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1 Uncommon Way To Find Out Who You Really Are

Yesterday I met with a friend who recently returned from about 3 months of solo traveling in Southeast Asia. As we sat down together for the first time since before she left, I asked her, “Who do I have the pleasure of dining with today?”

I knew that the person across from me was not the same person I knew from before. She had gone through her own trials and transformations, dissolved and rebuilt parts of herself. (On a concrete level, within three months many of the cells in her body were literally new…)

She smiled, and started to share with me who she is now.

She embodied a new level of confidence, a grounded assertiveness, trusting herself in a deeper way than before.

Later that evening I wondered to myself, “Why don’t we allow everyone in our lives to show up newly each time we meet them? To discover who they’ve become since the last time we saw them? Why do we assume they’re the same person, who will predictably act the same way, and remain as we “know” them to be? And doesn’t that trap them into being the same…?”

Once, it would have been easy to assume that my boyfriend, my best friends, or my parents would be the same people day in and day out.

Now, I show up to most interactions with that question subconsciously in mind: “Who do I have the pleasure of spending time with today?” (*and yes, I still sometimes assume they’ll be exactly the same people as they were yesterday…*)

It may seem obvious to rediscover who someone is after we haven’t seen them in months or years… like meeting an old friend from high school and having the thought, “Wow, I wonder what they’re like nowadays!” automatically cross your mind.

A subtler trick though is to allow ourselves to continuously rediscover who the people we see everyday of our lives are.

It gets fun pretty fast. And what I’ve noticed is that people enjoy the space that opens up when they realize you don’t expect them to be a certain way…

If you’re really feeling bold, try applying this mindset to yourself. Allow yourself to find out who YOU really are, each day, newly. Play around with creating yourself as someone new, each day. Perhaps you’ll choose to emphasize playfulness, or curiosity, or unstoppable action, or generosity that particular day…and something new the next day.

My invitation to you is to try this out. And if you want, let me know how it goes for you. Do you notice a difference in the quality of your conversations or depth of connection with the people around you? Do you notice a difference when you allow yourself to discover who you are each new day?

I’m curious. Let me know in the comments below 🙂


August 27, 2016

Written by Dylan Livingston

Volunteering abroad is a fulfilling cause, especially when you go to support a volunteer organization that is responsible, sustainable, and has an amazing long-term relationship with the community it aims to support and help.

Many good volunteer programs recognize the virtue it takes to volunteer abroad, and can sometimes offer to cover the expenses of your trip in return for your hard work. There are many options for affordable volunteer placements, and there are programs that even fund your expenses. However you are able to find a way to volunteer abroad for free with a reputable, responsible organization, your work is sure to be both appreciated and rewarded further down the road.

1. Find a Trustworthy Organization for your Volunteer Experience

There are not many programs that offer meals and a place to stay for free, but if you do stumble on what looks like a free volunteer program, it’s important to do extensive research on the company. If a volunteer program is accommodating you for your visit, it’s important to know how the money is being distributed amongst the organization vs. amongst its impact projects.

There are, however, many volunteer programs that ask for small fees that help their cause, that can be as low as $200 or less and typically go towards the cause you are working for.

It’s important to first inquire what your costs are going towards before paying them, and any reliable organization will be more than happy to share specifics with you if their cost breakdown is not already listed on their website. As a general rule of thumb, most nonprofit organizations are worth looking into closely; stay away from most for-profit volunteer organizations, where dollars often don’t reach the people you actually want to help most.


2. Apply to Join the Peace Corps

Have the chance to travel around the world, working in a variety of specialized fields, by volunteering with the Peace Corps. While joining the Peace Corps is a 27-month commitment, you will be paid a monthly allowance during the duration of your volunteership that is intended to cover average living expenses in the community you work in.

The majority of Peace Corps work is done in Africa, but there are also programs in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands.


3. Cultural Exchange Programs

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs offers scholarships in return for the completion of tasks, such as housing an international exchange student or volunteer. After hosting an international student or volunteer, you will then have access to a host family free of charge when you travel abroad. You may also qualify for scholarships by making presentations to local youth clubs or schools.

By sharing your intentions and goals for your volunteer abroad experience with a community, you may inspire the youth to take a similar path for their future. Making meaningful presentations can lead to private donations towards your cause, which can lead to further networking and opportunities for fundraising.


