Disconnecting

As much as I love keeping up with all that’s being said on the Internet and staying connected to my friends and colleagues on social networks (hell, I’ve made a career out of doing so), one of the things I love most about travel is the opportunity to unplug and get away from all that. Even when I rent an international cell phone and check my email while abroad, it’s far less frequent. It makes the long awaited trip truly feel like a vacation.

Lucky for me, “tuning out” has been a much discussed trend for 2012. People who have experienced social media overload are now finding more and more ways to tune out in their everyday life, not just when escaping to a foreign country. I wrote about this on the DeVries blog earlier this month:

http://www.devriespr.com/2012/01/devries-forecasts-2012-trends/

Unfortunately, the trip to Mexico didn’t pan out (I knew there was a chance it wouldn’t), but I’m making every effort to plan my next international adventure – and looking forward to the next opportunity to put my phone on airplane mode for ten days and truly disconnect.

 

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The Urge for Going

So much of what I write here is about where I want to go instead of where I have gone. While I can’t travel all the time due to a number of circumstances (money, vacation time, people willing to join me, etc.), I try to travel as often as possible. Something I’ve learned is that one of the best parts of travel is the anticipation leading up to it.

As I sit here over what I still call “winter break,” I’m scrolling through Facebook updates and Twitter statuses of what seems to be everyone I know announcing their winter travel plans. Costa Rica, Florida, Europe, Hawaii. I haven’t even boarded a plane since August. This may be the longest stretch I’ve gone without heading anywhere new or exciting, and it’s sort of eating away at me.

Last month, two of my travel stories were published on Fathomaway.com – one about Morocco and one about Portugal. Reliving those stories just makes me want to get away even more. So while no travel plans have been finalized for 2012, let’s get excited about one trip that MIGHT happen. Because even if I never end up going to any of these places, it never hurts to dream a little.

Before I go into the details of my next trip, let me share some stats I learned from a supermodel. A woman dies every 90 seconds from pregnancy complications. 90% of these deaths are preventable. So many women around the world simply don’t have the access to healthcare, education and contraceptives. And one more shocking stat – pregnancy complications is the number one cause of death for all women worldwide between the ages of 15-19.

My sister Lisa, a medical student hoping to specialize in women’s health, is on the board of IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Foundation), an organization that helps with maternal and women’s health in developing countries. They’re planning a trip to a maternal health clinic in Mexico this March, and Lisa and I hope to join them. We’ll be teaching them about prenatal care and women’s health, delivering medical supplies – and most likely learning a lot from them.

Yes, this trip is not all about helping the women – it’s about my need to travel and see what’s going on in the world – even if what’s going on over there might be a little tough to see. But why not try to make a little bit of a difference in the world while fulfilling your own dreams? After all, one of the best parts of charity is the reward of how good you feel after doing a little bit to help others.

So for my last post of 2011, let’s remember that while trying so hard to live out our own dreams, with a little bit of extra effort, we can help others who are less fortunate. Here are some links in case you’ve been inspired to help with maternal mortality – by donating to IPPF, Every Mother Counts, or CARE.

Happy New Year!

Dancing for Peace

Sometimes I love my job. Today is one of those days. I recently had the opportunity to take on a pro-bono client, a New York based organization called Dancing Classrooms, which teaches middle school aged children how to ballroom dance. (Was also the inspiration for the movie “Take the Lead” with Antonio Banderas)

It wasn’t until our third or fourth call that I learned about this amazing project that Dancing Classrooms founder and renowned ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine had created. Dulaine was born in Jaffa, Israel, to an Irish father and Palestinian mother. He took his Dancing Classrooms program over to his birthplace in the middle east, fulfilling his lifelong dream of teaching dance to Palestinian-Israeli and Jewish-Israeli children – together. His program forces the young people to meet each other face to face and work together to coordinate the steps involved in partner dancing. Dulaine had a documentary crew follow four children as they embarked on this program in Israel – you’ll be able to see it soon…but I can’t give away too many details yet.

These children, despite their cultural, religious and political differences, are now being introduced to each other in a way that enables them to work together at a young age. They actually make friends with one another through dance, movement, and cooperation.

Think dancing can save the world?

Me too.

Dreaming of…Kenya

Dreaming of...Kenya

A little while back, I read about this Elephant Orphanage in Kenya, and because of my absolute love for elephants and incessant desire to visit Africa, this destination moved to the very top of my list. Then, Matt got an email from his friend who is currently living in Somalia doing microfinance. The friend had visited the elephant orphanage this past weekend, and sent a picture of the elephant he adopted, Dabassa. I love him. And I want one just like him.

