How I Started a Million Dollar Travel Company at the Age of 25

In the travel world you often hear about influencers, bloggers, photographers, and videographers, but rarely travel entrepreneurs.

I have traveled to over 80 countries, and am a female entrepreneur — founding my company Acanela Expeditions while still a Sophomore in University. What started out as a semester abroad, turned into a year of researching, networking, and traveling that helped me build the foundation for my business. Fast-forward a couple years and my university started business is now a million dollar company.

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At the time I had no idea that my passion for travel would turn into a career. I was simply doing what I loved. From the Azores islands of Portugal to the windswept cardamom hills of India — I found exhilaration and excitement each time I stepped foot in a new place. I also found beauty in meeting local people along my journey. This was something I wanted to share with the world.

Now I have a team of talented colleagues around the world, and we take thousands of travelers to new destinations each year.

With 40 expeditions in destinations around the world, we’re uniquely positioned to provide authentic experiences unlike anything else out there. Our strong team of local guides, hosts, chefs, and artisans ensure our travelers have a real experience. A good expedition focuses on immersion, impact, and innovation. Our talented artisans, beautiful boutique hotels, and cultural connection through cuisine are what make our expeditions different from your standard travel experience.

We have thousands of travelers each year, and I am lucky to meet and build friendships with many of them. I hope to see you on an expedition soon!

Read more at www.medium.com 

Kylie's 2018 Travel Holiday Gift Guide

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1. Kortni Jeane High Waisted Bikini - These swimmers are a must for any traveler! They are comfortable, cute, and practical for almost any adventure - and you won't find me going anywhere without them in my suitcase.

2. Nisolo Chelsea Boots - I have always been a HUGE fan of black boots, especially if they are boots that I can walk in for hour after hour across numerous climates and countries.  I have tried so many brands of boots, and I can't wait to add these to the list!  Not to mention, they are crafted from ethically-source materials.

3. Misfit Tracker - Who wants to stay fit & healthy during their travels?  I know I sure do!  That is why I have quickly fallen in love with Misfit's line of sleek trackers!  Count your steps, monitor your sleep, and track your calories all in one go!

4. KZ Floatable Sunglasses - As the daughter of an Optometrist, great sunglasses have always been a priority.  What I love about the KZ line is that they actually have sunglasses that FLOAT in water.  As a girl who loves water activities (kayaking, boating, surfing) - sunglasses that are Chic and hard to lose are my thing!

5. Nena & Co Daybag - Ever since I heard the story of Nena & Co and their focus on working with Artisans in Guatemala, I have been a fan.  Their bags are beautiful and perfect for day(s) full of adventures and travels.  They fit well inside a suitcase and carry everything that you would ever need to have with you.  Each bag is unique and one of a kind.

6. prAna Ashley Leggings - My husband actually got me hooked on prAna just a few years ago, and since then I have fallen in love with both my husband and prAna ;) .  Their clothing is perfectly made, and is created with the adventurer in mind.  In particular I love their Ashley leggings, which double as airport loungewear to PJs to tights for a night out on the town.  Not to mention they are perfect for the early morning yoga session!

#BeTheExplorer Tulum, Mexico Winner

Say hello to Kelly - the winner of our Tulum, Mexico Trip Giveaway in partnership with our friends at General Assembly.  We had the chance to catch up with Kelly and get the inside scoop on her experience!  Read more below...

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Thanks so much for arranging our magical trip to Tulum!  It was a perfect blend of activity and relaxation and although we knew it would be awesome - we had no idea just how AMAZING it would be!  

Our guide Javier was so kind, friendly and patient - a very welcome face as we landed bleary eye off the red-eye from LA and he got right down to making sure we had great local coffee and sharing his experience of life in Mexico with us.

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We could not believe our eyes when we got to the end of of the beach road to our accommodations at Rosa del Viento - right next to the reserve!  Everything from our beautiful treehouse room to the incredible dining room overlooking the aqua Caribbean to the amazing white silk sand and incredible beach palapas - we knew we were truly spoiled!  

Everyone we met was so gracious, friendly and eager to share their culture with us.

Besides, waking up to perfect coffee, tropical fruit, yogurt and pastry while gazing at the gentle Caribbean every morning, my favorite moments were Lily's Rivera Kitchen family style cooking class and snorkeling at Cenote Sac Actun.  

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Our first venture was to Lily's vibrant and warm kitchen in the middle of the countryside which was filled with good cheer, amazing colors, flavors and aromas and more than a little bit of magic. She shared the medicinal and culinary properties of her grandmother's recipes from Oajaca as well as what she has learned about Mayan food after many years raising her family in the region.  Everything was done in such a relaxed but interesting and flowing manner, Lily's approach is truly artful. Being in her kitchen was a wonderful reminder of the ability of food, to bring together people from around the world to laugh, share and learn as well as heal and nurture themselves with wonderful natural foods. 

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Snorkeling at Cenote Sac Actun was another stunning experience. We happened to arrive with Javier at a time where we had it nearly all to ourselves and the exploring the intricacies of the cave and all the wild formations in almost total silence and at times darkness was a rare treat!  Although we decided to leave the cameras behind for this one, the depth and intricacies and age of the chambers of the cave are truly stunning as is the amount and variety of nature that manages to thrive in such an underground world.  Tiny snoozing bats, ocean deep caverns, ancient limestone columns and rock-defying roots - were just so surreal!

Too many wonders and fun moments to mention here, but suffice to say, we left rejuvenated and also incredibly grateful and awestruck by such a treat as well as the splendors of Mexico and it's people.  The cultural pride, graciousness and solidarity were refreshing and inspiring.  While the mosquito bites and tan lines are fading fast, our memories of our magical time, the smell of copal, piping hot tortillas & salsa, cool bebidas, silky sand and saltwater remain fresh. When can we go again??  ;}

Muchas gracias y Hasta la proxima vez!

Kelly & Joanne

#BeTheExplorer Costa Rica Winners

Brooke & Scott's Travel Log

This November Brooke and Scott had the opportunity to travel to Punta Islita, Costa Rica as the winners of our Acanela Costa Rica Sweepstakes in partnership with PINCHme, Shopstyle, Newser, Brit & Co, Vinepair, and Rank and Style.  They had the experience of a lifetime, and were gracious enough to share their story with us!

What were the highlights of your trip?  Honestly, there were too many to count! From the second we arrived at Punta Islita we were enamored by its charm (and cocktails). Morning jungle hikes surrounded by monkeys are at the top of my list, as well as witnessing the baby sea turtles make their dash to the open ocean. An early morning surf sessions and sunset kayaking down the Rio Ora were Scott's favorites.

What places and experiences did you enjoy the most?  A short drive from the Punta Islita Hotel, we enjoyed Sámara and it's nearby beaches. Nothing quite says vacation like a machete-chopped coconut sipped in the sun. Following Punta Islita, we extended our trip down the peninsula to Montezuma, and then over to La Fortuna. We highly recommend visiting the Arenal volcano if possible. We went on two impressive hikes there, off-the-beaten-path, surrounded by lush jungle and rainstorms.

Any Recommendations for Future Travelers? Our recommendation, do it all! There's something for everyone, honestly. Ziplining, hiking, cocktail making, cooking lessons, monkey and bird hikes, surfing and kayaking just to name a few. We finished each afternoon with a swim in their enchanting infinity pool. The dusk hike is a thrill if you don't mind nightlife. We'll never forget the scorpion only visible once highlighted with a blacklight.

