Seefeld in Tirol, Austria

My Ever-Changing Path of Life

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” . – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is a fascinating journey. It is always changing and leading us down many different paths, some of which are planned and others that are unexpected. Regardless of whether you like change or not, life is never meant to stay the same. It is impossible. However, how you react to the change is what truly matters.

Last weekend it was a beautiful fall day and I wanted to spend an afternoon with my thirteen year old son outside. We could have done the normal standby mother-son activities like go on a bike ride or walk the dog but this time I wanted to do something a little bit different. I had recently tried a trail running class and truly enjoyed the new challenge. Since my son Max had expressed an interest in running, I thought maybe we should try a mother-son trail run.

We chose Theodore Wirth Regional Park located on the edge of Minneapolis and Golden Valley, which has an extensive labyrinth of running, mountain biking and hiking trails. Max had been there this summer during a biking camp and loved doing a run along one of the challenging, hilly mountain bike trails within the park.  I had never run there before so thought it sounded fun. When we arrived at our destination, I felt pretty on top of the world. I love to run and have been a runner all of my adult life. Although I no longer run long distance, I still run year-round even in the cold and feel relatively fit and in shape. My son however is new to running and I was secretly curious to see how he’d do. Would he be able to keep up with me? Would I leave him behind in the dust?

We got out of the car, laced up our shoes and did a few quick stretches before heading off into the woods. The trail we were originally planning to take was closed due to the torrential rain we had over the past couple of days. We would have to take a different path. As we ran into the forest, I looked around me and in every direction there was a different trail. I had no idea where they went, how long they were or which path to take. My carefree teenage son looked at me with a smile and took off running down one of the trails. “Come on mom! he said. “Follow me“. And off he bolted into the woods.

I ran as fast as I could up the trail huffing and puffing thinking how wrong I had been about me being the one who was in shape. Before I knew it my long-legged 6’1” son Max was off like a lightening bolt and gone. I desperately tried to keep up, calling out his name but to no answer. I tend to be rather directionally challenged so my first fear was I’d get lost and my next fear was he would get lost. I yelled out his name in vain. I tried not to get frantic with worry. It was just me, all alone in the thickness of the woods, with paths leading in every direction. I had no idea which way to go.

CULTURE
Elena Sonnino surfing in panama

A Chat with Life Coach Elena Sonnino

“The only person who can open the door to inner truths and lead to the light is yourself.” – Baron Baptiste

I met Elena a few years ago while I was working on a United Nations Foundation campaign with Shot@Life. Like me, Elena was a travel blogger at the time and we were both involved in social good campaigns. We had stayed in touch over the years through a community of blogging friends and our paths crossed again two years back when Elena launched a new career as a life coach. She reached out to let me know what she was doing and invited a handful of friends to participate in her first group-based life coaching seminar. It was a six week program all done online and once a week our fantastic group of ten women came together for a live online talk with Elena leading us along the way through life coaching, meditation and yoga. It was a life-changing seminar for me which stirred many emotions I honestly didn’t know I’d had. I continued on after doing a summer session of 1:1 coaching sessions with Elena and have followed her work ever since. She is an incredibly inspiring woman who has reinvented her career three times, beat cancer at a very young age and is now working to help others like me chase their dreams. Naturally, I invited Elena to participle in my Inspiring Women series. Here is what she has to say.

Where did you grow up? What were some of your favorite activities during your childhood?

I grew up in Michigan after moving to the United States from Italy when I was 2 ½. My favorite activities were reading, playing teacher with my dolls, and playing tennis. Most of my summers (until I was in junior high) were spent in Italy with my grandparents, in Venice, at a beach, and in the mountains. I loved being at the beach and getting gelato with my paternal grandparents and being in the mountains and searching for “fragoline” (mini-strawberries) with my maternal grandparents.

What/Where did you study in college and what was your first career outside of school?

I studied International Affairs and Russian studies at George Washington University. My first job was as a study abroad liaison in Florence Italy until I returned to the U.S. and went to graduate school to pursue a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction and eventually began a 12-year career as an elementary school teacher.

