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Passports With Purpose 2014: Win Icebreaker Clothing

Today is the launch of the Passports With Purpose fundraiser by travel bloggers to support projects in the developing world. Last year, PWP raised more than $84,000 to fund two schools in Mali (and two adult literacy programs) in partnership with buildOn.

The beneficiary of this year’s project is Sustainable Harvest International (SHI), an organization that provides farming families in Central America with the training and tools to preserve our planet’s tropical forests while overcoming poverty. In the villages where SHI works in Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, more than 75 percent of families have not had access to garden vegetables prior to working with the organization. Items like tomatoes and carrots were considered items that only wealthy people can afford. Sustainable Harvest International is committed to combating malnutrition by teaching families in these regions how to plant organic vegetable gardens and fruit trees, and build fishponds and chicken coops, while protecting the environment.

Win Icebreaker Clothing

Icebreaker Bliss WrapFor Passports With Purpose, Icebreaker has kindly offered two prizes for the winner to choose from: the Bliss Wrap for women or the Lodge Long Sleeve Shirt for men.

The women’s sweater is a cover-up that’s great for casual and dressy gatherings and can be worn three different ways. It’s made from ultralight 150-gram merino wool, and is valued at $144.99. I pack mine along with me on trips, as well as wear it when I’m out in San Francisco. The men’s plaid shirt is made from warm 200-gram merino wool and is valued at $164.99. The winner can choose either the Bliss Wrap or the Lodge Long Sleeve Shirt, and once mailed, the prize cannot be exchanged or returned.

If there’s any brand that shows up most frequently in my suitcase, it’s Icebreaker. The flexibility of merino weight, as well as clothing style, allows for a variety of uses—from city styling to outdoor adventures.

How You Can Donate and Win

Icebreaker Lodge LS ShirtBeginning today, (Dec. 1, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. EST) the Passports With Purpose website will show a list of all the prizes available, and each one will link back to a full description of the prizes on the blogger’s website. For each $10 in donations that you make to Sustainable Harvest International, you’ll be entered to win a prize (or prizes) of your choice.

The fundraiser closes on Dec. 17 and all proceeds go directly to Sustainable Harvest International. You can donate $10 for the prize of your choice, multiples of $10 for one favorite prize if you want to increase your chances, or $10 or more for several different prizes. You can also make a donation as a gift on behalf of someone else.

Thank You

A huge thank you to Icebreaker for donating the prize and caring about the project. This is the third year the company has worked with me to provide prizes for Passports With Purpose, and for that I am grateful.

Passports With Purpose: Win Icebreaker Clothing

Today is the launch of Passports With Purpose, the fundraiser by travel bloggers to support projects in the developing world. Last year, PWP raised $110,000 to fund the construction of five wells in Haiti in partnership with Water.org.

The beneficiary of this year’s project is buildOn, a nonprofit organization that works to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education. The organization’s Global School Construction Program provides rural communities in developing nations with access to education. We’re working to raise $115,000 to construct three schools and fund three adult literacy programs in the Sikasso region of southern Mali, Africa.

Win Icebreaker Clothing

Icebreaker CoronetFor Passports With Purpose, Icebreaker has kindly offered two prizes: the Coronet Long Sleeve Half Zip for women and the Escape Long Sleeve Crewe Stripe for men.

The luxurious women’s sweater comes from Icebreaker’s premium black Sheep collection, crafted from the finest gauge of merino yarn. It’s made from heavyweight 320-gram pure merino. It’s valued at $189.99. My Coronet sweater has accompanied me on plenty of trips, as well as at home. The men’s striped sweater is made from warm 260-gram merino wool and is valued at $119.99. Once mailed to each winner, the sweaters cannot be exchanged or returned.

If there’s any brand that shows up most frequently in my suitcase, it’s Icebreaker. The flexibility of merino weight, as well as clothing style, allows for a variety of uses—from city styling to outdoor adventures.

How You Can Donate and Win

Icebreaker EscapeBeginning today, (Nov. 25, 2013 at 11:59 p.m.) the Passports With Purpose website will show a list of all the prizes available, and each one will link back to a full description of the prizes on the blogger’s website. For each $10 in donations that you make to buildOn, you’ll be entered to win a prize (or prizes) of your choice.

The fundraiser closes on Dec. 9 and all proceeds go directly to buildOn. You can donate $10 for the prize of your choice, multiples of $10 for one favorite prize if you want to increase your chances, or $10 or more for several different prizes. You can also make a donation as a gift on behalf of someone else.

