable Grocery Bags:

  • This is such a simple change that we can all do (especially those of us in the States). In most other countries they are charging for the plastic bags, yet when we implement it here to try and help support the environment….everyone loses their minds! They tried to do this when I lived in Texas and I would stand there and see with my own eyes, these grocery baggers get verbally assaulted for doing their job and charging for the plastic bags. Come on people…..be better than that……do better than that…….realize that this isn’t just about YOU and YOUR needs, but for the betterment of humanity and animals. If you still aren’t convinced that plastic bags are a big deal, watch this video of the whale found dead with hundreds of pounds of plastic bags in its stomach. If that doesn’t convince you, well…..I don’t know how to help you become a better human being.
  • I need some advice myself on this one….grrrhhh….. I have all the reusable bags I can handle. I start daydreaming on the way to the grocery store, then out of habit, forget to take the reusable grocery bags I brought off the garage wall where I put them so I wouldn’t forget them. If you have some advice on how to remember these things…..let a girl know in the comments below.

A Call to Action for Responsible Tourism:


  • Here is a great resource if you would like to participate in Ecotourism on your next trip: Ecotourism.org

Volunteering through worldwide programs/cleanups

Companies that Participate in Eco-friendly Product Production:

Clothing: Patagonia, Thought Clothing, Encircled Clothing

How to encourage clothing companies to not use plastic hangers

Straws: The Last Plastic Straw is a great website for a list of all the different types of straws, where to get them and how they are better than the plastic straws. There is also a site completely dedicated to Living a life without plastic, this is where I get my reusable metal straws (bamboo and glass is also available).

Home, Pets, Cleaning supplies and more: Life Without Plastic gives you so many bamboo or steel options that can replace many of the household items that have or contain plastic. Gift certificates, gift registry, and points program are also available on this site to help you invite friends to the #noplastic movement.

Trash Bags: Biodegradable Trash Bags, Green Legacy Tall Kitchen Trash Bags

Grocery Bags: Reusable Grocery Bags

Sandwich Bags: Eco-Friendly Reusable Sandwich Bags

Recycling throughout the world: Recycling in the States (contact your city councils to arrange this), Recycling in Australia, Recycling in Canada, Curbside Recycling available in New Zealand please check your local city councils, Recycling is also available in the United Kingdom for each household (mandatory supply of bins from government), Spain also has recycling available in some areas, and the Netherlands actually pays you to bring in your recyclable materials (typically at grocery stores).


A Must Read Plastic Free Blogger: If you are like me and feel a little overwhelmed by how many things in your home contain plastic, visit Beth Terry: My Plastic Free Life Blogger. She will teach you, take you step by step through the process and show you how to live a plastic-free life.

Worldwide Plastic Pollution Coalition – Now NO ONE has an excuse to not participate in reducing their plastic use. This is a global alliance of individuals, organizations and businesses working together to stop plastic pollution.

what does responsible tourism mean

How To Tour Responsibly:

We have such a duty to protect creatures who outlived the dinosaurs, are essential to our planet’s ecosystem – the Sea Turtles. We don’t have to start being Eco-friendly or participate in Responsible Tourism practices only when we are traveling. Get involved in the activities now, one goal or plastic straw at a time.

Be respectful of religions, people, cultures, and races as long as they do not infringe on basic human rights to live life peacefully, safely without fear of bodily harm and can provide for basic human needs of shelter, food, and water.

Get involved in volunteer programs locally where you can help end human trafficking, gang violence, opioid epidemics, and so much more. There seems to be an Instagram hashtag or Facebook group for everything these days. If you have any suggestions for local groups you are passionate about, please let it in the comments below with a link to their site.
Teach those around you, share the information on your social media platforms….it just takes one rock in a pond to start a ripple that turns into a wave. Be that change you wish to see in the world.

How do you like to contribute to Responsible Tourism?

What is the most important thing to you regarding Responsible Tourism?

Getting Fit for your Trip with Fitness Apps

Getting Fit for your Trip with Fitness Apps

Before traveling I typically try and ‘train for the trip’, if it is climbing at high altitudes, or walking a half marathon; it is important to prepare your body for the amount of walking and activities you are going to be doing. It is hard to get the motivation to do so before you go on your trip, but using Fitness apps can help with that. Here are a few fitness apps that I have found extremely useful in getting me and keeping me on track.


This has always been my ‘go to’ app when I realize that my eating habits are getting out of control. You can track water, food, calories, workouts, steps and Macro percentages. This gives you a well rounded view of what you are actually putting into your amazing machine we call the human body. Take care of it now so you don’t lose your entire life savings trying to maintain it later (or at least that is what I keep telling myself and my patients).


  • Make bets against yourself! This was one of the more intriguing Fitness Apps I found. You make a wager against yourself of what you would like to achieve with your weight loss goal. Then you get started with weight, time constraint, and make your bet. If you meet your goal, you get your money back AND THEY MATCH YOU & pay you via PayPal! If you lose, well….. then say bye bye to that money.
  • Money is always a great motivator for me — get paid to lose weight right?! Sounds almost too good to be true.


  • Just like HealthyWage, but the stakes are even higher, some payouts going as high as $1000 — so if you have that lofty goal that you know you can reach, well then…. this one could be a huge moneymaker for you

Charity Miles

I always like to join the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot for the Food Bank here for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Its a way to remember what the holiday is really for to me at least. This app lets you do the same thing! The app will pay you 10 cents for every mile you walk and all the proceeds will go to the charity of your choice! Charities that are the most popular seem to be The Wounded Warrior Project and Habitat for Humanity.

Zombies, RUN!

So this one sounds super interesting to me! I’m a total Zombie fan (think World War Z not Walking Dead). This app simulates a real zombie attack and gives you tasks and things you have to do that are active to protect your campout and your life. Such a fun little game, especially for those of us who love Halloween time 🙂


When my workout mix starts to get boring, my workouts start dragging as well. So this little gem provides beats to sync with your workout that you can plan beforehand, then it will match a song and beat per minute (bpm) to the intensity of the workout that you are doing. So many fun apps to try!

Under Armor Map My Ride/Walk/Hike/Run

  •  If you are planning to hike up Kilimanjaro, Walk the streets of Scotland, or Trek across the Sahara desert — you may want to gauge how far you are going before you leave to help prepare you physically for your trip.
  • These Fitness Apps allow you to track in real time… how far you ride, bike, hike, or walk. You can save your walks, follow others paths of where they walked/hiked. I use this App all the time to help plan my biking route to make sure I get enough time, elevation, and distance in.

Yoga Wake up:

I have it on my vision board that I want to get better at doing Yoga, so this one is on my list as well. You set you alarm on this one to the time you typically get up in the morning. It provides you with a 10 minute yoga flow to get that blood flowing and start the day off with an excellent sun salutation. I mean 10 minutes guys, that’s how much time you spend Facebook or Instagram stalking before you finally peel yourself out of bed right?

Life sum

I’m a people pleaser, but this one would be nice to have the reminders of what my goals are for my health. This will send you daily reminders and motivational clips to keep your fitness goals for your upcoming vacation body going.

Thrive Market

This is the Amazon store for those who like clean eating and organic eating. It does have a yearly fee though of $59.95 (BUMMER)– but you simply add each item to your cart, it finds the best deals around you and has it shipped to your door, ultimately saving you quite a bit of money (and your gut from all those GMO products).


Want to have a personal nutritionist at your fingertips? Try this one (yes there is a fee darn it) but for $14.95 per month to have someone analyze my meals for me and help me make those changes I need to make to get rid of this belly of mine, well, it seems worth it to try it out right?

My Sugar

As a Health Care Professional, I would highly recommend this to all those of you who may suffer from Diabetes. Your doctor asks you for a log of your blood sugars anyway, so why not just pop this handy app into your mobile device. You input your food, and it tells you how it will effect your blood sugar levels. You can also keep track of your blood sugar levels as well and it will help you construct a definitive plan to help you remain feeling at your best.

Designed for all outdoor enthusiasts, Lifeline by AllTrails provides peace of mind and safety knowing that you’ll never hit the trail alone. (PRNewsfoto/AllTrails)

All Trails – Hiking and Running

  •  This is a wonderful App that I use all the time here in Utah. It has the best recommendations on Hiking length, difficulty, trail conditions, and so much more. If you are preparing for a hike while on your trip, or are going to a mountainous area but live in a town that is flat. I definitely recommend this app to prepare you for your unique circumstances while traveling.

If you aren’t the technically savvy kind, then I would suggest Tosca Reno’s “Eat Clean Diet Cookbook” — I recommend this to all my Diabetic patients because it is from a Nutritionist that thoroughly explains what bad carbs vs good carbs are, clean meat vs meat that can literally clog the arteries over time. I like it because it provided me with a base of which I can make better food choices in the recipes that I choose; a ‘this instead of that’ approach instead of a ‘just don’t eat that or this, and this has too much of that in it – so don’t eat that either’ approach. Now that you have the tools, let’s get out there and start getting healthy for our next trip. One of these days I actually will take that dream trip and climb to the Everest Base Camp or hike up Mount Kilimanjaro; and when I do, I hope that my only physical limitation is that I don’t have wings 😉 Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and see you on the flip side.

Would you add any other Fitness Apps to this list?