What shaped you into the woman you are today? Was there one defining moment?

Oh my goodness. I feel like there were several defining moments. Moving to Italy on my own after completing my undergraduate. Being diagnosed and then treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in my early 20’s. One failed engagement, the birth of my miracle baby daughter, my divorce, and then day I tried paragliding in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (Read about Elena’s experience here). If I had to choose one, it would probably be the process of watching my daughter become a young woman – she has always been one of my greatest teachers.

CULTURE
Pfarrkiroche St. Maria und St. Florian (The Parish Church of St. Maria & Florian) Schwangau Germany

Uncovering the Spectacular Beauty of the Parish Church of St. Maria and Florian

Has there ever been one of those magical travel moments when you decide on a whim to explore the area around you and uncover a hidden treasure? That is how I felt late one afternoon when I decided to take an evening walk to the neighboring village of Waltenhofen near where we were staying in the outskirts of Schwangau, Germany. I had just returned from an emotional afternoon revisiting the fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein, the very place my husband proposed to me 19 years ago, and needed some alone time to reflect on the experience. My husband had unfortunately not been able to come along on the trip as planned due to an injury and I ended up bringing our two children and my father to this special place despite it all. It had been a difficult few months since my husband’s back injury and this trip was in a sense a sort of revival of my broken spirit.

I left my daughter Sophia back at the hotel for some downtime while I set off into the Bavarian countryside with my mind full of thought. I wondered what the summer would hold for us as a family once we returned from our three-week trip in Europe. Would my husband’s back injury be resolved or would we continue to live in a gray cloud of uncertainty.

I walked slowly along the beautiful country path looking out at the pastures of horses and cows and taking in the nostalgic beauty of such a place. It felt like this area hadn’t changed much at all since the day King Ludwig II built his sensational castle Neuschwanstein as a testament to his love of the middle ages. Farmers rode by on their tractors. Cows grazed. Horses neighed and galloped gently across the unfettered fields of joy. Bees buzzed and drank the rich nectar from the flowers. It was lovely.

The dark sky had slightly lifted and let in a few rays of light, bathing the dark green fields with warmth. Unintentionally I knew where I was headed. To the place I saw the day before during lunch. The mysterious church standing proudly at the foot of the village of Walfenhofen. It beckoned my curiosity as I always am fascinated by the interior of a good European church. I normally find that once I open the large wooden doors, that what is hidden inside is incredible. Ironically enough, this visit I would never step foot within the church doors and I’d find myself instead mesmerized by what laid in its exterior.

Schwangau, Germany

Pfarrkiroche St. Maria und St. Florian (The Parish Church of St. Maria & Florian) off in the distance in the village of Waltenhofen.

CULTURE Europe Germany TRAVEL BY REGION
Ian Plant Photography

Ian Plant’s Magical World of Photography and Finding the Extreme

Your job as a photographer is to show the world what you see” said Ian Plant during a recent day-long photography seminar I was lucky enough to attend in Minnesota. Ian Plant is world renown for his incredible landscape, wildlife and street photography that often delves on the edge of the extreme perspective. Ian uses a unique combination of light, composition, mood and the magic of the moment to captivate his audience and tell us a story. Whether it be the gorillas in Rwanda, the polar bears in the Arctic, the Maasai in Africa or the sea caves off the shore of Lake Superior, Ian’s incredible artistic gift for photography will never disappoint and keep his audience longing for more.

I left Ian’s seminar feeling so inspired by his incredible ability to show the beauty of the world through his lens that I knew I had to do an interview and share his sensational work with my own audience on my blog. Welcome to the magical world of Ian Plant and his jaw-dropping photography. Once you see his work, you won’t be able to let it go.

Ian Plant Photography

Los Cuernos sunrise. Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia,Chile. Photo Credit: Ian Plant

Tell me a little about your background. Where are you originally from? What did you study in school and where? When did you learn photography?