Thank You

A huge thank you to Icebreaker for donating the prizes and caring about the project. Thanks also go to PWP sponsors: Expedia, TBEX, HomeAway, HostelBookers, Go With Oh, DK Eyewitness Guides and Rough Guides, and Eating London.

2012 in Travel Awesomeness

JR Patagonia hiking

This year has gone by unbelievably quickly. In my mind, it’s a blur from Israel to Australia—and nearly everywhere in between.

The thing that lures me to pack my suitcase again and again in pursuit of adventure is that sense of wonder in learning new things about the world. My family and friends who know me best will attest that internally, I am five years old. I have a hard time containing my enthusiasm for new experiences. I find that I usually have to dial it down to keep from looking like a complete dork.

This year, I’ve nearly run out of air, gawking underwater at the nighttime ballet of manta rays feeding off the coast of Hawaii. I collected my share of bruises from snowboarding in Aspen and mountain biking in Utah. The landscapes of Chile’s Patagonia region had me so in awe that a friend constantly made fun of my limited vocabulary every time I looked around (“Wow… pretty.”). I’ve helped nesting sea turtles, gone swimming with a monstrously huge crocodile and watched flocks of flamingos come in for a landing at sunset. I’ve hiked in Wales, kayaked in an icy lake in Chile, gone canyoneering in Utah and surfing in Mexico. I’ve visited Yosemite, Israel, Mexico, Santa Maria, Aspen, Kauai, Los Angeles, Wales, Puerto Rico, Dominica, Las Vegas, a variety of places in Utah, British Columbia, Chile, Napa, Australia, Hawaii’s Big Island, Scottsdale and New Orleans.

Each year, I usually list my favorite travel moments, but the list from 2012 is so rich that I can’t imagine attempting that task. I’ve had the good fortune to travel with family, great friends, and also spend enough time alone to remember what it’s like to strike out on my own. Each time I reflect on a trip, that sense of wonder comes back and makes it all new again.

Next year’s travel plans are starting to come into focus, and I can only wish that I have as many unforgettable experiences as I did this year. It’ll be a hard act to follow, but I’m going to try.

Passports With Purpose: Win a Stay at Pacific Sands Beach Resort in Tofino

Pacific Sands Beach Resort

Today is the launch of Passports With Purpose, the fundraiser by travel bloggers to support projects in the developing world. Last year, PWP raised $90,000 to build two libraries in Zambia through a partnership with Room to Read, and this year we plan to raise $100,000 to fund wells in two communities in rural Haiti.

The beneficiary of this year’s project is Water.org, a nonprofit organization that works with communities to provide access to safe water and sanitation. Think about your travels and the worry about whether the water in your lodge or hotel room is drinkable. It’s a legitimate concern—you could be sidelined for a day or two (or worse) if you make the wrong choice. What if a clean water source was a daily problem for you? It is for nearly one billion people.

Win a Stay at Pacific Sands Beach Resort

For Passports With Purpose, the Pacific Sands Beach Resort in Tofino, British Columbia, has kindly offered a two-night stay. The stay is valid for a one-bedroom ocean-view Lighthouse Suite, but not valid June 1 to September 30, holidays or long weekends and expires December 19, 2013. The prize is valued at $430. The resort’s location on Cox Bay allows guests to play all day on the beach, surf, check out tide pools, or walk along the Sunset Trail Boardwalk through the rain forest.

During my short time in Tofino this year, I went surfing and kayaking, but also had amble time for beach walks just outside my two-bedroom beach house at the resort. The entire time of my stay, I kept the windows open to let the sweet ocean air into every inch of the house. It’s the ideal place for almost anything: a celebration, a romantic retreat, a family gathering, or even a place to recover from a bad day.

How You Can Donate and Win

Beginning today, (Nov. 27, 2012) the Passports With Purpose website will show a list of all the prizes available, and each one will link back to a full description of the prizes on the blogger’s website. For each $10 in donations that you make to Water.org, you’ll be entered to win a prize (or prizes) of your choice.

The fundraiser closes on Dec. 11 and all proceeds go directly to Water.org. You can donate $10 for the prize of your choice, multiples of $10 for one favorite prize if you want to increase your chances, or $10 or more for several different prizes. You can also make a donation as a gift on behalf of someone else.

Thank You

A huge thank you to Pacific Sands Beach Resort for donating the prize and caring about the project. Thanks also go to PWP sponsors: Expedia, Tripit, TBEX, HomeAway, Travellerspoint, HostelBookers and Go with Oh.

Finally, thanks to the founders and organizers of Passports With Purpose: Beth Whitman, Debbie Dubrow, Michelle Duffy and Pam Mandel, the bloggers behind Wanderlust and Lipstick, Delicious Baby, WanderMom and Nerd’s Eye View.