4. Crowdfunding

The world of crowdfunding is on the rise, which means there has never been a better time to start a travel fundraising campaign. You will be surprised to find the amount of enthusiasm and support people will give you if you outline the purpose of your trip in a meaningful, educational and inspirational way!

You might make a video or start a travel blog (for example, this site is built on WordPress, hosted by BlueHost for $4.95/month). It also helps if you offer people something in return for their donations, such as an exclusive look at your trip through photos, videos, or journals. FundMyTravel is an excellent site for creating a crowdfunding campaign for purposeful travel!


5. Creative Fundraising

There are lots of ways to fundraise offline too. One method is to organize a community walk, half marathon, or 5K run to bring your community together for a cause you care about. You can request that people pledge X amount of money for every mile that you walk or run. Another option is to host a dinner or cookout series for donations.

The 52-week challenge is also an effective way of saving money that has been gaining popularity amongst international travelers. All you have to do is commit a year to saving up for your trip. Here’s how it works:

During the first week you set aside $1 into a free savings account (many online banks let you open a checking or savings account for free), and for each following week you increase the savings by a dollar. The second week, you save $2, and the twentieth week, you set aside $20. On the 52nd week, you’ll deposit $52 into your savings account, totaling $1,378.

$1,000 or so will usually be more than enough to cover the costs of most short-term volunteer programs and can even cover part of your flight cost. No matter what way you choose to raise money for your volunteer trip abroad, be creative and have fun with it!


6. Social Media

Social media is a great way to share your volunteer goals and get feedback from past international volunteers. Posting regularly about your trip is more likely to get attention and will generate awareness to your cause. (You can also follow popular travel pages like BBC World, GoAbroad, and Lonely Planet to see what different types of posts get the most engagement, and put your own spin on things with original posts that promote your trip, your fundraiser, or any travel blog posts or videos you create.)

All three of these popular pages host regular forums and discussion boards related to affordable travel. Don’t be shy! Post your question and someone will answer you. Social media has made networking within the travel world more accessible than ever.


When you take the time and make the commitment by setting a travel goal for yourself, you have already done half of the work.

The rest of the journey unfolds from making your goal known to the world, and putting in the time that is necessary to achieve that goal. Purposeful work with positive impact so valuable, and by volunteering for a responsible, sustainable organization without expecting anything in return, you’ll gain a fulfilling and enriching experience that is worth more than what money can buy.

About Dylan

HS-Dylan LivingstonDylan Livingston is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and he hopes to work in the entertainment industry some day so he can share his passions with the world. A passionate writer, filmmaker, and musician, Dylan enjoys traveling because it helps broaden his perspective of the world.

August 23, 2016
Solo Female Travel: Women in the Wilderness

Written by Karo Wieczorek

Despite the fact that women have been successfully traveling and having adventures alone in nature for centuries, the solo woman who announces she’s going on a back-country adventure still seems to be a topic that gets people’s emotions going. The majority of support for solo female activities outdoors goes to the women on the billboards – the extreme sports heroines, the pioneers reaching for the ultimate heights.

But what about the rest of us? What about all other women who want to get out there and live their own small adventures?

For us, the situation can look a little different. Our dreams and plans come up against a wall of doubt, distrust, fear and disbelief. We face it not only from the people around us (“Are you sure you’re ready for this kind of trip?”), but also the doubts that live inside our own minds (“Can I really do this?”).

If you’re a woman who wants to take a solo trip into the wilderness, but is having a hard time dealing with the reactions from the people around you (not to mention the doubts coming up in your own head), this post is for you.

Karo - women in the wilderness

Social Stigma

You have great dreams, you make plans, you test your gear, and you’re happy to go out and embrace the wilderness. Excited, you announce your plans to your family and friends and the moment you do, you face an irritating reality – no one shares your feelings of excitement. Instead, you get the opposite reactions:

You’re Going Alone!?

One of the first things that can come up when the adventurous woman shares her travel and adventure plans with people who care about her is shock and difficulty comprehending why she would want to risk going alone.

And not just going anywhere…but going alone into the woods, mountains, desert. For people around her, it’s unimaginable. They might not believe that a woman would be courageous enough to do such a thing. No boyfriend going with her? No other girlfriends? No hiking buddy?

