Photo by Trey Ratcliff

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Gear Review: Collapsible Water Bottle

On my recent trip to Sri Lanka, I decided to pack even lighter than usual. Of course, I never check luggage -- even when traveling internationally for 6+ weeks. But, this time, I wanted to minimize the number of bulky items I packed because I planned to stow my soft luggage under my seat rather than in the overhead compartment. Aside from one extra pair of shoes, the bulkiest item was my special water bottle that is a water filter. So, instead of traveling with the Lifestraw Go bottle, I purchased the Katadyn BeFree which is a soft, collapsible, BPA-free flask. It comes in three sizes: a little over half a liter, as well as one liter and three liter models. (I picked the half liter model for my travels.) Weighing in at just two ounces and packing relatively small, this was ideal for my journey. You simply suck from the spout and the filter removes 99.9% of protozoa and 99.9999% of bacteria from the water (It doesn't remove viruses.) And, when you unscrew the spout, the wide mouth of the flask makes it easy to fill from the faucet.

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Book Review: Inspired by Nature

As I travel the world, from bustling urban centers to placid rural expanses, I seek intimate connections with nature. In fact, seeing a tree is like meeting a new friend with a distinctive personality and one that I cherish. Allowing myself to become enwrapped with flora is always rejuvenating experience. So I delighted in receiving a slim tome entitled The Nature Lover’s Quotation Book: An Inspired Collection for Hiking, Camping and the Great Outdoors by Hatherleigh.

This book, divided into five sections, brims with inspiring quotes and observations engendered by strolling through or sitting quietly in fields, woodlands, and other natural landscapes. The author collected a variety of poems and prose written by scientists, philosophers, naturalists, artists and others who embraced everything from the magic of a mist-coated pine forest to the beauty of a mountain summit at dusk.

Below are some of my favorite quotes, one from each of the five sections:

Quieting the Mind
“Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees.” Karle Wilson Baker

Nature’s Beauty and Bounty
“Art is a harmony parallel with nature.” Paul Cezanne

Spirit of Adventure
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” Edward Abbey

Putting Things in Perspective
“A blade of grass is always a blade of grass, whether in one country or another.” Samuel Johnson

Nature’s Power and Longevity
“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.” John Muir

Next time you prepare for a foray into the great outdoors, whether for a short jaunt or a multi-day trek, slip this wee book into your backpack. It’s sure to help you treasure nature even more than you do now.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Luxury and Eco-consciousness in St. Barth

St. Barth is noted as an island that attracts the celebrity set. And, yet, I headed to this Caribbean island that’s not far from St. Maarten, hoping to discover its green side. While exploring the wilder side of the island, I found a luxury villa that embraces nature and sustainability. This is the article I wrote for ForbesLife on Villa Danse du Soleil. 

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Gear Review: My New Favorite Hiking Shoes

I’m exceedingly picky about shoes, and that’s especially the case for footwear that I’ll use when hiking day after day. Beyond being comfortable with a wide toe box, my ideal hiking shoes should be breathable, quick drying, and, most importantly, they must have a sticky sole. I’m obsessed with sticky (grippy) soles, ever since I hiked for two weeks in the Japanese Alps. On the last day, when trekking beside a river along wet, moss-coated rocks, my foot slipped and I ended up severely spraining my ankle. I made it out of the forest by first dunking my foot in the icy waters as I attempted to reduce the swelling, and then applying an ace-bandage. But, ever since, I was on the search for sticky soles that would allow me to trek sure-footedly on loose scree, slick boulder surfaces, and wet or moss-covered rocks. My search was finally over when I found Astral.

This company manufactures  the shoes of my dreams. Not only is this a US-based company with an eco consciousness -- they’re committed to a sustainable business -- but they are all about sticky soles. All the Astral shoes revolve around being able to engage in water sports and hiking. Perfect. I purchased the Tri1 Junction, a substantial shoe which has a sole made of dual materials: the periphery works well for loose trail dirt while the central portion works well for polished river stone (which could be more slippery?). Plus, no chance of wearing odiferous shoes after day after day of hiking. The materials are treated with silver-salts to prevent the buildup of odor-causing bacteria and fungi. The shoes are comfortable, and light; they don’t require a break-in period, and when walking across wet surfaces, they dried quickly, and gripped like I was wearing crampons. Who knew?

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Gear Review: Silk Sleep Sheet

Sometimes when I’m backpacking and camping or staying in a hostel, it’s appealing to add a touch of luxury. The Brave Era Silk Travel Sheet to the rescue. This 100% silk travel sheet not only can be used inside your sleeping bag or under a down comforter (in a hostel) for added warmth or, if the temperatures are stifling, you could use it alone. This luxurious, soft-against-your-skin travel item packs ultra small -- it comes with its own stuff sack -- and weighs in at just six ounces. 

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

St. Barth In Pictures

The Caribbean island of St. Barth is often solely known as an isle that attracts the rich and famous. While celebs have long set their sights on St. Barth, many people may not realize that this is also a land of rugged beauty with a smattering of hiking trails, wild undeveloped beaches, low-key watering holes, avant garde art galleries and informal cafes.

This YouTube video slideshow provides a window into St. Barth.

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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Stunning Cross-Country Skiing in Slovenia

I've cross-country skied all over the world, which makes me pretty picky as to what makes for ideal skiing. I found it in Slovenia, a small country that many Americans don't think of as a cross-country skiing destination. Yet, it's ideal for its diversity of landscapes, immense amounts of fresh powder, charming villages aplenty and a populace that has a love affair with nature. I recently wrote an article for ForbesLife on four cross-country ski destinations in Slovenia.

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Culinary Gem in Iceland

In Iceland,  Heimaey, the only inhabited of the Westman Islands off the south coast, is a precious gem with plenty of curiosities, including an 18-hole golf course nestled in a lush extinct volcanic crater, and steaming volcanic vents from the most recent volcanic eruption in another part of the isle where an innkeeper can bake bread in the hot earth. Among the verdancy and dramatic cliff tops where puffins can be found is a culinary treasure: Slippurinn. I recently interviewed Gísli Matthías Auðunsson, the young chef helming this family-owned establishment for ForbesLife.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Slovenia Cross Country Ski Resorts in Pictures

Cross country skiing in Slovenia couldn't be more idyllic, with fresh powder, tracked trails, no crowds, unbeatable mountain scenery, and quaint villages. At Pokljuka, I found fresh powder and the opportunity to learn the rigors of the biathlon -- who knew the rifle was so heavy. At Planica, a wide, tree-lined trail led up to a pristine mountain hut where I sat with the locals for a hearty lunch. Log Pod Mangart may be small but what it lacks in size it makes up for with dramatic mountain scenery. This area in the photo below, the Nordic Center Bonovec Medvode, is just 20 minutes west of downtown Ljubljana. This YouTube video slideshow offers a window into Slovenia’s cross country skiing treasures.

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