Lake Harriet Winter Minnesota

The Art of Surviving a Minnesota Winter

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus

Anyone who lives in the Midwest or who has ever traveled to the northern quarters of the country, know for a fact that winter in Minnesota can be brutal. It is often a test of endurance, patience, humor, semi-hibernation and mental strength to survive it especially when it happens to be a winter like we are having this year. Countless days well below zero, dangerously cold, bone-chilling wind. Snow. Black ice on the roads. Days upon end where it never even reaches freezing. This has been one heck of a winter so far and it isn’t even half way over.

Lake Harriet Winter Minnesota

Winter can be stunningly beautiful after a big snowstorm. Lake Harriet.

So how on earth do we survive it? With skill, perseverance and conquering the power of the mind. That is how. Here are my top ten tips to surviving an extreme winter (Warning: Over 20 degrees farenheit for a low doesn’t count. We’re talking endless days below zero!).

CULTURE TRAVEL
Tour de Vanoise

When Travel Becomes a Dangerous Escape

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination or forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” – August Wilson

Tour de Vanoise France

Like most travel bloggers, I have been completely shocked by the tragic news of the death of fellow travel blogger Anita Mac. Anita Mac, the vibrant face behind the popular travel blog Travel Destination Bucket List took her own life.

CULTURE

Summer memories at a lake in Minnesota

Sometimes even a global traveler like me needs to take time off and enjoy the simple yet beautiful things close to home.

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Minnesota is a beautiful place that has over 10,000 lakes many of them untouched. You can find any kind of lake your heart desires from the urban lakes of the cities, to the many resort lakes lined with cabins and finally to the remote, untouched lakes within the Boundary Waters.

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For four years, we have been coming to lovely Roy Lake in Nisswa, Minnesota and staying at a little red cabin as part of the Grand View Lodge. It is our week as a family to unwind, create memories, and enjoy the lakes, nature and sunsets. It is a tradition that we all look forward to each Fourth of July week.

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A time meant to unwind and forget about life for awhile. A time to relax, refresh and smile.

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And also a time to enjoy the small pleasures of life in Minnesota. A place like nowhere else.

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A time to find beauty and love in the world. And leave all your worries at home.

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Off fishing….. Back soon.

Minnesota TRAVEL BY REGION United States

The World Through My Eyes

Traveling the world with a third-eye has always been the way I prefer to experience life. It means to view life openly and see everything – good or bad- with an open mind and heart. The world through my eyes can be contradictory and complex. Seeing both good and bad can bring so much immense joy and happiness while also such deep sadness that it makes your heart ache. Yet in my humble opinion, you cannot go through life with a blind eye. Otherwise nothing will change.

On my most recent trip through the Delhi slums as part of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, I saw a tremendous amount through my eyes. If I could look beyond the immense poverty, destruction, destitution and disease, I could also find beauty and hope. Beauty in the lovely warm smiles across the children’s eager faces whenever I pulled my camera out to snap their photo. Hope among the innocent faces of the girls in schools finally being given a chance to learn.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The world through my eyes sees so incredibly much.

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This post was written in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: The World Through My Eyes. To view more entries, click here.

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Reflections on TBEX and the Lone Life of a Travel Blogger

The first weekend in June, I was one of 1,200 travel bloggers who packed my bags along with my tangled emotions, and headed to Toronto, Canada for the 3rd Annual TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) conference. I had no idea what to expect and it was my first time ever attending a travel blogging conference. I went to BlogHer last summer along with 5,000 other blogging hopefuls and felt misplaced as a travel blogger among so many mommy bloggers. When I heard about a TBEX, an event exclusively for travel bloggers, I was thrilled. It was my tribe and the place for me to be. I instantly signed up with high expectations of what I’d learn, who I’d meet and the connections I’d make. My journey as a travel blogger was awash with opportunities.

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Looking down from the CN Tower in Toronto during TBEX.

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Why I am advocating for newborn health

Earlier this month, I posted on the upcoming Newborn Health Summit in South Africa and shared some tragic facts about how many children are not getting a chance at life. The post is called “Crisis and Hope in Newborn Health“.

As part of the Global Team of 200, I have been working with the Gates Foundation this month to spread word and awareness about global newborn health in honor of The Global Newborn Health Conference being held on April 15th in South Africa. The conference is supported by Save the Children. MCHIP, Gates Foundation, USAID andUNICEF.