Like it? Pin it! Sharing is Caring 😉

For more articles like this, read:
Mastering Motivation with the Masters

Love the Journey

Mastering Motivation with the Masters

Dani, Charlie, Svet, Cameron, and LuLuu the Masters of Motivation.

Dani is a Personal Trainer, Wife, Mother, & Boss Babe Extraordinaire We all have hopes and dreams. We have an image in our minds of what our ideal body would be. Why don’t we have it? Do we really lack the motivation? Motivation, by definition, is the general desire or willingness of someone to do something. We all have the motivation, but I believe it’s our mental blocks that get in the way of mastering motivation. It’s important to recognize these roadblocks, so we can clear them out and focus on what really matters. And being healthy and happy is what really matters to me. dream courage inspire.jpeg So, in order to get rid of all the roadblocks and be TOTALLY MOTIVATED, we need to dig down deep for a minute here. Don’t be afraid if this gets a little messy. You need to believe, 100%, that you DESERVE to have that ideal body. Think of how you would feel looking into the mirror and seeing yourself like that. What would people be saying to you if they hadn’t seen you in years and you suddenly ran into them at the restaurant? Close your eyes. Try to imagine every single little detail about it. Believe that it’s real. Feel it in your very bones! feel the freedom.jpeg Tell yourself (out loud) that you deserve this. You deserve to feel this way. You WILL feel this way, and there’s NOTHING that will stop you. If you are a parent, then you will do it for your kids, because they deserve to have a mom or dad who is healthy and can play with them. They deserve a parent who will live long enough to see them get married and have kids of their own. They deserve a parent who is confident, and loves themselves, and respects themselves, and teaches their kids to do the same. But most importantly, you will do it for YOU. Because you deserve to feel the best you’ve ever felt. Each day is a blessing, and you deserve to take advantage of each and every minute of it. Do this every. single. day. and you will MASTER MOTIVATING YOURSELF . <3 “Easy” Workouts: I am a firm believer in working out as hard as you can, as short as you can! Studies have actually shown that working out at a high intensity for 15-20 minutes will actually burn more fat and more calories throughout the day than a steady rate of cardio for 45 minutes will. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be done in 15 minutes!  Almost every single one of my workouts that I do consist of the following: It’s simple. Anybody can create a workout. No gym required.
4-6 exercises
30-45 seconds “ON” (doing the exercise)
15-30 seconds “OFF” (resting between exercises)
1 minutes rest after all the exercises are completed
REPEAT 3-5 times
Favorite Recipe: 
I LIVE for this protein shake. I have made it almost every day for the last 5 years. I get EVERYONE hooked on this recipe.
 1 Cup Almond Milk
1 Tbsp Natural Peanut Butter (make sure you PB ONLY consists of peanuts)
1 Scoop Protein Mix
1/4 Cup Cottage Cheese (optional)
Blend until smooth! I literally just finished mine 🙂
I hope all of this helps you! I believe being happy and healthy is truly the most important things we can do for ourselves. Join me for the happiness movement at www.facebook.com/itsdaniw
 Author Bio: Dani W is a mom, wife, NASM Personal Trainer, Professional SCUBA Diver, and former exotic animal trainer. She leads a team of women whose focus is on inspiring others across the globe to love themselves, believe in themselves, be happy, and beYOUTiful.

