My first experience with dolphins in the wild was at The Divine Dolphin in 1999 in Costa Rica.  My ex-husband and I stayed at an eco-lodge in the middle of the rainforest and then later would go out in the boat and see if there were dolphins around.  Sure enough, we saw them every day.  They usually liked to swim near us and follow the boat for awhile.  This experience was the first time I had ever been exposed to dolphins in the wild and I’ve never really been the same since.  We were lucky to have a marine biologist with us the entire time who gave us a lot of education about dolphins, their interpersonal lives and feeding activities.  Since this experience, I have continuously advocated for their health and safety.

I am a HUGE passionate fan of dolphins and whales and I have been as long as I can remember being on this earth. It goes without saying that I also advocate for them quite regularly on my personal facebook page as well as TaoWander. To be clear, dolphins and whales are probably the very least understood of animals on planet earth. For one, they live in the ocean, whereas we as humans live on land. It is said that we know less about our oceans than we do about navigating space.  As much scientific research as we have done on these exquisite creatures, we still have no real idea of the meaning of all the clicks, whistles and big vibrating songs – other than the fact that they have a highly complex form of language that we still don’t understand.

All I know is that from my heart, I feel a deep and soulful connection to all cetaceans and feel that we need to take a closer look to “understand” them without being invasive and disturbing.  It is with this thought, that I wanted to list the 7 reasons to make a conscious choice to see whales and dolphins in the wild.

1) It’s on your bucket list
You saw Star Trek IV (truly the very best Star Trek ever!!!) and you’ve have been putting it off for years.   You’ve been wanting to spend time with dolphins because you have heard so much on the internet and the news that there’s something wonderful about dolphins and whales. Regardless, seeing them in the wild is something that has always intrigued you and NOW is the best time to experience it.

2) You want to see them outside of an awful chlorine filled tank
Yes, for goodness sake, DO NOT VISIT AQUARIUMS! Dolphins are usually captured against their will, taken away from their families and basically tortured and put inside an awful chlorine filled pool that is equal to the size of swimming in your bathroom toilet (figuratively speaking). Seriously, the water is polluted and toxic and their lives are considerably shortened by living in such awful conditions. Also worthy of mention is because they use echolocation as their form of communication, the waves bounce off the walls of the pools and literally hurt them over a long period of time. Visiting an aquarium is truly not conducive to learning anything useful about them in any way that is normal. If you are still considering visiting an aquarium, consider the above, consider being robbed of your home, the ENTIRE OCEAN, taken away from your family and then forced to perform a bunch of intelligence insulting tricks in front of a group of people. It really is twisted if you look at it from their perspective.  If you’re still not sure, watch BLACK FISH.

3) You have heard of a healing capacity that comes from being in their presence
Some of the captive facilities in the world have also used this as a means to capture them and then use them in “dolphins assisted therapy”. The only problem with this is obvious (as per #2). However, in the wild, dolphins will act on their own will and provide healing naturally through their own vibration. You may have not expressed it to your friends and family because they may think you’re weird especially if you feel like you can communicate with them. Many people with all sorts of different ailments from cancers to injuries have felt a strong healing connection between them and dolphins. To be alleviated from suffering seems to be a gift that both dolphins and whales can provide to us humans. Wouldn’t that be a gift to experience?

4) You have seen “The Cove” and want to make sure you see them in person

5) You feel a calling to be near them
You don’t know why, but like me you just have this strange and compelling reason to spend time with these beautiful creatures. You cry when you watch youtube videos or movies that are about them and you simply cannot get enough of their stories and energy. You want to do your part to help them in some way. Meeting them definitely provides you with some fuel to help. If you are being “called” to them, please do so, because there’s definitely a reason. Perhaps they are your spirit animal or perhaps you just need to see them and feel the joy of being in their presence. Make the trip and I promise you will always cherish every moment you spent with them.