Passports With Purpose: Win an Icebreaker Realfleece Jacket

Icebreaker RealfleeceToday is the launch of Passports With Purpose, the fundraiser by travel bloggers to support projects in the developing world. Last year, PWP raised $90,000 to build two libraries in Zambia through a partnership with Room to Read, and this year we plan to raise $100,000 to fund wells in two communities in rural Haiti.

The beneficiary of this year’s project is Water.org, a nonprofit organization that works with communities to provide access to safe water and sanitation. Think about your travels and the worry about whether the water in your lodge or hotel room is drinkable. It’s a legitimate concern—you could be sidelined for a day or two (or worse) if you make the wrong choice. What if a clean water source was a daily problem for you? It is for nearly one billion people.

Win an Icebreaker Realfleece Jacket

For Passports With Purpose, Icebreaker has kindly offered a Realfleece 260 jacket. The winner can choose between four styles (and a handful of colors): the Sierra Hood and Sierra Zip for men, and the Cascade Hood and Cascade Zip for women. The prize is valued at $200, and cannot be exchanged or returned once mailed to the winner. The Icebreaker Realfleece 260 jacket collection is made from midweight 260-gram pure merino.

If there’s any brand that shows up most frequently in my suitcase, it’s Icebreaker. The flexibility of merino weight, as well as clothing style, allows for a variety of uses—from city styling to outdoor adventures. The brushed merino Realfleece has all the warmth of a heavy sweater but with none of the bulk. It’s lightweight, breathable, odor resistant and so soft you may have trouble parting with it when you do finally have to wash it.

How You Can Donate and Win

Beginning today, (Nov. 27, 2012) the Passports With Purpose website will show a list of all the prizes available, and each one will link back to a full description of the prizes on the blogger’s website. For each $10 in donations that you make to Water.org, you’ll be entered to win a prize (or prizes) of your choice.

The fundraiser closes on Dec. 11 and all proceeds go directly to Water.org. You can donate $10 for the prize of your choice, multiples of $10 for one favorite prize if you want to increase your chances, or $10 or more for several different prizes. You can also make a donation as a gift on behalf of someone else.

Thank You

A huge thank you to Icebreaker for donating the prize and caring about the project. Thanks also go to PWP sponsors: Expedia, Tripit, TBEX, HomeAway, Travellerspoint, HostelBookers and Go with Oh.

Finally, thanks to the founders and organizers of Passports With Purpose: Beth Whitman, Debbie Dubrow, Michelle Duffy and Pam Mandel, the bloggers behind Wanderlust and Lipstick, Delicious Baby, WanderMom and Nerd’s Eye View.

Don’t Tell Mom

Saltwater crocodile cage diving

The Perspex cylinder cage was suspended about the pool by three thick metal chains. Goggles in hand, I climbed down the shiny silver ladder and planted my feet at the bottom of the cage, where it skimmed the top of the water. Only 5 feet away was a monster of a saltwater crocodile, eyeing me.

The motor started, slowly lowering the cage into the watery home of a 15-foot, 1,500-pound animal. And I wasn’t scared for a second.

Nearly from the moment I knew I’d be visiting the huge crocs at Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, Australia, I was excited about the prospect of getting safely close to them. I’d even looked at photos of the clear plastic cage, dramatically referred to as the Cage of Death, and decided that I wanted to try it. But on the plane to Australia, I sat next to a woman who made me doubt my decision for a moment.

“I know that place,” she said. “The cage broke a couple of years ago, but the person wasn’t hurt.”

I wanted to know exactly what happened. Did the cage fall off the chains and sink? Did it open? She didn’t remember the details. (It turns out that one of the chains briefly malfunctioned, causing the cage to sag a little on one side—nowhere close to the disastrous event I imagined.)

On the flight, I had a dream that the cage broke open while I was inside it. The crocodile surged after me, and I woke with my heart racing, wondering if the dream meant I should consider rethinking my desire to be that close to crocodiles.

While there are some extreme animal experiences that get my adrenaline going in a good way, there is one I still struggle with. Merely looking at venomous snakes, even when separated by layers of glass, is guaranteed to get my stomach twisted in knots. I once could barely look at photos of snakes, but have gotten to the point where I can touch the harmless ones. In recent years, I’ve scooted young garter snakes off the street near my home to save them from getting squashed by car tires.

But those ominous-looking serpents with mesmerizing patterns, diamond-shaped heads and deadly venom? I’ll pass, thanks.

