Garfield Park Conservatory- A Must See in Chicago!

As my summer comes to an end a long with my vacations (besides a camping trip to Arkansas-yay!) I am starting to r eminence on some of the amazing things I saw on my adventures.  My most recent adventure was the amazing Chicago!

With the mass amounts of people, huge sky scrapers and massive amounts of shopping it is difficult to imagine that there is any sort of environmental activities or eco-tourism in Chicago or any city.  Lucky for us, that is wrong.  One of my favorite things about visiting Chicago during the summer time was that there were flowers everywhere.  I passed through so many public gardens and parks while strolling through downtown Chicago.  Here is proof!

Isn’t it beautiful?

Now, it gets even better.  With the help of my Airbnb which was located in the West I took a 10 minute walk and stumbled upon Garfield Park Conservatory.  End result? Speechless.

This conservatory is one of the largest in the nation and an integral resource for the community of Chicago.  I was there for all of 1 hour and saw so many different community groups visiting and enjoying the beauty of the conservatory- it was amazing! I discovered a few things like their children’s room, community garden, Monet Garden, and a Play and Grow Garden for children. I was not able to experience half of the things that they put on for their community like a bee demo, composting demo or Harvest Day to name a few.

Check out some of the beauty I captured while there:

Tee-pee for the Play and Grow Garden

I was lucky enough to find this on my last day in Chicago. If you ever plan to visit Chicago put this on your to-do list so you can enjoy the beauty of nature and support such an important resource to the community of Chicago! For more information visit: https://garfieldconservatory.org/

 

The Beginners Guide to Traveling Eco-friendly

As I sit here during my lunch break reality has finally hit me…. I am no longer in Costa Rica.  I often find myself reminiscing on my memories and often glancing back at my photos.  While I am sad that my time has ended in that beautiful country I am excited to be back and able to share all of my experiences with all of you!

If you are like me and love both the environment and traveling you may have realized that sometimes our interests are contradictory (or so I thought).  While of course traveling cannot be 100% environmentally friendly there is a way to be more sustainable in your actions.   Costa Rica was a great place for me to learn and test the waters of traveling eco-friendly. First, let me set some facts straight! While doing research I was presently surprised that traveling by airplane consumes significantly less energy and produces fewer emissions than driving. With that being said, if you normally have to drive your car to work everyday, taking a vacation could actually benefit the environment.  Talk about motivation to go on your next vacation!

I think one of the most obvious (but could be the most challenging) is choosing a country where they have opportunities to take part in eco-tourism and public transportation.  By picking a country that has a lot of options you may find yourself supporting the environment rather than damaging it!

Depending on where you are traveling to, taking advantage of the transit system can help reduce your environmental impact and also be a fun adventure.   From my experience Costa Rica had a pretty good public bus system (find schedules at (thebusschedule.com).  If you are on a budget traveling by different modes of transportation other than a car will also be helpful!

With traveling comes shopping, especially buying souvenirs for your loved ones (and yourself of course).  Who doesn’t want to take home beautiful memories of traveling?  One way to balance shopping and not contributing to the harmful environmental effects of consumerism is by shopping local.  

Everyone loves to do activities while traveling!  If you travel to a country that is filled with natural beauty you don’t even have to spend a dime admiring the nature. But, if you are an adventure seeker  take part in ecotourism that (more times than not) supports the local people and the local environment.  Hiking, snorkeling, horse-back riding and zip lining are just a few eco-tourism activities that I did while in Costa Rica!

Horseback riding to Arenal, Volcanoe!

I hope you are able to use these when planning your next travels! Feel free to comment below on any tips and ideas about traveling eco-friendly!

 

 

 

5 Benefits of Staying in a Hostel in Costa Rica

 

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When I traveled to Puerto Viejo I was able to knock something off of my green-traveling bucket list: staying in a hostel. This was my first opportunity to take advantage of staying in a hostel and I already cannot wait to do it again! From my experience, I believe there are many benefits, including environmental ones when choosing to stay in a hostel rather than a typical resort or hotel.

1. Access to local insights around where you are staying
Many of the people working in the hostels have been there for quite some time and are usually pretty experienced travelers themselves. They most likely know the do’s and don’ts of the city, cool joints, and the places where the locals love to go.  For my case, they guided me in the right direction to see two amazing fire shoes in Puerto Viejo.

