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Global Explorers Blog

Halloween in Iceland?

Halloween is primarily a Western tradition that is observed in some parts of Europe, the United States and Canada.  Its origins come from the Celtic Feast of the Samhain, a harvest time festival during which it was believed that the souls of the dead mingled with those of the living.  Iceland is one of many parts of the world that does not traditionally celebrate Halloween.  Yet, costumes DO play an important role in other traditions around the world.  Öskudagur, for example, is an Icelandic Holiday taking place on Ash Wednesday when children dress up and sing songs for candy. 

Posted by David Shurna  ·  October 31, 2010  ·  holidays

En Route - Healthy Habits for the Earth Traveler: Part 2

So you have now enhanced your immune systems before traveling.  But, there are still a lot of things to think about while you are on your vacation.  Here are some important things to remember during your world travels:

Thank you, I have my own blood…

Although rarer than water and food borne threats, the thriving traveler must also be aware of blood-transmitted illnesses. In addition to infections that can be transmitted via this route (i.e., HIV, Hepatitis, etc.), an open wound in a far away place is a breeding ground for unfamiliar bacteria. Here are some tips to protect your self:

-Put a band-aid on it! Keep an open wound clean, dry and covered, especially in the tropics. Many bacteria gravitate to warm, moist places, and your blood provides the ideal environment in which to breed.

-Thank you, I have my own syringes. No first aid kit is complete without a couple of clean and sealed syringes. Other countries do not take the precautions that we take here in the United States when it comes to infection and blood borne disease. Taking a few supplies with you can help you avoid an unwanted trip to the local medical clinic. If unfortunate situations do arise, doing your best to make it to the large hospital versus the “mini-medical-mart” will offer you better chances for access to clean blood supplies and medical instruments. Have an idea where the biggest hospital is before you venture into the back roads of your next destination.

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Posted by Dr. Jeremy Dubin  ·  October 29, 2010  ·  health

Thieboudienne Recipe: The “National Dish of Senegal”

When I was a freshman in college, I traveled to Africa for the first time.  Senegal was an explosion of sensory newness.  Women strolled by gracefully clad in vibrant batik clothing with babies on backs and baskets on their heads. Drums, clucking chickens, and Islamic prayer crackling over loudspeakers assaulted my ears.  Thick heavy humid air embraced my dry Colorado skin, and aromas of bodies, animals, fish and food filled my nose.  It was world-opening for me.

Nothing can bring back the experience of my first trip to the developing world more than food.  Every afternoon in Senegal, I would walk back from my classes on West African culture, history, economy and language to my host families house--a mile long trek in sweltering heat.  My efforts were rewarded by a delicious meal of Thieboudienne (pronounced “Ceebu Jen), the “national dish” of Senegal.  Senegalese families gather around one large dish on the floor and artfully scoop up handfuls of the delicious rice and fish.  Somehow I always ended up a mess!  Eating gracefully with your hands is certainly a learned behavior.  Everyone has their own recipe, so I've included the one that I found to make at home.  The recipe is from the cookbook “New Recipes From Moosewood Restaurant.”  It is an Americanized version— some ingredients used commonly in Senegal are just too hard to find here.  I love to get my family and friends together and whenever I make it, I make sure we all eat on the floor with our fingers!  Enjoy!

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Posted by Gina Curler  ·  October 27, 2010  ·  recipe, senegal

En Route - Healthy Habits for the Earth Traveler: Part 1

So you have now enhanced your immune systems before traveling.  But, there are still a lot of things to think about while you are on your vacation.  Here are some important things to remember during your world travels:

Things that go buzzzz!

Protection from insects and the diseases they may carry must be a habit that is second nature for the thriving traveler. Here are some easy steps you can take to avoid mosquitoes and other biting insects:

-Wear pants and long sleeves. This is especially important during peak bug hours (dawn and dusk). Alos, sleep under mosquito nets when available.

-Avoid standing water. This is where mosquitoes thrive.

-Avoid cosmetics, perfumes, and hairsprays.

-Use repellent – choices range from natural to unnatural

            -consume 2-3 cloves of garlic per day

            -use natural mixtures

            -DEET – the majority of repellents include concentrations of this chemical

Without ice, please….

Whether you are going camping in the Rockies or traveling through the jungles of Peru, contaminated water can ruin your vacation. Many waterborne infections find ways into your body via circuitous routes that will have you scratching your head and sitting puzzled from the toilet for the rest of your trip. Unfortunately, the savvy traveler has to take more precautions than simply not drinking out of the occasional water faucet.

