How to Care for the Mind and Body while Traveling

Travel can be incredibly eye-opening, and it can also be unpredictable and stressful. 

Traveling can completely change our outlook on life by teaching us lessons that we could never learn in a textbook. That is not because of the beautiful, Instagram-worthy pictures, but rather for the changes that occur in our minds and hearts. These changes stick with us long after the plane touches down at our home airport. These experiences are key to growing as individuals and transforming our lives in the here and now. 

Wanderlust comes with many ups and downs. One challenge is finding time and space to keep up with a consistent physical and mental exercise routine. The mind-body connection is crucial in order to squeeze out every beautiful thing that traveling, and life, have to offer.

The more we prioritize consistent care for our mind and body, even under challenging circumstances that can arise while traveling, the more resilient we grow. Mentally and physically, our bodies get stronger by leaving the excuses behind and putting our health first. We won’t have to say no to that hike with the breathtaking view at the top because we aren’t in the appropriate physical shape for it. We won’t have to miss out on vacations with our grandkids because we can’t keep up with them. We can get the most out of our traveling experience by emphasising on wellness no matter where we are in the world.

Lindsay DeAguila is an educator in yoga, martial arts, kickboxing, and high intensity interval training. In the past 6 years, she has explored 35 countries, and shares some expert tips on building resilience through physical and mental activities on-the-go. No hotel gym or park nearby? No problem! Here are some simple tips to keep you motivated while traveling. 

Prepare Ahead

Woman exercising on top of a rock

First things first: to prioritize wellness, we have to practice making it an intentional part of our daily routine. We are creatures of habit, so carve out a specific time of day to prioritize mental and physical practices. 

A lightweight yoga mat is a great way to squeeze in effective workouts in your hotel room. Bring easy-to-pack equipment like resistance bands. They take up minimal space and can really create a big impact on our fitness. Fun fact: they also double as clotheslines to dry your clothes! 

I also like to download a 10-minute meditation on my phone before I head out – there are plenty on Spotify and Youtube. It is easy to just press play and check into my allotted mindfulness time and keep the routine going.

Walk the Talk

Woman in black and white striped shirt and denim shorts standing in the middle of the road with trees on both sides, smiling

Walking is an easy (and free!) way to explore a new area. Sure, taxis and public transport exist, but get into a habit of choosing health over convenience. Wandering on foot helps us understand our surroundings and learn to navigate the area (hello, mind-body connection!), besides squeezing some more exercise into our days. Good blood circulation is key to our health. Apart from the health implications, this leaves more room for guiltless indulgences—an extra mocha latte, anyone?!

On a related note, get outside as often as you can. Nature is the greatest medicine for the mind and soul, helping to de-stress and refocus our intentions. Even 10 minutes outside per day can create a positive headspace. Plan ahead by downloading offline maps of the area to your phone or purchasing an old-fashioned guide book as you wander.

Join a Virtual Fitness Community

Woman wearing a black outfit sitting crosslegged with folded hands and closed eyes, sitting outdoors

Did you know you could still take a fitness class with one of your best friends while in different hemispheres?

Virtual fitness communities are beneficial for accountability, support, and connection. Being accountable ensures the development of a routine to fit a workout in our day. They allow us to take our workouts and workout buddies (aka, the best support support system) with us no matter where we are in the world. 

There is a community for everyone – Zumba, yoga, running, HIIT, kickboxing – giving you the flexibility to be fit outside of a gym.

Practice Gratitude

When we are traveling and have a packed itinerary, it is important to take a few quiet moments to slow down. Mindfulness can help with anxiety, and lessen the impact of external shifts on our internal environment. 

Gratitude reminds us that we have everything that we need – our bodies and our minds. Making gratitude a daily part of our health routine teaches us to be resilient, makes homesickness more tolerable, and helps us feel more like ourselves regularly. The more we practice gratitude, the more we will be able to maintain a positive physical and mental state of well-being.

Consider starting a gratitude journal or ritual, or reaching out to friends and family while you are traveling to fully absorb and savour the present. 

Attend the Mental Gym

Our minds are always traveling, taking us to different destinations each day. We should never stop learning, no matter where our bodies physically are in the world. Especially if we are taking time off school or work, it is important to continue to challenge the mind and keep it active. We can do this through activities such as crossword puzzles, reading books, or trying to learn the language of the country we are in!

If possible, take a road trip instead of flying, in order to give our brains a good mental sweat through the obstacles road tripping presents. We can also keep our mind body active by learning a sport native to the place we are in. For example, a class in Japan using their Samurai sword “katana” can be a memorable experience!

Listen to your body

Woman with folded hands smiling.

There are several reasons that can prevent us from our daily health practice while traveling: too little space, no equipment, feeling awkward amongst strangers. But, keep in mind that prioritizing our bodies will support the explorer within us for years to come. 

Fuel yourself through the right nutrition and eat fresh and local. Making mindful choices helps us be productive and get the most out of sightseeing without bloat or brain fog.

If you need a break, take one. Rest is also a building block to strengthening our resilience. Whether we are a first time traveler or have traveled around the globe, the most important thing we can do for our adventurous souls is to board the mental and physical health train daily.

About the author

Woman sitting on the floor with resistance bands and hands outstretched

Lindsay De Aguila

Lindsay’s work is driven by the question: “How can one build, hone, and expand emotional and physical resilience?” She is best known for creating opportunities that inspire others to push their mental and physical limits. A National All-Around State Gymnastics Champion, Self Defence Martial Arts State Champion, certified Ashtanga Yoga Instructor, and first degree Hapkido black belt holder, Lindsay is a Resilience Expert. 

How To Deal With Post Travel Blues

Just had a great vacation, but feeling a little down and out after getting back home?

Looks like you may have the post-travel blues. 

Most people spend months looking forward to their next vacation. This downtime allows you to finally relax, spend time with family and friends, or even your much deserved alone time without having to worry about your usual routine. In fact, a vacation actually improves your health in several ways – physically, emotionally, mentally. 

However, there is a downside: going back home! It can feel like this peace of mind suddenly vanishes. It is very common to feel low when the holiday is coming to an end, and it can even last for a while after you’re back home. If you’re feeling blue after a trip, don’t worry, you’re not imagining it. 

So, how can you beat the post-holiday blues?

Why do you feel down after a trip?

Woman with red hair wearing a plaid shirt working at her desktop

Feeling down after a holiday is a feeling many of you already know. After a memorable vacation, a regular routine may seem mundane and pointless. Even though things may objectively seem fine, one can feel miserable and hostage to trivial things.

Post-holiday blues can feel a little bit like Monday blues, when the thought of facing the work week seems daunting, and leaves you missing the weekend, sometimes before it’s even over.According to Dr. Gerhard Strauss-Blasche from the University of Vienna’s Department of Physiology, in an NBC article: “It’s called “contrast effect”. Vacationers cease to be used to stress and thus react more strongly when confronted (with it) again.

This post-vacation blues can also stem from taking a step back from your ordinary life, allowing you to see it more clearly. Author Shannon Thomas says: “We often don’t notice certain negative aspects of our lives while we are in the middle of it, but taking a step back during a vacation brings more clarity to things we may need to change in our lives and coming home is often a splash of cold reality.