Today, my YouTube video was released on why I am advocating for newborn health. It made me cry. It is so beautiful that I had to share. It is a part of who I am, what I believe, what I stand for, and why I must advocate for all those voiceless moms around the world  who won’t have the joy of watching their children grow up.

I am so honored to be part of the Global Team of 200 and truly looking forward to my upcoming trip to India this May where I will go to advocate and learn more about maternal health.

Global Health SOCIAL GOOD

Finding beauty in La Ceiba, Honduras

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

La Ceiba is not known as the most beautiful city in the world. In fact, it is known for being well, rather ugly. I had been warned about the unattractiveness of the city several times through my research in Lonely Planet and other noteworthy travel sites. But La Ceiba was where my volunteer project was based so I was going to make the best of it and be sure to use that good old “third-eye” (i.e. open-minded approach). Ugly or not, I would find the beauty of it.

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Honduras is a diverse country with lots of jungle and mountains. La Ceiba is located on the Caribbean Sea not far from the famous Bay Islands. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

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Snorkel, Sun and Fun at West Bay Beach

Roatan is in the largest and most popular of the three Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras and surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world: The Mesoamerican Reef that stems all the way down to Belize making it a diver’s paradise. Roatan is more touristy and developed than its neighbors Utila and Guanaja, yet this long narrow island of 50 km long has a little something special for everyone.

I opted to spend my first day and night in the lovely West Bay, located at the southern tip of the island and awash in picture perfect white sandy beaches and amazing snorkeling just steps away from the beach. It was a wonderful welcoming to such an amazing place!

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This short path lead directly to the beach. It was less than five minutes from my hotel.

Adventure Travel Honduras TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION

SUNDAY SOCIAL GOOD: Inspired by the slums and people of Khon Kaen, Thailand

This post is part of my Social Good Sunday series. It is a guest post from Alicia Rice who is living in Thailand working on a documentary film about the people living in the slum communities of Khon Kaen. This is a post about her work. 

A man from a slum community making baskets from recycled material. Photo credit: Author.

I came to Thailand as a study abroad student in 2008.  For four months, we learned about globalization and development projects in Northeastern Thailand, the poorest region of the area.  We read studies and got the chance to talk with government officials and company representatives. But the most important parts of our education were always getting the chance to talk with villagers.  We got the chance to sleep in the houses and get to know the people who’s houses were being threatened, or who’s farm was being taken away.

There was one moment in particular that really stood out to me.  As American students, we were often left with the question of what we could do, or more importantly, what we should do.

The more you learn about social justice work abroad, the more you learn the importance of people to be empowered and solve their issues themselves.  It left me feeling helpless and puzzled.

Global Issues Poverty SOCIAL GOOD

Views from on top of the world in the French Alps

Author’s note: This is a continuation on my series of trekking La Vanoise National Park in the high Alps of France. To see all posts in this series, click here.

After a strenuous morning of hiking, we finally made it to one of the highest points of our week-long trek. I was the first in the group to get to the top and what a sensational view we had. The reward was worth all the sweat and effort. It felt great to be on top of the world!

“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.”    — Greg Child

Fourteen-year-old Jonty, the youngest of our group, taking a break on top of the Alps.

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The ultimate hike: Day 4 in Vanoise National Park

Author’s note: This is a continuation on my series of trekking La Vanoise National Park in the high Alps of France. To see all posts in this series, click here.

After a fabulous night’s sleep in our very own Chalet de grade (guards hut) I was ready to start day four of our week-long trek in Vanoise National Park. The Chalet proved charming, basic and serendipitously quiet for a peaceful night’s sleep of five.In the middle of the night, I had to use the loo and was awestruck by nature’s light show of dazzling stars shining brightly above my head. I knew tomorrow would be another perfect, cloudless day. And that it was.

Setting off in the morning on a long, six hour hike.

Adventure Travel France Tour de Vanoise TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking

The hike to l’Arpont refuge: Morning

Author’s note: This is a continuation on my series of trekking La Vanoise National Park in the high Alps of France. To see all posts in this series, click here.

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” -
John Burroughs

Morning clouds over the Col de la Vanoise.

After a rough night’s sleep, I gathered my wits and set off with our group a little past nine o’clock to the rising sun. The fresh air seemed to help immensely and draw me in. Soon, my three-hour night’s sleep was all but a distant dream and I was in my element. Embracing life and breathing it all in with each and every step.

Adventure Travel France Tour de Vanoise TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking