17 ways to be more eco-friendly while traveling

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Growing up in a family where we washed and reused plastic bags, grew much of our produce, composted more than anyone I knew and camped our way across America, I’ve always tried to be conscious of my impact on the environment.

But traveling through Central America this last year — watching waves of trash wash up on beaches and sewage pumped directly into rivers and lakes as well as the effects of climate change, such as great drought  — has caused me to think even more urgently about living green.

The problem is, in many parts of the world, particularly poorer countries, being eco-friendly isn’t always convenient or even possible all of the time. In vast areas of Central America, for example, messaging about waste and realistic alternatives for single-use plastic are rare while large-scale recycling programs are entirely absent. Compounding my own personal mark are the tiny toiletries I’m forced to buy (small bottles vs. large bottles) thanks to living a life on the move, and the wet wipes I use constantly because of the lack of clean water, soap products and space. (I’m far from perfect.)

It’s easy for a lot of us to throw our normal standards to the wind while traveling or vacationing — when room service, eating out and sightseeing create different patterns than the perhaps more eco-friendly habits we’re used to abiding by at home.

Still, there are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint and travel more sustainably whether you’re venturing across the country or overseas — if you’re only willing to put some thought in and make moderate sacrifices.

What to do in Placencia, Belize

A guide to the best beaching, bitters hopping and day tripping the peninsula has to offer.

Related content: • Where to eatWhere to drink

Tucked at the end of a peninsula on the Central coast of Belize, Placencia draws vacationers and retirees alike thanks to its tropical climate, prime beaches, laid-back vibe and English speakers.

The village won’t overload you with activities or bustle — part of its charm is that the Belizean adage “Go Slow” takes on a literal meaning here — but the longer you hang around, the more likely you’ll find there is more to this town than first strikes the eye, from the warmth of the intertwined local and expat communities to back streets that wind into the canals, revealing pockets of life not seen from the main stretch.

Like other tourist destinations in Central Belize, the prices are on the high end for Central America, a reality that should be evident at the first passing of shore-lining mansions and the celebrity-attracting Turtle Inn — a Francis Ford Coppola property that touts rooms for upwards of $500 USD a night. But just as there is luxury to be soaked up if you’re so inspired, there are deals to be found, too; and plenty to entertain for a week or more.

Live Inspired: the new vacation

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

I remembered the feeling so distinctly that I almost felt it within myself as I saw it through their eyes.

On my iPhone screen: a family I follow on Instagram, on the last day of their February beach vacation, soaking it all up and wishing their last moments to pass slower.

There was the Last Sunset and the Last Sunrise, dutifully and beautifully documented; smiles captured in the tide; sunglasses that couldn’t quite hide the wistful eyes.

Then images of the road, and already nostalgic faces in rear-view mirrors.

From my perch at an open-air bar in Corozal, where I had come to cool off between video shoots, I looked out at my present nook in the world; my home for the last month.

Beyond the dusty street in front of me lay a children’s park abutting the Caribbean ocean. Turquoise waves rolled in under full sun. Birds chirped. Great palm leaves rustled. 

I stopped for a minute and watched it all.

How to Pack for Indefinitely (Part 3)

Welp, here we go again.

How does one pack for indefinitely? I have no idea. But I’m learning better by the week, and getting more sophisticated with each pitstop back in the U.S.

After my latest evaluation, I dumped a lot (goodbye water filter and second pair of jeans, among other things) while piling on a couple of pretty significant additions. (Um, yoga mat and full-standing tripod? OK SURE).

How’s this gonna work? I recorded this video as I test-packed my new load for the first time.

Live Inspired: planning travel/ what’s ahead

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

Between all the visible parts of my job as a roaming writer and video producer, there is one element constantly in the background:

Planning and booking travel.

Living a life on the move requires me to constantly be thinking about where I came from and where I’m headed in addition to where I am in that moment.

I get a lot of questions about how I decide where to go and where to stay and what to do while I’m there, so I thought I’d share some of my process — that delicate balance of making a plan while staying open to major change — as well as some of what’s in store for me in the months ahead.