This feeling often translates as being tired, lacking energy or focus, having difficulty to sleep, lacking appetite, irritability and stress. Of course, not everyone is affected the same way. Some people might never experience it, but that doesn’t mean that what you’re feeling isn’t real or valid.

How to get rid of the blues

Dates of a month listed out in a diary

Prepare for your return

The first thing to do really needs to be done before you even go: prepare for your return.

First of all, try to plan at least one day off before you need to be back at work. It will allow you to ease your way back into your usual life. This gives you time to complete pending chores such as unpacking, laundry and grocery shopping. Start your work week with a refreshed state of mind. 

Another thing you should remember is to declutter your work desk and clean your apartment. Coming back to a mess will only worsen your already low spirits. At least you won’t have to deal with tidying up. That’s one thing off your mind!

Bring a little of your holiday back home

Once you’re back, Try to bring a little piece of your vacation back into your life to ease the transition.  Maybe recreate the recipe of something you loved eating during your trip. Remember those photos you took? Frame and hang your favourite pictures or create an album to share your memories. 

Essentially, the point is to incorporate something that will help you remember the feeling you had when you were away. It’s a little reminder of good times that will help you feel better every time you feel nostalgic.

Picnic basket, book, hat and flowers laid out on a red and white cloth

Plan for something exciting

Give yourself something to look forward to. This doesn’t need to be something big or expensive. A concert, trip to the museum or a picnic with friends can feel like a mini-vacation too. Plan ahead by marking your calendar or purchasing tickets to keep you motivated.  This will shift your focus: instead of looking back, you will look forward to the next exciting event.  

Just because your vacation has ended doesn’t mean you can’t have something really fun to anticipate.

Be a tourist at home

Why not bring the sense of wonder you have while on vacation to your everyday life? Try to integrate the same level of excitement at home. It is not uncommon to skip on all the tourist attractions in our own home because we think that there will always be time to do it later! Stop delaying, and start -or keep on- exploring museums, restaurants, going on walks or seeing a play.

You could rediscover the place where you live and manage to get excited again about it!

Girl looking at an art exhibit

Take it easy

Be lenient with yourself.

Avoid scheduling important meetings or catching up on mails on your first day back. This advice will help you from feeling overwhelmed. Try not to overload yourself to make up for the vacation time. If you’re not up for it, you probably won’t be able to do it well anyway. So, as much as you can, try to take it easy, at least for a few days.

What if the feeling lingers?

Woman airing out a green bedsheet

Use this time to check-in with yourself. If the feeling of sadness is very strong, maybe it’s a good opportunity to take a look at your life. Start listing the things that you would like to change. You can start by decluttering your home (Marie Kondo style!), to see things more clearly.

Perhaps the reason you are dreading coming back is because there is something deeply dissatisfying about your life: a problematic relationship, an unsatisfying job or a lack of social activities. Take a look at what is missing, and start planning for adjustments.

If you go from feeling nostalgic and anxious about coming back, to a long-lasting feeling of sadness, it might be a sign that something bigger is at play here. This might be a sign of depression, burnout, or anxiety – and those signs are never to be ignored. If the feeling lasts for over 3 weeks, you should talk to your doctor or therapist about it. These feelings are not to be taken lightly. 

Post-holiday blues will usually fade quite quickly. So if it doesn’t, it might not just be post-holiday blues. You should never postpone taking care of your mental health, just as much as your physical health. If this happens, go to your doctor, and begin the healing process.

10 Packing Essentials for Under $10

How you pack can make or break a trip. Being under prepared can set you up for discomfort or way too many desperate searches for the nearest, and likely overpriced, store. It can even have some pretty gross hygienic consequences (you will see what we mean below). But being over packed can mean lots of back pain for backpackers, overweight charges, and even a higher likelihood of getting your stuff stolen. Packing her doesn’t have to be expensive though. Here are our favorite must-haves for any traveler all for under $10.

1. Goop bottles

For everything TSA tries to take away – shampoo, conditioner, lotion, body wash – these bottles are silicone, squeezable, and are durable enough to be used for all your trips. They even come with their own TSA approved clear, reusable plastic bag. While you can find lots of expensive versions of this same product, we have found these little babies are built just as tough and cost more than half the price.

$9.99 usd

2. Toothpaste Tablets

While technically not under $10, these are such good value, we decided it was worth it. TSA won’t let you get by with a full size tube of toothpaste, plus putting it in your checked bag means the pressure changes and tossing of your suitcase could end in a big mess of a surprise when you finally start your trip. Those are just a couple reasons why we love these toothpaste tablets. You pop one in our mouth, chomp around a bit, add a wet toothbrush, and wah lah – you have toothpaste. And unlike traditional tubes, you won’t run out for at least a few trips to come with just one bottle of this stuff. 

$10.95 usd

3. Toothbrush covers

Speaking of toothpaste, there isn’t much use having clean teeth if your toothbrush has been dropped on a hostel floor or thrown in your backpack along with your shoes. Yuck. These silicone toothbrush holders are something we don’t leave home without. We like silicone because it’s more durable and sustainable than plastic and we like this 6 pack because toothbrush covers are not meant to last forever. Do yourself and your oral health a favor and cover your toothbrush! You’ll thank us next time TSA has their grubby hands in your toiletry bag looking for your deadly nail clippers.

$6.58 usd

4. Flip Flops

We have two words: hostel floor. Really though if you are staying in a dirty hostel or in a 5 star hotel, showers and floors are not to be totally trusted. Just ask our team member who got a mysterious foot fungus in Central America that made her skin fall off. You don’t need a fancy pair of Havianas, they don’t take up much room, and they are so important no matter where you go! These flip flops are cute, simple, sturdy whether you plan on wearing them all day long or just as slippers and shower shoes in your accommodation. 

$9.99 usd

5. Clean your whole body bar

Affordable, fair trade, and a charity: what’s not to love? We’ll give you one more reason to add this to your packing list: it replaces almost your entire toiletry bag! This bar is a shampoo and cleans your whole darn body all in a 7 ounce solid bar. We’ll be honest, if you are a body wash snob (we see you, scroll back up to number one) or have fussy hair, this may not be the best solution. It smells amazing and works wonders but it won’t replace your fancy pants conditioner. 

$7.90 usd

6. Infinity scarf with hidden pocket

Keep your purse at the hotel and stash your passport or some extra cash in the hidden pocket of this scarf! While the photos suggest a phone isn’t too heavy to be really obvious, we suggest buying this beaut as a more accessible option than in your bra. It’s lightweight and comes in loads of colors, making it great for even spring days when it’s not too cold. 

$8.99 usd

7. Portable luggage scale

The benefits of a luggage scale are obvious when you are packing for a trip, but if you take domestic flights in your international destination, there are likely different weight rules. If you are a shopper, this little gadget could save you big overweight fees on the way home.  We love this one specifically because it’s cheap, it works, and it’s easy to pack. 

