Key Tips for Travel Planning with an Eco-Impact

“The declaration by the UN of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental, while raising awareness of the true dimensions of a sector which is often undervalued.” – UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

There could be no greater time in history as a traveler to impact our future and the world than now. As the international community embraces the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), approved by the UN General Assembly last September, tourism has a significant opportunity to support three of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) ranging from promoting sustainable, inclusive economic growth to conserving and sustaining the use of the oceans, seas and marine resources.

There has been more talk than ever about sustainable travel but what exactly does sustainable travel mean?

“In its simplest definition, sustainable travel can be defined as travel that positively impacts the community, environment and economy of the destination visited” states Kelley Louise, Executive Director of Travel+SocialGood, a global community of changemakers, passionate about transforming the travel industry into a force for good.

As a member of Travel+SocialGood and a strong supporter of sustainable travel,  I am continually on the search for sustainable travel resources and operators. I have been highlighting sustainable travel opportunities on my blog for quite awhile to help readers discover these experiences in one quick and easy place. (Here is a list of the past 20 posts in case you missed them).  

I hope you enjoy this guest post written by Jonny Bierman, founder of Eco Escape Travel,  a community-based ecotourism content hub with the mission to provide reliable ecotourism and adventure content that aims to grow a community of responsible travelers and inspire ethical travel. A special thanks to Sue of the fabulous travel blog Travel Tales of Life for introducing me to Jonny. Here is the post.

Avatar Grove. Photo credit: Eco Escape Travel


A Scenic Road Trip From New York City to Dutchess Country

I love big cities yet I also see the immense need to take a break from city life and escape. New York City is one place that has an enormous amount of cool day and weekend trips. My friend Jessie Festa, who lives in NYC and writes two awesome blogs, Epicure & Culture and Jessie on a Journey, shares a fun day trip to Duchess County in this guest post below. I hope you enjoy! 


Homemade ice cream on a tree-lined dock. A sky slowly transitioning from bright blue to a dreamy swathe of pinks and purples, streaks of bright yellow and holiday fireworks illuminating the skyline across the Hudson River. Beautiful church steeples soaring toward the sky, as a family of ducks swims by without hurry.

We certainly weren’t in NYC anymore.

In fact, my boyfriend Andy and I were exploring the many things to do in Dutchess County and its lovely Hudson Valley, known for its gorgeous scenery, outdoor adventure and hyper-local culinary culture.

My guide for this weekend road trip from NYC wasn’t a human, but Navdy.


Let me explain.

Navdy In Action

So you know how Chromecast pairs to your TV to put your phone on the big screen in front of you? Navdy does that for driving, hands-free. I loved being able to simply enter the name of a place into my phone or say it out loud to have it beamed right in front of me.

Beyond just navigation, Navdy will even project phone calls, messages, app notifications, music, and even emails (if I want it to) right in front of me, so I can stay connected while driving, keep my eyes on the road, and never have to touch my phone.

things to do in dutchess county on a Navdy road trip

Using Navdy as our guide around Dutchess County

If you’ve never used a Head-Up Display (HUD) for a road trip before, I suggest you try it. As someone who is not exactly tech-savvy — I still don’t know how to back-up my phone — I was intimidated by the big box full of accessories at first. The cool thing though is the Navdy app breaks down installation into short videos, so we were ready to go in about 20 minutes.

Instead of staring at your phone while driving (dangerous!) the HUD sits in front of you; rather than blocking your line of vision, the device blends with it so you’re actually seeing the map on the road.

At your fingertips is a button you attach to your steering wheel. Press once, tell Navdy where you want to go and what you’re craving (ice cream, please!), and the directions appear. I also loved being able to respond to texts and notifications with glances and hand gestures, without taking my eyes off the road. Like when it started raining and we needed to alter our kayaking reservation.

It’s like Tinder for driving (only you swipe right to ignore a call and left to answer).

And of course, no road trip would be complete without music; which I was able to control through Navdy.

We made a pretty sweet Spotify road trip playlist, too. Click here to swipe it.


The Hilton Garden Inn Poughkeepsie/Fishkill. For this trip we planned to spend most of our time outdoors, so wanted something simple, clean and comfortable. A budget-friendly hotel with a heated indoor pool and hot tub? Yes please! The staff was super friendly too. If you enjoy working out they have an on-site gym, and also offer complimentary access to the local Allsport gym.

Starting rate: $139/night, including parking and Wi-Fi.

things to do in Dutchess County, stay at the Hilton Garden Inn

My room at the Hilton Garden Inn Poughkeepsie/Fishkill

There are also a number of bed & breakfasts and a ton of Airbnbs, including some fun-looking airstream trailer and RV rentals! Click here to get up to $35 off your first Airbnb!

Road Tripping Around The Hudson Valley

There’s so much to do and see in this beautiful region! And while inclement weather killed a few of our plans, mainly a hot air balloon ride with Blue Sky Balloons and a kayaking trip with Mountain Tops Outfitters, we still had a blast.

In fact, in just two days we covered a lot of ground.


Discovering Authentic Uzbekistan Cooking and Culture in the Heart of NYC

This is a guest post by my friend Jessie Festa, a native New Yorker based in Brooklyn who runs two blogs, Jessie on a Journey and Epicure & Culture. I know Jessie through Travel+SocialGood where we are both members of the Media Network. To read Jessie’s bio in full please see the bottom of the post. Enjoy!

“When I left Uzbekistan for America I didn’t take any belongings. I wanted to start a new life. And New York was such a magical melting pot to do it.” – Damira

I’m currently in the living room of Damira, a woman who moved to Brooklyn from Samarkand, Uzbekistan in 2013 to be closer to her children who were studying in America. Through the League of Kitchens cooking program she has invited myself and four others into her home to hear her story, learn her family recipes and have a cultural exchange.

Damira wears a traditional bright bold patterned tunic and tubeteika hat. While speaking she pours cups of Uzbekistan green tea, the steaming liquid running from the spout of an ornate ceramic pot into equally detailed piolas, Uzbek teacups with no handles.

“The reason there is no handle is so you can feel the warmth of hospitality. In Uzbekistan food isn’t something we do quickly. People there don’t eat on to the go on the subway. It’s something you take great pleasure in and savor over conversation.”

booking cooking classes

A gorgeous teapot full of Uzbek green tea is just the beginning of this immersive culinary encounter

I tried to think in my head the last full day I’d gone without ordering a to-go sandwich or salad from the deli. I came up with nothing.

I sip the tea, its earthy yet floral flavors taming the sweetness of the cinnamon cakes and farmers cheese-laced cookies on the table. Among the spread of perfectly plated starters are flaky meat pies, fluffy samsa pastries stuffed with pumpkin, non flatbread (not the same as the Indian version), sugar-coated peanuts and crystallized grape juice candies, their cultural essence enhanced by the traditional Uzbekistan music playing in the background.

I’m so immersed I almost forget I haven’t even left Brooklyn.

brooklyn cooking classes

A tasty spread of Uzbekistan starters

NYC has a slew of cultural enclaves, and every neighborhood of the five boroughs has its own distinct makeup. Damira lives in Borough Park, a Brooklyn neighborhood home to one of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities outside of Israel. In fact, Yiddish is more widely spoken than English. There’s also a distinct Uzbekistan population, made apparent by restaurants like Chayhana Salom (Uzbekistan restaurant), Tandoory Bread (delicious Uzbek-style bread) and A & Z International (the halal butcher is from Damira’s native Samarkand).