2. Supporting travelers and the local community

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Hostels in Costa Rica (and possibly elsewhere, I am not 100% sure) have “volunteers” that are allowed to stay in the hostel for free if they volunteer time each week to work for the hostel.  One of the volunteers in my hostel, Hostel Bikini, shared an amazing story of her artwork that inspires women to travel alone. By being a volunteer in the hostel and selling her local artwork to people who stay in the hostel and around Puerto Viejo she is able to support herself.

3. Benefitting the environment by choosing a more simplistic and minimalistic form of traveling

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By supporting smaller and local hostels it can be more environmentally friendly than supporting huge hotel resorts.  While hostels are not an official form of ecotourism I do believe they fit in to that sector.  In the case with the hostel I stayed it, everything was very natural and simple.  While they had shared dormitories they also have about a dozen tents and hammocks that were available to sleep in.  They were very open and connected with nature.  The set up was simple and minimalistic in which they truly gave off the vibe of having and using only what you absolutely need.  Some of the environmental benefits can be using less electricity and water with sharing rooms and bathrooms.

4. Budget Friendly

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I think this is a given. I was able to stay in one of the most beautiful Caribbean towns in Costa Rica for less than $40 for 4 days. I will definitely use this in defense when people ask, “how can you afford to travel so often?”. I also had access to a full kitchen that gave me access to cooking and saving my own meals- a much cheaper option than eating out for 3 meals a day. But, I am guilty of trying most of the food and not really using the kitchen a lot! While it was not glamorous I still was able to enjoy the essentials that most travelers need and prefer: a bed, shower, kitchen, wifi and a fan.  Since I was able to save so much money by booking the hostel instead of a hotel room I was able to enjoy other activities like renting a bicycle to ride beaches like Punta Uva in the photo above!

5. Meeting people from around the world and creating connections.

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By staying in a hostel you meet so many wonderful people with such inspiring stories. I heard countless stories.  Between traveling solo as a women around Latin America to quitting their job as a pharmacist to move to Costa Rica to really enjoy life- they all spoke to my heart which I know I will hold dear for a long time.  Who knows, you may meet your next travel partner or find a free place to crash when visiting their home town.

I hope this helps you if you are deciding whether to stay in a hostel or not. I already have one booked for next weekend!

Pura Vida!

Costa Rica Updates

As my journey in Costa Rica is coming to it’s peak (only two more weeks left) I have already realized what a difference this trip has made on me.  While I have learned a lot of things I expected to learn about (more Spanish, eco-tourism- more on that later!) I have also learned a lot about myself.  Each journey I take I find myself learning more and more about what I truly enjoy doing and my dreams for the future.  That is what I believe is so great about traveling.  Here are a few of my favorite highlights so far in Costa Rica and what they have meant to me so far!

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I still cannot get over my last few days in Manuel Antonio.  This photo does not do this wonderful place justice.  My favorite part of this weekend was laying back, enjoying a fresh (amazingly delicious) drink and watching this view.  Oh and the monkeys were a plus!

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I heard a lot about the eco-tourism in Costa Rica but did not quite believe it until I experienced it. From the canopy through the rainforest to horseback riding up to the closest point of Arenal Volcano, it was amazing!  It also helped that within one minute of us being at the highest point the clouds cleared and we saw the beautiful view of Arenal.  We were beyond lucky.  Being able to see and appreciate the Earth around you without hurting or destroying it is truly amazing and something that everyone can learn from in Costa Rica!

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And finally, living with my amazing host family in San Ramon, Costa Rica.  Nothing compares to truly living life as a local and staying with a host family.  This experience is truly unique and like no other- you are able to learn so many things about their life.  I am forever grateful for receiving such caring and loving host mothers!

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Other thoughts

One of the things I have admired most about learning from the locals is the appreciation that they have for the natural beauty of Earth around them.  From the canopy worker to the outdoor bartender at a hotel- they both went out of their way to tell me how lucky they were to be working around and with such natural beauty.  Now that is something truly amazing and needless to say, working goals.

Finally, the mindset of “Pura Vida” which means pure life is truly becoming ingrained in my mind and has made me realize to take hold of a few things in life that bring me back to that mindset!

Until next time, Pura Vida!!

