Volunteer Travel has gotten so big that there are whole companies devoted to it. You can travel to build schools in poverty areas, to be an intern for an environmental project, or to donate your expertise to an NGO (non governmental organization).
Additionally, a big trend in travel today is to make an impact on an issue that one is passionate about. Some are traveling to volunteer for a nonprofit project, or to protest a social justice issue.
Kit Karzen is a photojournalist who has traveled to North Dakota to lend support to, and to document, the Water Protectors at Standing Rock.
The Oceti Sakowin Camp represents a first of its kind historic gathering of Indigenous Nations. The most recent such assembly of Tribes occurred when the Great Sioux Nation gathered before the Battle at the Little Big Horn.
While there are different facets to the Dakota Access Pipeline project, the fight is increasingly coming down to the fight between good and evil. The Indigenous People on the side of good, and protection of the environment, and the US Government on the side of evil, protecting the oil corporations and banks that are intent on pushing this unapproved project though despite the cost to human life, and the water that flows through that land. The whole history of the Dakota Access Pipeline Resistance and the struggle can be found here.
Many people have been inspired to "Stand with Standing Rock;" from celebrities and political leaders, such as Senator Bernie Sanders, to ordinary people.
Additionally, because of the mainstream media "black out" of the events that are unfolding, and the lack of ACCURATE reporting of those events, there are citizen and independent journalists who are also risking their lives to bring the truth to the people through social media and independent news outlets.
When I say "risking their lives," I'm not being hyperbolic. Already a horse has been killed, hundreds have been hospitalized, many with critical injuries. Sophia Wilansky had most of her arm blown off, muscle and tissue down to the bone (they may have saved it, though Doctors say she will have only 10-20% function in it, and it could still be lost).
Police deny it was their concussion grenade that was responsible, however Kit had this story to tell about deliberate police targeting...
"I had just gotten back to the front lines after the medics treated me for getting tear gassed...the first time. As I'm framing up a shot of the riot police lineup through my viewfinder, I hear a loud pop in the distance. The woman standing beside me, probably half my size, goes down hard. I thought she slipped on the ice (the pavement had frozen by that point due to hours of being sprayed by law enforcement's water cannon in 20 degree weather).
Another photographer asked if I was alright. I told him what happened, and he wasn't surprised. He revealed that press working alongside the 'Water Protectors' have been targeted by law enforcement since day one of the movement. They'll arrest you, "lose your memory card" in jail processing, and your story's gone. Or the quick version, try taking me out with a 40mm sponge round from a riot gun.
A cop who'd rather see me be knocked unconscious than to publish a story - I'll be honest, it shook me to my core. The only problem for him, it just validated how important this story really is. And because of that, I'll continue telling it to the best of my ability."
Other travelers heading to Standing Rock include a group of as many as 2000 Veterans, organized by Wes Clark, Jr. and timed to arrive before the "eviction date" imposed by the US Army and announced, ironically, the day after Thanksgiving (what better way to celebrate that holiday than with the US tradition of forcing the Native Americans off their land and threatening their lives?).
You would not appreciate your friends trashing your house like a rock star trashes a hotel room, would you? So of COURSE you would not do it to your friends home.
Don’t do it to their COUNTRY either!
Obey the local rules and customs, even if they are different than your own.
If you have a “no smoking” rule in your home, you certainly would not appreciate friends or relatives ignoring that rule and turning your coffee table into a giant ashtray, right?
It’s a simple thing, but guests are good guests by being sensitive to the local rules and culture, and by trying to fit into the surroundings. This one thing can greatly enhance the quality of your trip too, as the best way to do this is to ASK a local what the common courtesies or cultural norms are, and in doing so, you’ll earn their respect and make a new friend.
Treat your surroundings with respect, leave it better off. For instance, I always pick up additional trash while disposing of my own. Another way you can do this is with the American custom of a gratuity. Many service workers are paid little, and often are not tipped at all. Make their day a little brighter by flipping them a few dollars.
It’s also a safety issue to pay attention to your surroundings.