Charlie Evans a Fitness & Health Expert, retired Professional Ballerina, mother & 5 Stressed out: exercise! 1. Clear your mind 2. Determine how long you can work out. 3. Decide what you are going to do 4. Do it! Realistically how long do I have to work out?
  • 10-minute workout be intentional and intense!
  • 30-minute workout get your heart rate up and tighten those muscles
  • 60 + minute workout do a minute of 30-45 minutes of cardio and the rest strength training
conquer it There was a time when my husband and I were married but also struggling, within the first 3 years; we had 2 small children (ages two and one). I stayed at “home” with our children- home consisted of us moving to Oregon then Washington Northern California Wyoming Montana and Indiana. All within 12 weeks. These hotels were more like motels that didn’t offer a fitness room. I soon discovered myself feeling depressed and stuck with two small kids in our little space. I decided to create this awesome work out that only requires the length and width of a yoga mat. Here’s the daily work out I did and found amazing strength, success & clarity doing it!
Jog in place: 60 seconds 45 Jumping jacks, Jog in place 60 seconds 45 more jumping jacks Standing Wide legs squats 3 sets of 25 Bent Knee push-ups 3 sets of 20-30 crunches 3 times Step back lunges 25 right and left 2 sets Cool down jog in place 60 seconds Slow jumping jacks 45, then Stretch
This was so invigorating and over time I found I gained strength and stamina and self-confidence, being able to do this in the small space of a hotel room! I felt I had truly mastered  motivation in doing this.  A recipe I love to share is this! It contains some of my favorite foods! Pumpkin Oatmeal Energy Bites: Serves 20:    1/2 C Pumpkin Puree,  1 1/2 C Dry Oatmeal,  1/4 C Honey,   1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice,   1/2 cup mini Dark Chocolate chips,   1 tsp vanilla extract,   1/4 C Chia Seeds,   1/2 C Peanut Butter (or other natural nut butter)  –  Instructions on making Pumpkin Oatmeal Energy Bites charlie evansAuthor Charlie Evans Graduated from BYU BA Health and Human Performance, danced as a professional ballerina for 5 years completed my ballet career after dancing for 23 years. (I started when I was 5 😉 ) I am a mother of 3 amazing wild adventurous children Mason, Lilly, Jones, and a bonus Mom of two boys Shawn and Ryan.  I am wildly passionate about Nutrition and Fitness.  I LOVE having conversations about others nutrition regimen and how I can help them see what is prohibiting them from achieving their optimal health.
Svet – the Vocabulary Titan, Culinary Aesthete, Motivational Writer & Entrepreneur How do you master motivation to exercise especially on the more stressful day? What are some suggestions for easy workouts in hotels or at home? Do you have a favorite healthy recipe you would like to share? Staying Motivated on a Stressful Day Motivation is a slippery term. Once left without a fuel, it easily goes away. To stay motivated to exercise, especially when the day is as hectic as possible, is quite daunting a task. Nonetheless, there is one easy solution to this challenge – the simple thought that moving your blood from the head to the limbs is going to release you from the amassing stress.
The more you practice, the more motivated you stay, and the more you crave working out – as simple as that.
success- go get it Suggestions for Easy Workouts in Hotels or at Home The majority of travelers face a recurring challenge – how to continue their workout regimes while exploring places of immense beauty. Here are three things everyone can do while staying in a hotel or at home:
  • Push-ups. I am a ferocious supporter of working out my chest area and push-ups are the perfect exercise that does not require any extra tools.
  • Squatting trains your hips, thighs, and buttocks, as well as the quadriceps femoris and the hamstrings. Additionally, it strengthens the bones and the ligaments.
  • Although not exactly a physical exercise, meditating for only five minutes a day works well not only for our mental strength but also has a great influence on our physical abilities. The best thing about it – no muscle strains!
Of course, these exercises can be performed outside and they are even more pleasant in nature. smoothie 2.jpeg Favorite Healthy Recipe My breakfast in the last couple of hours has been a smoothie. A powerful, healthy smoothie, that is.   It’s easy to prepare, but it requires a blender, so if you are staying at an Airbnb, ensure there’s a blender there, or bring one with you. My smoothie usually epitomizes: Smoothies give you an almost immediate boost since they are in a liquid form and absorbing them is much quicker. Bon appétit! Author: Svet Dimitrov: Entrepreneur, Culinary Aesthete, and Language Enthusiast who writes gripping articles about Health, Travel, and Motivation & Success.
For more from Svet the Vocabulary Titan, check out his stunning work on his Website, Facebook or Instagram Platforms. Ladies…..you won’t regret it…..trust me.

Cameron McMillan – is a  Plexus Rep, Pilates instructor, Canyoneering guide:  How master motivation especially on stressful days? I really just sit down and try to remember my ‘Why’, why am I doing this? I have to change myself in order to help change other people’s lives. I don’t worry about the good or the bad, I keep going so that I can be my own boss and help change other’s lives. You have to have your ‘Why’, because when or if things go wrong – you can remember ‘I’m doing this because of………..’. When your ‘Why’ is bigger than your ‘Cry’ then you will be motivated to keep moving forward. sunset photos So remember why you are staying healthy, what are you doing it for? Make health a journey, not a destination… think about life longevity, standing up at 80 years old to go hiking instead of being glued to the chair. Maintaining your health and continuing to exercise will help you continue to ‘play’ throughout life instead of the continuous struggle. So my motivation is me telling myself, ‘Do you want to hike the Appalachian Trail at 80 years old or do you want to be frail and unable to move?’ My favorite Recipe is Portobello Mushroom Pizza: I buy a Portabella Mushroom, pull out the stem, then smear the pesto from Costco and put 2 Tablespoons on it, a couple of slices of fresh Mozzarella Cheese on it, or shredded, then you make a little doughnut out of tin foil and put the mushroom on top of it (because the mushroom will let water out of it while cooking). Bake this at 425 degrees for 15 minutes & then just stick a fork in it to see when it’s done (should pierce it smoothly). Its actually oddly delicious and you can do different versions of this with pepperoni or what not. Another one I love to eat frequently is what is called a ‘potato sack’ on Amazon. You can use that to microwave sweet potatoes and put a little Carrie Gold Butter with some Parmesan Cheese in it and it really helps me with my salt cravings. cameron