I’m originally from upstate New York. After college, I went to law school and then practiced antitrust law for eight years with a large firm in Washington, D.C. After my first year in law school, I worked for a law firm in New York City, and it was then when I bought my first camera. I was instantly hooked on photography, and soon I realized I had made a huge, $100,000 mistake on my legal education!

Why did you decide to leave your job as a lawyer and pursue photography?

After eight years of practice, I had finally paid of my school debt, and I couldn’t take it anymore, so I quit. That was thirteen years ago. I’ve been a full-time professional photographer since then, and I’ve never looked back.

Ian Plant Photography

Aurora borealis. Lónsfjördur, Iceland. Photo credit: Ian Plant

CULTURE TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY
Street Art Minneapolis

My Epic Guide to Exploring Street Art in South Minneapolis

Despite living in Minneapolis for decades, I’m embarrassed to admit that I know little about my own city outside of my home and life in Southwest Minneapolis. Blame it on years of raising a family or perhaps just my own tendency to stay where things are familiar and comfortable. But I found it ironic that as a world traveler and explorer at heart, I know little the dynamic culture and art in my very own backyard. Just last November, I spent three full days in Valparaiso, Chile exploring its vibrant street art scene. So why not do the same justice in my own home town?

Minneapolis is a huge, diverse city with many different neighborhoods and cultures. Although highly Scandinavian in heritage (there are too many “sons’ to name – Anderson, Johnson, Olson, etc), today Minnesota can boast being home to over 400,000 immigrants from around the world. In fact, per the City of Minneapolis’ most recent census the ten largest groups of foreign-born residents in Minnesota are (in descending order): Mexico, India, Laos, Somalia, Vietnam, China, Thailand (including Hmong), Ethiopia, Korea, and Canada. Believe it or not, Minneapolis has the largest Somali population outside of Somalia.

Given such a cultural melting pot, it is no wonder that Minneapolis has some of the richest street art and murals in the upper Midwest. During a recent self-made tour of South and Southwest Minneapolis, I discovered hundreds of colorful, impressive street art painted across the walls, buildings and garages of the city. I was so incredibly inspired and awe-struck by the incredible art I saw that a newfound love and devotion to my city began.

I have ignored you for too long, Minneapolis. It is now time that I start to share with the world your beauty, richness and culture. Better yet, I too will learn along the way.

The idea for this series on street art began when I decided to look out the car window and notice what I saw. I began to see that there was street art in many unexpected places and there was a lot of it. I did some research on the internet and found that there are not many up to date posts or articles about Minneapolis’ vibrant street art scene. I jotted down a few addresses that I found from the City of Minneapolis’ interactive street art guide (The Public “ Art Map”) but found that a lot of the art had changed.

So I decided to make my own street art guide, neighborhood by neighborhood, starting with what I know best: South and Southwest Minneapolis. Over time, I hope to hit North, Northeast and other parts of the city to complete the guide and even go across the river to neighboring St. Paul to see what kind of street art is over there. In this one sweep, I found over 80 murals so I had to cut it down to my personal favorites. Please feel free to add any locations of your favorites in the comments. I also had a hard time tracking down the artists of each work. Perhaps that will be a project for the next post.

Without further ado, here is my Epic Guide to exploring street art in South Minneapolis. Enjoy

Street Art Guide Part 1

Starting point:  Lyndale and 38th Street

Mode of transportation: Drive, bike or walk. The complete route covers over 4 miles on mostly urban streets so driving is easiest. However if you do chose to bike (Minneapolis is a very bike-friendly city) be aware that these are very busy streets without dedicated bike lanes. If you want to bike along biker-friendly streets running parallel check out this site for a safer, more pleasant route. If you drive, street parking is very easy and I simply pulled over at each work of art. Finally, Minneapolis is a great walking city and I always love to explore a place on foot. Just don’t do it in the dead of winter! You’ll be very cold!

To complete this portion below, the total distance is: Around 2.5 miles

Time to drive: approximately 10 minutes without stops.

Time to bike: approximately 12 minutes without stops.

Time to walk: approximately 45 minutes depending on speed.