6) Many species are under threat or endangered
Species like the Northern bottlenose dolphin, the amazon river dolphin and the humpback whale are all endangered. The good news is the humpback whales are rising in numbers again and we can thank all the non-profit work around the world for helping to protect them. Seeing them in the wild may also help you want to be more active in helping them!

7) You are concerned about the amount of pollution, plastics & seismic testing in our oceans
There’s no doubt about it, mankind has been less than kind to our oceans. We have consumed so much plastic and dumped it all in the ocean only to devastate our cetaceans and other beautiful sea creatures with our garbage. Then to make matters worse, for the purpose of getting more gas and oil, we use seismic testing which creates huge boom noises that are perilous to those that live in the ocean.

Whatever your reason to see dolphins and whales in the wild, know this… they can use your help! Consider giving back to them. Help them by speaking out for them on your facebook, Instagram and any other social media you use. Find an organization that is working hard to protect dolphins and whales. Here’s a list to choose from http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/organizations-dedicated-to-marine-conservation/

Now more than ever, more and more people are seeking not just a holiday, but rather a holistic and transformational mind-body experience – escapes that heal the body and expand the mind are the ultimate goal.  People are choosing a surprising variety of destinations some of which include the Himalayas, Sub-Saharan Africa, Thailand, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Indonesia and Nicaragua.

Travelling with a holistic intent brings so much depth and wonder, that when we return from such an experience we feel that we are ready to take on the world.  It’s like a reset button.  For many, they have already started to incorporate a healthier lifestyle at home and the holistic retreat experience is simply an extension of where they are at already.  Beautifully prepared organic anti-inflammatory meals, spas, walking and cycling, adventure, mindful meditation, silence, and relaxation provide the perfect recipe for rejuvenation.

“We are seeing a huge increase in the wellness travel sector, where the fastest growing segment is made up of guests who simply want to combine elements of wellness with their vacations,” said Six Senses Spas vice president Anna Bjurstam.

It used to be that people went on a vacation and that was it.  Now we are seeing goal oriented, vision quest wellness vacations that often involve a retreat and an opportunity for wellness.  According the the “Global Wellness Institute”, the wellness travel sector will exceed $600 billion in 2017!  With meditation, yoga and vegan diets becoming more mainstream, the western ideological vacation has changed.  Holistic health is not just a fad, it’s a consequence of living in stressful times as well as the pressures of Western society: earning money, buying new things and looking good.

Looking to Combine Retreat & Adventure

Some examples of the types of retreats people are looking for are a mixture of both relaxing as well as adventure.  Surfing and yoga is becoming very popular in many destinations amongst millennials and gen-x’ers.  At Original Surf Morocco (see video below), they give the following tip on meditation and surfing: “Over time, as you continue to practice, you will notice that you are not only catching more waves, but perhaps knowing and loving yourself a bit more, maybe even perceiving your external reality with an increased zest of compassion, grace, light.” These type of retreats often include a blend of surfing classes, standup paddleboarding, yoga, meditation, fitness, massage and healthy organic food.  Many of these retreats are female oriented.

Seeking Refuge from Noise & Digital Detox

Even the buildings or structures for hotels and retreats have changed considerably over the years due to mindfulness in architecture and design.  For instance the brand-new, completely “Silent Spa” at Therme Laa Hotel, Austria utilizes sacred geometry in its design to create a totally serene sanctuary.  These silence retreat spaces help people restore their inner silence and make a space for inner contemplation.  Delivering peace is the new solution from spas to hotels to restaurants through “silence”.

https://www.therme-laa.at/en/SILENT-SPA.html

Wanting to Get Closer to Nature

The desire for healing which embodies greater contact to nature and dissatisfaction with traditional western medicine has spawned healing retreats all over the world.  In other words the postmodern condition has inspired wellness travel.  Places like Peru have experienced a massive increase of wellness tourism, with overall visitors doubling in the last 10 years.  Many of those tourists go there to experience a whole new reality with the plant known as Ayahuasca and other plant medicine.   For people who have ever had trauma in their lives or have dealt with depression, many have experienced radical healing.  The reason for the healing is because the plant medicine addresses the mental, emotional or energetic disorder within the individual. Watch this video here on one man’s journey that was totally transformational.  However, as the video clearly depicts, the journey was intense and even terrifying in parts.

http://www.etnikas.com/

Using travel as a means to focus on your health is a wonderful idea.  It helps us work on the parts of our health that have been neglected and gives us a whole new start upon our return home.