Author: Cameron McMillan Former Owner at Austin Pilates, now turned Plexus Business Representative dedicated to helping people get healthy from the inside out so that they may live life to the fullest. Cameron has a passion for all things outside including Rock Climbing, Canyoneering, and Rappelling. Originating from Texas and now a native to Utah, her life motto is this:

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” — Louise Erdrich 

Lauren (aka LuLuu) an inspirational adventurous soul & free spirit of Solo Travel: What are some tips you have for exercising/healthy eating while traveling? No matter where I travel, I always find a way to include exercise. That doesn’t mean I’m doing workout videos in my hotel room, but often means I’m hiking, biking, or walking a lot. I almost always find a hike wherever I’m traveling, even if it’s small because it’s still getting my legs moving and my heart pumping. If I’m in a city where I can’t find a hike to do, I’ll opt to walk – and I mean everywhere! Forego the taxi and use those healthy little legs of yours! Same goes for biking when I’m in the mood. In fact, some of my best memories from Vietnam were exploring each new city by bike!  In terms of food, I love to try local cuisine whenever possible, especially street food. However, street food typically isn’t all that healthy, so in order to stay on track with healthy eating goals, I’ll work in salads, vegetables/fruits whenever I can. Whether that means finding restaurants serving healthy options or going to the local market and picking up ingredients to make my own salad, I make it happen! In addition, I try to drink tons of water and keep snacking and alcohol consumption to a minimum (especially when traveling solo!) woman walking.jpeg How do you master motivation to exercise/stay healthy on the stressful days? You know, it seems that exercising when you’re stressed is a way to actually bring that stress level down! Even if I’m tired or feeling unmotivated, I’ll pop on a quick 15-minute workout video (I’m obsessed with the Rebecca Louise Fitness Youtube channel) and instantly feel better, both mind and body. I think the fact that I know how much better I feel mentally, physically, and emotionally when I’m exercising and eating healthy is what really keeps me motivated. I’m typically more productive and just all around happier! Don’t get me wrong, there are days where I let the stress get to me and I skip exercising/don’t eat very healthy, but then I end up suffering in the long run. It’s honestly just not worth it! fruit-fruits-heart-blueberries-.jpeg What is your Favorite snack recipe? I don’t really have a snack recipe, but it’s honestly rare to find me wandering around without fruit in my backpack. It’s my go-to snack. I always have either apples, pears, grapes, or some other fruit that’s easy to throw in my bag, as well as some granola bars and water. I actually have a fear of traveling or leaving to go wander off for the day without those three items! One, they are super easy things to just throw in my bag and go, and two, they are enjoyable, healthy snacks that keep me from being tempted by less healthy things like candy, chocolate, or chips! Lauren Mae Pelkey_headshot Author: Lauren Pelkey (also known as Luluu)  is the creator of Wanderluluu.com, a travel blog all about empowerment through solo travel. She is a Massachusetts native that has lived in Rome, Melbourne and Bogotá. Her goal is to inspire women into one solo trip in their lifetime for the personal growth and self-awareness it often yields. For more from Lauren visit her Instagram and Facebook Platforms. 
WOW! That was a lot of rich and invaluable information from the Masters & will certainly be saving this information, as I found it incredibly beneficial, I hope you did as well. For me, on days that I find I’m overwhelmed or anxious I go to the gym and just sit in the Sauna for 10 minutes, I make sure I’m taking my Probiotics and my Vitamins & somehow it helps me through the tough spots that I seem to have no energy to do anything but exist. One last thing I have learned recently is that the thing we call ‘binging’ is actually a symptom of unresolved pain, so if this is something you struggle with more than 1-2 times per month than maybe an internal examination of what it is you are trying to avoid would be useful. If it seems too overwhelming, make sure you get professional support to help you do it. sunset with love.jpeg I’m so grateful to these amazing individuals & Masters of Motivation who have personally both enriched and inspired all of our lives for the better. So let us all support each other by motivating, loving and connecting with one another for a happier & healthier life. Cheers my friends!

What motivates you to continue on the stressful days?  What is your favorite healthy ‘go to’ recipe?  Let me know in the comments below 😉

Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and see you on the flip side!

For More tips on how to stay healthy while traveling check out:  ]]>

Love The Journey

Love The Journey

No matter who you are, there is always going to be a part of you with an insecurity – but we have to learn to love the journey no matter what comes our way. I struggle with insecurities about my weight and always have from when I was a size 8 to now a size 22.

Some call me fat, some call me lazy, but they don’t know my story. I know I eat as a coping mechanism. I know I eat socially, I know I eat when I’m bored and struggle with self-control. I used to do triathlons, I used to work out twice a day and eat the cleanest food I could. I went a year without eating any ice cream, cakes, cookies or any super sugary food and was the healthiest I had ever been.