-Always ask for drinks without ice. Even restaurants that claim to serve bottled or boiled water may take some liberties with their ice trays.

-Do not drink from streams, creeks, or rivers. Although the crystal clear “just melted from glacier ice” stream that happens to be right next to your camp site is most appealing, it can harbor parasites that can wreak havoc on your insides for months, even years to come. Always pre-treat this water by boiling it, purifying it, or using iodine tablets.

-What? Don’t eat your veggies!? Be careful when ordering salads or vegetables that are not cooked. They often are cleaned with the same water you are trying to avoid. If you are not sure, remember the old adage “Peel it, cook it, or don’t eat it!!”

-Wear your shoes.  Although splashing through creeks and mud puddles might be the highlight of your vacation, it is essential to be cautious with bare feet. Some parasites can enter your body through microscopic scrapes and cuts on the soles of your feet. Keep splashing, just keep your shoes on!

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Posted by Dr. Jeremy Dubin  ·  October 22, 2010  ·  health

You’re How Old?

I’m rapidly approaching 40 with the athletic body and crotchety attitude of someone twice my age.  I’m a pretty sedentary guy.  I enjoy reading, watching TV and watching more TV.  I like being outdoors, but mostly while on a hammock.   I love to travel, but tend to prefer lounging on the beach to night hikes and zip lines.  I’ve been called lazy, apathetic and additional adjectives not fit for print. I sleep a lot.  I sit at a desk all day and arrange life-changing educational student travel opportunities for Global Explorers’ clients, but I’m rarely permitted to join them.  

I would not consider myself the archetypal GEx employee based on many of these characteristics which differ greatly from our typical young, energetic, exercise conscious, and overall “active” employees.  However, once in a blue moon my GEx superiors allow me to participate in one of our field workshops with a group of young people.  Whether they do so to rid themselves of me for two-weeks or because they actually believe it will assist me with my job I’m not sure, but that’s for them to determine.

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Posted by Ed Shurna  ·  October 20, 2010

Enhancing Our Immune Systems – Becoming the Thriving Traveler: Part 2

Did you ever wonder why some people fall ill while others do not show a hint of sickness, although both people have drank out of the same stream, eaten the same food, been bitten by the same mosquito, and been exposed to the same people? Although genetics play a large role, the answer lies in the power of our immune systems. Your body’s defense against illness and disease is reflected by the strength of your immunity. There are many things you can do to bolster your body’s defenses before you leave.

Purpose: Why are you traveling? Determining the purpose of your journey may be more important than you think. If you are running away from something or someone, or are trying to fill a void with travel, you might be wasting your money. More times than not, you will find that void follows you wherever you go. In fact, you may not only find yourself depressed in a foreign land, but out of the comfort zone that you enjoy at home. In other words, you may find yourself more stressed than before you left. This is probably the hardest part of healthy preventive traveling, and yet vital to your immune system. Determining what drives you, or having clarity about what is bringing you to your safari in Africa for example, helps you bring your true spirit on your journey, and not simply your troubled mind. Think how much more fulfilling your trip would be if you brought your authentic self, the real you. Thriving travelers demand authenticity. Bring your heart to your destination!......(as well as your journal.)

Sleep: Sleep is essential to your energy, stamina, and preparation for optimal health while traveling. If you are traveling to a destination in a different time zone, it is a good idea to “re-set” your sleep schedule to that time zone 3 days before departure. That way, when you get to your destination, less time is spent dealing with the drowsiness and disorientation that accompanies jet lag. You know how much sleep you need to feel refreshed. Some people need more than others. Listen to yourself when it comes to how much sleep you need.

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Posted by Dr. Jeremy Dubin  ·  October 15, 2010  ·  health

The Importance of Doing Real Things

Today’s youth have received the label the “digital generation.” They live in an increasingly technologically mediated world of cell phones, texting, internet, and social media. While the benefits of growing up in such an interconnected and ever more virtual environment are undeniable, access to information, people, places, etc., understanding the full developmental impact of technology on youth is important. For example, the more youth use technology the less time they have for everything else. Richard Louv in his book, Last Child in the Woods, paints a convincing picture of the current disconnect between children and nature, with technology being a key culprit. On the other hand, technology allows kids to have amazing access to information and experiences that can foster creativity, identity development, and social capital. The range of advantages and disadvantages associated with the relationship between youth and technology make this more than a simple black and white issue. The key then is understanding how to help youth engage in and use technology in intentional ways to promote their development.