The first thing we must do is define it. “What is sustainable travel?” And why should it matter?

The truth is that as a traveler, we have a direct impact on the environment wherever we travel. Sustainable tourism is an act of conserving the environment that also effects and improves the well being of the local people.  For example, ecotourism in Costa Rica owes its conservation to the efforts of tourists and conservationists.  Today, more than 30% of its land is marked for conservation, as well as over 8000 square kilometers of marine protection.  That’s how powerful we are!  All we have to do is be more vocal about what matters and make conscious choices.

Sustainable Travel is also called Responsible Travel and the tips below are just a small sampling of how we can do better as travelers and also improve our overall travel experience.

  1. Do not litter. This may sound brutally obvious (especially looking at the photo below). However, we have to say it to make a point that litter is not only inconsiderate and unsightly, but it can be devastating to the environment including beautiful animals such as the sea turtle.
  2. Bring your own shopping bag. I think we already know the dangers of plastic to the environment, so this one is really easy and there are such wonderful choices out there that are super practical like this one.
  3. Bring your own water bottle. For those wondering, well what about if I’m travelling to a third world country and their water is not as pure as our North American water.  Well, first of all, that is not always the case. Secondly, you can prepare yourself for this by purchasing a water bottle with a built in filter.  You can also get a light pen which will give you 100% protection of any tapwater including water you may take from a lake or a stream.
  4. Conserve water. When you are travelling, you can take shorter showers. I know, sounds simple right?  Did you know that in some luxury hotels, the average use is approximately 1800 liters?!!!  Wow, we can definitely do better.
  5. Be respectful. What does that mean? Well, let’s start with understanding and respecting cultural differences.  What makes the world so interesting is its vast differences in culture.  Learn it and respect it.  Also, if you are traveling in a religious place, dress appropriately, notice the dress codes.
  6. Buy locally made products and support the local economy.  Purchase local made souvenirs and eat at local restaurants.  Don’t look for the nearest Subway or McDonalds (you’ve had enough of those already haven’t you?)
  7. Don’t purchase anything from endangered animals, plants, hardwoods or ancient artifacts. This may be obvious as travelling through customs may be tricky, not to mention that it is a very bad idea and entirely ILLEGAL.
  8. Do not give to beggars. This may be hard to do for some, however, by choosing not to support this, you reduce the idea of a “begging economy”.  Also, in some parts of the world, the beggars are children who work for a crime ring that use and abuse children for this sort of work.  Instead, if you want to help, give to a local charity or organization that helps those on the street.
  9. Recycle. Ok, how is this possible if there is no recycling? It can start at your hotel.  Ask them if they have a recycling program.  If not, encourage them to start one!  You are the consumer and your voice matters!  The more we speak out, the more likely they are to implement these changes.
  10. Bring a solar charger for your electronic devices. Yes, the technology is out there.  Turn the sun into your regular charger.  And it is very convenient to have power where there might not be any, like in the middle of the rainforest.
  11. Use alternative transportation. Granted, in a foreign country this can be challenging.  However, do your best to walk, bike or use public transportation, it cuts down on gas usage and saves money.
  12. Avoid souvenir photos of exploiting wildlife. This just hurts everyone in the end and you potentially support groups that illegally capture, transport and abuse animals.  Not good. Research ahead of time any activity that has to do with animals.  A great example of this I learned recently about a famous so called sanctuary in Costa Rica for sloths.  It seems that most of the sloths are crammed in tiny little cages, as witnessed by veterinarians who worked there temporarily.  Keep in mind that not all sanctuaries are the same.
  13. Learn a little bit of the language. Ok, so you don’t need to learn the entire dictionary.  Just learning a few words like “please”, “thank you” and “My name is…” can do absolute wonders for you.  People feel appreciated by those who take the time to learn their culture and are more likely to want to help you.  You can download language apps directly to your phone!