The underlying question they’re asking is why? Why would she ever want to go alone?

The need to be constantly surrounded by people is embedded into our society. It’s how humans have survived as long as we have. Being alone used to mean certain death.

Nowadays, being alone is not a death sentence, but it does mean having to have to deal with yourself. It means having to confront your own deepest thoughts and emotions, your inner shadows you would rather not think about. Being alone, you might even hear your heartbeat for the first time, and confront your own humanity…your own mortality.

For many of us, being alone is something to avoid.

But for the courageous ones, we have our reasons to wander into wilderness alone.

It’s up to us if we try to make others understand. The thing to remember is not to get discouraged — just stick to your decision and trust yourself.

Almora India forest

But You Don’t Know Anything About [insert outdoor activity/location here]!

The next thing that the adventurous woman has to deal with is the denial of her skills, often wrapped in the form of “concerned questions” that downplay what she is capable of on her own.

Will you manage to set up camp?

Do you really know how to make a fire?

How will you stay safe?

How could you possibly be able to do all that on your own?

All the time she has spent reading, educating herself, taking courses and practicing wilderness survival skills seems to be irrelevant compared to the fact that she’s still a woman.

People may believe that outdoor skills are difficult to master, something out of reach of the average person working a desk job in a city.

That of course is not true, and the wild woman knows that. She’s also confident and aware of her skills and has no problems facing obstacles and conquering them.


But…The World “Out There” Is A Dangerous Place!

This is one of most common fears, the argument the adventurous woman hears the most when people are trying to persuade her away from the idea of a solo wilderness trip.

There are so many dangers out there!

Opinions that if you go “out there”, every human will try to harm you, every animal will try to eat you, and you will fall in every possible hole are common. They’re created by a general fear of the unknown.

For the adventurous woman, the unknown is something exciting. For others, the unknown only brings trouble and danger. These fears that loved ones or friends have are the hardest to explain away. Realistically, it will take the adventurous woman a couple expeditions and just as many safe returns to convince the people who care about her that she can actually thrive “out there”. Even then, there will likely be resistance to each new trip she plans to take.


Build a Strong Inner Mindset

The fact that people around us doubt our skills and abilities can always be expected. What is much harder to overcome is the doubt and distrust that dwells within us.

No matter how hard she tries, the adventurous woman will face a point where she starts to feel the seeds of fear within her.

Can I really do this?

Are my skills really good enough?

What if they were right…What if I don’t make it?

All these questions and many more will race through her mind. She will experience moments of discouragement and doubt. The key to her success will be to stay strong and cultivate her self-awareness and self-confidence.

But the adventurous woman travels prepared. She will remind herself that she knows exactly what she’s capable of. She knows her gear and the place she will travel to. Trusting herself is her main asset. In the end, she will be on her own out there and she will be the only person she can rely on, so she prepares herself and trusts herself to tackle challenges, one by one.


Be Prepared

The key to a successful outdoor adventure is preparedness. There are a couple of important things the adventurous woman needs to think about before going into the wild:

Manage Your Risks

It’s probably one of the most important aspects of your preparations. Knowing exactly what to expect and mitigating any possible risks should be one of your core skills.

The wilderness is unpredictable, yes, but you can and should make sure you have as much information as possible in advance about the following…

  • Weather conditions: what can you expect during your trip?

Knowing your forecast will allow you to prepare your gear accordingly and prepare for quickly changing weather.

  • Trail conditions: is your trail open at this time of year?

Make sure you check if the trail you have chosen is open to the public and if any other difficulties or obstacles will be in your path.

  • Day length: how much daylight will you have during your hike?

This will allow you to plan and time your trek, especially if it’s a long stretch.

  • Wild animals: what wildlife activity can you expect in the area you chose?

This especially applies to regions where bear and/or mountain lions live, where you should be extra cautious with carrying and storing food and other smelly products like sunscreen and lotion!


Skills and Education

You’ll acquire both skills and knowledge over time, mostly through experience. However there’s a good chunk of knowledge you can get before your adventures.