Why would you recommend this Acanela Expedition to a friend? We've already recommended Acanela Expeditions to so many people. This trip was a dream come true, and I want everyone to have the opportunity to experience it. We look forward to their other expeditions in the future!

Expedition Photos

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Kayaking down the Rio Ora and into the oceans waves

Surf lessons on Playa Islita, the perfect place to learn how to hang ten

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Brooke chomps at the bit to cruise another big wave at Punta Islita

Relaxing on our private deck overlooking the verdant jungles and picturesque sands of Punta Islita

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Our first breathtaking view of the resort and the pristine nature that envelopes its grounds

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Scarlet macaws can be seen regularly flying above the pool deck, while howler monkeys make their name known from below

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Brooke taking a few laps in the infinity pool before stopping off to greet Briner the bartender at the swim-up bar

After the morning rains lifted, we had a stunning view alongside Arenal volcano


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Enjoying the local fare at Playa Camaronal, expertly opened with a machete moments earlier

Our morning monkey hike guide Jairo led us beneath an entire family of howler monkeys that make their home in the jungle surrounding Hotel Punta Islita

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Baby green turtles erupt from beneath the sands at Playa Corozalito and race for the crashing waves just moments after birth

A crafty capuchin monkey, no doubt up to no good, most likely scheming for his next meal

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Scott showcases his [lack of] culinary expertise as he aids the head chef during her ceviche recipe demonstation

A few tropical refreshments to set the mood before a dip in the unbelievably relaxing infinity pool

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A little fresca adds the extra bite to an already phenomenal fish dish

Punta Islitas amazing landscape shown at low tide while cotton candy clouds float effortlessly above paradise

BLACK FRIDAY SALE | Top 10 Travel Experiences 2018

Our Largest Sale of the Season!

We are excited to announce our Acanela Top 10 Travel Experiences 2018, a list that highlights all the top destinations, activities, and experiences for this upcoming year! Take advantage of largest sale of the Season with exclusive DISCOUNTS on ALL of our 2018 Top Travel Experiences!  SAVE up to $1000 on each of our trips using the Exclusive Codes shown below!  In addition, we will be donating 2% of all revenue to our local Artisan communities in an effort to help alleviate poverty around the world!

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1) Safari in Africa

Botswana Safari: Embark a journey through the wild landscapes of South Africa, Zambia, & Botswana.  Experience the culture, animal life, and stunning landscapes of three of Africa's most beautiful countries while visiting breathtaking locations such as Victoria Falls, Chobe National Park, and the Okavango Delta.  Feel close to the heart of the savannah while staying at some of the most beautiful safari accommodation Africa has to offer.  Botswana Safari  - $500 Off with code "BLACKFRIDAY"!

Tanzania Serengeti & Gorilla Trekking in Uganda: The Serengeti is one of the world's most sought after safari lands.  It is home to some of the largest numbered animal herds and indigenous tribes in all of Africa, and is considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  As a UNESCO World Heritage Site the Serengeti boasts numerous lakes and rivers, the Great Rift Valley, and the world's largest caldera, the Ngorongoro Crater.  The Serengeti is also within easy reach of Mount Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar Islands, the Maasai Mara in Kenya.  Embark a journey to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda - home to the highest concentration of primates on earth, including the mountain gorilla – now one of the rarest animals on the planet. There are nearly 800 mountain gorillas in the world and more than 450 of them reside in Uganda – mainly found in the epic Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.  Still one of the world’s best kept natural secrets, Uganda in home to pristine lakes, majestic mountains, and some of the most incredible wildlife in Africa.  Tanzania Serengeti Safari & Uganda Gorilla Trekking - $500 Off with code "BLACKFRIDAY"!

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2) Morocco to Spain | Two Continents in One!

Morocco: Few countries hold as much dreamy fascination for travelers as the beautiful country of Morocco. Desert fortresses rise out of the sands of the Sahara. Sapphire oceans caress white sandy beaches. The purple peaks of the Atlas Mountains glitter with snow. Visit Morocco to see all of these sights and more. Behind every city wall is an adventure in art, architecture and cuisine. The winding alleyways of the Medina give way to the bustling souks, tent after tent filled with brightly colored silks and baskets of spices. Morocco is made up of four different areas: the Sahara desert, full of Berber towns and oases; the Atlas and Rif Mountains, perfect for hikers; the plains which are home to the imperial cities of Marrakesh and Fez; and finally the sandy coastlines of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, graced by small beach towns and the cities of Rabat and Casablanca.  Morocco Expedition - $500 Off with code "BLACKFRIDAY"!

Spain: Andalusia ranks as the largest region in Spain, stretching south from the sunny cities of Cordoba and Grenada all the way to the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.  Andalusia embodies the classic image of Spain to the fullest, from the flamenco dancing and bullfighting to the flamboyant nightlife and ancient architecture.  Andalusia also boasts many delicious foods, offering travelers a chance to stimulate their palettes while exploring the region.  Andalusia Spain Culinary Tour - $500 Off with code "BLACKFRIDAY"!

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3 & 4) Culinary Journeys to Greece & Italy

Greece: The islands are the main characteristic of Greece’s morphology and an integral part of the country’s culture and tradition. Greek sovereign land includes 6,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, of which only 227 islands are inhabited. This is a truly unique phenomenon for the European continent.The Greek Islands are known for its volcanic-sand beaches, whitewashed buildings, blue roof tops and crystal-clear waters.  You will have an adventure of your lifetime exploring ancient ruins, different islands, outdoor water sports and more!  Santorini Greece Culinary Tour - $500 Off with code "BLACKFRIDAY"!

Italy: Set amid some of the most dramatic coastal scenery on the planet, these five ingeniously constructed fishing villages can bolster the most jaded of spirits. Rooted in antiquity, Cinque Terre's five villages date from the early medieval period. Monterosso, the oldest, was founded in AD 643, when beleaguered hill dwellers moved down to the coast to escape from invading barbarians. Riomaggiore came next, purportedly established in the 8th century by Greek settlers fleeing persecution in Byzantium. The others are Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola. Much of what remains in the villages today dates from the late High Middle Ages, including several castles and a quintet of illustrious parish churches.  Cinque Terre Italy Culinary Tour $500 Off with code "BLACKFRIDAY"!

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5) Northern Lights in Iceland & the Arctic

Iceland: At a place where two continents quite literally brush up against each other, Iceland is a dynamic land of fire and ice. Get up close to natural wonders as you make your way through lava tubes, observe active volcanoes, and watch for whales off the coast. From geysers to glaciers, the elements are on full display in Iceland. Walk atop a glacier in Vatnajökull National Park, and visit the iceberg-dotted Jökulsárlón lagoon. Relax at the famous Blue Lagoon with geothermal water.  Stroll along the black-sand beaches at Reynisfjara, and visit waterfall and glaciers everyday!  Iceland Nothern Lights Expedition$500 Off with code "BLACKFRIDAY"!