Maine: The Lobster

Even though the weather was horrible and rainy for the bulk of our trip, there was one thing we were able to enjoy = the lobster.  I now totally understand why people travel from all over the world just to try authentic, fresh Maine lobster – it not only lived up to the hype, but exceeded our expectations by far.

Lobster #1 = The Lobster Shack, Portland

This was our first legitimate Maine lobster experience.  It was a bit of a drive from our hotel in Portland, but holy hell was it worth it.  The restaurant is nothing fancy on the inside, and the menu consists of “lobster, crab, scallops and lobster rolls,” which made ordering quite easy.  The cool thing about this place was the view – the restaurant is perched above a gorgeous rock cliff and you can look out at the water while eating.  I climbed around on the rocks before Matt almost killed me because he just wanted to eat his damn lobster already.  But you know how I feel about rock formations next to water. I must climb and play!

When we finally went inside the restaurant and sat down with our whole lobsters on the red, cafeteria style tray, we took our first bites and looked at each other with wide eyes.  It must’ve been the combination of how fresh the meat was, the taste of the saltwater that reminded us just how recently this guy was crawling around in the ocean, and the fact that this first bite lived up to every expectation we ever had. Thoroughly enjoying ourselves, we pretty much blacked out for the rest of the meal.

 

Lobster #2 = The Lobster Pound, Ogunquit (Round One)

Our visit to the highly recommended Lobster Pound in Ogunquit would determine our culinary activities for the remainder of our stay in Maine.  Upon arrival, we were directed to a huge tank of lobsters, where a young boy who could NOT be more excited about lobsters herds them around the tank and allows you to pick which one you’ll be eating for your upcoming meal.  We dubbed him “The Lobster Nerd.”  We were really excited about lobsters too, so he really took a liking to us.  He even let me hold our lobster before throwing it into the steamer where it would later become our dinner.  There was something really upsetting yet strangely satisfying about this.  Matt and I each chose a 1.5 pound lobster, both enormous.  We asked what the biggest lobster the nerd had ever seen was, to which he answered, a little over four pounds.  He suggested that the next night, we split a four pound lobster.  And it was decided.

Lobster #3 = Lobster Rolls at The Lobster Shack, Ogunquit

On our last day in Maine, we didn’t want to spoil our appetite for what we knew was to come later, but we still hadn’t tried the highly recommended lobster rolls at the Lobster Shack in Ogunquit.  Despite my best attempts to convince him otherwise, Matt made us share this very delicious lobster roll for lunch.  He was right in restricting us.  Read on.

 

Lobster #4 = The Grand Finale – The Lobster Pound, Ogunquit

We had been preparing for this moment for the 24 hours leading up to it.  When we arrived back at the pound and walked out to the lobster tank, the “Lobster Nerd” had anticipated our arrival. His face lit up when we walked outside, and he rushed to the back of the tank to give us the ginormous lobster he had pre-chosen for us. The crustacean we were looking at was an absolute beast.  When our monster was placed on the scale, he weighed in at five pounds.  The Lobster Nerd told us this was one of the biggest lobsters he had seen all season, and we knew it was meant to be.   We approved him, and about twenty minutes later, he was served to us, and we devoured what was our last, most grandeoise, Maine lobster.  The size of his claw against my hand says it all.

Thursday Sunsets: Israel

I’m not the most religious person in the world, but I am pretty proud of my heritage. When my sister convinced me to go with her to Israel back in 2008, I was skeptical, but it ended up being a pretty life changing trip. It was quite a wake up call to be immersed in a culture where the people didn’t worry as much as we do about wealth or material possessions because they live with the constant threat of going to war or being attacked by one of their surrounding nations. Their patriotism, their respect for each other, their kindness to us, their dedication to their country and incredible pride in being Israeli was completely inspiring. This is a sunset from one of our first nights there. With the Jewish New Year happening right now, I felt this was an appropriate one to post. L’Shana Tova everyone.

Beneath the Matala Moon

Here’s a song that makes me want to hop on a plane and just go ANYWHERE in the world:

Carey by Joni Mitchell

There’s something about the way Joni Mitchell articulates exactly how she felt while in a place she was traveling to, while spending time with the people she met there. She knows exactly how to paint a picture with her words and make you feel like you were there, too.

“Maybe I’ll go to Amsterdam, or maybe I’ll go to Rome,

And rent me a grand piano and put some flowers round my room,

but let’s not talk about fare thee wells now, the night is a starry dome,

And they’re playin’ that scratchy rock n’ roll beneath the matala moon…”