Then I had surgery on my right foot to help me run better and ended up not healing well and developing a hematoma, then my incident happened, and I became utterly and hopelessly lost in the black hole of loss and emotional pain. I didn’t care about myself, I didn’t care what happened to me, but I refused to give up. I refused to let him win. I am a survivor and a fighter when people say, ‘you can’t do it’ or ‘there is no way for you to….’ Today marks a turning point for me.

I was taking a shower and playing music on my phone and started singing in the shower. I know that when I’m struggling in any capacity or area, I don’t sing. I stopped scrubbing the shampoo through my hair and started getting misty eyed. In that moment I realized that I was ‘getting better.’ After my incident, I spent an entire year in a fog and in darkness.

Never did I think I would ever be the same again. I never thought I would be joyful, playful or fun-loving again. Here I was in the shower, singing, just like I used to do and I truly felt playful, happy, and most importantly, hopeful. For anyone who has been raped, assaulted, or been victim to domestic violence, you know what a huge win this is in the journey to recovery. I feel this is the point that I truly started to love the journey.

There was a small part of me that was worried that this moment of playful happiness would be fleeting; that it would come and then pass the next day– or even that night. I chided myself and said, “Janiel, you cannot live a full life dwelling in the ‘what if’s’ of life — you will drive yourself crazy.” I dismissed the thought and started getting ready for dinner with a friend. Four days later, I woke up and felt energized and ready to take on the day.

I picked up Zoey, held her close, and started dancing and singing again. I had my own little Jam session in my bedroom, alone, lol. It made me stop and laugh at myself for the silliness that was so spontaneous and SO EARLY IN THE MORNING! Please note that I am not a morning person, whatsoever. I realized about an hour later that this feeling I was having was a point I had reached on my ladder of recovery that my mind was healing itself.   What had I done to get to this point? I was patient with myself.

I’m removing all unrealistic expectations and just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. I try not to dwell on the future and focus on day to day small improvements. I am contradicting self-depreciating thoughts about my body with truths instead, and I just observe what and how I am feeling instead. The most important part is that I faced the incident head on when I was ready to (don’t force it). I was brave and courageous and let the emotions of that year in Texas wash over me and cried and screamed and acknowledged the loss and the pain that resulted. In being gentle with myself and letting myself ‘feel’ again, I was able to finally forgive the person and people who caused all of the pain.

I have not been able to totally remove what happened from my life, but I have been able to remove the intense emotion associated with those memories from my life. I am able to breathe again and realize that time truly does heal all wounds. One day, I hope that the PTSD triggers and flashback dreams will become something of a distant memory instead of a blaring and recurrent problem. I know this will happen and will continue to make it a reality. Despite my dysmorphic view of my body (take the BBD test), I am grateful I can walk. I’m grateful I can get up every day and hug my puppy, Zoey.

I’m grateful I am able to help my patients and connect with my readers on a personal basis. I am beautiful in my own way, and I’m moved to tears at my own strength of fighting through the black hole of emotional pain and PTSD. I still have PTSD, but I am able to cope with it now. I am able to be gentle with myself and say, ‘today will pass and you are exactly where you are supposed to be.’ Despite the naysayers and comparisons to others around me, I know I have a good heart and will be healthy again. I know getting healthy again is going to take time, and that is OK. the greatest changes don’t happen overnight. Be your own kind of beautiful, be gentle with where you are at in your journey. Set realistic expectations and love the journey. Don’t compare, and fight the darkness by noticing one beautiful thing each day. Much love and thank you for being a part of the Culture Trekking Community.

If you have faced a situation that has enabled you to relate to what I’m saying, come and join the Culture Trekking Community by subscribing below and let us discover together how BEAUTIFUL life can be– even if it is through different glasses now. Much love and Light.

For more articles like this one:

When You Try to Keep it Together but Some days You Just Can’t

Hiking in Zion National Park – Overcoming Failure

When You Try to Keep it Together, But Some Days You Just Can’t

When You Try to Keep it Together, But Some Days You Just Can’t

I’m 34, I’m educated, and I still want to travel the world and ‘be that change I wish to see in the world’. I’m too ‘good’ to fit in with the EDC/Rave/clubbing crowd, and yet I’m not ‘good enough’ to be considered a suitable match for a temple marriage, as most Mormons believe is paramount in their trek through life.

I tried to find someone through online dating and I was Cat fished by a man pretending to be a single father with a 2-year-old daughter whose mother died when she gave birth to her. I was working 65 hours a week and barely had time to think for myself. My days off were mostly to do my laundry and let my mind be sucked into a useless TV show. Luckily, through my own (and my aunt’s) investigative work, I was able to find out that he had stolen someone’s Facebook identity and profile pictures and made them his own. This was very disconcerting that someone could so perfectly replicate a total stranger’s life!