And, please, don't be like some of these other people, whose stories I read on the internet…
"Just about every beach and harbor of Cornwall (seaside touristy area of the UK) has a strict rule about NOT feeding the seagulls, with prominent signage to that effect. As a result of constant feeding by tourists, there are huge numbers of gulls, which are very aggressive and bold enough to snatch food from your hands even if you’re not aiming to feed them; they will also attack children, cats and small dogs. Their beaks are very, very sharp, and a wound from one will almost always go septic because they’re such “dirty” feeders. Yet every year you see visitors moaning and wailing (or even trying to sue the town councils) because they’ve been injured while feeding seagulls - generally whilst standing in front of a large sign saying “DO NOT FEED THE GULLS.”
Apparently tourists never see a bird a home...
"In a cafe off the Piazza in Venice a family of English speaking tourists caused an incident. My family was eating at one table, theirs at another. They were throwing bits of bread to the pigeons.
Pigeons on the Piazza San Marco are quite a thing to have to deal with, and the cafes have strict rules about feeding them. Vendors selling bird seed further toward the center of the square have taught the pigeons that presence of humans plus the presence of food equals pigeons getting food, so the birds are very bold near the open-air cafes. It's a constant battle to keep them from hopping and flying right on in.
The waiter came out and asked, very nicely, in perfect English, if they could please stop. They stared at him as if they didn't understand a word he said, and went back to tossing bread as soon as he left. Pigeons got closer and closer. Patrons looked down, startled, as they felt birds around their ankles. Others tried to shoo them off tables and chairs.
The waiter tried again, a couple more times if I remember correctly. I know the family were English speakers, because they spoke to one another every time he left. They just chose to ignore him, and you could see he was getting very frustrated. At the time I got the feeling that he didn't want to make a big deal, and kick them out, because the family had children. Each time, they stared at him blankly, but then kept tossing… I guess seeing the pigeons go after the bread was just too much fun for them to stop. At one point the waiter actually took away the bread, but the children found little rolled bits they'd dropped on their chairs and clothes and kept going.
Long story short, from there it was a very short jump to the patio being swarmed with pigeons, who perched on the tables and ruined the place settings. Spoiled the meal for everyone, especially that poor waiter."
One tourist even told a story on himself... AGAIN with the birds...
"I learned the hard way about birds and restaurants. I was in Phoenix on business and sat outside on the patio at a Mexican restaurant. My salad had those tortilla chips on it, and I saw a little sparrow a few feet away. So I tossed it one. ONE. Sparrows came from everywhere. I won’t over exaggerate the scene, but there were dozens. Fortunately, I was on the patio by myself. A couple of birds perched on the backs of chairs right next to me. I really thought they were going to dive-bomb my salad to help themselves to the tortilla chips. I covered my meal with my napkin and tried to stare them down. I don’t know who looked more stupid at that point."
Since he was alone, I’m guessing…. HIM?
"A wealthy woman from a foreign country first arrived at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport from Paris last July with her sister and adult daughter. The Customs and Border Patrol officers found undeclared items in their luggage, including designer bags, a fur coat, diamond jewelry and watches, Total value: $160,000.
The woman attempted to then bribe the customs officer offering a watch and US$10,000 if he would turn a blind eye. After the officer excused himself and put on a hidden recording device, the woman upped the stakes and offered to “sleep with” the officer if he allowed them to pass through.
She is presently out on a bail of$250,000. USD."
Probably the best thing you can do before traveling is READ up on the areas you will be visiting.
Search on Facebook for locals in that area, send a friend request and ask them if they have some tips.
Search YouTube for videos of the area so you can familiarize yourself with the local culture and customs.
All of this will make your trip go more smoothly, will allow you to make new friends around the world, AND, just as important, will help you blend in and not be a target to local petty criminals looking for a pocket to pick or a bag to swipe.
No matter where you go… just treat other people the way you would like to be treated!
Fortunately authorities got ahold of the folks at the local Audubon Center for Birds of Prey and they dispatched an eagle eyed wildlife professional to oversee the rescue effort.
One of the birds did break free and flew up into the sky, continuing to circle and watching the action from up above. The other Eagle fell into the drain where, then, it could not escape at all. Firefighters were careful to tie a rope around the heavy iron grate, before they removed it, in order to prevent it falling on the trapped symbol of America and quashing all our hopes for the future.
Then, using a net, they were able to snare the bird around the legs (the safest place to grab them as their legs are very strong), and pull it to safety.
So today… “Democracy” is recuperating at the Audubon Center and people of ALL political persuasions are pulling together as one, checking on it’s condition and sending donations to help the center with it’s work.