Educate yourself by reading books and articles (like this onethis one, and this one), listening to podcasts like The First 40 Miles, DirtBag Diaries, and Sounds of the Trail, and watching some wilderness survival videos (like “Magnetic Declination Demystified“, “How to Tie the Simplest (But Also The Most Useful) Knot in the World” and the “Ultimate Hiking Gear & Skills Clinic“. Whenever possible, attend trainings and get first-hand experience in a safe, controlled setting.

Try and test things out yourself as well! Trying to start a fire for the first time on the trail is not a good idea. Put effort in acquiring as much knowledge as possible in advance; it will pay off once you’re out there in the wild!

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 2.26.38 PM


The gear you carry is everything you will have to survive on your own in the wild. Make sure you know how to use it, make sure you can rely on each and every piece in your backpack.

To do that you MUST test out ALL of your gear in advance. Every part of your equipment should be checked long before you take your first steps on the trail. Go walking or hiking in your shoes for several miles, wear your backpack while doing so, try cooking something on your small camp stove.

The very best way to prepare your gear is to embark on smaller hikes and walks where you can test most of it before you take your big wilderness trip!


You need to be able to trust your body as much as your gear.

Knowing your abilities and limits is important because it lets you set boundaries and manage your own expectations. How much weight can you carry for a couple of hours? How many miles can you hike before you need to rest? How will your feet react to constant use?

These are the questions you need to know answers to before you start your adventure. I recommend starting a small training routine to strengthen your legs, core and back as well. This will make all your hikes much easier and allow you enjoy your adventures even more!


You Did It!

When you meet a woman in the wilderness, you know she’s special.

She has a particular energy about her, a kind of strength and power. That’s what solo adventures give you.

They empower you, give you self confidence, and build your trust in your skills and abilities. They make you realize that you can handle so much more than you thought you could.

The adventurous woman who travels, hikes, backpacks, or does any other kind of solo outdoor trip becomes a better version of herself. She is healthier, happier and more fulfilled — and she doesn’t leave that behind on the trail. She takes all those positive things back into her everyday life.

No challenge at work is comparable to that last stretch with no water and an aching body… No fight is as threatening as that terrible storm that almost blew her off the mountain. Her inner self gets stronger with every trip she takes. Now, she makes decisions with confidence; her mind is sharp and fast.

The truth is that the ability to survive in the wild on your own makes you a strong, confident and self-aware person. The energy you get on your adventure will influence others around you, too. You’ll inspire your friends to be more courageous. To trust themselves more. To take on challenges directly and not shy away from something that might stretch their comfort zone.

So follow your dreams, adventurous woman, and don’t get discouraged. Have respect for nature on your solo trip, but have no fear.

About Karo

Photo - KaroKaro is a passionate hiker with a true calling. Every trail is an adventure and every adventure is a lesson. When not hiking she’s either planning her next tattoo or writing to her blog where she shares her knowledge and experience with other outdoors-loving people. Connect with Karo at Trail Maiden.

July 18, 2016
9 Things You Must Know Before Traveling Outside the U.S.

1. In the majority of the world, you will be safe and sound. The media (and your mother) likes to make you think that leaving the country will end in death (or kidnapping). In most places, this is both statistically unlikely and just plain inaccurate. Travel will actually enrich your life instead.

read maps

2. Learn how to read train, metro and bus schedules and maps. Much of the world outside the USA has extensive public transportation systems. They’re often reliable and inexpensive – take advantage while you can! (You can learn how in our very own Travel Savvy eCourse, along with 29 other must-knows for new international travelers.)


3. Asking for help, early and often, makes travel easier. You might not speak the language, but if you pick up a Lonely Planet Phrasebook for the country you’re visiting, asking for help becomes as easy as pointing to a phrase on a page.


4. Knowing even 5 words or phrases in the language of each country you travel in basically means that you can get all your major needs met. The most useful ones to look up in advance are: “hello”, “how much?”, “yes/no”, “thank you”, #1-#10, and “good”. Need to order something? Say “hello”, point to the object you want, say the number (or hold up your fingers), ask “how much?” and say “thank you”. Easy peasy.


5. Staying in hostels, though budget-friendly and probably inside your comfort zone, is not the best way to have an authentic travel experience. Alternatives that are friendlier on the wallet, with the added bonus of a local’s perspective? CouchSurfing and Airbnb.


