March 6, 2016
7:00 pmto9:00 pm

Ethical Travel 2016Jeff Greenwald, founder of Ethical Traveler, invites us to Ethical Traveler’s annual “Best Ethical Destinations” awards event. It’s happening Sunday, March 6th, from 7-9 p.m. at the wonderful Book Passage in Corte Madera. Join (it’s free!) in celebrating this year’s 10 winning countries. Schmooze with ambassadors, browse the bookstore, and drink good wine!

WadiRumAn open letter—and invitation to a conversation—from Alena, a Jordanian reflecting on the violence in the Middle East. “I hope that my words assist in healing and do not further fan the flames of destruction. Though focused on the current events in Gaza, these words are intended to speak to the larger scale of regional conflict around Jordan.”

ZuluWomenBay Area activist Patricia Walker, who has been leading trips to South Africa for years, has founded the Zulu Empowerment and Education Foundation.

Patricia says, “Zulu women and girls have largely been forgotten, first by the Apartheid government, when black Africans were forced to live ‘apart’ from the white population, and now by the current government — which appears to lack the resources or will to help and protect them.

July 1, 2014
7:00 pmto9:00 pm

AfghanistanFrom 2000 to 2010 respectively, Peggy Kelsey, Adrienne Amundsen and Diane LeBow traveled to Afghanistan with Global Exchange Reality Tours, meeting with a cross-section of local leaders, visiting girls’ schools and women’s centers, hospitals, and even a Taliban reconciliation center. Celebrating International Women’s Day with Afghanistan’s remarkable women, they discovered a new kind of strength.

Peggy Kelsey has authored a book of interviews with some of these women and others from previous journeys. Gathering Strength: Conversations with Afghan Women gives an intimate look into the lives of these Afghan women through their own words and portraits.

EthicalTraveler-galleryFrom Ethical Traveler: We all want our travels to have a positive impact on the world. By carefully choosing where to spend your vacation budget, you can support countries working to maintain strong environmental, social, and human rights. Ethical Traveler’s 2014 edition of “The World’s Best Ethical Destinations” lists ten countries you can feel great about visiting. To view the report, see: The Developing World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations.

The Winners for 2014

Ethical Traveler congratulates the countries on our 2014 list of The World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations. The winners, in alphabetical order (not in order of merit), are:

pangaeaMore maps for those of us who are visual learners. This collection from A Sheep No More includes some we’ve seen before, as well as:

  • The only 22 countries in the world Britain has not invaded
  • Map of Pangea with current international borders
  • Countries where you can get a McDonalds hamburger (Norway is the most expensive)
  • Worldwide driving orientation (right side or left?) by country
  • Average age of first sexual intercourse by country

TheJourneyToursI recently met Hank Vicencio, of The Journey Tours, and want to help spread the word about what they’re doing—donating travel booking commissions to independent charitable organizations.

The Journey Tours was developed to provide an avenue for individuals to book their business and personal travel at discount rates and help others at the same time. You will find our rates highly competitive with all other on-line booking agents, airlines, hotels, and rental car agencies.”

“The Journey Tours has linked with Montrose Travel … one of America’s Top 50 Travel Management Companies, with over 150 employees, 700 independent contractors and $135 million in gross sales.”

ethicaltravelerHere’s Ethical Traveler’s 2013 list, in alphabetical order, of the most world’s ethical travel destinations:

Barbados, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Ghana, Latvia, Lithuania, Mauritius, Palau, Samoa and Uruguay.

While no country is perfect, those ten countries scored highest in three main areas: social welfare (measured by indicators such as child mortality rates, economic freedom and crime rates); environmental protection (measured by an academic index and share of protected areas); and human rights (which includes press and political freedoms, as well as gay rights).

Learn more at the Ethical Traveler website.

Here’s travel writer Jim O’Donnell’s well reasoned argument for why travelers have a responsibility to help correct economic imbalances in places they visit.

“Should foreigners pay more?

mola“That was the question back at the beginning of summer when a heated discussion ensued among travel bloggers on Facebook. At the center of the debate was the tendency of some world governments to charge foreign visitors more than locals to enter a national monument,

iraqCitizen-journalist Kelly Hayes-Raitt wants to see for herself, so she’s traveling to Iraq to find out. Read more at her website, Once there, if you donate $5 towards her expenses, you’ll have access to the behind-the-scenes blogs and interviews Kelly will be posting live from Beirut and Baghdad this summer.