6) By Rails & Waterways through Eastern Europe

Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary: Unlock the lesser-known, picturesque side of Europe with this expedition combing cityscapes, national parks, and rolling countryside, while exploring then in depth along the way. Learn about the complicated history of Eastern Europe while sampling delicious local cuisine, visiting majestic castles and fortresses, and exploring pristine national parks. Travel by train through the countries of Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary while stopping along the way to explore pristine mountains, traditional castles, and wineries. Enjoy food and wine tours through Prague, Slovakia, and Hungary as we dine on delicious Eastern European food. Explore the lesser-known Tatra Mountains in Slovakia as we explore and coe to understand the developing eco-tourism in the area. Enjoy daily discussions with local artisans who will help you engage with a new place and new traditions and turn them into memories, stories, and photos that will last a lifetime.  Eastern Europe Expedition$500 Off with code "BLACKFRIDAY"!

 

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7) Southeast Asian & Indian Temples

Thailand, Cambodia, & Vietnam: What better way to experience Asia than a dedicated culinary tour to savor its tapestry of tastes, colors, and smells?  This culinary expedition is specially designed for gourmet enthusiasts with an appetite for cooking, eating, and adventure. Explore Bangkok’s streets as you discover diverse Thai curries, prepare noodle soup alongside the top Vietnamese chefs, and mingle in the Cambodian market crowds as you select local spices.  Visit the beautiful Ankor Wat Temple in Cambodia (one of the new 7 wonders of the world), tour local floating markets and ancient fishing village, and take a boat ride through the Mekong Delta & rice fields of Vietnam.  Southeast Asia Culture & Cuisine Tour $500 Off with code "BLACKFRIDAY"!

India: Welcome to India, home to prestigious maharajas, majestic forts, glittering palaces, and divine cuisine. Rajasthan (Northern India) is a land of sand dunes, jungle, camel trains, wild tigers, glittering jewels, vivant colors, and succulent curries. The tranquility of the old cities, the bustle of ancient bazaars, and the lively culinary scene – have more than enough to offer.  Dive deep into traditions, history, and great food.  Kerala (Southern India) is famed for its delightful people, tropical scenery, and delicious food.  On our culinary and cultural journey we will be exposed to a diversity of experiences.  We will dine on succulent coconut curries, seafood straight from the Malabar Coast, rotis and naan hot out of the tandoori oven, spiced vegetables, sweet lentil dishes, and an assortment of meats doused in delicious masalas.  India & the Taj Mahal Expedition - $500 Off with code "BLACKFRIDAY"!

8) Cherry Blossoms & Ramen in Japan

Japan: Kyoto & Tokyo are exceptional destinations for those who truly want to discover authentic Japanese cultures. Museums, shrines and temples, cuisine, theater and shopping all merge at your doorstep to offer a seemingly endless choice of diversions. From your centrally located hotel, you will find famous sites such as the Fushimi Inari Jinja Shrine, the Kiyomizu Temple, and Nijo-jo Castle are only a short walk away. Your home for this week is also strategically positioned to take full advantage of the professional kitchens where you will cook during your stay. Led by an expert chef, you will be exposed to a variety of culinary and cultural highlights designed to fully immerse you into the Japanese way of life.  Kyoto to Tokyo Japan Tour - $500 Off with code "BLACKFRIDAY"!

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9) Macchu Picchu & the Amazon | Peru

Peru: Join us on an epic adventure through the Amazon Jungle and across ancient Aztec & Incan ruins where you will learn how to capture the culture, history, and landscapes of Peru on camera. Climb Machu Picchu at sunrise, visit the bustling markets of Ollantaytambo and Pisac, experience a home stay in an isolated Incan village, and canopy walk through the Amazon jungle. Travel with some of the best trekking guides and local photographers that Peru has to offer.  Peru Expedition$500 Off with code "BLACKFRIDAY"!

Ecuador: Join us as we adventure to the Equator, visiting Quito, hiking Mount Cotopaxi, and visiting the diverse nature reserves of the Amazon jungle and the Galapagos Islands. Learn how to capture the culture, wildlife, and landscapes of Ecuador & the Galapagos on camera. This is a fantastic opportunity to make memories of a lifetime & develop a photo portfolio of your own that can be proudly shared with the world.  Ecuador Expedition - $500 Off with code "BLACKFRIDAY"!

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10) Crossing Drake's Passage to Antarctica

Antarctica: Join Acanela on an amazing journey to the 7th Continent.  Antarctica has been inspiring explorers for centuries, and this expedition offers you the chance to discover why, with an unforgettable journey through the spectacular wilderness of the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula. You’ll encounter a world where nature creates the rules, her unpredictable temperament making each trip unique, exciting and personal. Imagine cruising in a Zodiac through crackling sea ice like shattered glass, witnessing penguins building their nests, and navigating through a maze of icebergs, each one uniquely shaped by its journey through the sea. You’ll enjoy iconic Antarctic highlights and exhilarating adventures, and will create memories to last a lifetime.   Antarctica Expedition - $500 Off with code "BLACKFRIDAY"!

Sonoma Sweepstakes x Yogaescapes Winner

Congratulations to one of our sweepstakes winners, Stephanie Sturgeon who won a 3-day Acanela x Yogaescapes retreat in Sonoma Valley, California.  She just completed her trip this August and is excited to share her story with you.

Throughout the end of the year and into next year we will be featuring the stories of our sweepstakes winners who have embarked out on trips with Acanela and our Partners over the course of the past couple months.  Hopefully their stories will inspire you to continue your travel aspirations and one day will also travel with Acanela.

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Tea Ceremony (茶道 Cha-do)- The Art of Tea, The Way of Life

There is a well known ancient Japanese tale about a tea master and a samurai. Centuries ago, there was a tea master who served a great lord. The tea master was able to perform the tea ceremony to such a perfection that the lord was awestruck by his skills and bestowed on the tea master the rank and robes of a Samurai warrior. One time while traveling with the lord, the tea master encountered a Samurai warrior and offended him by pure misunderstanding. Because of the robes, the tea master was wearing, the Samurai warrior thought he was also a Samurai, only to find out he was a mere tea master, it only angered the Samurai warrior further, so he challenged the tea master to a duel the following day. Terrified by his inevitable failure and death from battling a trained Samurai, the tea master accepted his fate turned to his master and asked to learn how to die with the honor of a Samurai. The lord replied, “I will teach you as you request, but before I do so, I’d like to ask you to perform the way of the tea for me one last time.” The tea master agreed and started the ceremony. He performed the ceremony with such confidence, tranquility, grace, and honor, all the fear disappeared. Instead through his every move he perfectly demonstrated the true peace and humility within him just like a true Samurai warrior does. “There you have it.” The great lord smiled and said, “No need to learn anything of the way of death. Your state of mind when you perform the tea ceremony is all that is required. When you see your opponent tomorrow, imagine that you are about to serve tea for him. Salute him courteously, prepare yourself for the battle with the same serenity as you did when preparing for the tea ritual. Draw your sword and hold it high above your head, gaze into your opponent’s eyes with the same concentration as you have while preparing tea. Then you are ready for combat.” The following day, the tea master followed exactly as the great lord instructed. The Samurai warrior was astounded by every move and even the gaze of the tea master, he bowed respectfully and, asked for forgiveness and retreated from the battle without even raising his sword.