$7.99 usd

8. Collapsable Water Bottle

This water bottle folds up in a little disk that you can throw in your purse or backpack for hikes or city walks. Almost all accommodation has fresh water, and this is an easy to pack solution tat cuts on bottled water costs and environmental impact. Plus, it’s cheap, which is always a plus!

$9.98 usd

9. Laundry soap sheets

These take up almost no space and can save you quite a few bucks on detergent. These are eco friendly, plastic-free, and smell amazing. This is one of those little items we never even take out of our bags when we get home. They some with us everywhere. Imagine popping up to an Airbnb with a bag full of dirty clothes and having no detergent to wash them. These guys are the greatest for all laundry days, especially when a surprise washing machine becomes available. 

$9.29 usd

10. Ear Plugs

We don’t understand the need to assign a gender to earplugs (although there is no pink tax, we checked), but the fact is, we have tried every type and brand out there, and these are by far the most comfortable. Whether you stay at a party hostel or a nice Airbnb, sometimes construction, noisy neighbors, or a loud AC can keep you up. Plus nothing beats the airplane quiet combo than a pair of noise cancelling headphones along with earplugs. 

$8.99 usd

11. Little locks

For hostel lockers, keeping your suitcase safe when the hotel desk is holding it, or at airport lockers, having at least one little lock could mean all your stuff stays safe. We like this one because of the flexible ring and how tiny it is – it makes it extra versatile for all situations. 

$4.99 usd

Golden Gaze: A Queer and Black-Owned Bed and Breakfast

Are you looking for a travel experience that is inclusive, accessible and sustainable?

Katie and Reigh have a vision to create a Queer and Black owned Bed and Breakfast in the picturesque town of Golden, Canada. While Katie is a certified Life Coach using the Enneagram, and has a background working in nonprofits, her partner, Reigh, identifies as nonbinary, queer, chronically ill Person of Colour, with a love for upcycling things. 

Determined to create a community-centric and affirming space, this couple is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to translate this B&B into reality. We interviewed this dynamic duo to learn more about the property – charmingly called Golden Gaze –  and the obstacles that need to be surmounted. Katie and Reigh also shine light on a topic that is insufficiently discussed: marginalised communities and their struggles in travel. 

Artists rendition of the Golden Gaze B&B, showing Katie and Reigh waving, with two dogs and a cat outside a house. There are mountains and trees in the background.

what is the B&b all about?

With Golden Gaze Bed and Breakfast, we hope to redefine the travel experience, by building a space that values sustainability, accessibility, and dynamic inclusivity for all guests.

Golden Gaze will help our guests prioritize connection and growth during their stay, so in addition to our unique cabins and hearty, homemade breakfasts, we’ll have a yoga, movement, and meditation sanctuary, on-site Enneagram coaching, and a cannabis lounge among other amenities to help folks reconnect to themselves and to our Earth. 

Vacations should be restorative, and full of opportunities to feel treated and cared for. We want to make a place where anyone can feel welcome, which is why we are explicitly affirming for folks often ignored by the travel and tourism industry, such as Queer/Trans, Racialized/BIPOC, Disabled, Fat, and/or Polyam folks, so everyone feels freer to connect deeply to themselves, their partner(s), and the natural world around us.

what inspired you to start an inclusive vacation retreat?

We wanted to create the type of deeply healing, eco-friendly vacation retreat that we have always been looking for as a Queer, interracial couple, who cares about the environment. We have loved traveling together since we began dating in 2012, but have often walked away from vacations feeling disconnected from our values and knowing that we could do better. Whether that was from a lack of recycling stations on the property, a racist piece of art at a vacation rental, or an inaccessible bathroom – we just felt like we could build something that better prioritizes both our environment and those of us often ignored by the tourism industry.

The antidote to so many of those frustrations can be solved by being a place that prioritizes inclusion, accessibility, and sustainability from the ground up. Everyone should be able to take a vacation you can feel good at, and feel good about.

golden - the name says it all. why did you choose this location for your b&b?

The name truly does say it all. Golden, B.C. is radiant!

We are very lucky to currently live just 5 hours from Golden – which is considered within driving distance              in Canada. We have spent anniversaries and weekends there, and have road-tripped through the area –        and each time we have had an exquisite time.

It is quaint, but filled with awesome amenities and an endless array of options and activities to explore the area, without being overrun like some more common tourist destination mountain towns in the area. It’s a gorgeous place to reconnect to yourself, and the world around you. 

could you share more about the focus on sustainability and the 'farm-to-table' concept?

As we started creating our vision, we quickly realized we wanted it to be as eco-friendly as current tech could allow for. If we are living into our values of equity and justice, we can’t do that without making sure we are treating the environment with care and avoiding as much harm as we can. To live in respect and reconciliation with our Indigenous Community members, we aim to partner with them in as many ways as they are interested in, and within their established Land Code for the area we plan to build in. This includes following intentional stewardship over the land, and living in a way that is beneficial to all living things, not just humanity.                    For us, respecting the Land Code meant becoming sustainable and minimising our impact on the planet. 

Some of the sustainability measures we are going to apply are Solar Panels, a grey-water recycling system, an eco-friendly septic system, radiant biomass heating including paved walkways to allow for easier accessibility, in-unit composters, covering the housing units with living roofs and biodiversity that is beneficial to the area, and more. 

We want to grow all of our own produce for our delicious breakfasts on-site using our all seasons agro-tunnel(s) and outdoor gardens in the summer months. Anything we can’t grow in our fields, tunnels, or garden beds will be bolstered by local suppliers in the area to ensure a truly delightful and nutritious start to your day, nourished by the very land you’re sleeping on.

Artist's rendition of the Golden Gaze property, showing a house with green foliage, a canopy and chairs in the front yard and a mountain in the background

individuals with varying levels of disabilities often face challenges in finding accommodations that are accessible.

How does golden gaze aim to be more inclusive for people with different needs?

Traveling as a disabled person can be extremely difficult at best, and impossible at the worst of times.              Our world has not been designed for universal access and it is a human rights violation. Too often, folks with mobility devices can’t even get in the door, or down the airplane aisle, for example.

We want to create a place that takes away the guesswork of if you can even access the space. We want to be dynamically accessible, recognizing that accessibility can be wildly different for different people. Furthermore, we are also committed to being mindful and considerate around weight capacities on all our furniture. Too often the fat community is left out because of poor quality furnishings or equipment that cannot support them in an appropriate way. We want to create a space where all bodies are welcome!

Some of the accessibility features you can expect to see would be: wider hallways appropriate for a turning radius, adjustable beds, roll under sinks, grab bars, ramped entries, and much more. A list of our accessibility measures can be found on our website. 

as a queer and black couple, have you faced any challenges in initiating this business?

how are you overcoming this?

As marginalized folks we have had less opportunity to earn capital than others in our society. We have both essentially run underfunded non-profits on our own and learned all of the skills required to run a successful business, without any of the capital rewards that typically come with those skills and labour experience.            This is the reason, like most marginalized entrepreneurs, we decided to turn to crowdfunding. With our community’s help we can (1) provide a larger down-payment to secure the larger loan needed to build, and      (2) prove market interest in our business concept, and a desire to see more spaces like this exist.

Access to capital has definitely been the biggest roadblock to getting started. The communities who would really benefit from our space are also generally in a position of less disposable income than others, so finding the support within our community also has its own barriers. 

Aside from the financial factors, most of our other challenges have been in convincing folks who don’t share the lived experience of being a marginalized person on why there is a need for such places to exist. There is a lack of safety for our communities in the travel world that should be addressed. If you have never experienced inaccessibility, or feeling mistreated on vacation, it’s hard to understand why spaces like this are so needed,    but for those of us who have had that be a common experience for us while traveling, Golden Gaze is a refreshing vision for the future of the tourism industry! 

a flow chart depicting who can visit the golden gaze property

is there anything you would like to share with our community of solo female travelers?

We cannot wait to host you! Having done some solo-travelling ourselves, we know that your safety, comfort, and well being are critical to enjoying your time. It can be daunting to travel alone, and so we really want to create a space where you know you’ll be welcome and accepted, and free to exist as you’d like.

Traveling is such a rewarding way to learn more about yourself and your relationships to the world and other folks. To deepen that experience even further, you can do on-site Enneagram and Life Coaching with Katie. We are also happy to create safety check in systems with those who prefer to have someone aware of their whereabouts, plus we are hoping to partner with folks like the Solo Female Travel Network to meet other like-minded travelers!

To learn more about Golden Gaze and how you can support such spaces, click here

Are you a travel business owner? Share your stories with our community. Get in touch for a chance to be featured on our website!

How to Be More Eco-Friendly When You Travel

According to a study by, 87 % of travelers state that they would like to travel sustainably. But, can tourism really be sustainable? Are your concerns about the environment compatible with your wanderlust? 

The answer is yes. But we do have to travel differently in order to address these concerns. So how can you limit your carbon footprint when you are travelling?

Choosing the right destination

an aerial view of Maya Bay in Thailand with several boats in the water and a crowd on the beach

Trying to travel while being conscious about our impact on the environment starts with proper planning, so take the time to choose the right destination. 

You might remember the movie “The Beach”, starring Leonardo Di Caprio. After the movie was released in 2000, millions of tourists flocked to Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Leh Island in Thailand. In recent years, more than 5000 tourists would crowd on the island in a single day! The resultant litter and pollution has reportedly damaged more than 80% of the coral around Maya Bay.

Eventually, the Thai government had no choice but to close the beach down until the environment recovers, which could take years. The same problem arose in many other places, where tourism has been rising too much and too rapidly.

The problem is that even if you are a conscious traveler, some destinations have simply reached their limits.  Thoroughly research each destination on your wishlist and intentionally avoid those suffering from overtourism. Focus on countries or cities which are betting on sustainable tourism to attract visitors. Namibia and Ecuador are both great examples of destinations that advocate conservation as a basic principle of ecotourism.

cHOOSINg the best way to get there

a man cycling past an eatery in paris

Transportation accounts for a lot of the carbon emissions from your trip. Ideally, you would choose a carbon neutral mode of transportation such as walking or cycling. If you have to settle for a less green option, consider trains, which are one of the cleanest modes of public transportation. If you are driving, try to share the ride to limit your impact. And if you must fly, then there are a few things to take into consideration.

First: the lighter the plane, the less fuel it uses, so pack light!

Secondly, the worst thing about flying are take-offs and landings. Whenever you can,  look for direct flights and avoid stopovers. You might also want to consider avoiding first class, because all that extra space is really just wasted space.

Still feel guilty about flying? Before cancelling your plans, you might want to research offsetting your CO2 emissions. Some organizations (such as WWF UK’s carbon footprint calculator) will help you calculate the carbon emissions from your flight.  Once you know the monetary value of those flights, you can donate to an organization working on reducing carbon emissions to compensate for the impact of your trip. 

choosing the right accommodation

Next on your list: choosing where to sleep.

Several countries have some sort of certification procedure to let tourists know if specific companies have high standards for environmental protection. For example, if you decide to visit Costa Rica, you can check for the “Certificado para la Sostenibilidad Turística” i.e. Certification for Sustainable Tourism Stamp. Similarly, hotels in the U.S. may have LEED Certification, which judges properties on parameters such as sustainable site development, materials used, design innovation and energy efficiency.

Once again, the way to make your trip greener is to do the research! Finally, once you get there, if you see something that could be improved, say something. The more clients speak up, the more hotels will realize how important those things are. If they don’t do it by conviction, at least they will do it to get more business!

Stick to your good habits

Just because you are on holiday, it doesn’t mean that you should forget your good habits! So keep following the usual rules : recycle your trash, prefer showers to baths and turn off the lights when you leave a room.                You should also think about packing a few extra things like reusable shopping bags and a water bottle to limit your use of disposable plastic.

Remember to also follow the local rules, which might be different. If you’re not sure, never hesitate to ask. If you need to move around, try to use public transportation, and if you need to drive, try to share the ride.                Finally, when you shop, buy local!

All these recommendations are probably nothing new for you. The point is to be conscious of these habits, even when travelling. Have high standards, wherever you are!

beware of greenwashing

Girl in blue shirt in background holding a green leaf in both her hands in the foreground

Becoming a conscious traveller boils down to doing more research and looking for trustworthy businesses.      But there is an inherent problem with that: should you take their word for it? Our advice is: remain sceptical of any claims.

Hotels, tour operators, airlines and cruises advertise how specific products or services are eco-friendly and benefit the local communities. Amidst tall claims of sustainability, it is quite hard for travelers to judge if an organisation is cashing in on consumer guilt, or is genuinely concerned about the planet.

To avoid falling for so-called “green initiatives,” ask your travel agent or hotelier lots of questions.              Extensive research for a responsible trip may sound like a daunting task, but it’s a worthy price to pay for a guilt-free experience!

The power of the consumer

a digital camera, two polaroid photos, a passport, sunglasses, a film camera and light bulbs placed on top of a brown and white map

You might think that your own personal efforts are just a drop in the ocean, and you probably have a point. However, by joining the growing number of clients demanding efforts from their service providers, you could participate in influencing the entire travel industry.

If enough people stopped flying for very short trips, maybe some alternative offers would develop. If we all asked hotels to stop washing linens every day, maybe they would stop even offering. If most of us asked to eat local food, not only would we support local farmers and allow them to make a decent living, but importing food would become increasingly unnecessary.

In short, consumer demand can force the entire industry to undergo a paradigm shift, so keep asking for more! In fact, many believe it has already started, but the more we are involved, the bigger and faster the change. 

Eventually, these “alternative ways of travelling” will simply become the norm.

Beauty Secrets from Around the World

The fancy beauty products we all know and obsess over that line the shelves of every Sephora, CVS or Ulta may have been created in a lab by people wearing white coats. However, the history behind many of the ingredients used in these “miracle treatments” today stem from various parts of the globe that they are indigenous to, often times thousands of years ago.

Come take a journey with me as I travel through seven countries or regions to reveal how women from Japan to Bulgaria have taken care of their hair and skin since the beginning of time.