July 15, 2010
12:00 am

Photo: Creative Learning

Here’s an organization that’s working to promote peace by supporting American volunteerism in mostly-Muslim parts of the world. That’s a cause worth supporting!

And they have  announced an essay contest and a video contest. If I had done anything that qualified, I’d definitely enter this contest. The prizes are real ($2,000 for the 1st place video; $1,000 for the first place essay) and my guess is that there won’t be a huge number of competing entries. Deadline is July 15, 2010.

America’s Unofficial Ambassadors

A Village, or a Zoo? I Wanted to See Thailand’s Long-Necked Women. Some Would Say That Makes Me Part of the Problem. By Amit Paley.

“Almost any traveler who has ventured into nature or the developing world has to grapple with such moral dilemmas. Some people think it is cruel to swim with dolphins, because it forces the animals to be kept in captivity. Others refuse to visit authoritarian countries such as Zimbabwe, fearful that their tourist dollars will help prop up repressive regimes. And almost anyone wanting to catch a glimpse of an indigenous culture—in the rain forests of Ecuador or the yurts of Mongolia—has to be aware that the very presence of a foreigner likely alters and distorts typical native behavior.

If you travel to experience other cultures and expand your awareness, you may wonder how you can participate in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which has just begun. Here’s an article on Brave New Traveler by Joyce Hanson about 5 Ways a Traveler can Embrace Ramadan.

I enjoyed hearing Tim Cahill speak last night at the 18th annual Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference, where he let us in on the secret to travel writing. We all know the secret, right? Tim said. “Something goes wrong.” That’s what makes the story interesting.

What if nothing goes wrong? “Have a spiritual experience! Spirituality is the last resource for the travel writer.” As soon as I see that the author is going to have a spiritual experience, I know nothing is going to happen in the story.

Ha ha.

Other notes from Tim’s talk:

September 1, 2009
12:00 am

From Christy Quinto at Travelers’ Tales:

Travelers’ Tales is seeking submissions to its annual anthology of the greatest travel stories penned by women from around the world. Our books capture the full range of travel experiences: adventure, mysticism, humor, cross-cultural connection, transformation.

Story length can be anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 words. Previously published pieces are fine, as long as you retain the copyright. Payment is $100 plus a free copy of the anthology. Author Stephanie Elizondo Griest will edit the collection.

Thanks to Diane LeBow for forwarding this press release:

For Immediate Release (August 13, 2009)

National Writers Union Opposes Settlement of Class-Action Lawsuit Against Google for Copyright Infringement

The National Writers Union today announced its opposition to the proposed $125 million settlement of a class-action copyright infringement lawsuit brought by writers and publishers against Google because its massive book-scanning project violated their copyrights.

When Travelers Take Too Many Risks is a series of articles from the NYT inspired by the recent incidents in which “reckless” American travelers were detained after illegally entering North Korea and Iran. The articles present a range of thoughtful—and thought-provoking—opinions, including these:

  • While Americans are celebrating the return of journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling after four months of captivity in North Korea, there’s also been an inevitable backlash. Some commentators have suggested that their actions — and the pardons apparently negotiated in exchange for a visit by President Clinton — have jeopardized U.S. strategic interests….

    Whatever the particulars of these two cases, the argument misses the broader point. We as a society benefit enormously from the work of U.S. journalists who travel to remote and dangerous places and report back on what they see.

Thanks to Diane LeBow for sending the link to this article by Thomas Friedman about the importance of education, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. (Diane has traveled extensively in Afghanistan, and is writing about her experiences there.)

Teacher, Can We Leave Now? No.
by Thomas Friedman for the NYT

I confess, I find it hard to come to Afghanistan and not ask: Why are we here? Who cares about the Taliban? Al Qaeda is gone. And if its leaders come back, well, that’s why God created cruise missiles.