CITY GUIDE: San Ignacio, Belize

When I first announced my plans to head to Belize after several months in Guatemala, one of the first questions I got was whether I’d be able to have any “real” experiences in a county that elicits images of swaying palm trees, immaculate beaches and touristic experiences.

But although Belize — conveniently the only country in Central America whose official language is English — has a long coastline, one of the world’s best barrier reefs and vast supplies of clear, cerulean waters, it’s identity stretches far beyond the dispatches most often received.

My first glimpse of that reality came in San Ignacio — a little river town on the Western border that will live on as one of my favorite locales in my Central American travels thus far. Here, you’re only about 70 miles from the coast as the crow flies, but you’ll feel much farther away, surrounded by dirt roads, Mayan ruins — even within city limits — and a variety of cultural experiences. Walk down the main street and it will be immediately obvious that you’ve left Guatemala, even though you’re just over the border. Expect to smell curry, spice; you stop seeing much corn; that carbohydrate sustenance replaced plentifully by rice and beans. In addition to the expected Mayan and Hispanic influences, you’ll find a big population of Chinese, Asian Indians, Mennonite Germans and of course many of Creole backgrounds that lend great flavor and distinction to the food. You can hardly soak it up in a week, but I tried.

Live Inspired: Resolutions for 2019

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

When I took off on my open-ended journey, I anticipated learning a lot about the world and other people, but as it turns out, I’ve uncovered so much about myself, too.

Leaving my support network, my sold possessions, everything I know, to travel alone, full-time, through places where basic comforts I’ve long took for granted are often absent — while trying to build a business from scratch — has tested me in major ways.

I’ve been hard on myself as I’ve struggled through the ups and downs, condemning my shortcomings, my moments of frustration and sadness and exhaustion. I’ve cracked the internal whip, always believing I could do more, always terrified I wasn’t enough.

Over the last six months, and perhaps especially the last several weeks, I’ve broken down enough to realize that track isn’t sustainable, and it’s not allowing me to be my best self or produce my best work.

So as I look ahead into 2019 and all the promise it holds, the resolutions I’m making aren’t ones of great achievement, of hard work, of doing more and being more. I am old enough now to realize I need no extra nudge in that direction, and I probably need a nudge the other way.

Instead, I am vowing to let go of some of the pressure and expectation and to be more gracious to a person who is constantly striving to do her best: me.

Live Inspired: 2018 reflections

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

Nearly one year ago, I walked into a tiny, Portuguese restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown — one of my favorite neighborhoods in my favorite city, and one that always makes me think and dream — and plopped down at the bar.

As I sipped a glass of wine, I looked through the window, out onto the dark, bustling streets, and my heart hurt. Minneapolis, my adopted home of eight years, had been great to me, as had the Star Tribune, from which I was taking a short break to wander New York and see old friends.

But change, I knew, was long overdue.

So over a plate of prawns and white beans, I quietly hatched a plan. I was going to flip it all upside down.

Live Inspired: discomfort, an integral part of the journey

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

On Sunday, I had brunch on a perfect, white sand beach, hammocks swinging near by, then ordered a drink, dipped in the pool and selected a lawn chair, book in hand.

Cool breezes floated in from the ocean. The sun beamed down through palm trees.

And under my sunglasses, tears were falling down my face.

I was exhausted. And suddenly, it was all pouring out.

After a bit of a rough week, I had made what is an unusual decision for me: I was giving myself a vacation day, free from work and discomfort. I cabbed to a beautiful resort 30 minutes away, and feeling far from my typical reality of sweaty, sleepless nights, constellations of mosquito bites and street food, I plopped down and immediately started crying.

Now, I realize many of you reading this are doing so with mounds of snow outside or maybe from under the fluorescent lights of a cubicle. Sympathy for someone gallivanting around the coast of Belize and writing paragraphs like the one I just did is a hard sell, so I won’t try it.

I’m thrilled to be traveling through lesser tread parts of the world and sharing their underrated beauty. I experience incredible highs, deep fulfillment and satisfaction in an internal, if not always superficial sense. I wouldn’t change a thing about my decision to do this; at this point, I really can’t even imagine going back.

But beyond the veneer of “a glamorous life abroad,” this is also the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I am still very much adjusting to a world flipped upside down.