Chao-Do in Japanese means the way of tea. Similar to martial arts and any other forms of art that’s considered a Do, to study this art, it is more than the study of tea or the ritual, Japanese tea ceremony and the art of tea has very deep philosophical meanings as well. For one to become a master of the tea ceremony, it takes years of disciplined practice, even a whole life time of true dedication and devotion to become a true master. Aside from mastering the rich knowledge of the art of tea, mastering the art of tea ceremony is also a practice of unlocking one’s inner peace or Zen if you will.

The ceremony I booked at Camellia (the flower location) consists of three parts. Introduction of the tea ceremony, watching the teacher making tea, and learn how to make Matcha ourselves. The tea house is tucked away in a quiet alley near the Kiyomizu-dera. There were 3 other girls from Saudi and myself booked the first appointment on that day. As soon as all parties arrived, we were led to one of the tea rooms in the upstairs. Authentic tea rooms are very small, only consist of 4 and a half tatami mats, and can only fit maximum 5 guests. The entrance to a tea room is only 60cm high and wide, why? Because everyone in a tea room is to be equally respected. For one to enter the tea room, one must bow in order to fit through the door to get in. The Same rule applies to even Kings or Queens, for obvious reasons, you’ve gotta bow to even get through the door. So now you know, if you ever see a tiny door in a shrine or a temple, you now know that’s a tea room behind that tiny door. Quickly we sat on the cushions placed on the tatami mat, cell phones silenced, minds quieted, we were ready for the ceremony to begin.

Our teacher’s name is Norie, sweet and gentle. She greeted us with a traditional Japanese bow, we briefly introduced ourselves, then the teaching began. 

Our teacher’s name is Norie, sweet and gentle. She greeted us with a traditional Japanese bow, we briefly introduced ourselves, then the teaching began. 

The teaching began with some brief background introduction of the tea ceremony. One thing I found interesting and rather mind boggling was the Sensu- Japanese folding fan used when taking a bow as a symbol of respect. Here is a funny notion, this fan is never to be opened and only to be carried and placed in front of you or on you while taking a bow. If it’s hot in the room and you had to use a fan, bring another one. You just can’t use this one.

In the teaching of Cha-do, there are four principles of Chado, 和(Wa-harmony): a sense of oneness with nature, people, and the utensils. 敬 (Kei-respect): respect for one another in the tea room, as well as the utensils. 清 (Sei-purity): in a formal tea gathering, everyone attends the ceremony must purify oneself before entering the tea room. Similar to the purification ritual people do before entering a Shinto shrine. One must enter a tea room with clean hands, a clean mouth, and a clean mind. 寂 (Jaku-tranquility): the essential purpose of practicing the way of tea, or attending a tea ceremony is to find one’s inner peace like a form of meditation if you will. Coming from the busy world outside, after entering the room, this space is for one to quiet down the mind and eventually reach the tranquil state of the mind. What I found rather profound was this. Jaku is the point in one's training and practice where a level of selflessness is reached. While on the one hand, it is the ultimate goal, on the other it is the beginning once again. A true master reaches this highest level and then putting the ideals of harmony, respect, and purity into practice, begins again with a fresh and enlightened heart. At this point, the endless possibilities of life can be realized. This tranquility is far from the stillness and nothingness we interpret. It is a dynamic force of one’s innermost being that infuses the practice of Tea and gives significance to the tea ceremony, and a deeper understanding of life. 

The interesting thing was, as soon as Norie began the tea ceremony, I lifted my camera and got myself in position ready to shoot, but it didn’t take long before I lowered my camera and just purely focused on watching her. I began to be so drawn to her, drawn to the way she moved, the steps she took while making the tea. Her movements were swift, gentle, yet even to the smallest details of her motion was….. significant and with purpose. It wasn’t just her, it was the unity of her and the utensils she held, the room we were in, and the presence of the four of us strangers. 

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Because I sat closest to the scroll that was hanging in the room, supposedly the seat of the guest of honor, (thank you very much :)) I got to have the tea prepared by the teacher. Honored indeed I felt when Norie presented me with the bowl. I held the bowl with my left hand, hugged the side of the bowl with my right hand (which is the right way to hold a tea bowl, FYI). I took two big gulps and finished the tea quickly. Instantly, I felt the caffeine kicked in. It was some powerful stuff if you gulp it down like that, just a friendly warning. In the end, as instructed, I lifted the bowl up and slurped to get the very last drop of the tea as a gesture to pay my compliment of how delicious the tea was. The tea was so creamy and thick with a very rich flavor. Took me by surprise considering it was made by hand not some fancy powerful espresso machine. We were told is the thinner form of Matcha called Usucha, there is another type, which is called Koicha, it’s much thicker with a paste consistency and much more flavorful. Usucha is meant for individuals to enjoy, where Koicha is meant to be shared because of its thick consistency.

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Now we have watched the teacher making tea, it was our turn to make tea. We were each given a bowl and a Chasen (the tea-whisks). 

Each bowl has a front, or the face, normally indicated by a beautiful pattern printed on the bowl. If the front of the bowl is a bit tricky to identify, look for a seal, that could be the front of the bowl. The purpose of identifying the face of the bowl is that, when you drink from the bowl, it is important to rotate the bowl twice clockwise to avoid drinking from the front of the bowl. Why? The face of the bowl is the most beautiful part of the bowl, and so to pay respect one must avoid drinking directly from that side.

Each bowl has a front, or the face, normally indicated by a beautiful pattern printed on the bowl. If the front of the bowl is a bit tricky to identify, look for a seal, that could be the front of the bowl. The purpose of identifying the face of the bowl is that, when you drink from the bowl, it is important to rotate the bowl twice clockwise to avoid drinking from the front of the bowl. Why? The face of the bowl is the most beautiful part of the bowl, and so to pay respect one must avoid drinking directly from that side.

The process of making the tea is harder than I thought. Kneeling on the floor, body up straight, with one hand holding the bowl, the other holding the tea-whisk. You see, all that vertical (has to be vertical only, as instructed by the teacher) whisking motion was all in the right wrist, also considering the posture I was in, which was awkward, not to mention I was whisking in a small shallow bowl, with firmness, precision, and as much grace as I could manage. It truly is an art, to make a bowl of beautiful looking tea with the right consistency and the creaminess, and to do so beautifully, and effortlessly.

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Thank you muscles and flexible right wrist. I WHIIIIIIIISKED that tea, I whisked it so hard!! 

Thank you muscles and flexible right wrist. I WHIIIIIIIISKED that tea, I whisked it so hard!! 

A type of sweet that compliments the Matcha flavor, made from seaweed, but tastes nothing like it. It's got this crystal sugar outer layer and a soft center. Not very sweet, ohhhhh soooo delish.. 

A type of sweet that compliments the Matcha flavor, made from seaweed, but tastes nothing like it. It's got this crystal sugar outer layer and a soft center. Not very sweet, ohhhhh soooo delish.. 

While we enjoyed our own cup of creamy Matcha tea with some sweets, the teacher closed the session with the explanation of the hanging scroll on the wall and the philosophical meanings behind the decorations in the room. For each gathering, a different scroll is hung, a different flower arrangement is prepared to create a particular theme. For this one, the scroll reads “無心“, meaning empty mind or free mind. A message from the host, “spend each moment in life with a clear mind free from fear, anxiety, and desires.”

tea-ceremony7.jpg

Before our departure, the teacher shared one last Zen philosophy, “一期一會“, meaning “once in a life time opportunity”. Each encounter happens only once in our lives, and each encounter happens in its own unique way. Even in the same tea room, everything about each gathering changes, the room decors, the guests, even the state of being of the same host. So as nature intended, everything in life changes, so treasure each moment in life, as it only happens once in a life time.