*1. http://assets.inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2013/03/Peanut-Deformed-Turtle-Six-Pack-Ring-1.jpg

It is hard to believe that it was a year ago that I flew across the world to see India.  Although I was there for work related business, I really had no idea what I was going to experience.  My immediate travel goal was to visit the rug makers and see the process of rug making and to learn more about a new innovation in rug making.  It was an amazing learning experience from the technical side of things.  However, the most impactful conscious travel part of this trip was witnessing how people lived and worked.  For one, I saw smiles and happy faces, more than I have seen in years.  In fact, I could not remember a place I have ever visited in the world with more happy faces.

I was taken to some fairly remote villages where some of the rug makers were and I saw so many children running and playing.  They were very fascinated with me, and as I learned it was likely the first time they had ever seen a white woman in their area.  This is such an abstract thought to most Westerners as we cannot fathom the concept of not seeing diversity of culture.  Growing in up in a multi-cultural environment in Canada and later moving to the United States in a melting pot has given me an incredible concept of living amongst a multitude of cultures and seeing a variety of faces.  Imagine only seeing your own kind and that’s all you know?  For the majority of us, this is a wild concept.  I am glad that I live in variety; that being said, it was wonderful to feel like such a celebrity while I was travelling in the remote areas of India.  Children followed me everywhere, just to catch a glimpse.

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin

Actually, this type of experience was pretty typical almost everywhere I went.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that not only am I light skinned, blonde and very tall, taller than most men at 6’2”.  Although I have seen a few very tall Indian women, it is extraordinarily rare and usually seen in Western culture vs India.

There was such simplicity to their world versus my own.  None of them owned smart phones or other electronics, they were just playing like I remember kids playing when I was growing up.  They were not consumed with stuff, rather they were consumed with each other.  This experience alone was beautiful to watch.  No wonder we feel so dissociated with one another in our Western society because we don’t connect the same way anymore.

I found myself not spending too much time on my phone while travelling, as there was so much to see that time spent on the phone was wasting precious time being.  I did have my Canon Rebel with me and I was taking photos like crazy the entire time.  However, I really enjoyed the action of just being and witnessing.

The other aspect that was probably one of the most profound aspects in all of my travels through India was the visuals and sounds of prayer.  There are prayer temples almost everywhere and I would find people praying almost everywhere.  This made me feel good knowing that people were finding ways to pray everywhere and that it was out “in the open”.  Then during the day, I would hear the Muslim “call to prayer” in the afternoons and that was also comforting.  No matter where I went, the call to prayer was everywhere, no matter which religion, it was ok to pray.  That was one of my favorite parts.  Although this particular travel was not booked as a spiritual travel experience, it became one and was one of the first inspirations for me to start TaoWander.

To be continued….

On-ChildrenThis is one of my favorite poems, for it sparks the wonder in my eyes and allows me to see through the eyes of a child.  Their wonder. Their might.  Their force. Their hope. Their love.  This is the training manual.

On Children

BY KAHLIL GIBRAN

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to animate things. I have always loved animation and how we can play with objects and give them life. The dream of putting together TaoWander came after a holiday retreat I took to Peru on my birthday. That very night was my first meeting with mother Ayahuasca during the lunar eclipse. This trip and everything that happened while I was there is inspiration for the creation of this logo. A team of wonderful people put this together: designed by graphic artist Raymond Garcia, and later animated by another artist Nebojsa.

I wanted to make my first blog both relevant and special.  Enjoy!

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.