Starting at Lyndale Avenue, a major north-south thoroughfare that cuts through the city, head north towards uptown.

CULTURE Minnesota United States

How FLYTE is Empowering Students to Study Abroad

Traveling and studying abroad has the ability to change and transform a person’s life and create more cross-cultural understanding. In today’s world, it is critical that we understand other cultures, and there is no better time to experience the transformative power of travel than when you are young and impressionable. Unfortunately, travel is expensive and usually only available to those who have the money to pay for it. This results in an entire segment of the world’s population who are denied the transformative experiences of seeing and exploring new places, and is especially true when it comes to teens and young adults. Organizations like FLYTE are trying to change the game and empower more youth to see the world.

Founded in 2015 by the New York Times Bestselling travel author, Matthew Kepnes of the website Nomadic Matt, FLYTE is a nonprofit organization that empowers students living in underserved communities through transformative travel experiences.

I was able to speak with FLYTE to learn more about how they are empowering youth to take FLYTE and experience the world. Here is what Matt has to say.

FLYTE Ecuador

Students participating in one of Flyte’s programs in Ecuador

Why More Students Should Tale FLYTE and Travel Abroad

By Matt Kepnes (Founder of FLYTE) and Carmela Resuma (Executive Director, FLYTE)

As travel enthusiasts, we all understand the power of travel. It’s one of the most impactful educational tools that changes perspectives. It breaks down borders, fosters empathy, and makes us realize how connected we all are.

As a former high school history teacher, I know the value of an education. I understand that I am privileged enough to be able to travel the world and do what I want because of getting a good education. Not everyone gets that chance. Let’s face it: Not everyone is able to travel. Whether it’s money, family obligations, or circumstance, travel is out of reach for a large percentage of the world’s population. Most people never even leave their own state let alone the country (only 35% of Americans have a passport!).

This is especially true for students in underserved communities – from inner city Chicago to the middle-of-nowhere Idaho. These students – in communities and from families with limited resources – don’t get a chance to expand their worldview, meet people from other cultures, and bring what they learn in the classroom to life!

That is why in 2015, I created FLYTE. While many wealthy school districts send students on overseas educational trips, schools and teachers in underserved areas have little or no opportunity to offer their students these experiences. Their schools and communities lack the resources to make such a trip happen. I wanted to create an organization which was open to everyone around the country. I wanted an organization that helped people in forgotten parts of the United States because everyone deserves a chance to see and learn about the world!

At FLYTE, we empower youth living in underserved communities through transformative travel experiences. We provide teachers and students with the planning and funding they need to take what they learn in the classroom and put it to use in the real world!

CULTURE Study Abroad TRAVEL RESOURCES
LifeStraw1million Campaign Kenya

International Women’s Day 2018: In Honor of the Women and Girls of Western Kenya

“If we don’t empower women, we don’t allow them to unlock the potential of themselves and their children”. – Melinda Gates

Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day, a day celebrated around the world in honor of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Women and girls have made a tremendous amount of progress over the years however much work still remains to be done especially within the developing world.

In honor of this special day, I wanted to share a few of my recent photos of some of the inspiring girls and women I met in Western Kenya last week with LifeStraw. It was a truly life-changing trip that fed my soul with joy, compassion and hope. I can hardly wait to share more!

Over the course of a week, our international team of 130 LifeStraw staff and volunteers, rose at dawn and were off on the road by 6:30 am to reach the schools. We were divided up into 15 teams with the goal of reaching 3-4 primary schools per day. Our days were long but incredibly exhilarating and rewarding as we provided training and installation of safe water filtration systems at each school.

At our demonstrations on how to use the LifeStraw Community (a water filtration system that treats unsafe water making it safe to drink), it was almost always the girls who were up front and center participating in the program. Many of the girls were selected to be prefects in charge of maintaining and cleaning the LifeStraw Communities, a tremendous honor.

I was thrilled to see that in all the primary schools my team visited (15 in all ) and in the 11,923 school children we met, there was not a wide gender gap as you normally see throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and the developing world. In fact, girls and boys have reached gender parity in schools and that is a huge sign of improvement and success.