As a foreigner, it might take me more than a life time to have a full understanding or even a good grasp of Chado. But from this short 30-minute encounter of the art, I think it’s a rather beautiful thing for one to never fully understand it, instead to continue discovering the art and the endless philosophy behind it. Because as that Zen phrase states, each tea ceremony is once in a life time event, so is everyday life. Each moment can evolve organically and each moment can change its own course so differently from the previous moment to the next. And that is the beauty and the fun of life. It is an once in a life time opportunity for us to live and appreciate each and every moment. Appreciate it with a free mind clear from fear and anxiety, ready to create the next moment from a brand new you!

Jenny Cadwallader is a photographer and traveler. Follow her blog Espresso Yoga Traveler.

Shared & Small Office Spaces - Lehi, Utah

Did you know that the number of people using shared (or coworking) office space is expected to grow from 1 million to 4 million in the next 4 years?  This means that we may see a trend of workers shifting away from the standard corporate office space to creative shared spaces. 

While shared spaces are often smaller, they offer a myriad of amenities that are available to all members of the space.  These amenities range from fiber internet to conference rooms and open cafeteria space.  Workers have more access and more accessibility than they would have otherwise in other standard corporate spaces.

We are excited to join the community of co-working spaces with the opening of our new office space in Lehi, Utah - Thanks to Lehi.Space.  Whether you are a designer, IT guy, or consultant - there are small offices (private), personal desks, and co-working office space available - so make sure to sign up!

Check out Lehi.Space now!

Lehi.Space - Utah's New Coworking Office

Utah's Top Coworking Space

Lehi.Space is an 8,000+ square foot coworking space in Lehi Utah featuring shared spaces, private desks, and small offices (for teams of 1–10+). Common spaces have a distinct aesthetic that will inspire your creativity as an individual and/or collaboration as team.  Memberships start at $50 with access to shared office facilities and events.  Amenities include Fiber Internet, Common Areas, Conference Rooms, Printers/Scanners, onsite staff, 24/7 Access, Drinks & Snacks, and unique networking events!

The Lehi Coworking Space is set to open in April 2018, and Acanela Expeditions will open up it's second office in Utah and be one of it's first tenants.  Register Now for your shared office at Lehi.Space!

Finding a Deeper Meaning in Travel

Acanela Expeditions' founder, Kylie Chenn, sits down with Alexa Jorgenson of Munchin' With Moguls to discuss how to have a more enriching experience when traveling. Highlights include Acanela's backstory, how to embrace the local culture, balancing life with travel, and an anecdote about sun-dried mice. Intrigued? Pull out your headphones and listen to this awesome podcast!

Episode 14 - Sitting down with Kylie Chenn, the girl boss behind @acanelaexpeditions. aCanela Expeditions has over 80 travel tours all around the world that help you embrace culture in a deeper way. We sit down to chat with Kylie about finding balance in life while traveling, getting to genuinely know people along your journey in life, and how food really can make an experience more rich.

 Visit the Munchin with Moguls Blog, and check out more of our favorite podcasts with them below!

Where to Have the Best Beach Vacations

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If you’re in the mood for a relaxation vacation, you know you need to find a good beach spot! Luckily, there’s no shortage of fantastic beaches in the world, and we’ve hand-picked a few to demonstrate the diversity of beaches across the globe. Although they’re all spectacular, each location has its own unique vibe. That's what makes it so exciting to choose where in the world you want to vacation!

1. South Beach

South Beach is an iconic vacation destination located in Miami, Florida. Known as the “Art Deco Playground,” the area is lined by colorful Deco-style buildings, giving a little “pop” to the white sand beach. South Beach offers a postcard-perfect view of the Ocean Drive skyline, and plenty of shops and restaurants to explore when you need a break from the sun and sand.

2. Seychelles

To be honest, all the beaches on these stunning East African islands are so idyllic that it’s impossible to choose just one. You really can’t go wrong; all the beaches are famed for powdery soft sand (which is even pink in some locations!), translucent waters, and a relaxed vibe perfect for sunbathing. The scenery is truly a sight to behold, and you’ll have a blast snorkeling through the water among a diverse group of aquatic creatures!

3. Phuket

Phuket, Thailand is another destination where the beaches seem to have everything you could ask for. From jungle scenery to turquoise ocean, it’s like a tailor-made paradise for beach lovers. The Phuket area is also famous for its luxury resorts, so you’ll have a range of activities at your disposal, whether you want to go deep-sea diving or spend an afternoon in the spa!

4. Cocoa Beach

Known as the quintessential beach town, Cocoa Beach in Florida is a fantastic place to vacation because it offers visitors the chance to absorb some of the town’s quirky surf culture while relaxing on the soft sands. You can walk the length of the famous Cocoa Beach pier, marvel at the world’s largest surf shop, and maybe even ride a few waves yourself!

5. Lanikai Beach

Though Hawaii has plenty of beaches worthy of this list, Lanikai -- which means “heavenly sea” -- is particularly special, as one of the top ranked beaches in the world. It’s exactly what comes to mind when people imagine a Hawaiian paradise: pristine sands, tranquil water, and lush surroundings. With islands sitting off in the distance and the sea breeze wafting through the air, you’ll be utterly mesmerized as soon as you step foot onto the beach, and we promise you’ll never want to leave!

Blog Post Author: Hannah Hunt

The Most Stunning Castles in Eastern Europe

Have you ever dreamt of living in a castle? Feed your imagination with a trip to Eastern Europe! From Romania to Slovakia to the Czech Republic, this region of Europe is filled with breathtaking castles that will take you back through history and make you want to start polishing off your crown.

Bran Castle, Romania

Commonly known as Dracula’s castle, this towering, brooding castle will make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a storybook. Nestled in a circle of mountains and overlooking the deep forest of Transylvania, it’s easy to see where this dramatic fortress got its nickname. The castle is an amazing sight to behold during any time of the year, but truly shines during its annual Halloween party, as visitors venture off to explore the dimly lit halls and spooky interior-- if they dare!

Prague Castle, Czech Republic

The Prague Castle is a must-see on any trip to the Czech Republic. Dating back to the 9th century, this giant complex has been home to kings, emperors, and presidents for centuries, and it’s easy to understand why. The Prague Castle looks like a fairytale come to life, with its ornate architecture and idyllic scenery consisting of numerous gardens, courtyards, and historic buildings.

Moszna Castle, Poland

For all you Harry Potter lovers out there, forget about England: the real Hogwarts lookalike is all the way in rural Poland. Visitors will fall in love with the shining windows, dramatic towers, and whimsical purple accents on the roofs. Even better, the castle is situated on a beautiful, sprawling estate that’s perfect for picnicking with family and friends on a sunny day-- who could ask for a better view?