6. 99% of people have good intentions and want to help if you are in trouble, even if they don’t understand what the problem is. People are generally kind, everywhere, especially if you begin the interaction with a smile!

clubbing in helsinki, finland

7. You can create a sense of home wherever you are. All you have to do is bring a hobby of yours from the USA with you. For example, dancing salsa: whenever you get to a new city, look up the salsa clubs or find a Meetup.com dance group and head out for a night. You’ll end up meeting local people and evade homesickness too!


8. Street smarts serve you everywhere in the world. You have personal boundaries, and you are allowed to assert them and stand your ground or leave a situation whenever your gut tells you to. (No idea how to set a clear boundary, especially when you don’t speak their language? You can learn this in the Travel Savvy eCourse, too.)


9. You don’t need a TON of money to travel outside the USA and have the time of your life. Google “travel hacking” or “credit card hacking” to learn how to use points and frequent flyer miles to pay for travel. Use a fare alert site like AirfareWatchdog to tell you when prices drop. Join a volunteer organization that covers your travel expenses, apply for grants and scholarships that sponsor you to be in a foreign country, or get a working holiday visa and take your time to explore countries like Australia and New Zealand while earning normal income.

P.S. #6 is my favorite 😉

What do you believe everyone MUST know before traveling outside the U.S. for the first time? Share your ideas in the comments below!
July 2, 2016
Cuba: In-Depth With Hillary Griffith

What was the very first reason you traveled to Cuba, over 15 years ago?

I have a long love of dance. I was dancing salsa when the Afro-Cuban all-stars came through Boulder, Colorado many years ago. I mentioned to them that I had just finished dancing for famous salsa artist El Canario’s music video, who was finishing shooting in Denver then. I took them to meet him, and we all became friends.

As they were leaving the country, they called me for help with some sound gear issues. They were so grateful I helped them out, and told me to come visit them as a thank you. I went there initially with that invitation. This was in the 90s.

I was dancing at a large congress event that was happening in Puerto Rico every summer at that time. I was on my way there with one of my dancer friends when I went to Cuba with a research license. In Cuba, I stayed in a little town just outside of Havana with one of the families of one of the artists.


Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

I fell in love with Cuba after the first five days, mainly because the people are incredibly beautiful. If there’s a place where you’re going to experience community and the most non-judgmental culture ever, it’s Cuba! Everybody has struggled there, so there’s so much compassion for surviving. People know that everyone has to work together to survive.

During that first trip, we had dinner one night with some family members and friends. One of the guys who lived in the house was so excited for one of their good friends to come. He wouldn’t stop going on about her, telling me she would be the most beautiful woman I’ll ever meet.

When this woman arrived, a bunch of neighbors came together and carried her in her wheelchair up to the third floor of the apartment building. This guy treated her like the most beautiful, incredible woman in the world. I had never seen somebody treat a disabled person with so much admiration and love and inclusion. It was amazing.

Once I went to Cuba that first time, I was sold. I had to go back and see more. Five days was not enough.


Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

As you went back multiple times over the years, how did you get into Cuba?

Over the years, people have found many creative ways to get into Cuba. It was never illegal to go to, but it was illegal to spend money there. The Cubans were never against having Americans there.

There were a lot of legal ways to get there. In some cases, I was involved with an organization or a group that had permission to go. I was able to do that for example, with the Cuban Sister City Organization for many years.

There were a lot of ways one could travel to Cuba, for example to do research, for religious reasons, or for educational purposes. I traveled that way too in some cases. These days, it’s very easy to go.


Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

Are there direct flights now for people who want to go from the U.S. to Cuba?

No, there aren’t many. American Airlines, for example, has been flying out of Miami for many years. Last I saw, a lot of the airlines were fighting over which ones would get to fly directly into Cuba. I think it’s supposed to be 20 daily flights into Havana, and another 10 throughout the rest of the country starting in November 2016.

Right now, the best way to go from Colorado is probably to Cancun and then to Cuba, because it’s the shortest travel distance. Cancun is the cheapest place to get accommodation if you have to spend the night.



Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

Have you already seen things start to change in Cuba despite little outside influence from the developed West?

Remember that though the American embargo was in place for years, very few other countries in the world have had travel restrictions for Cuba. Europeans have been going there for a while. I don’t know if it seemed as hot of a destination, because it didn’t get the same sort marketing that it does now.

A lot of people say, “I want to get to Cuba before it changes,” but Cuba has been changing all the time. When I started going there, things were still raw, in a way. There has been a change in the urban landscape. You used to see Santeria ceremonies, the main religion in Cuba, in neighborhoods that are now more touristic locations.

Santeria is a blend of Yoruban polytheism and Catholicism. In this religion, there are multiple gods and goddesses who come onto Earth and possess people, and then through those people they offer wisdom and blessings. There are certain rhythms that are played only for ceremonies, which open the door to the heavens. Anybody can become possessed in a ceremony. It’s quite an experience.

People of that religion greet one another with the same kind of deep admiration and respect that they would a god or goddess, because anyone is a potential vessel for the god or goddess to run through.

As a dancer, I love it. I discovered Santeria for the first time when I was wandering down the street and heard those rhythms. I thought, “What is this rhythm that I’ve never danced to?” I went to go check it out, people invited me in, and I discovered this whole new experience.

A lot of people are very scared when looking at another religion, but it’s amazing to experience and witness and contemplate an entirely different mindset.

I live part of the year in West Africa too, and I see where some of the roots in indigenous villages there have evolved in Cuba. It’s quite fascinating to see the parts of Cuban culture that are really African.

I think that one of the reasons why communism became attractive as a political system in Cuba is because in African culture, you share everything. In Africa, everyone sits around and eats form the same bowl, no matter how much food there is. A certain amount is cooked, and if more people from the village show up, it goes to smaller portions. People who work come home and share with their entire family compound, which could be around 50 people. Sharing is a very natural African value and psychology.

It’s very difficult for an African living in that context to step up from a quality of life standpoint. They get stuck sharing their income with the larger group. It’s interesting to see both the beauty of that as well as the challenges that come with it.

Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica


What would you say to someone who wants to be a little more adventurous, to convince him or her to go to Cuba and discover what it has to offer? Is there something in particular that Cuba can unlock in a traveler who goes there for the first time?

I think Americans tend to feel isolated, but in Cuba you really feel what it’s like to be fully welcomed and taken in. When you’ve experienced all that nurturing and love from strangers who take you right in like you’re family, you know how to bring that back and share that with others.

Some women go to Cuba and feel a little overwhelmed, because men talk a lot on the streets. It’s a very macho culture, but also one that has a lot of love, appreciation, and respect for women. What the men value about women they fully value, and they acknowledge that and speak it out loud.

I always tell women to not take it so seriously. I feel like it’s a form of entertainment for Cubans. They don’t have access to a lot of things, like cable TV or the internet, so they sit on the street in front of their houses in Havana, watch people parade by, and find ways to say interesting, poetic comments and see which ones catch. It’s like going fishing with your words.

People will always speak. The choice is yours to respond or not respond. Americans tend to be very friendly. In Cuba you want to look the other way and kind of smile, but not engage with the other person unless you want that contact.

It’s okay to be really feminine in Cuba, which I think is sometimes hard to do in American culture with all the issues around sexual harassment or what’s politically correct. I feel like people have to be very gender neutral in the United States. In Cuba, women get a chance to rediscover parts of their femininity that they don’t always get to express or experience.

Men are also forced into being more gender neutral in the United States. I think that men here are terrified of doing something wrong. It might be refreshing for them to be in a place where they can also be more traditional and feel that role.

Anytime you travel or find yourself in an international scene, you have to learn how that culture sees the world. Anytime you step out of your own culture and place, the first thing to do is to observe the people around you carefully, and see what it is they’re doing to learn the lay of the land. That way, you will move through the challenging parts more quickly.



Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

How do the things that you would normally purchase in America on a daily basis differ in Cuba, and how are they similar? What should travelers prepare for?

I would say that Cuba is changing about every three months at an “avalanche-turbo-rate” right now. Years ago, for example, I would never have thought of eating out at a restaurant. They were all state run.

About three to five years ago, Cuba had a policy change so that people can now own private property and start an enterprise. This has started to take off within the last year.

In the one neighborhood that I usually live in, there are about six great restaurants that opened up, and they’re all fantastic. It’s great, creative food. There are no Starbucks or that kind of thing, but we don’t know at what rate things will progress and in what direction they will go. You might go to a smaller town though, and still see what things were like in the past.