Central Florida is home to many native species, some, like the Bald Eagle, is also found throughout the country and North America. However some species, like the Florida Alligator, or the Manatee, are only found in the Southern States.
If you love wildlife, and are visiting Florida, there are many “once in a lifetime” opportunities to see native and endangered wildlife, sometimes in their natural habits. A few of my favorite places are…
Blue Spring State Park
Depending on the time of year, you might see just a few, or a plethora of endangered Manatees here.
The last time I visited, there were so many Manatees packed into the river by the viewing dock that you could have walked across their backs to the other side without getting your feet wet (except, of course, that would be wrong, you cannot “molest” Manatees, it’s a crime).
If you’re an animal lover, like me, you probably already make them a part of any vacation you take and, besides what I’ve mentioned here, there are literally hundreds of opportunities to enjoy wildlife in Florida. Just use Google to find something near your destination!
As far as "Democracy," the Bald Eagle, goes... sadly, she passed away from her injuries. So, while Democracy is dead, you can still visit her friends at the Audubon Birds of Prey Center and make a donation in her name and in the spirit of freedom.
NOTE: It's a small, small world. Just learned it was Yaileen's boyfriend, Tito, who saw the Bald Eagles fall from the sky and called 911. Yaileen is "our" server at Sweet Mama's
ORLANDO / WINTER PARK: The Morse Museum of American Art, located on Park Avenue in Winter Park, Florida, celebrates 75 years of offering beauty and art this year. As part of the celebration a new exhibition was officially opened to the public on Tuesday, October 18th.
This phenomenal showcase of the Morse Museum’s entire collection is solidly diverse and continues to bring beauty and continuity to its audience.
It effectively applauds many additional outstanding artifacts which have been added to an impressive array of amazing art which already make up this fascinating collection.
Founded in 1942, the Morse Museum is probably best known for its collection of Tiffany lamps and artifacts dating back to the early 1900’s. Louis Comfort Tiffany (1948 - 1933) began collecting pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded glass windows and lamps. The industrialist housed much of his art and architectural objects in his Long Island estate, “Laurelton Hall,” which included 20th century American paintings, graphics, decorative art, stained glass windows, art pottery and more.
Tiffany died in 1933 and much of the vast collection was actually sold at auction due to the original foundation’s financial instability.
The original estate, which consisted of an impressive 37,000 square foot estate home, along with majestic gardens, was set on 600 acres of Long Island’s North Shore. Sadly, Laurelton Hall burned to the ground in 1957, but much of the art collection had been sold by then.
Tiffany's granddaughter, Jeannette Genius McKean, along with her husband Hugh, founded the Morse Museum, in Winter Park, in 1942 . She and her husband, Hugh McKean developed the Morse Museum beginning with many artifacts from the estate of her late grandfather. The museum began with an unprecedented amount of works from his original estate which, over the past 50 years, have developed into an impressive array of amazingly enduring art pieces.
Available for viewing with a distinct emphasis on diversity and originality, the collection is both beautiful and contemporary without compromise.
Dr. Laurence Ruggiero, Director of the Morse Museum, stated “there is no right or wrong way to enjoy art. There are no rules and art is both sensual and intellectual before you start to talk about it.” He then added sagely, “it is more important to experience art than to ‘know’ about it because art ‘speaks’ to everyone regardless of race, sexuality or ethnicity.”
The most recent works of art to complement the Morse collection include a wonderful array of Three Face glass, iridescent carnival glass, portraits, landscape paintings, pottery and works on paper. Sixty new objects will highlight the eclectic array of artifacts presented by the McKeans over the past five decades. There are also plaster art pieces, sculptures, prints and impressive windows of stained glass.
Incredibly, “The Chapel”, created in 1893 by Louis Comfort Tiffany as a pavilion for exhibition at the 1983 Chicago World’s Fair, now sits intact at the Morse Museum. Although it was officially called "The World’s Columbian Exposition," which brought the already successful designer even more popularity both in America and abroad, its beauty and relevance still hold true. After the World’s Fair, The Chapel was reinstalled in the crypt of the newly built Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City. This breathtaking structure fell into disrepair after some ten years and Tiffany reacquired it, restored it and transported it back to his Laurelton Hall estate on Long Island.