Middle East

middle eastern makeup

Many women in the middle east and across the Mediterranean don’t just wear kohl-black eyeliner for the fun of it. This sultry look stems from the ancient Egyptians who believed kohl had antibacterial properties that prevented eye infections including conjunctivitis and boosted the body’s production of nitric oxide, which strengthens one’s immune system. Kohl-painted eyes also help reflect the sun, which is why football players apply it under the eyes during games. For your own kohl-infused look, Lyda Beauty has a Cleopatra Cat Eye Stamp eyeliner, and it’s one of the only Halal certified American beauty brands (meaning its formulation is permissible according to the Qur’an).


Iranian woman

For generations, Persians have used sedr, a green lotus powder that hails from the Ziziphus plant. Sedr cleans hair while it also strengthens and volumizes. To try this on your own, simply add water to your sedr until it turns into a green paste and leave on your hair for 10-20 minutes before rinsing out. According to JOON Haircare Founder, Shiva Tavakoli, you can also add a few drops of JOON Saffron Hair Elixir to the paste for added hydration, which contains the Persian hair strengthening sand smoothing staples of Saffron, Pistachio and Rose. 


adzuki beans

Japanese women, known for their youthful, toned and porcelain complexions, have a few interesting tricks of their own. It’s noted that as early as the Nara period (710-794), Japanese women were exfoliating with adzuki beans crushed into a fine powder to achieve a fresh, healthy glow and combat clogged pores. Adzuki beans contain saponin, a natural foaming agent that makes these little red beans more than just food. Moisturizing and antioxidant rich Camellia oil, exfoliating rice bran and skin-brightening Yuzu oil are other natural indigenous ingredients Japanese women consider the fountain of youth. Silktage Pure Japanese Fusion Oil combines all three of these oils into one rejuvenating serum. 


Herbs crushed in India

What do the women of India reach for when they have dry skin? Pure almond oil. Rich in vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, potassium, zinc and copper, this miracle liquid has been revered for ages in the Indian culture. Shalini Vadhera, Global Beauty Expert and author of Passport to Beauty says explains it’s easy to make your own at home since many commercial almond oils have preservatives. Take a handful of fresh almonds, blanch them, and let them dry. 

Grind them in the food processor, then put them in a fine sieve and press with a spoon until the oil is released. Place in a small bottle and refrigerate. (This oil can turn rancid very quickly if left at room temperature). Massage oil onto skin after your shower or bath; and use a few drops on your face after cleansing at the end of the day.


beauty in Korea

When it comes to Korean beauty secrets, your mind might automatically go to the 10-step skincare regime that took over the internet a few years ago. But ask any Korean about the one true beauty ritual steeped in Korean culture and it’s a good hard body scrub. Exfoliating dead skin cells called ddeh from head to toe is serious business for Koreans. Weekly communal bathhouse visits are a common practice in South Korea where guests strip naked, soak in hot water and receive a scrub or ‘seshin” with a thin, sandpaper-like towel. More rough than relaxing, the result of removing dead skin to bring one’s soft, fresh pink flesh to light of day is considered rejuvenating by many. Mimic this no-nonsense technique  on your own with these exfoliating bath washcloths.


beauty in China

Gua sha (pronounced “gwahshah”) is the Chinese word for scrapping, which is exactly what this ancient East Asian practice does. Using a tool to apply pressure and scrape the skin, gua sha helps relieve pain and tension in the body, leaving behind light bruising. In traditional Chinese medicine, everyone has chi, the energy that flows through one’s body. When that chi gets blocked, it causes pain and needs to be gua sha’d away. According to Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, A.P., as we’re constantly looking for ancient remedies for modern healthy and beauty benefits, gua sha has become more popular than ever, especially for lifting and sculpting the face. “I have had patients literally have their face transformed by gua sha in one session,’ says Trattner.  “It can lift and sculp the face, improve blood circulation, help TMJ, reduce puffiness and drain the lymph, reduce fine lines, and create a healthy glow.” Click here for your own gua sha tool and tips on how to expertly bring this ancient practice into your own beauty regime,


Roses in Bulgaria

The pink roses that decorate the 87-mile Balkan mountain range called Rose Valley in May and June each year are an immense source of pride for the Bulgarian people. Distilling rose oil has created a huge industry for this country since the 17th century when a Turkish merchant is said to have brought them to their country, and Bulgarian roses are considered some of finest in the world. Many cosmetic products including soaps, shampoos, creams, lotions and toners are created with the intention of touting this liquid gold. What does this stuff really do, though? The essence of Bulgarian roses contains highly healing properties that reduce redness and irritation, treat dermatitis, acne and eczema. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory, reduces the appearance of scars. and calms and refreshes the skin after cleansing. The rose toner in Thracian Bulgarian Rose Water is steam-distilled in one of oldest still -functioning distilleries in Bulgaria.

About the author

Robin beauty writer

Robin Tolkan-Doyle

Robin Tolkan-Doyle runs the boutique agency Charmed PR in Los Angeles, CA and recently created the site Beautyologie, a platform to highlight how we all find and create beauty in life.

An Easy Guide to Online Trolling

Our Facebook community is over 420k members strong, and that means we get to read so many stories from around the world, our questions get answered fast, and we have the opportunity to connect some of the most amazing women on the planet. 


It also creates a playground for nasty online trolls. So, let’s talk about what that is, what it means, what happens if you troll this group, and….wait for it…if you are a troll yourself and don’t even know it. 

What is a troll anyway?

two trolls side by side

A troll “deliberately posts inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content”

This can mean you give your off-topic, unsolicited opinion in the comments of a post. Extra points if you curse, call someone stupid, or bring up controversial politics in a totally unrelated space…like a travel group. 

To be clear: trolling is not discussing different sides of an argument, you can respectfully have different opinions, but when they are irrelevant, unsolicited, and hateful, that’s trolling.

This sounds awful. who is doing this?

The fact is, we have all been a bit of a troll here and there. When you comment on Aunt Sally’s ignorant political meme, when we get drunk and sloppy online, even fighting for social justice can make you a troll if you insert your opinions inappropriately, aggressively, and out of context.

Some of us are more troll-y than others, and if you ask us, we believe that unhappiness and mental/emotional instability, even when it’s just temporary, can turn any normally nice person into a giant online troll.

Wait. Am I a troll?

woman online trolling

Yea, girl, maybe you are. Maybe you’re not.

Our mini self assessment:

1. Have you called a stranger mean names in comments?

2. Have you inserted your political opinions in an unrelated travel post?

3. Have you rudely messaged the admin of a free group to demand that they moderate a post the way that gets your message across?

4. Have you made harsh judgments about someone from only a few lines of a post and shared them in the comments?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may be a troll. So, stop it!

Why Should I not be a Troll?

Trolling and online bullying are separated only by a fine line. You probably wouldn’t actively make people feel small, stupid, and call them names to their face in public, at work, or among friends, so why spread that hate online? We know why…because you can get away it and because you are very unhappy.

We know times are so hard right now, we get you, we see you, and we are right there with you. But do you really feel better when you make strangers online feel worse?

If nothing else, it means you will get blocked from the best online spaces, so if spreading bad juju doesn’t make you want to cut it out, then do it for yourself.