As a tourist, what would you do in that situation? Would you have to go into a family’s home and ask to share with them?

In the past, the best food you would eat would always be in people’s homes. Some people have formalized those into paladar, where they have their little restaurant in the front living room of their house.

In other cases, you would maybe ask around a neighborhood, or you’d ask the family you were staying with who the best cook is in the neighborhood. You could go to different neighbors and spread out the wealth by giving them some money and having them cook your dinner that night. That’s pretty much how I always ate.

The food is incredible, because about 90 percent of it is grown locally, and it’s organic. There’s nothing like fresh guava juice in the morning, and fresh coffee from a little organic farm.

Another funny thing for travelers is that it’s good money to sell a pig. I was staying in one house just before New Years. The family next door had been raising three pigs and decided to kill them at 7:00 one morning. It was quite horrible to hear the pig scream, but that’s the reality of real food and what it takes to get that food.

Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

What was the most surprising thing or things that you’ve experienced in or about Cuba so far?

That’s hard, because I’ve been going there for so many years. I think one thing people will find very curious is that Cubans live a kind of double life. In the past, everyone was required to have his or her state job, and almost everyone also had an additional ‘under the table’ job to survive.

Then Cuba started allowing free enterprise, which has been transitioning into people starting their own businesses. Almost everyone is a small business owner, unless they’re still working for the state. They might be taxi drivers, or own a house and rent rooms, or have a restaurant, or sew clothes. People can now start registering those as private enterprises.

Because it was illegal to have a second job in the past, Cuba never had any marketing or advertising. There are no signs or billboards there now. People traveling to Cuba might find it very refreshing to be in a non-commercial space.

In the case of second jobs, people had to work only with people they trusted. Any time you wanted to find or buy something, you had to go through a network of trust. Cuba still operates that way, because these are patterns that are really ingrained in people.

You could also look at how collective trauma happens. Unfortunately, it’s happening all over the world right now. Cuba has had it’s own, too, like the repercussions of the embargo and the “special period”  that have left their mark on how Cubans function in the world. It’s interesting to observe a culture where people have lived under a lot of repression, and see all the ways they have learned to survive.

Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

I’ve heard that the average Cuban is joyful and self-expressed. Despite the destruction, trauma, and human rights issues, how are Cubans still so happy?

Cubans have also had many great things. Not that they live well on government subsidies, but they have always had food, healthcare, education, housing, and transportation covered in a basic way.

I feel like Cuba came through a time where it responded to a very urgent issue, like the Special Period, when Russia stepped out and the American embargo was in place. Suddenly grandparents were starving to death to make sure their grandchildren were being fed. When you see that happening with your people, you want to get that figured out. So what do you do?

There are policies such as if you kill a cow, you go to prison for life. It’s pretty damn straight.  Some people would say that’s ridiculous for someone to be in prison for life for killing a cow, but they look at it like if you’re killing a cow, you’re killing six people, because six people don’t have access to the milk.

The laws are also changing in Cuba. It used to be illegal to hold American dollars, but it’s not anymore. So what should happen with the people who are still in prison from 10 years ago who did it, because it’s no longer illegal? Are they going to be given amnesty? All these things are rapidly evolving.

I think this is very positive, but it’s also part of a natural evolution of coming out of a place of chaos and moving towards a place of stability. I think growing too fast has also been a challenge for Cuba. They’ve been sort of fast-tracking many things to try to really work with this time that Obama is in office, because the policies of the people who are running for office now could be radically different. This is creating this hyper speed for change, and that also comes with its risks and challenges. They’re dealing with choices, and what the consequences are of the different scenarios.


Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

Do you now take people to Cuba with you? Is this a business for you, or is it for fun?

I started a company called Havana Creative. It started out because people—my family, friends, and acquaintances—knew I spent a lot of time in Cuba and everyone had questions. As it has started to open, many people have been coming to me to ask for advice on where to go, where to stay, what to see and what to do.

It’s a place that I love, so I love to send people and to encourage them to go and discover it. It became so much of a full-time activity, that I decided I needed to formalize it. I’m at the very early phases of creating a website that is a portal for information.