From "My Travel in Tuscany"
Even though along the coast summer seems to still be here, with some people resting in the sun and swimming in the sea, the fall came a couple of weeks ago. If you are still uncertain of where you should be traveling during this period of the year, choosing to plan the autumn holidays in Tuscany is definitely a good idea.
There are various good reasons to choose Tuscany in autumn, even if only for a short break or a romantic escape. Together with the spring, the fall is probably the best period to visit this land loved for its relaxing atmosphere, peaceful places, culture and history.
6 good reasons to plan your Autumn Holidays in Tuscany...
In October, the weather is still mild with warm and sunny days where you only need shorts and flip-flops to walk around. In November a bit of rain should fall, but it won’t stop your will to travel. Depending on the forecasts, you can choose to explore areas with less chance of rain, as Maremma or Crete Senesi. For an overview of the climate of the region read also our post about the weather in Tuscany.
Flights, hotel rates and the cost for a room or apartment are cheaper. Taking advantage of some packages and deals, you will be able to organize your autumn holidays in Tuscany without spending a fortune, a big savings compared to the high season.
Autumn is the period of the fall foliage, and the forests of Tuscany are every bit as good as the ones in New England in the United States or in Japan. The colour of leaves turns to different shades of yellow, orange, red and brown, giving the forests a special, magic and relaxing atmosphere where the only sound you can hear is the creaking of the dry foliage under your feet. I am sure your “perfect place” is somewhere out there, between the Mugello and the Casentino areas, up to the mountains of Abetone or Monte Amiata, into the chestnut tree forests of Castagneto Carducci in the Etruscan Coast or of Lunigiana.
Being out of the peak season you can enjoy both the art cities (Florence, Pisa, Siena and Lucca) and the main villages (San Gimignano, Pienza, Montalcino and Montepulciano) without the crowds you find during the summer.
You can even get out the cities and the more "touristy" spots and head for the Tuscan Riviera. It offers you wide empty sandy beaches to walk, medieval villages overlooking the sea to explore as Populonia in the Gulf of Baratti (where you can even visit the interesting archaeological park of Baratti and Populonia) or Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano in the Argentario Promontory.
Taste the fruits of the season
The indisputable ruler of the autumn holidays in Tuscany is the food. Fall is the season of truffles, mushrooms, chestnuts, olive oil, and wine. The Sagre, the traditional festivals where you can taste the fruits of our land and the exquisite recipes made with them, spring up throughout the region.
The villages of San Miniato (in the province of Pisa) and of San Giovanni d’Asso (near Siena) celebrate the white truffle every November with festivals and trade fairs. But, the best places to pick and taste chestnuts are in the areas of Mugello, Garfagnana, Casentino, Lunigiana, and Monte Amiata. In the past, chestnut was one of the main ingredients of the kitchen, especially during periods of famine. Thanks to our grandparents, who passed down to us recipes of delicious dishes made with chestnuts, we still keep alive their memories and their traditions. Do not miss tasting roasted chestnuts or traditional food made with chestnut flour as Castagnaccio (try to make it following the recipe of my Grandma), crepes (called Necci) with ricotta cheese, or the Torta di Marroni of Mugello.
November is also the time of olive oil harvest and the time to celebrate the “Vino Novello”, the first wine produced with the fruits of the grape harvest of September.
Finally, I add another suggestion to the list of reasons why you should plan an autumn holiday in Tuscany: wellness and hot springs. In case of bad weather or chilly temperature you can even think to pamper yourself with a plunge into one of the hot springs of the region. Here is our blog post where put together all the free hot springs of Tuscany.
Do you still need reasons to convince you to spend your autumn holidays in Tuscany? Let me know If you need any other information or suggestions... just send me a story idea anytime through Facebook!
Nicola lives and breathes the travel life. From Cecina, a small coastal town in the centre of Tuscany, along the Etruscan Coast, Nicola works for luxury hotels and, when he's not working, he travels himself.
Nicola spent most of his years in Cecina, on the Tyrrhenian coast, surrounded by the sea, the wine region of Bolgheri and beautiful hills with many little hamlets. As a child there was little opportunity to travel a lot, except for weekends and holidays spent at the families country house in the chestnut wood of the tiny village of Sassetta.
Once gown, Nicola started to travel with friends, or by himself, and he fell in love with travel; discovering new cultures, new ways of life and meeting new people from all over the world.
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