My Journey to Costa Rica

In just a few days I will be boarding my plane to Costa Rica to spend the next 5 weeks!  The excitement has not set in mainly because I still do not believe that the time is already here.  I have dreamed about this trip for so long and I know there are so many good things to come.  This trip is especially important to me because I know there is so much to learn while being in Costa Rica and thankfully this blog will help me document it all.  Between the opportunities to learn the beautiful language of Spanish and documenting their “green efforts” and natural beauty, I know I will never get bored. Costa Rica is known for very progressive environmental policies and I think I will be able to learn a lot and take a lot back here to the United States.  If you did not know, I am a strong goal setter.  Check out some of my goals for this summer in Costa Rica:

Check out as many national parks as I can!Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 6.59.38 PM

This is the Poas Valcanoe situated in one of Costa Rica’s many national parks. For such a small country, Costa Rica has 26 national parks. I can’t wait to explore as many as I can.

 Attempt to speak Spanish

I know this is an iffy for me but I want to indulge in the culture as much as I can and finally put to use my 4+ years of Spanish classes!

Try one new thing every day.

I would like to thank “My Year With Eleanor: A Memoir” for this idea. Whether it is something as small as trying a new food or something as big as taking a weekend trip by myself I want to take as many chances as I can while I have the opportunity.

Learn as much as I can about their sustainability methods

Costa Rica is such an important model for sustainability so I am ready to dive right in and learn as much as I can.

Take as many pictures as I can 

When I get caught up in the moment it is so hard for me enjoy it and snap a photo.  But, when I look back at my photo albums from my past journey’s I can’t help but feel so grateful to have those memories.

Use less social media

While I want to attempt to take more photographs, I want to stay away from the time consuming Facebook, Instagram and even just my phone in general. I want to enjoy this experience and not be caught between what is going on back home. This is my experience to learn new things, meet new people and enjoy this new journey!

 

I cannot wait to keep you all updated with what is going on in Costa Rica! Pura Vida!

5 Free Ways to Go Green Today!

I used to think “going green” meant changing your whole lifestyle.  Ditching the car, never using a plastic bag and only buying products that are recyclable and eco-friendly.  While all of these things are great for the environment, I found that it isn’t necessary to change your whole lifestyle and habits in one day.  Instead, small adjustments and changes can make a difference and are much easier to do!  It can also be fun, rewarding and most of the time even save you a little bit of money! The great thing about it is that you can put as much effort in it as you want and still be making a difference, no matter how small!

  1. Reusing plastic bags! Not only are you helping keep plastic bags from trashing your city or ending up in a landfill but you are also saving money on common household expenses like small trash can holders or a doggy bag. Jillee at One Good Thing shares 60+ ways to reuse those plastic bags!  If you want to step up your re-use game you can buy reusable bags when shopping- some stores will even reward you for it and give you a discount! It can also be a cheap, easy and memorable souvenir to buy when traveling.  Check out the one I got in Paris this summer!france-reusable-bag
  1. Shopping at used clothing stores! Check out the article from EcoWatch- which talks about how the fashion industry is the second dirtiest industry in the world.  Every piece of clothing you buy at a used clothing store is one less that is produced! While technically buying clothes isn’t free… it is usually much cheaper than your average clothing store. Plus you can find some pretty unique clothes!  A few of my favorite pieces are from Plato’s Closet, Buffalo Exchange and Goodwill.  Check out your local stores today!
  1. Volunteering at your local environmental organization.  If you have never volunteered before you have to try it! For me, I have always met great people, had fun then felt great the rest of the day because I did something good. It is also a way to find out what you are really passionate about. Once I started volunteering for Friends of Lafitte Greenway I became more passionate about access to public transportation throughout New Orleans. Plus, if you are a student, volunteer work looks great on a resume!
  1. Recycle! Recycling can be a pain and sometimes even expensive if you sign up for curbside pick up.  Instead, check out your local recycling drop off stations! In New Orleans they have a monthly drop off date to bring paper and plastic.  A month seems like a long time but just keep a separate bin for paper and plastic!  I promise, you will feel good knowing that you aren’t contributing to the excessive amount of waste in landfills. Plus, it is free!Image result for recycle
  1. Lower that electric bill and open some windows!  I may not speak for everyone but growing up I was privileged and maybe a bit spoiled with the use and reliance of AC. It wasn’t until I started traveling abroad that I realized AC really wasn’t a necessity, especially when it wasn’t an inconvenience without it in the middle of the summer in France! Now, I try to open up more windows and keep the AC off. Results? Cheaper electricity bill.  Now I can’t even tell the difference when it is on or off!

 

If you have any more ideas on free ways to go green comment below!