Bojnice Castle, Slovakia

This medieval castle in Slovakia will take your breath away. Situated on a hill overlooking the town, the exterior of the castle is a stunning example of Romantic architecture-- in fact, the castle is a frequent setting for fantasy and fairytale movies! If you go indoors, you’ll also get to browse through the grand collection of artwork and other valuables put in place by the castle’s last private owner in the 1800s. Night tours come particularly recommended, as you’ll get to explore the halls and treasures by candlelight.

Predjama Castle, Slovenia

Talk about epic: the Predjama Castle is a huge Renaissance-style fortress that’s actually built into the mouth of a cave in the historic region of Slovenia. The result is a mysterious, magnificent image that combines the power of nature with that of man-made architecture. During good months, you may even have the chance to explore the cave underneath the castle, and walk through secret passages used during the 15th century!

Blog post author: Hannah Hunt

The Most Thrilling Adventures in Southeast Asia

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Southeast Asia is full of exciting opportunities for visitors, and Myanmar and Laos are two of the region’s best kept secrets. These two countries are often forgotten by travelers, but they offer some of the most phenomenal adventure excursions in Asia. Read on to discover what awaits you when you book your plane ticket!

Irrawaddy River Cruise

The Irrawaddy is Myanmar’s longest river, and it will take you on a breathtaking tour through the country. You’ll glide through the smooth waterway, passing dense jungles, hidden villages, and intricate monasteries on your journey. You’ll get the best seat in the house for blazing sunsets and gentle sunrises, and if you’re lucky may even see some river dolphins splashing about beside your ship!

Hot Air Balloon Ride in Bagan

The temple town of Bagan is one of Myanmar’s most popular attractions, due to its grand historical and cultural significance. However, if sightseeing this World Heritage Site on foot isn’t your cup of tea, then we suggest experiencing the beauty of the temples in a new way-- via hot air balloon! You’ll float through the sky and get a bird’s eye view of everything, from the golden temples to the serene landscape.

Mount Victoria

For outdoor enthusiasts, Mount Victoria is a must-see. Nestled in the quiet Nat Ma Taung National Park, Mount Victoria is one of the highest peaks in the country and offers stunning views all the way up the simple ascent. In addition to witnessing beautiful flora and fauna, you may also get to meet men and women of the Tattooed Chin Tribe, an ethnic tribe which celebrates facial tattoos as a sign of beauty. It’s a very special opportunity to learn about and appreciate different cultures, and hear stories from incredible artisans along the way.

Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng is a classic stop on any traveler’s tour of Laos, as stunning natural scenery blends with adrenaline-inducing adventure to create an ideal destination for thrill-seekers. The rivers and mountains surrounding the town easily lend themselves to trekking, tubing, and exploring hidden caves. Alternatively, take a scooter or motorcycle tour around the town, and stop to appreciate the plethora of lush farms and other picturesque spots that make Vang Vieng so special.

Kuang Si Falls

Laotian locals have a lot of pride for the Kuang Si Falls, and with good reason-- the clear blue waterfalls and accompanying lagoons are simply spectacular. Spend your day hiking, then cool off with a dip in the turquoise waters. The Falls are as therapeutic and soothing as they are beautiful, making them a must-see on your visit to Laos!

Blog Post Author: Hannah Hunt

Why Mallorca is the Best Place for Wellness Vacations

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For travelers looking for a trip centered around relaxation and meditation, Mallorca is the place to be. This idyllic Spanish island is the perfect location for wellness retreats, which will leave you feeling rejuvenated and balanced. If you’re curious as to why Mallorca is such a popular destination, read on to discover the virtues of this special island!

Scenery

First of all, it’s hard not to feel peaceful and relaxed when you have spacious beaches, lush mountains, and sparkling ocean all around you. Mallorca is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and the tranquility of the scenery immediately helps you find the mind/body/spirit connection that’s so often sought after by weary travelers.

Activities

Mallorca also offers visitors the opportunity to try out many activities that are fun for travelers of all ages. Whether you want to be on the beach or in the forest, Mallorca is ready for you! Hiking, paddle boarding, horseback riding, and scuba diving are just a sampling of the great outdoor activities that await you. You’ll have a blast exploring everything, and can clear your mind with some fresh island air.

Food

Of course, part of your wellness vacation should also include eating well: luckily, the fresh food in Mallorca also happens to be delicious! You’ll be able to treat your taste buds to amazing meals featuring ripe fruit, fresh seafood, and mouthwatering Mediterranean flavor. If you can’t get enough of the fabulous Spanish cuisine, travel with us on our culinary tour through Andalusia, Spain! We’ll travel through the southern region and get a taste of the local produce, spices, and vineyards that make the cuisine so special.

Resorts

Many experienced travelers will tell you that often, it’s the accommodations that make or break a vacation. This is where Mallorca shines, especially for wellness-focused travelers. The resorts and villas on the island are truly special-- they’re tailormade for people seeking some quality relaxation time, and offer stunning views of the scenery and elements of old Spanish culture. Whether you want local or luxury, you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect home base for you to return to each day!

Blog Post Author: Hannah Hunt

The Most Scenic Locations In Iceland

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Iceland has been one of the most popular travel destinations of 2017, and it’s easy to see why! The land of fire and ice has captured visitors’ imaginations with its plethora of natural wonders, from volcanoes to glaciers to lush green landscapes. Though many of these locations might be difficult to pronounce, they’re some of the most scenic places in the entire world. Book your flight and get your camera ready!

Blue Lagoon

If you’re weary from traveling, the Blue Lagoon should be at the top of your to-do list. The geothermal water is composed of silica, algae, and various minerals, which combine to give you a luxurious spa experience. Your skin will feel silky smooth after a dip in the water, and you’ll leave feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the rest of what Iceland has to offer!

Seljalandsfoss

Among all the waterfalls in Iceland, this one is special. This stunning waterfall cascades 200 feet into a pool below, creating a beautiful misting effect around the surrounding green hills and if you’re lucky, a few rainbows as well. Bring a camera for some postcard-worthy pictures!

Vatnajökull National Park

Explore glaciers, ice caves, and volcanoes during your time at the most famous national park in Iceland. Vatnajökull, the park’s namesake, is the largest glacier in the world outside of the Arctic regions. While exploring, you’ll come to see why Iceland is known as the country of fire and ice: from huge glaciers sinking into black sands to hot steam pouring out from frozen banks, the mixture of glacier and volcano creates an unforgettable scene.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beaches

Vik is Iceland’s charming southernmost town, best known for its stunning black sand beaches. Reynisfjara is the most famous, and a must-see sight. The black sand is surrounded by cliffs of basalt columns that create a stepped pyramid design, which only adds to the otherworldly quality of the beach.

Kirkjufell

Over on the west side of Iceland is the isolated Kirkjufell mountain-- the most photographed mountain in Iceland! Its popularity is no wonder, given its landmark position, small waterfalls, and surrounding beaches. Kirkjufell also has some lovely light hiking trails for visitors to take in the native flora and fauna, making it the perfect place to spend an afternoon.

East Fjords

Traveling over to the other side of the country, you can’t miss out on touring the breathtaking East Fjords. You’ll be surrounded by beautiful landscapes, and may even have the opportunity to see the Northern Lights if the skies are clear at night. Not to mention, the East is the only place in Iceland where you can see herds of wild reindeer, and if you take a quick ferry ride over to the island of Papey you can even walk among wild puffin birds!