Every year I get older, I get asked or told, “Why don’t you try online dating?” “Why aren’t you married yet?” ‘Well, you’re just being too picky.” “Maybe if you lost a little weight.” “You won’t meet anyone if you decide to move so much.” I am too embarrassed to explain how I got duped once online, too nice to say “screw you” when someone asks me why I’m not married yet (LIKE I KNOW), too irritated to try and explain that I’m picky because my friends all complain to the single girl about how their husbands don’t do this or that, and I don’t want to end up like them or another statistic.

I found out my Dad was living a double life after 25 years of playing the caring, loving father who I have so many fond memories with. I’m still trying to process this and my family is still mourning the loss of a man we thought we knew. I don’t hate him, I love him, I hate what he did to our family & was angry at first….now I’m just sad. Its very odd for me to talk to people about this, because divorce is so polarizing and traditionally people think you have to choose sides. What if I don’t want to choose sides? What if I just want to be sad and not hear all the terrible things he has done in secret? It kind of makes me question if anyone is honest anymore. (Any words of advice you have on this would be appreciated).

And the last one, “Maybe if you lost a little weight…” Well….insert the snarkiest remark you can think of and that is about how I feel about that. I have tried so many diets, I lose the weight and yo-yo back when emotional pain slips through the cracks. So now I am putting the weight loss on the back burner for now and focusing on the root of the problem – treating that problem with kindness, giving it space and feeling those feelings that I buried for so long.

I think people are surprised when I can actually hike for three hours, go camping, go hiking, do a 5k without a problem, kick their ass at the gym; I’m made for comfort, not speed people. Get over it.

I was told to try Tinder when it was first new, and was too naive to know what it was ACTUALLY used for. I talked to an Indian Man, met up with him, and ended up being raped.

I remember crying to him about how I still was in love with my ex-boyfriend; he told me he had just had a bad breakup too. I won’t get into the details, but after I was examined, I remember the nurse hugging me with tears in her eyes telling me she was so sorry that it happened to me. I still have vivid nightmares. I feel like no one could ever love me after what happened. Who would ever be able to understand?

What is really sad, is that the night that it happened, eight people, who were supposed to be my supportive church friends, snubbed me. I still wonder, “why me?” and if they would have shown up, would it still have happened? Why did God let it happen? Why didn’t God prompt them to come over?
The friends I have shared it with tell me, “Just forget about it now; it’s in the past.” Trust me, if I could, I would, but that’s the trouble with PTSD, you don’t know what will trigger the memory that will put you into a fight or flight-like state.

Now it’s incredibly difficult to let anyone into my life, even my own family at times. Yet I still have such a desire to have my own family. So, most of the time I’m battling the feelings of being utterly worthless and never being enough with the feeling of the courageous lioness inside that is ready to explore and take on the world and truly be that change.

Three months after it happened, I decided to travel to Scotland to see the lands of my ancestors. My great-grandmother was a McFarland and I had become an Outlander superfan (a TV series on STARZ). I followed my heart which said that I needed to get away from all the mess in Texas. I knew going to Scotland wouldn’t solve my problems, but when I travel, my thoughts and feelings, the great battle within, seem so much more diminished and small. I think it’s because when you travel, you realize how big the world is and there is something so HEALING in disappearing (in a way) for a few weeks.

It was my first solo trip and I had planned it months before (what I now call) my “incident,” and I was determined to go. It was terrifying, but I was able to get outside my head and learn of the Battle of Culloden and how my ancestors fought there; how the ruggedness and magical landscape of the Highlands made me feel like I was finally at home. The landscape was so vast, harsh, and beautiful, and the people from Scotland have warrior spirits that do not bend, despite the harsh winters and the history of decades of brutal suppression by the British.

I returned from my trip and realized that I was more than what happened to me. I was not a victim. I am a survivor. Now I realize that (and worry) that after exposing myself like this, there will be many opinions. I’m not afraid of what people think anymore, just at cruel things they tend to say.
I know that telling my story will touch some, and repel others, but I can’t hide anymore behind what once was. In talking about it, I feel like it is releasing me from the feeling that I need to hide from the public. For a long time, I have felt vulnerable and couldn’t wait to get home to the safety of my house and my beloved puppy Zoey. Now, I am turning 35,  and I know that I need to start pushing myself to go out in public again; to try and retrain my brain that most people are not going to hurt me and can’t see straight through me.

My goal is to not be afraid anymore; to not be afraid of someone finding out about this through the grapevine. This is something that I never thought I would share in a place like this, but it is allowing me a certain sense of freedom in doing so. I hope you will be able to understand where I’m coming from and be able to understand that it has taken a great amount of courage to publish this.