Floating in the water, just inches from a saltwater crocodile that could crush me in an instant if we didn’t have thick plastic between us, all I could think about was how amazingly beautiful this animal was. Named Houdini, after his seemingly magical escapes from traps before his life in captivity, he could have been a crocodile model. The white teeth, tapered claws and amber eyes had me constantly diving under the water’s surface to get a closer look.

His eye was less than a hand’s distance from my face, and he turned towards me as I watched him. There were small openings in the cage, and I was tempted to stick my finger out to touch his tough skin, but not that tempted. I wanted to keep all my digits. When Houdini snapped up meat offered at the end of a long pole, his tail whipped into the cage while I watched his jaws slam shut right in front of me. I would have stayed in there for hours if I could.

After a while, I did have to get out of the water and the cage. As I dried off, I looked back into the croc enclosure to say a silent goodbye to Houdini. Feeling strangely confident, I headed inside to the reptile exhibit to see what I could do about my fear of snakes.

Maybe draping a small children’s python around my shoulders after cage diving with saltwater crocodiles seems anticlimactic, but when it comes to snakes and me, every little bit helps.

Photo courtesy of Rochelle Boardman for Outeredge Photography

Catching Up

Kayaking Laguna del Inca

Earlier this year, I wrote about snowboarding in Aspen, and how picking up the sport after 14 years away was extremely humbling—especially when I wanted to impress my friends. Recently, I traveled to Portillo, Chile, where I reacquainted myself with skiing after a 15-year hiatus. Remembering the lessons I learned in Aspen was a great help.

My trip to Portillo at the end of August was well timed, as it dumped snow right before my arrival and my first two days there. Nearly the second I walked into the dining room on my first morning, my friend Chris Davenport set a goal for me.

“You’re going to ski Roca Jack,” he said. “I’ll do it with you.”

The last time I skied, I’d only been a solid intermediate skier. Roca Jack is one of Portillo’s expert runs, and it’s so steep it requires a special lift, the Va et Vient, a high-speed poma able to transport five skiers and snowboarders up the steep terrain.

I knew there was no way I’d make it to Roca Jack in four days of skiing, but if one of the world’s most accomplished big mountain skiers thought I could do it, maybe I could. I found myself nodding along.

When I checked in at the Portillo Ski & Snowboard School, I characterized my skiing as beginner level. Robin Barnes, the school director, looked at me as if she didn’t believe me, but she set me up with an instructor who started working with me. We quickly learned that I’d retained a lot more than I’d thought, and jumped to intermediate-level runs.

“I didn’t think you were a beginner,” said Robin later, over dinner.

Over the next few days, I worked with an instructor and friends to improve my skills. I pushed myself, but ultimately, I played it safe, focusing on getting consistent with intermediate and intermediate/advanced runs so that I could work toward the Northern Hemisphere winter without hurting myself before it even began.

When I ended my last Portillo day by quickly skiing down the Plateau run, shocking a friend who I’d previously told I was a cautious skier, it was just the right way to end my ski refresher. Now, when ski season comes this winter, I’ll be ready.

On that same last day, I kayaked in the Laguna del Inca, the lake at the center of the resort. Surrounded by the snowy Andean peaks, and cloaked in a thin layer of ice, the lake was so still it mirrored the gigantic peaks, as if I was paddling on glass. Once out in the center, it was so quiet that I heard nothing but my breath. According to resort owner Henry Purcell and General Manager Miguel Purcell, I am the only known person who has kayaked in Laguna del Inca in winter months.

But if I’d had just one more day at Portillo, I may have taken Chris up on his offer to hit Roca Jack.

Silence in Xibalba

Xibalba, the Mayan underworld, is described in the Popul Vuh as a place of fear where the dead had to traverse an obstacle course of bats, jaguars, rivers of blood and rooms of sharp knives. Cenotes, the deep limestone sinkholes scattered throughout the Mexican Maya world, were the gateways to this hellish underworld.

But the idea of diving into a cenote was nearly all I could think about on my recent trip to the Riviera Maya, that area south of Cancun, through the Sian Ka’an Biosphere—along the Caribbean coast.

I’d just gotten my open water diving certification the day before I found myself driving with my dive guide Jose to the Dos Ojos (two eyes) cenote, north of Tulum. As we readied our equipment, I was instructed how to use my flashlight to signal in case of an emergency, and told that I absolutely had to follow the yellow string line through the cavern, staying behind Jose the entire time.