Thanks to Jim Land for sending along this inspirational message from Paul Hawken:

Paul Hawken is a longtime friend of CharityFocus, renowned entrepreneur, visionary environmental activist, founder of Wiser Earth and author of many books—most recently Blessed Unrest. He was recently presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters by University of Portland, when he delivered this superb commencement address to the class of 2009.

University of Portland, May 3rd, 2009

When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” Boy, no pressure there.

Janice Cook Newman

Janice Cook Newman

From Janice Cook Newman: Just posted the first essay from one of my students in the Afghan Women Writers Project. It’s heartbreaking & lovely. Read it, and please help spread the word. We want to get these women’s voices out there.

“When I was child I wished to be a doctor like my uncle, who wears a white shirt and everyday checks on lots of ill people. But one day, all of my wishes were destroyed. It was the day the Taliban came to our country, Afghanistan…”

[And, from your editor, Laurie McAndish King: I’m experimenting with using Apture links in this post. If you click on Janice’s name above, there should be three related links. Try it!]

Here’s a link to Randy Cohen’s New York Times column, The Moral of the Story. Interesting because he considers the ethical implications of international adoption. And of adoption by Madonna. Also because he’s not only an ethics writer, but has also “written humor articles, essays and stories for numerous newspapers and magazines. His first television work was writing for “Late Night With David Letterman,” for which he won three Emmy Awards. His fourth Emmy was for his work on “TV Nation.” He received a fifth Emmy as a result of a clerical error, and he kept it. For two years, he wrote and edited News Quiz for Slate, the online magazine.” No worries, apparently, about his writing falling into a niche and getting stuck.

Editor’s Note: Here is an open letter from Rita Golden Gelman, whose goal is to “make the Gap Year experience of living in another culture, preferably in the developing world, an accepted and popular practice in the U.S., not just a luxury for the elite.”

I think this is a laudable goal, and would be an enormous help in bringing world peace through increased cross-cultural understanding. This is a long post, but please read it if you—or someone you know—could contribute in even the smallest way towards making it happen. You can reach Rita at

From Rita Golden Gelman:

The GOAL hasn’t changed: it’s to make the Gap Year experience of living in another culture, preferably in the developing world, an accepted and popular practice in the U.S., not just a luxury for the elite. I’m defining Gap Year as the year between high school … and college or work or vocational school.

HOW to reach that goal: There are two obvious routes (see below) but they both require a major PR campaign … nationally, locally, in every school and community in the country if we are going to reach every segment of the population … the urban poor, the rural communities, middle-America, the South, the Appalachians, the Pacific Northwest and everywhere in between.

I see as the first order of business of Global Learning a huge campaign to get out the message that a Gap Year is a great experience, that it will create more mature and motivated students and employees, that it will change perspectives, enrich the participants, enlighten the country, and produce a positive and friendlier opinion of the U.S. throughout the world.

Postcard from Pipelineistan
By Pepe Escobar

What happens on the immense battlefield for the control of Eurasia will provide the ultimate plot line in the tumultuous rush towards a new, polycentric world order, also known as the New Great Game.

Our good ol’ friend the nonsensical “Global War on Terror,” which the Pentagon has slyly rebranded “the Long War,” sports a far more important, if half-hidden, twin—a global energy war. I like to think of it as the Liquid War, because its bloodstream is the pipelines that crisscross the potential imperial battlefields of the planet. Put another way, if its crucial embattled frontier these days is the Caspian Basin, the whole of Eurasia is its chessboard. Think of it, geographically, as Pipelineistan.

January 25, 2009
From Don George at The Adventure Collection:

“Even when the world is unsettled, travel is too important to put on hold. The stakes, both personal and global, are too high. Personally, there is nothing like travel to renew us, grace us with knowledge and perspective, and forge ties that bind around the world. Globally, there are so many countries, cultures and economies that depend on travel — not just economically but artistically, philosophically – that to stop travelling is to abandon them to almost inevitable disruption and degeneration. Read more…

January 26, 2009 Press Release:

GO Philanthropic enters 2009 with a host of new travel programs aimed at providing support for the empowerment of communities worldwide and the protection of heritage and environment. The socially-conscious travel company embraces the combination of Travel Philanthropy, Geotourism and Sustainable Travel, coupling Vacations and In-depth Educational Tours with support for social and conservation projects worldwide.

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