CULTURE SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls
Torrey Pines, California

A Year in Review: The Highs and Lows of 2017

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”. – Confucius

As the year draws to a close, I always find it important to take the time to reflect upon the last twelve months of my life. It never ceases to amaze me how frighteningly fast time goes. In a blink of the eye, my children are 11 and 13 and I’m nearing 50 (well still four years to go but still the number lurks inside my head). I see now where my dad came up with this funny way of telling his age to others. Instead of 46, I am 36 + 10.

Yet on a more serious note, I reflect back on a year filled with many wonderful highs and of course those not-so-pleasant-but-part-of-life lows. To be quite honest, I was off to a rocky start in 2017 with the change in our nation’s leadership and all the threats to my uttermost, sacred beliefs that followed. I unexpectedly found myself in a downward spiral of anxiety and despair as so many of my values and beliefs on human rights, the environment and just being a decent human being, were and continue to be threatened. Thankfully I caught myself about eight months later and am back on track with the help of some serious soul searching, mindfulness meditation, spending more time outdoors and with family, and an overall avoidance of the depressing, hateful news which oftentimes feels like a powerful, never-ending machine in this country.  

As the year comes to a close, I look back with bittersweet memories and continue to move ahead and hope. I hope that the world is a better place for our grandchildren and all the people suffering even though it terrifies me to think of all the issues they will have to face.

As I complete my seventh year of blogging, I realize more than ever why I started blogging in the first place. To have a voice and to offer some sort of inspiration in a world filled with so much ugliness and sadness. There is so much beauty in the world. So much hope. I found it on the streets of Haiti and in the eyes of the children all around. In all the amazing people around the world doing good and putting in their effort to make the world a better, kinder more just place for all.

I hope that you have found some inspiration in my pictures and words. I greatly appreciate all of the truly special friendships I’ve made through my blog. It keeps me writing! So, without further ado here are the highlights of 2017. It was hard to pick the right pictures since I tend to take so many but alas I found these ones that each had a special memory attached to it. Hope they will do!

Exploring the remote Osa Peninsula

White-faced or Capuchin monkey

White-faced or Capuchin monkey is one of four kinds of monkeys found in the Osa.

Laguna Chocuaco, Rancho Quemado, Osa Península, Costa Rica

Playa San Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

A view from my horse (looking back to where we came from)

Sunrise over Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Family trip to Costa Rica

CULTURE
Dan Bailey Photography

A Chat with Professional Adventure Photographer Dan Bailey

One of my favorite things about blogging is when I actually get to meet someone in person who I met through the blogging and social media world. Last month, I finally got to meet Dan Bailey, a professional adventure and outdoor photographer who I’ve been following online for years. Dan was traveling through Minneapolis and we were able to get together for lunch. It was fantastic to meet him in person and to learn more about his inspiring career and life in Alaska. His work is absolutely breathtaking and while we were talking I finally learned how he captured some of his most stunning masterpieces from the open window of a tiny yellow 1947 Cessna 120 flying over the mountains of Alaska. Dan also runs a photography website at www.danbaileyphoto.com filled with amazing tips and resources on how to learn and improve your photography.

Here is my exclusive interview with Dan. Hope you enjoy it!

Dan Bailey Photography

Dan Bailey doing what he loves best! Photo credit: Dan Bailey

Tell me a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up? What did you study in school and when did you first learn photography?

I was born in Colorado and lived there until I was five. Then I moved around quite bit, east coast, Kansas City, Cincinnati, boarding school in Maine, high school in Lawrence, Kansas, then Boston for college, and then back to Colorado for a few years before moving to Alaska.

I was a pretty rambunctious kid who was always running around, riding my bike and playing outside. I got into guitar when I was 15, and then I bought my first camera in 1990 when I was 22. I studied recording engineer and music production at Berklee College of Music, but by the time I graduated, the photography seed had already matured into a true love for cameras and photography.