Our self help guide to stop being a miserable troll

do not feed age trolls sign

Practice self awareness: feel the anger welling up when you see someone traveling while you are stuck at home? Take a breath. You’re don’t know their situation, you can not control them. You are angry and probably jealous, but their actions are none of your business. Scroll past.

Type something nice instead: Really want to ream a girl out for some really righteous reason? If your fingers just won’t leave the keyboard, tell her how cute her dress is instead or force yourself to scroll past.

Go find some happy: We don’t know your life. Go do something to work out this aggression you feel. You’re not mad at strangers online who don’t share your opinions, you’re just unhappy. Go find your happy and scroll past. 

Find help: Times are hard and we all need some extra love, support, and kindness. If you don’t feel like you can give that or you don’t feel you are getting enough, please get some help for yourself. A quick Google will find the depression/suicide hotline in your local area. And also…you guessed it…scroll past.

How we handle trolls

We don’t give too many chances to trolls, because we see this behavior as against the very core of our purpose – to empower, support, and uplift one another.

We may turn off comments to a post that is getting especially heated. We hate doing this, because we would prefer to be able to disagree without being hateful.

The bottom line:
Ask yourself if you are a troll.
(Be honest.)
Now stop it.

Your Beauty Products Could Be Making You Sick

Tinkerbell perfume, Bonnie Bell lip balm, Aqua Net. These items and so many more became my “pretty” arsenal growing up in a society where its marketing tentacles dug deep into my psyche and planted themselves there, making me believe they would help me look better and feel better about myself.

For the past 23 years, I’ve been writing about and promoting beauty products. I started off as a beauty editor for teen magazines and eventually opened a PR agency representing beauty brands from all over the world to the media. I guess like so many women, I was prepped for this job ever since I was a little girl.

Until the last few years with the whole “clean” beauty trend (products made without ingredients shown or suspected to harm human health) did I really start waking up to the reality of what I – and most of the cosmetics-loving public – was actually doing to ourselves every time we spritzed, lacquered or rubbed into our skin some fancy, often-times, scented formula concealed in pretty packaging. We were exposing ourselves to potentially harmful chemicals that may not be in the best interest of our health.

little girl putting make up on

Quick fact: When you see the word “fragrance” listed on a product, it could basically be any of the 3000 synthetic or natural chemicals formulators mix into their recipes to make something smell amazing.

Beauty Industry Accountability

This new level of accountability in the beauty industry can be applauded thanks to the rise of consumer consciousness and their demand for transparency. If you’re reading this, you probably make a point to scan the list of ingredients on the back of your face lotion. Kudos to you! We all have to be our own mini czars these days with what we put on our bodies. 

But in all seriousness, do you know the difference between Phthalates and Methylsilanols? FYI…the first one is a harmful chemical that makes plastic soft and flexible and the second one is a safe derivative of silicon and protects skin from free radicals among a host of other good-for-you functions. The thing is, they’re both in many cosmetic products and you can’t pronounce either one. But one is toxic (phthalates) and the other isn’t.

Here’s the reality; in the United States, the law does not require cosmetic products and ingredients to be approved by the FDA, making the beauty industry the wild, wild west. The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 hasn’t been changed since it was passed by Congress. That’s 82 years ago! To date, the U.S. only bans 30 harmful chemicals and ingredients from being formulated into products whereas the European Union bans around 1,400 and Canada bans approximately 600. Who knows what’s in your favorite face mask? Even though it may claim to tighten, refresh and smooth your skin, there’s no guarantee it will do any of those things. In fact, it may be doing more harm than good.

woman putting makeup on traveling

The Toxic side of beauty

Recent research findings have shown many toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, triclosan, lead, mercury, toluene, hydroquinone, parabens and talc found in everyday products linked to disease and even death. This brings me to the documentary Toxic Beauty, which I had the privilege of helping promote to the media earlier this year. 

Toxic Beauty takes a deep dive into the ingredient dangers lurking in personal care and cosmetics’ products, especially talc. Director Phyllis Ellis follows the class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and the plaintiffs, specifically whistleblower Deane Berg, an American woman who turned down a $1.3 million settlement from J&J in order to take them to court and publicize the health risks of their talc-laden products.

Another plot line throughout the film is the story of how medical student and beauty product fanatic Mymy Nguyen treats herself like a guinea pig as she studies the chemical burden her body undergoes with all the products she uses on a daily basis.

I remember when I saw the film for the first time,  just sitting there in the darkness of the theatre shaking my head back and forth and feeling sick to my stomach by the lack of transparency the behemoth corporation Johnson & Johnson has displayed throughout the years with their talc-laden baby powder, as endless women have lost their lives to ovarian cancer from using their products. Again, I knew talc wasn’t great, but even I (someone who has worked in this industry for almost half of my life) didn’t know to what extent. If this movie shook me, I could only imagine what it would do to all the women throughout the world who don’t have the faintest idea that their daily dosing of baby powder could end up killing them.

beauty products travel and woman

Quick fact: Talc is not just reserved for baby powder. Just about any personal care or cosmetic product that absorbs moisture can contain talc including deodorants, face powder, blush or eye shadow. Talc is also super cheap, which makes it even more attractive to formulators.

Just this past May, something incredible happened. A news story that had nothing to do with the pandemic came out, almost as if it were trying to slip through the cracks…”Johnson & Johnson is stopping the sale of talc-based baby powder in the U.S. and Canada. Two weeks after that, Chanel, Revlon and L’oreal – three of the biggest brands in cosmetics – quietly move away from including talc in their products as well

Being part of this movement and creating a push for change in this industry has been monumentally rewarding for me and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. However, in the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep database alone, there are still more than 2,000 products that contain talc out there for sale today. And Johnson & Johnson readily admit that they will continue to sell its products in other markets. They sell in over 175 countries, so do the math. There is still plenty of work to be done on this front. 

Back to the trend of clean beauty – which itself has to be handled with scrutiny because again, anyone can claim they’re clean and not be -the rise of clean beauty brands has skyrocketed, with revenue slated to hit $22 billion by 2024. 

The next time you need to stock up on shampoo, SPF, deodorant or you’re looking for a better mascara to try, visit the EWG’s Skin Deep website, which has vetted 1676 products with the EWG VERIFIED mark, deeming them free from chemicals of concern or download the ThinkDirty App, which allows you to scan products for toxicity level.

If this information makes you mad and you want to know how to push the need for change along, a couple things you can do right off the bat is write to congress and sign the Toss the Talc Petition.

Interested in checking out Toxic Beauty? It’s available on The Starz Network, or you can download it here for $4.99. You can use the discount code SOFE25 to receive 25% off.

girl on beach with sunscreen

My List of Clean & Travel Friendly beauty products

For those of you engaging in safe travel these days, I put together this round up for clean travel friendly beauty products worthy enough to take with you on your escapades!

Mermaid dry shampoo

Captain Blankenship Mermaid Dry Shampoo
Housed in a mini 2 oz. cardboard shaker, this talc-free dry shampoo absorbs oil and adds volume to unwashed hair ($14).

rahua shampoo travel size

Rahua Hydration Shampoo and Conditioner (Travel Sizes)
This Amazon rainforest grown beauty hair brand houses their strand quenching shampoo and conditioner in perfectly portable 2 oz. bottles ($9 – $9.50).

