I had two reactions when I first arrived at the Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary in Thailand that rescues and rehabilitates overworked elephants. Part of me was giddy with excitement to see such amazing animals up close but I also felt a deep sadness in the pit of my stomach when I learned what they had suffered prior to their arrival.
Hiking is my bliss and one of my favorite “quick trips” is going to Boulder, Colorado to hike. Boulder has many great hikes (Mt. Sanitas or The Royal Arch) but a quick 90 minute drive takes you to Rocky Mountain National Park. National parks are great places to hike. The trails are gorgeous and well marked, the parking system is organized with timely shuttles and friendly rangers are available to answer your questions. But, crowds swell during the summer and Rocky Mountain National Park gets overrun with visitors. However, this year we went during the eclipse and lucked out! Not only did we find the perfect hike but the park was empty, we had it all to ourselves.
I spent 5 glorious days in Amsterdam this April exploring what this vibrant city has to offer. The Dutch have a “live and let live attitude” which makes Amsterdam a friendly and welcoming place with something for everyone. Beyond the happening restaurants and hip cafes, Holland has: extraordinary tulip fields, deeply moving museums, the BEST hummus bistro, quirky buildings, a mouth watering farmers market, and unique canals. All this plus a beautiful yoga school with drop-in classes. I walked everywhere stopping in cute cafes or browsing interesting boutiques when my feet cried out. Here are some highlights from our recent trip.
Hygge and Happiness
Copenhagen consistently ranks as one of the happiest cities in the world and after a quick 3 day visit, I can understand why. I believe their happiness lies in the culture of Hygge! Hygge (I’m convinced the correct pronunciation requires Danish linguistics) loosely translates to “cozy” or “hug” but its really about savoring life’s simple pleasures and finding delight in our ordinary habits. For example, sharing a special bottle of wine with friends, freshly baked bread, flickering candles, decorating with cozy fabrics, or lingering over coffee in a sun-filled cafe. According to The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell, “Hygge is about being kind to yourself, having a nice time and not punishing or denying yourself anything”. (I think my cat is Danish!)
If you like adventure but also like the luxuries of indoor plumbing and hair dryers, then hiking the Salkantay trail with REI is the trip for you! This past August, my husband and I hiked the Salkantay lodge to lodge trail with REI. This stunning 43 mile (6 day) hike in the Peruvian Andes includes a 15, 200 ft. pass, dips down through the rain forest, and finishes at the legendary city of Machu Picchu. It’s one of REI’s highest rated trips and I can see why.
After completing the Tour De Mount Blanc with REI 2 years ago and loving it, we chose them again for this adventure. I wince at the rates, but in the end, you can’t put a price on an amazing experience. REI adventure travel is seamlessly organized and they hire the best local guides. Their active vacations are for anyone who wants an adventure with pampered accommodations.
This is a photo journey of my 5 day hike to Machu Picchu on the Salkantay trail.
(Above) llama love at Machu Picchu.
Cusco is a fun, energetic city that sits 11,200 ft. in the Peruvian Andes. It’s old world charm, hospitable locals, and delicious restaurants attract a variety of visitors. Budget conscious backpackers stay at inexpensive youth hostels while older folk opt for boutique hotels and fine restaurants. Even though meat dishes such as lomo saltado (beef stir fry) or guinea pig (cuy) are traditional cuisine, Cusco has great vegan friendly restaurants and is one of the most vegan friendly cities I’ve ever been to.
Traveling as a vegan is not always easy but I was excited to find so many restaurants with vegan friendly options labeled clearly on their menu. My Green Point Vegan Restaurant is 100% vegan and has excellent, organic cuisine. I found the food in Cusco to be light and healthy with a variety of beautiful produce.