You got a degree in music in college but ended up pursuing photography as a career. What was the defining moment that made you follow your dreams and go on an your epic trip to Nepal?

After I was done with college, photography kept growing on me and I begun to realize that I might be better suited to career that has me running around outside than sitting in windowless recording studios. Guess I didn’t quite think that one through… 😉 I had started taking some photography trips and became aware of Galen Rowell, who was preeminent outdoor adventure photographer of our time. He’s without a doubt my biggest influence.

At the time, I was still living in Boston while trying to figure out how to make a living by traveling and taking pictures. Then, one day, I saw an ad for a Photo Workshop trip to Mustang, Nepal with Galen Rowell in the back of Outdoor Photographer Magazine. This was 1993, and the region of Mustang had only just been opened up to outsiders the year before. To me, this was a dream trip, so I called right away, reserved my spot, maxed out all my credit cards and it was a done deal.

I figured what better way to get track to becoming a pro adventure travel photographer than taking a workshop with the guy who invented the profession. It really was the beginning for me, and certainly the biggest thing I’d ever done. I consider my 1993 Nepal trip, and my 1994 trip to Pakistan to be the defining events in my profession journey.

What did you learn about photography and yourself during your trips to Nepal and Pakistan?

More than anything else, those two experiences reaffirmed my love for wilderness, exploration and travel. I knew that I wanted more. With photography, it was simply an opportunity to shoot in some of the most amazing locations on the planet and coming away with powerful imagery. And, of course, refining my technique and my creative eye, that process never ends. Looking back, I’m still very proud of the photos I shot on those two trips.

Dan Bailey Photography

Photo Credit: Dan Bailey

When did you decide to become a professional photographer? How did you move from photography as a hobby to a career?

CULTURE TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY
Manuel Antonio Park Costa Rica

Pura Vida: A Window into Costa Rican Life

“I stuck my head out the window this morning and spring kissed me bang in the face.” – Langston Hughes

“Pura Vida“, she smiled as she handed me a cup of savory rich Costa Rican coffee. “Gracias” I replied playfully, letting my rusty Spanish bounce off of my tongue. We had just arrived at our hotel in Manuel Antonio, and would be spending an entire week in Costa Rica for our family Spring vacation. When the waitress left, my twelve-year-old son who had just started learning Spanish at school asked me what “pura vida” meant. I told him that it was not exactly easy to translate. Instead, it was something that would have to be experienced in order to fully comprehend its meaning. He shrugged his shoulders at my response, looking a little bit miffed. Over the course of the next nine days he would certainly learn, I assured him. He would just have to be patient.

We would see nature like never before – such as sloths, monkeys, rainbow-colored grasshoppers, venomous snakes, and lots of beautiful birds. We would play in the waves of the ocean at sunset, walk high above the jungle on suspension bridges, zip-line above the trees, canyon down waterfalls, ride inner tubes down the rapids of a river, and horseback ride below a volcano. We would stay way up at the top of a mountain at a typical Costa Rican farm where we would be served hot rice and beans with friend plantains. We would constantly have to pinch ourselves that we were in a place so utterly beautiful and serene. Yes, we would experience Costa Rica’s pura vida in a little over a week.

If there are two words that sum up Costa Rica, it is “Pura Vida”. Literally translated as “Pure Life”, Pura Vida means much more than its basic definition. The saying can be used as simply as  “you’re welcome” or “hello”. Or even as a statement or a response to “how are you”. Yet in my opinion, Pura Vida symbolizes an entire way of life that Ticos (the nickname for Costa Ricans) enjoy. A life filled with appreciation, love and gratitude for the beauty of their amazing surroundings and nature. An energy and joy of simply being alive.

Gifted with some of the greatest biodiversity of flora and fauna on earth, there is no better place to experience pura vida than in Costa Rica. In her canopies of rainforest filled with life and her mystical volcanoes peeking out of the clouds. In her majestic sunrises and sunsets painting the sky in hues of pink, purple, orange and red. In her endless species of flowers delighting the eyes, the roar of the howler monkeys at the first sign of dawn or a pair of scarlet macaws flying directly overhead. There is no place on earth where one feels more of the pure beauty of life than in Costa Rica.