I don’t have it all together…yet, but I will, and I won’t stop until I do. I know that there are not a lot of men who will understand, and many won’t have the compassion and understanding I will need on the harder days. One day, I trust universe will show me the way to my soul mate, that won’t be afraid of the hard things.

For now, I’m focused on healing and developing healthy coping mechanisms. Reconnecting with the world, the people in it, exploring without boundaries. Seeking those unique adventures that will help me heal from the wonderful feeling of newness and discovery.

The majority of this was not meant to be negative, but to be raw and open about the struggles of a fellow human being. I still have hope for something better, I am still confident in my own strength to do hard things. Most importantly, I’m not giving up & continue to love and share with those around me what I do have to offer. Life is too short to live constantly in my past, so I have decided to create a better future, even if it is not the future I always envisioned was ‘suppose to happen’.

Thank you for reading my story and I hope you will honor the amount of courage and vulnerability it took to share this experience with you. Happy travels my friends, and thank you for being on this journey with me. I know I’m just typing this on a screen at the moment, but somehow, it seems to release something inside me. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Any words of advice, encouragement are appreciated!

To connect with me and learn a little more read:

Returning to the Texas Nightmare: Facing My Rape & Healing

Balancing Real Life and Buisness

Mastering Motivation with the Masters

Love The Journey

About Me 🙂

Tools against Fear

The Value of being Spontaneous

It was my birthday, I had just met a guy’s family I had been dating the month before; and he dumped me two days later. Even though they sent a letter saying how nice I was and how much they appreciated all the help I gave them while I had been there. It still really did a number on me. So you know what, I decided I was going to get out of my own head, and wanted to spend my Birthday in Disneyland in California. Disneyland on your birthday is amazing by the way, they give you these enormous pins that have your name and Happy Birthday on it; then every cast member (worker) there has to say “Happy Birthday Janiel” — makes you feel so special…..even if they are paid to do it. I told my two roommates/best friends/sisters from other misters, that we were going to Disneyland. Emily is the spontaneous & carefree one (the blonde), and Cari is the one that entertains us the whole time (the burnette); and I’m the one that is also spontaneous, but is the planner and pusher. IMG_0706                   IMG_0703 It was 8pm in Las Vegas, and by 10pm we hit the road. We stopped at the oddest café on the road, an 80’s café that was apparently featured on the Food Network channel. We got breakfast because we were all starving and beginning to get, what I call, sleep drunk. We got to California at 2 am, we all forgot our pajamas, stayed at a friends house there overnight til we could check into our hotel. Ended up pretending to be princesses out of the different movies, piled into a King sized bed & attempted to sleep. The next day we were all so excited to go to Disneyland we arrived at 8am & spent the day frolicking at the Happiest Place on earth, and made me the happiest Birthday Girl on Earth. IMG_0721 So what’s the point of this story? Other than telling you how AMAZING Disneyland is & how it cures broken hearts. Its the spontaneous adventure that lead to some deep and lasting bonding on the beaches in California in November. IMG_0747 None of us could afford to go to Disneyland for 3 days, and we wanted to spend some relaxing time at the beach. It was November and it the waters were frigid, we went swimming anyway. IMG_0679 I’m sure we looked crazy, even the Seagulls were looking at us like we were. IMG_0676 The beach was virtually empty, except for the Seagulls, which Cari was trying to figure out how to adopt and feed all of them. Emily and I were frozen solid but smiling like fools, we all felt free….like the worries that plagued us at home were gone. I think that is what traveling does to you in general, but when you do it spontaneously I think it helps you heal. Why? Well because you don’t worry about the next step, or the next week for those few days/weeks & can just enjoy being in the moment & you end up subconsciously practicing mindfulness. IMG_0689 So what is mindfulness you ask? It is being in the present moment, and not having the distractions of daily life. If pushing aside the feelings of intense hurt, worry, anxiety, anger, and noticing what and who is around you. The crisp air, the goosebumps on my skin, the sounds of seagulls, the smell of the salty ocean & the beautiful serenity of being alone on the beach in a quiet environment with nothing but the sound of the waves to wash away the worries inside my head. IMG_0696IMG_0698 Whey I am mindful, even if it is subconsciously, I notice that I see the photographic stories around me much more clearly. I appreciate that there is life out there beyond what the live wires, anxiety, or what I like to call my ‘crazy monkeys’ inside my head are trying to come in like a wrecking ball and destroy my serenity. So I encourage all of you to take 2 hours or even 20 minutes, walk outside, no matter what the weather is, and notice the smells, the colors, the sounds, and how you are feeling. I promise it will not only relax you, but may bring a small measure of peace back into your life. Happy travels my friends, and never stop believing things in your life can change. IMG_0692]]>