Let me provide you an example of what I mean and how an experience like Global Explorers fits into what I’m talking about. While you can have an amazing variety of internet facilitated experiences, video chat with friends on another continent, create an avatar to inhabit an online world, or learn about the Peruvian rain forest, they are all virtual or indirect experiences. Research shows, including our Global Explorers evaluation work, that indirect experiences like classroom lectures, videos, or internet applications are very effective means to convey knowledge but they lack the emotional punch of hands on, real world, direct experiences. While it may sound overly obvious, there is a difference between reading about the rain forest and actually visiting in person.

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Posted by Jessica McConnellogue  ·  October 13, 2010

Enhancing Our Immune Systems – Becoming the Thriving Traveler: Part 1

Did you ever wonder why some people fall ill while others do not show a hint of sickness, although both people have drank out of the same stream, eaten the same food, been bitten by the same mosquito, and been exposed to the same people? Although genetics play a large role, the answer lies in the power of our immune systems. Your body’s defense against illness and disease is reflected by the strength of your immunity. There are many things you can do to bolster your body’s defenses before you leave.

Diet Choices: Eat raw, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, and juices. Avoid or decrease intake of caffeine, alcohol, junk foods, and foods with refined flour and high sugar content.

Supplements: Consume anti-oxidants daily – vitamins C, E, and grape seed extract.

Exercise: Daily aerobic activity (walking or running), at least 20-30 minutes a day 3 to 5 times a week. This will give you the energy and endurance necessary to see and do the most on your trip.

Water: Drink 6 to 8 8-ounce glasses of clean filtered water every day.

Decreasing Stress / Improving Flexibility: Yoga and relaxation techniques are powerful immune stimulators, supporters of body flexibility and guardians against physical injury – perfect for travel!

Posted by Dr. Jeremy Dubin  ·  October 8, 2010  ·  health

Go to Costa Rica, Get Happy!

One of the many destinations Global Explorers offers in our catalog of educational student travel programs is a Costa Rican adventure.  Costa Rica is a spectacularly beautiful, biologically diverse country with some of the nicest people in the world.  On my first venture there in the winter of 2004 I often thought, “Wow, Ticos (the name that Costa Ricans often use when referring to themselves) appear to be some of the friendliest and happiest people I’ve ever met.”  Not wanting to make a stereotypical generalization of an entire country based on a short 10-day visit, I was content to think fond thoughts of the kindness and generosity I encountered and share with as many people as possible my feelings in hopes of getting them to visit.

Well, lo and behold my hard work as self-appointed Costa Rica tourism czar has officially paid off!  Tourism in Costa Rica has not only increased yearly (through 2007, at least) but it has become Costa Rica’s largest industry.  Furthermore, according to several international surveys that use a multitude of factors to determine which country rates as the happiest in the world, Costa Rica has gained the top spot in at least one of this year’s assessments.  I knew it!

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Posted by Ed Shurna  ·  October 6, 2010  ·  costa rica

Turtles and Nurdles

My alarm went off at 5:15 am but, muffled by the chorus of the Costa Rican tropical forest and waves in the distance, it was hardly audible. I met my group of students and teachers from Oakland California traveling with the non-profit organization, Global Explorers, and walked the 3 minutes to the beach hoping to get a glimpse of young sea turtles emerging from their nest.

I stepped onto the dark sand and could already feel the equatorial sun radiating back at me. Looking up, it appeared that a tractor had spent the evening zig-zagging back and forth from the crashing waves to the green forest at the edge of the sand.

“Hey, look up there” one of the high school students yelled. From a hole the size of a large bathtub, the shell of an Atlantic Green Sea Turtle could be seen moving in jerky motions followed by long stretches of rest. I could see the determination in her ancient eyes as she struggled to camouflage her eggs and return to the see. In the dim morning light, I was able to make out the details of her face that I had missed in my previous night patrols for turtles. With the students, we noticed the subtle shades of greens, and greys, and the way that the shapes on her neck appeared to be a mosaic of tiles assembled just right. From her large deep black eyes, tears formed a line down her face and into the sand.

She left the nest and moved slowly back towards the sea leaving behind her own tractor-like prints in the sand.

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Posted by Brian Miller  ·  October 1, 2010