Here is my window into the meaning of pura vida….

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa RicaTulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio Park Costa RicaManuel Antonio Park Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio Park Costa Rica

CULTURE TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY Weekly Photo Challenges
Jean Baptiste Jean Jospeph, Isador Gallery, Haiti

The Textures of Haiti

“Men Anpil, Chay Pa Lou” = “Many Hands Make the Load Light”. Haitian proverb

Haiti is often a misunderstood place. Besides the poverty and squalor, there is beauty to be found amidst its incredible art and culture. When visiting Haiti, one has to keep an open mind in order to comprehend her immense problems and appreciate the good things that this country has to offer the intrepid spirit. I will not lie, travel in Haiti is difficult. However, the rewards for those who seek to visit this place are immense. Alongside the poverty and despair exists a resilience and hope in the future and a beauty that inspires through Haiti’s incredible art.

Take a walk with me and embrace the colorful, vibrant textures of Haiti.

The capital city Port-au-Prince is overcrowded, congested and chaotic yet also home to some of the greatest artisans, artists and designers in the entire country. Croix-des-Bouquets, a community on the outskirts of the capital,  is home to over 1,000 metal artisans with over 60 different shops and studios creating social change and opportunity within the community. It is a magical, happy place filled with energy and life.

Croix-des-Bouquets is also home world-famous beadwork artist and Vodou priest Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph. Some of his beadwork sells in the thousands of dollars to the rich and famous. His studio is a magical, spiritual place filled with so much colorful beadwork and art that it leaves you dizzy with inspiration.

CULTURE TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY Weekly Photo Challenges
Pascale Théard Creations

A Step into the World of Haitian Designer Pascale Théard

There is no studio in Haiti as beautiful as that of Haitian designer and community arts activist Pascale Théard. A step inside Pascale’s divine space, Pascale Théard Creations, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti is pure magic. Instantly, a visitor’s eyes are welcomed by a burst of color and emotion that no one besides Pascale could create. It is no wonder that Pascale’s work is world renown and she is one of the most famous designers in Haiti.

The daughter of a Haitian industrialist, a lover of art, and a French mother, heiress of a 200-year-old family tannery, Pascale Théard grew up in Port-au-Prince to the rhythm and beat of Hait’s unique culture. Her childhood was filled with art and creation which eventually became her lifelong passion and career. Pascale left Haiti to study in France where she worked with some of the top luxury leather goods brands in Paris and Milan before returning home to launch her own unique brand, Pascale Théard Creations, the first handmade luxury leather goods brand in Haiti.

It was my second visit to Pascale Théard Creations and despite having toured her studio before, I was still completely mesmerized by the absolute beauty and life of her work.

Pascale Théard Creations

Pascale’s studio

Pascale Théard Creations

Immediately as you open the door, you are invited into a world bursting with color, life and ingenuity. The words painted across the wall reveal Pascale’s utter love and devotion to her country: AYITI NAN KÈ’M (“Haiti is in my heart)”.

Her current theme is based on the incredible, vibrant art found on Haiti’s tap-taps. A tap tap (which literally means “quick quick” is a privately owned vehicle for hire that is usually made from a pick-up truck and has some of the most incredible, painstakingly detailed art imaginable.  Even buses are used as larger tap taps for longer distance rides, and are equally as impressive as the done-up pick-up trucks. Along the streets, tap taps are everywhere painted like a kaleidoscope of colors and imagination. (I did an entire post on the art of Haiti’s tap taps. To read, click here).

This time Pascale was not in town to greet us however her lovely mother was there. We marveled at the gorgeous new products on display in the entryway and shop before heading back to see the artisans and craftsmen and women behind the scenes. I couldn’t resist purchasing a beaded vodou doll for my daughter and a beautiful leather and beaded passport holder for myself. I knew that would be an instant conversation starter while traveling!

CULTURE