C'est Moi sunscreen

C’est Moi Sunshine Mineral Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 50
Enjoy the sunshine without 98% of the harmful rays with this reef-friendly, non-nano zinc oxide SPF face stick. Formulated with hydrating skin soothing shea butter, this water resistant sunscreen miracle promises to leave no ghostly white cast ($10).

Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Mist SPF 30 Travel Size – 3 oz. 
You gotta love a continuous mist sunscreen that’s clean and effective. This one provides physical block from UVA and UVB quickly and effortlessly without an oily residue ($20).

travel beauty products

RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek
Multi-tasking beauty at its best and brightest, Rose-Marie Swift’s eponymous brand has been at the forefront of clean beauty since 2009.  These lip & cheek stain formulations are available in 9 beautiful shades and come housed in mini pots to pop into any girl’s cosmetic case $36).

beauty products for travel

Shea Yeleen Coconut Peach Lip Balm
Made from 100% pure, unrefined shea butter, these toxic-free lip balms not only moisturize and nourish your lips, they also empower the female producers in West Africa who source and make the shea ($3).

Zit No More travel size

The Better Skin Co. Zit No More
Maskne sucks, but Zit No More can help. This zit zapping roller ball is formulated with a clear tree-oil/ salicylic acid wonder potion that attacks, banishes and soothes pimples on the go ($18).

Type A Deodorant

Type: A Aluminum Free Deodorant 
These cream to powder formulations have so many things going for them (they’re non-toxic, cruelty free, carbon neutral, and stain free), there’s no reason any traveler should suffer from B.O ($9.99).

Rosebud Ritual Travel Kit
Made with impeccable plant-derived ingredients, these intimate wellness products are a welcome addition to any wanderluster’s travel bag. This set comes with the brand’s four signature items; Cleansing Wipes, Calming Cream, Stimulating Serum and Everyday Balm ($28).

Elliot's Herbal Salve

Kellerworks Elliott’s Herbal Salve
Got a bug bite, scratch, rash or dry patch? Welcome to your new best friend. Made with beeswax, grapeseed and coconut oil, shea, zinc, lavender, peppermint and tea tree oil, there’s nothing this uber clean salve can’t solve ($8).

About the author

Robin beauty writer

Robin Tolkan-Doyle

Robin Tolkan-Doyle runs the boutique agency Charmed PR in Los Angeles, CA and recently created the site Beautyologie, a platform to highlight how we all find and create beauty in life.

The Many Cups of Vietnamese Coffee

From the introduction of the first coffee plant to Vietnam by the French in 1857, coffee production grew steadily, all through numerous wars to today. A century and a half later, Vietnam is now the 2nd largest coffee producer in the world, after Brazil.

The coffee culture in Vietnam is incredible. While we generally think of coffee as a morning affair, with the aim of waking our brains up for a busy day at work or enjoying a Sunday morning in bed, to the Vietnamese, coffee is more of a very casual, almost have-it-at-any-time-of-the-day thing. 

Small coffee shops, each with its own unique style, and simple vendor carts dot every sidewalk and every corner. Plastic child-sized stools and low tables spill out onto the sidewalks, with people wearing casual outfits to suits and ties, socializing over a cup. Either that or they are alone, watching the busy traffic pass by. It’s a strange, yet interesting sight.

Robusta vs. Arabica

The vast majority of the beans grown in Vietnam are Robusta beans. These are more bitter than the globally popular Arabica beans, which says a lot about what you can expect from a good cup of Vietnamese coffee. Robusta beans grow at lower altitudes, have higher yields, hold less acidity, have a higher caffeine content, and are two times as strong as Arabica coffee, yet less expensive. Vietnam is also the world’s largest Robusta producer and exporter, accounting for 40% of the world’s Robusta coffee.

the different ways to drink Vietnamese coffee

Ca Phe Den


If you like your coffee strong and bold, order yourself a ca phe den. Here, the word ‘den’ means black and I assume you can figure out what ‘ca phe’ means. So this is a simple black coffee without any sweetener or milk.

To make a ca phe den, the Vietnamese use what is called a phin filter. A phin filter is enough to make a standard cup of coffee and is generally made of stainless steel or aluminium. It comes in 4 pieces: the filter cup, the base, the filter press and the lid. 

You place the lid-less apparatus over your glass, add ground coffee into the filter cup and press over it with the filter press. The bottom of the cup and the base have holes, through which the coffee drips out as warm water is added. The lid is placed on top to keep the heat.

The whole process may take some time, but you are guaranteed a perfect cup of hot coffee, especially if you use an aluminium phin because they hold in the heat better and help you brew a more balanced cup. If you use a glass instead of a mug, you can watch as the brewing take place. It is definitely more interesting than watching paint dry. 

After the brewing is done, add some ice to this and it becomes ca phe den da. Da means cold. Black coffee with ice is especially loved in Vietnam because of the hot tropical climate. If you want to make absolute sure you’re ordering a hot black coffee, then say ca phe den nong.

Ca Phe Sua Da


This is my absolute favorite. This is black coffee sweetened with condensed milk (sua). It is made in the exact same way that a ca phe den is, except the glass already has a layer of sweetened condensed milk in it. Once the brewing is complete, ice is added. If you want this without ice, simply ask for a ca phe sua or ca phe sua nong. Adding in some condensed milk really balances out the strong and bitter robusta coffee.

Why condensed milk you must be wondering and why not fresh milk? During war times, there was not only a lack of fresh milk, but it was also difficult to store fresh milk for many without a fridge or electricity. This resulted in the use of canned condensed milk which you can store for much longer in dry room temperatures. 

If you want the milk to coffee ratio to be a bit higher, or some extra fresh milk in it, ask for a bac xiu. I warn you though, this is extremely sweet. Both of these are the perfect refreshment on a hot and humid day.

Ca Phe Trung


Now things get weird. This is a cup of coffee with an egg (trung) cracked into it. When I first heard about it, I really thought it was a prank because all my friends know I am extremely gullible and fall for anything. But no, this really is a cup of Vietnamese drip coffee with a layer of whipped chicken egg yolk along with condensed milk and sugar on the top. The creamy texture is best described as liquid tiramisu. Let that digest while I explain more.

Story goes that egg coffee was invented in 1946 by Nguyen Giang who is the founder of the famous Cafe Giang located at 39 Nguyen Huu Huan in Hanoi. When he came up with it, he had no idea it would become a thing, as he simply just whisked in an egg into a cup of coffee because he ran out of milk. When the blender came about, the recipe got popular. 

To make this, first drip coffee is made. Then, an egg yolk, some condensed milk and a spoonful of that coffee is poured into a bowl and whisked rigorously until it becomes frothy. This layer of froth is then poured over the traditional black coffee. When you are ready to drink, make sure you use a spoon to mix the creamy top layer of froth into the dark and bold coffee that lies underneath. Or else it might taste a bit…eggy. You will find your egg coffee served with a flame underneath or sitting in a bowl of hot water to keep the temperature and texture.