At a place where two continents quite literally brush up against each other, Iceland is a dynamic land of fire and ice. Get up close to natural wonders as you make your way through lava tubes, observe active volcanoes, and watch for whales off the coast. From geysers to glaciers, the elements are on full display in Iceland.  Come travel with us to this beautiful country this October 2017 or next March 2018! We also do private group trips which are year round.  Find more info HERE!

Blog post Author: Hannah Hunt

Highlights of Northern India

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India is a spectacular country, full of natural beauty, artistic wonders, and rich culture. Northern India is particularly exemplary of these qualities: it is a proud, vibrant region that beckons to travelers time and time again with its promise of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, which is why it remains an Acanela favorite. To understand what we mean, check out the following highlights of Northern India-- and just try not to start daydreaming about booking your flight out there!

Jungle Safari

Talk about once in a lifetime-- when is the next time you’ll have the opportunity to ride an elephant through the jungle, looking for tigers and other wildlife to photograph? Jaipur is a can’t-miss stop on your Northern India tour, as Ranthambore National Park offers some of the most beautiful natural views in the whole country, and opportunities to see rare creatures such as tigers, leopards, monkeys, and more!

Jodhpur

Venture into the Blue City of Jodhpur, where you’ll be in awe of the turquoise, cube-like buildings that dominate the city’s landscape. Breathe in the scent of incense and flowers as you wander through the many bazaars, which are famous for the quality of their textiles and spices. You should also leave time to explore Mehrangarh Fort, where you can marvel at the colossal red sandstone architecture and catch golden hour setting over the city down below.

Temple Tours

India is also known for its rich religious history, and you can’t miss out on exploring the beautiful temples that dot the region. The Ranakpur Temples in the city of Udaipur are true artistic wonders and definitely worth a tour: the temples in the complex are world-renowned for their architectural style and significance as the most important temples of the peaceful Jain religion. The intricate designs won’t disappoint, and you’ll gain a new appreciation for the beauty of Jainist culture in India.

Cooking Classes

Of course, not all of your travel activities have to be sight-seeing: why not try something more hands-on, like a cooking class in one of the world’s culinary hotspots? Learn about the various spices that make Indian food so great, and then try your hand at making traditional (and delicious) curries and naan. You’ll leave India with some new skills and yummy recipes to try on your friends and family at home!

Taj Mahal

This one almost goes without saying, but our list would be remiss without including the Taj Mahal! Known as the jewel of Muslim art in India, this splendid marble mausoleum is universally considered a masterpiece. It’s an incredible sight at all times of day, but we recommend you head over for a viewing at sunrise or sunset, when the monument and its sprawling pools and gardens will be bathed in a beautiful soft light. After a tour of the monuments interior, grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants overlooking the Taj, before saying goodbye to this stunning emblem of Indian heritage.

Travel with us to India! See all of the highlights of our expedition HERE!

Blog Post Author: Hannah Hunt

Make an IMPACT Through Travel | Hyderabad, India

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Join the first Acanela humanitarian group in majestic India this summer! If you are a seamstress or knitter, you can contribute your talents in an intimate travel opportunity to teach women in a rural community of Hyderabad, India how to make traditional Indian clothing and useful household supplies. 

This artisan teaching program was carried out 2 years by trip leader Sarah Burroughs, resident of Salt Lake City, Utah.  30 women in Hyderabad were taught how to sew and make jewelry.  Shortly after the volunteers returned to the USA, all of the Indian women found employment at a local sewing shop or as entrepreneurs in their area! Now, there's another group of eager women anxious to learn from you!

Along with teaching a 2-week sewing program, you'll be immersed in the rich Indian traditions and beauty that hit all five senses. 

SMELL

Jasmine, the "belle of India", is a scent that is best experienced in India! It's used for celebrations, welcoming, worship, but most commonly in the bride's hair when she is getting married as an honor to the beauty of their hair and as a symbol of fortune and prosperity. It's natural scent releases anxiety, boosts energy, and increases focus. No wonder the Indian people are so positive and stay up so late!

SIGHT

Ever wonder what it would be like to be in "Indiana Jones"? Well that's exactly what it's like walking around and exploring Golconda Fort! Spanning 7 square miles, this 1000-year old fort was once the capital of the medieval sultanate of the Qutb Shai dynasty, contained several royal chambers, tombs, mosques, and even stored the world's famous Koh-i-Noor and Hope diamonds, found in the same region. 

TOUCH

It is every makers dream to roam the streets of India and indulge in the stunning textiles and jewelry! You'll find everything from smooth traditional silks to thick, tightly woven rugs just 20 minutes from our housing. From organic cottons to authentic pearls in historical Charminar. Wrap yourself up in a sari or stock up on fabric for your fantasy garment or project. Plan on bringing home an extra luggage, wink wink.

HEARING

I don't know which I love more.. The still quiet mornings of India or the busy music of the streets. But one of my favorite moments in Hyderabad was a mixture of both. While hiking up 484 steps up to Moula Ali Dargah, there was a call for prayer throughout the city below us. I turned towards the sound from the speakers and felt an overwhelming sense of peace and appreciation for my life, and for the people surrounding me in India. 

TASTE

Hyderabad, India is nationally known for it's Biryani, uniquely flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, and bay leaves. And while all of the food is packed full of spices and taste, it tastes even better sitting on the floor and with your hands!

Spots are limited - so sign up fast! This is a trip that will change your life and the lives you meet in India! Check out our impact trip HERE for more information!

Sarah Burroughs, designs and manages her own brand of womens' bags out of Salt Lake City, and works with local refugee employment services to identify and hire refugees to help manufacture the products. She's taught sewing in Uganda, Africa, and thrilled to be returning to Hyderabad for her second time. She received the Humanitarian Honoree Award at the Fashion and Arts Humanity Fete Awards in Chicago, November 2016. 

What to Do on Your First Trip to Greece

Greece is an alluring destination to many travelers because of its reputation as a beautiful and laid-back country, but some don’t realize what a truly multifaceted country it is. Greece caters to so many different types of people and offers such varied experiences that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or unsure of what you should do. To help you get the most out of your trip to Greece, we’ve highlighted some of the best things to do during your stay!

Historical Adventures - 

Greece’s rich cultural history shouldn’t be underestimated, and you should allot plenty of time to exploring it. The ancient city of Athens is the perfect place to kick-off your trip, as it is home to some of the most important sites in the Western world, like the Acropolis. The ancient citadel is marked by remnants of sanctuaries and monuments, including the famous Parthenon temple, and all the gleaming marble stone is a dazzling sight to behold. While in Athens, you should also be sure to visit the ancient amphitheater: otherwise known as Dionysus’ Theater, it was a gathering place for thousands of people to come together to appreciate the dramatic arts, and is still a staggeringly impressive sight today. If you can’t get enough of the ancient history, Greece has many more treats waiting for you: from the Palace of Knossos on Crete to the grounds of the first Olympic Games, you’ll have many opportunities to walk along ancient paths and appreciate Greece’s role in Western development.

 

Photo by: @OurTravelPassport | Ryan & Samantha Looney

Photo by: @OurTravelPassport | Ryan & Samantha Looney

Relaxation -

Of course, sometimes you just need to relax-- don’t worry, Greece has you covered there too. Santorini is a favorite of many travelers: with its idyllic, cliff-backed white houses, superb sunrises, and famous black sand beaches, it’s sure to capture your heart. The islands of Mykonos, Crete, and Corfu are also worth a visit, as some of the best beaches in the whole country can be found there beside the dazzling Aegean sea. Greece also has plenty of natural thermal springs, known for their relaxing and rejuvenating properties since ancient times. Many of them are located within “spa towns,” so if you’re craving more after bathing in one of the thermal springs, you can treat yourself to a full-fledged spa!

Photo by: @OurTravelPassport

Photo by: @OurTravelPassport

Outdoor Excursions -

In a country famed for its natural beauty, what better way to experience it than by hiking through some stunning landscapes? The Samaria Gorge is one of Greece’s National Parks located on the island of Crete, and its vertical walls and flowing river make it an inspiring sight to behold. If you’re lucky, you’ll also see some golden eagles flying overhead, or maybe even the rare, endangered wild goat known as the kri-kri. If you like adventuring, head to the Peloponnese region to hike the Mani, a rugged region of Greece that is as beautiful as it is wild. The Mani is known for having some of the most diverse scenery in all of Greece, from snow-tipped mountains to sparkling coasts to many olive groves, and despite being connected by walking trails, most of it is relatively untouched. You won’t want to miss this special opportunity to explore the majesty of rural Greece!

 

Photo by: @OurTravelPassport

Cuisine -

Here’s something you definitely want to take advantage of while in Greece: the food! Explore world-renowned wineries on Santorini and Crete, or take some cooking classes and learn how to make your very own spanakopita (a savory spinach pastry) and loukoumades (hand-made donut holes sprinkled with honey and cinnamon). Even if you’re not up for cooking, you can have a great time just by savoring the many culinary delights on every island: from fresh seafood to hearty stews to delicious pastries to simply some olives and feta cheese, your tastebuds will be in for a treat no matter what city you find yourself in!

Enough with all of this reading! Take a chance and enter our "Win A Trip To The Greek Isles" Sweepstakes! This sweepstakes only lasts until June 15, 2017! Click HERE to enter!  

Blog post by: Hannah Hunt

Photo and video content provided by: Our Travel Passport | Ryan & Samantha Looney

Top Experiences On Each Of The Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii is a dream destination for many, and with good reason! The islands seem to have it all: beautiful weather, delicious food, tranquil beaches, and lush landscapes. Top all of that off with the warm hospitality of locals, and it’s no wonder why the state is held in such high regard. But with so many islands to choose from, it can be overwhelming to try to figure out where you want to go: we’ve put together a few highlights for each Hawaiian island, to help you get the most out of your trip to the Pacific!

Hawaii (Big Island)

The state’s namesake island, otherwise known as the Big Island, is perhaps most famous for its volcanic history. You can’t miss out on visiting the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, an amazing preserve that displays the results of approximately 70 million years of eruption, migration, and land evolution. In addition to the plethora of hiking opportunities, you can take a drive around Crater Rim and stop to walk along scenic points such as the natural steam vents and the “lava tube,” a prehistoric tunnel created by hot lava rushing through millions of years ago. When you want a more relaxing day, check out some of the farmers markets the Big Island famous for. The markets in Hilo, Kona, and Volcano Village are particularly stunning, with fresh flowers, food, and unique gifts that are sure to draw you in. Quiet neighborhoods transform into beautiful open-air markets, where hundreds of people flock for good food, live music, and a taste of the “aloha spirit” Hawaii is known for.

Maui

Maui is often hailed as the favorite island of many who visit Hawaii, and it’s not unwarranted. For first-time Maui goers, the Old Lahaina Luau is a must-see! The luau, which prides itself on adhering to traditional Hawaiian customs, is a great introduction into Hawaiian culture. Devote an evening to watching skillful hula and fire dancing, all while dining on Hawaiian specialties like kalua pua’a, poi, and of course, fresh mahi-mahi. During the day, treat yourself to a relaxing day on one of Maui’s many enticing beaches, where the sand is soft and the ocean is crystal-clear.

Molokai

Ask any local what to do in Molokai and they’ll likely point you in the direction of Kalaupapa National Park. The Kalaupapa peninsula used to be an isolated leper colony, before a cure for the disease was invented. Today, Kalaupapa is a beautiful national preserve, and a photographer’s dream with its towering sea-cliffs and expansive ocean views. For a unique experience on the island, you can take a guided tour down the 2,000 foot sea-cliffs on the back of reliable mule, and breathe in the gorgeous views from atop the cliff. The Halawa Valley hike is another special opportunity in Molokai: you’ll walk through a lush rainforest before reaching a spectacular waterfall that you can swim underneath.

Kahoolawe and Niihau

Unfortunately, the islands of Kahoolawe and Niihau are closed to the general public, so visits there are a little more rare. Kahoolawe was closed in order to increase conservation and restoration efforts, and visitors are only allowed for Hawaiian cultural, spiritual, or subsistence purposes. However, you can still sign up for a volunteer trip to the island, and work to protect the natural fauna of the area. Niihau, an island with a population of just 170 people, also offers limited tourist opportunities, but if you’re lucky enough to visit you’ll take a helicopter tour around the island, where you can spot reef sharks swimming in the bay. Once the helicopter lands, you’ll spend the day relaxing on one of the pristine beaches, sunbathing and snorkelling to your heart’s content.

Oahu

Oahu is a particularly well-loved island, offering many unforgettable experiences for visitors. One of the best spots on the island is Hanauma Bay, a special conservation area and underwater park. Various lookout points offer spectacular panoramic views of the bay itself, but snorkelling is the real attraction. The calm, translucent waters are home to a variety of colorful marine life that you can swim with easily with just a snorkel and a pair of fins, making it an incredible opportunity for visitors of all ages! If you need a break from the many beaches of Oahu, take some time to visit a few of the important museums on the island: from the Polynesian Cultural Center to the Pearl Harbor Museum, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about Hawaiian history and culture.

Lanai

Lanai, a small island in the middle of the Hawaiian chain, is a nature lover’s dream. The island often goes forgotten by tourists, meaning it’s not heavily crowded. Lanai is home to all sorts of natural attractions, like the barren, mars-like terrain of the Garden of the Gods, the rainforests leading up to the towering Mount Lanaihale, or Hulopoe Bay, a secluded white sand beach frequented by dolphins and sea turtles. When you start craving a taste of civilization, head into Lanai City, the island’s only town and home to an eclectic, colorful assortment of cafes, boutiques, and local art.

 

Kauai

Kauai is nicknamed “The Garden Isle” for the rainforest that dominates most of its landscape. The Napali Coast State Park is a must-see, as its dramatic cliffs provide some of the most stunning views of all the Hawaiian islands: from the Pacific Ocean to the lush Napali Valley to powerful waterfalls, it’s no wonder that the Napali Coast has been used as a backdrop in countless Hollywood films. During your stay in Kauai, you should also make time to see Waimea Canyon, otherwise known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The views will leave you breathless, and the earthy hues are complemented by the rainbows that frequently shine over the canyon!

We are pretty biased - but Hawaii is definitely a trip you need to add to your travel bucket list.  Don't have time to plan a getaway to all of the islands? Let us do all of that for you

Blog Post Author: Hannah Hunt