We were to enter the gateway to Xibalba at the East Eye, follow the line through the Bat Cave, and through the West Eye to what was briefly described by Jose as the “crocodile cave” until I raised my eyebrows. No, he admitted, there were no crocodiles there. Even beyond the West Eye, we’d still be underwater for some time. The entire dive, he estimated, would be 45 minutes.

At the East Eye, the limestone walls were illuminated by sunlight and underwater lighting that caused the turquoise water to glow. I slipped beneath the surface, and everything changed.

For three weeks before that moment, my brain was non-stop chatter. I don’t think there was a minute when I wasn’t working out some problem, trying to quiet errant song lyrics, or writing articles in my head. Even sleeping was problematic without help to temporarily quell the action.

But when I entered the gateway to Xibalba, all my brain could say for those 45 minutes was “ooooooooooo.” The silence in the underwater cavern was far different than the Caribbean, with the whoosh of the tide surging through the reef and the constant clatter of fish. All I could hear were bubbles, signaling my breathing.

My flashlight illuminated stalactites and stalagmites, fossils, huge fissures in the limestone below (perhaps leading to Xibalba?) and tiny fish. Glowing through the water was such a serene shade of blue that I still can’t find the words to describe it.

When we neared the end of the line and approached the East Eye again, I wanted to trace the route backwards to stay within the quiet azure water as long as I could. If Xibalba is a hellish place, the pathway there is quite the opposite.

River Badassery

Elaho River rafting

Considering my time with ocean-related sports, I’m surprised that I haven’t carried my interest over to rivers. The only time I’ve ever river rafted was the summer before my last year as an undergraduate, with a handful of girlfriends on the American River. There was little rafting. It was mainly floating with a cooler or two of beer.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to raft the class-IV whitewater of the Elaho River in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia. Our group of two rafts and safety kayak traveled more than 11 miles on two rivers: the Elaho and Squamish. Aside from that, the Elaho Valley has spectacular scenery—from waterfalls to hanging glaciers to vast old-growth forests. It’s often hard to keep your eyes on the river with all the beautiful distraction around you.

My friend Jayme and I plunked ourselves in the front of our raft, pretty much ensuring we’d be thoroughly soaked the entire trip. We powered through rapids named Cheeseball, the Devil’s Elbow, Steamroller and Tombstone. The last rapid had a hulk of a standing wave named Mike Tyson. Despite all the churning water, nobody fell out of the raft.

It was perfect timing to be with a gang of women on a pretty bad-ass river. There are moments in my life that seem to be strategically planned by a force not myself, when I’m surrounded by strong women right when I need it. Not that there’s anything wrong with dudes. They have their ideal times, too.

But at that exact moment on that river, I was in the company of some amazing new friends, and it did me some good. I have a feeling this is only the beginning of my river adventures.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Su

Adjusting and Resetting Goals

Years ago, when I learned to kayak, an instructor reminded me of the importance of constantly adjusting my actions based on the numerous factors which had an impact on my being safely on the water. Did the wind or current change? Did another boater come across my path? Was I getting tired? Adjust.

It’s something I’ve remembered not only in sport, but also in my daily life. Merely focusing on goals you set at the beginning of a process is rarely all you need to achieve them. You often have to reassess and even adapt, if necessary, when things don’t happen exactly the way you expect.

My fellow Athleta Featured Athlete, Teri Larson Jones, talked about this after her second shoulder surgery. Her important point about never being afraid to reevaluate your goals is something I’ve had to keep in mind, as the past six months I’ve been on the road much more than I expected at the beginning of the year.

In only the first half of 2012, I’ve had the good fortune to learn to surf in Mexico, hike the Wales Coast Path in Wales, float in the Dead Sea in Israel, hike to a boiling lake in Dominica, SUP in Kauai, snowboard and climb a 14er in Aspen, and go canyoneering and mountain biking in Utah. Even the few months ahead are beginning to look jam-packed. But those possibilities are exciting, instead of reminders of how I’m not getting absolutely everything done on the schedule I imagined back in December.

Here’s the plus side to my travels: If I’d stayed home to train more, I wouldn’t have visited some of these amazing places or had all these unforgettable experiences. Taking on the assignments, I made the choice to value them more than training for SUP races. At least, right now that’s my priority.

That said, it’s hard to let go of disappointment in myself when I can’t do everything. Growing up, I remember my parents saying I always tried to do too much. That still may be a little true.

And so, as I look at my 2012 intentions again, I’m encouraged that the SUP racing is the only goal in which I’m behind. I haven’t given up on it, or become frustrated that I’m still not ready to race. I’ve just allowed myself to celebrate the accomplishments and do what I can with the time I have.  So far, 2012 has been an incredible year, so let’s see what else it brings!