Ca Phe Dua


Dua means coconut. To make a delicious cup of ca phe dua, you simply mix drip coffee with a little bit of condensed milk and coconut milk (or coconut yogurt). To this, a lot of ice is added. It may sound sweet, yet it is quite a strong drink. If you come across a Cong Ca Phe during your time in Vietnam, make sure to try this out as it is their signature drink.

Sinh To Ca Phe

Now we add in some fruit. Sinh to means smoothie and you will come across many smoothie stalls and shops as you walk around Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. You can point your way through the various fruits you want in your sinh to ca phe such as banana, avocado, dragonfruit, mango and more. Mix your choice with black vietnamese coffee and you have this strange drink.

Ca Phe Sua Chua


By now you should be accustomed to hearing about weird ingredients being added to a simple cup of coffee. Ca phe sua chua is another unique drink where creamy yogurt blends divinely with black coffee to form a delicious concoction. The yogurts tanginess really accentuates the bitterness of the coffee, making it a rollercoaster of flavors in your mouth.

Ca Phe Muoi


Simply add a spoonful of salt to your ca phe sua da and it becomes a ca phe muoi. The salt brings out the smokier flavors in the coffee, and balances out the sweetness of the condensed milk. I’m not sure how I feel about this one though.

Ca Phe Chon

This is a little controversial. This is one of the most expensive coffees in the world and you can only find it in a few countries: Indonesia, East Timor, the Philippines and of course, Vietnam. So what is it?  

Ca phe chon is weasel coffee. Essentially weasels are fed coffee berries, digesting the flesh, and excreting the pips. They are then washed and processed carefully, and then sold worldwide as a luxury item. It may cost around $500 USD per 1kg. 

The controversy here is because of how these weasels can be raised. Many are kept in very poor conditions and force fed coffee berries without a proper balanced diet. There is a high mortality rate and this practice also poses a conservation risk. Many animal welfare groups are making it a priority to act against this practice. 

While it’s great to be open to trying new things, you should also be mindful about how certain things come to be and if any animal or human being is harmed in the process. Do your best to travel ethically.

Is Instagram Harming our Travel Experiences?

We’ve all been there. No really we have. You swipe and you swipe and you swipe again. And it’s all pretty similar; all an array of the same place, filtered, secluded, individual, idyllic. You wanted to go. And who wouldn’t? Instagram is filled with travel stories.

The platform is now a huge factor in the travel industry. Instagram has over one billion users and 40% of those under 33 consider “Instagramabilty a factor when travelling. In fact one small village in New Zealand saw a 14% increase in tourism after wooing Instagram travel influencers (the highest the country has seen). And on the surface of it, this shouldn’t be that troubling. As a visual storytelling platform, it makes entire sense that it would be hugely popular as a means of communicating and inspiring travel. But there are problems within the Instagram travel boom.

Instagram is a huge contributor to over-tourism.

Venice bridge crowded with tourists

Destinations like Barcelona and Venice have a long standing record of being harmed by over-tourism; pushing up rent prices and generally making these cities less habitable and harder and more expensive to live in. In 2010 800 people visited Norway’s Trolltunga “Troll’s Tongue” viewpoint. But 80,000 people visited in 2016, in part due to Instagram; whilst the Greek island of Santorini has had to cap the number of day visitors in recent years due to a major increase of tourists. Similarly, the Philippines Boracay Island had to close in 2018 for restoration due to the influx of Instagram, selfie snapping tourists that the area simply wasn’t equipped for. Over tourism results in negative effects both in the short term- such as littering and environmental damage- and longer term, including impacting on rent prices and sustainability. Instagram tourists throw up other problems too with tales of individuals dying to get selfies and controversy surrounding taking distasteful photos in sensitive locations such as Chernobyl or Auschwitz, promoting accusations of “disaster tourism”. The site has also spawned a whole market tailored to it with cafes and hotels created specifically as Instagramablle destinations. 

Is there any problem with Instagram and travel, if you operate in a considerate way?

Taj Mahal India IG vs reality

One of the major criticisms that gets levelled at Instagram travel influencers and tourists is that they depict places in an unrealistic fashion. The site is awash with photos of significant landmarks like the Trevi Fountain or the Taj Mahal depicted in near or complete isolation. And whilst that’s beautiful and makes for a tremendous shot; it simply isn’t the case most of the time or for most of us. As someone who’s seen their fair share of beautiful tourist landmarks; I can hardly think of one where I wasn’t largely surrounded by at least a medium crowd. The times where I’ve been able to see them in a more secluded fashion have generally involved getting up incredibly early or (more likely) having stayed up all night. Which is certainly part of the Instagram Travel Influencer game; stories of getting up at 5am to grab that perfect picture, or alternatively deferring to photoshop to edit the images. Consequently, there is potential to be disappointed when you find yourself at such a place and aren’t quite able to grab the perfect moment of self reflection.

This reflects many of the major problems of the platform more broadly. It’s a place where people go to share a heavily manicured version of their lives. Everything on Instagram is edited, heightened to look that bit better. Honesty isn’t its greatest currency. The impact of this is well documented with affiliations to low self esteem, body image and mental health. We only ever show an aspiration, an edited highlight on there. You’re unlikely to see a photo of an exhaustingly long queue in immigration (without air con) or someone sad and lonely at 2am in a hotel room.

And this is the crux of the problem with Instagram’s version of travel; it re-iterates the idea that travel should be perfect and an entirely positive experience.

It feeds into a narrative that travel is an inherently informative, personally formative experience, where wonder, beauty and personal fulfilment is just the turn of a corner or a snapshot away. And nowhere is this more true than in regard to travelling alone; an experience we revere and fetishise.

There’s good reason why we do that. Travel- and particularly solo travel- is a significant experience. But it isn’t all perfection. There are times when it’s scary, boring even and- dare I say it- lonely. That’s not to say it isn’t a positive thing. But it’s entirely possible to have a wonderful travel experience that also includes some pretty low and hard moments. I’ve had solo travel experiences where I’ve got off the plane at the end utterly thrilled I went alone and wouldn’t have changed that for the world and ones where I was definitely glad to be back in what was familiar.

What is exciting about travel isn’t reducible to a photo (and certainly not if you edit it).

Havana, Cuba

It’s about hordes of people, of unfamiliar sites and sounds, of being in somewhere entirely new. Travel isn’t about perfection. It’s about difference or challenge. A lot of my favourite solo travel moments have been far from perfect (and not in the least bit Instagram worthy)- the time I stranded myself in the Sicilian country side on a Sunday and spent hours sat in a random cab office waiting for a taxi back to the city speaking a mix of English and my bad Italian to the man who ran it; the time I went to the Atacama desert to see the stars but didn’t check the lunar calendar so there were no star tours. So I walked alone into the sand dunes at night to find, they were right. You couldn’t see the stars. 

Neither of these would work on Instagram. But they do work as a story. Is that what travel is about? Maybe. Or then again, maybe not. It might be about seeing something particular; or running away from something particular or perhaps just about having a few picture perfect days alone. Travel isn’t about just one thing. And it’s not necessarily about grabbing the perfect picture of that. It’s entirely down to you. Whether it’s geotagged or not.