Photo by Trey Ratcliff

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sneak Peek: My New Line of Handbags

This is a sneak peak of my new handbag line. Not only will they be sold at a lower price point compared with my first micro travel bag, but they will be manufactured in a soft canvas fabric that initially will come in two different colors/patterns: camo pattern and solid burgundy. (Other colors/patterns will follow, down the line.) The bag, of course, will have multiple zippered pockets -- none visible to the casual observe -- and will have a minimalist look. Unlike my first bag, each pocket will accommodate an array of large-sized items, including sunglasses, large iPhones or Androids,  even small tubes of sunscreen. The atta-BAG label (below) will appear on the front of each bag. I expect these bags to be on the market by early Fall.

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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Luxe Sri Lankan Hotels That Are Socially Responsible

Staying at the innovative Wild Coast Tented Lodge property in Sri Lanka, you have the opportunity to be enwrapped with nature -- it's adjacent to Yala National Park -- while also indulging in ultra contemporary architecture and design. These two organic, bamboo-clad structures house the restaurant, bar and den. This is one of three Sri Lanka-based properties owned by Resplendent Ceylon, a company that revolves around doing the right thing, whether it's protecting the environment or giving back to the local community. (The other two properties are Ceylon Tea Trails and Cape Weligama. Check out my recent article for Forbes where I interviewed the Managing Director Resplendent Ceylon.

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Curious Doll For Curious Times

Everything I create is a little bit different from the tried-and-true. And my AngryJ doll is no exception. AngryJ is an especially timely plush doll for the times we live in now. The media is rife with angry goings-on, whether it's news stories that are far afield or on our home turf. Every day, we may be inundated with frustrations that push our anger button. So, I created AngryJ as a way to you to realize that she looks like how you feel as you stew in your own angry ruminations. Just look at her and perhaps, even for a moment, she'll make you laugh and you'll get pulled out of your negative emotions.

AngryJ has a curious history, since I created a sketch of her when I was an angry 10-year-old kid. And many decades later, she became a doll. (I'm very persistent and I continued drawing her my whole life.) Now I'm including her backstory on a tag (below) that's attached to one of her skinny little arms. (She's looking to be adopted.)

Interestingly, I've found that more adults love AngryJ than kids. But anyone can buy AngryJ here. Each is a little different because they are handmade in the U.S. But, though all different, they are all very angry!

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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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