I’m just building the website now. It’ll be located at www.havanacreative.com when it’s live. Basic things that I’ve been helping with have been facilitating lodging and housing for people. These are things that you can kind of get online and see photographs of sometimes, but I want to help people in really knowing what neighborhood they’re in, that it’s the right neighborhood, that you’re in a clean, safe and good house with good people. A place that’s not just about the photographs, but is also a really great spot with amazing people.

I want to be able to connect people to really local resources, like a university professor who could take them on a walking tour of architecture or urban planning, or help them create a custom itinerary based on some special interests. So it’s a very personalized, local perspective, getting people comfortable but integrated into what people on an average day experience.

And yes, there are still a lot of challenges with traveling in Cuba.

You’ll wait in line for so many things. There aren’t many banks. You only change money in the change house, or CADECA, but the line is very long. If you’re buying an Internet card, the line is very long.

You can do things on the street, but not everybody is comfortable changing their money on the black market, or if they don’t speak the language, not knowing whom they’re buying the card from. And that guy probably spent a couple hours waiting in line to buy the legal limit of like three half an hour Internet cards, and he’s going to sell two. It becomes a business for him.

Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

People make a business out of waiting in line in Cuba.

Around New Years Eve, a lot of people kill pigs for the holidays. They come and they deliver pigs in these giant trucks. People will be out there just like on black Friday, and they’ll be there the day before to get their ticket to get their place in line to buy the pig. They’ll resell their ticket to people, so some people don’t have to wait in line.

If you’re going for a short holiday, you don’t want to spend half of it waiting in lines. One thing that Havana Creative can facilitate is helping with things like internet cards and bus tickets, or getting things that you’d otherwise have to spend a lot of time waiting to get. In addition, I am really interested in helping facilitate people who also want to bring small groups down, especially any sort of creative arts, or entrepreneurial activities.

One of the things I’ve done is blocked inventory of a lot of really great casas that have 6 to 10 rooms for 10 to 20 people, because there’s not enough infrastructure to support the influx of tourism right now. I’ve made the reservations and paid the deposits to have certain inventory. So with some of these pieces, as well as the contacts I have, I can make it easy for a small group to come down and have a great experience there.

There are a few trips that I’m personally facilitating and leading, in addition to helping other people who want to do that. I am bringing about 25 business students from the University of Colorado-Boulder Global Creativity and Innovation MBA class down for a two-week tour at the end of April. We’re doing things like having dinner with Cuban entrepreneurs, who are some of the people that Obama met with. We have lectures on economics, legal structures, import and export, and manufacturing.

There were also fun things mixed in with that, like an activity called Havana Hacks, where people can go out and look for creative hacks for how Cubans have solved small problems in creative ways. So it might be that they reused a water bottle to create a watering system. We will be looking for these kinds of things, then facilitating some sort of dialogues and discussions around it.

Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

Photo by Adria Ellis, @aconica

I’m doing a dance trip from July 18th through the 22nd. I’m bringing people for dance workshops, and it’s overlapping with the carnival period in Santiago. Carnival time is not based on religion there, but on the Día de la Revolución on the 26th, so it focuses around this Cuban independence celebration.

In the future, I would really like to do more things that facilitate the arts from a tourism standpoint. A fantasy end goal would be to work with a lot of Cuban artists who are friends of mine and who are jazz artists, musicians, dancers, and painters. I want to work with everybody in the arts and create a collaborative, creative space. Cuba has such a vibrant, creative culture, and for me to bring people together in that environment and collaborate on creative work would be very special.

There’s nothing like having an informal jazz jam session, and letting people bring in whatever their instrument or background is and create fusions. It’s the same thing with dance. What happens when you mix tango with salsa, or some other dance form? It creates a really interesting, invigorated space!

Where is the best place to go for people who want to find out more about you or your work?

At this moment, if they’re interested in doing anything with Cuba, they should email info[at]havanacreative.com.


About Hillary

d77646_a642eeb026ef457787cafbcadabf5669Hillary Griffith has been traveling to Cuba for over 15 years, as a dancer, an artist, and a social entrepreneur. She is the founder of Havana Creative, a company that facilitates group travel to Cuba for people who want to experience the country in-depth. For more information or to join a group, email her at info[at]havanacreative.com.

May 15, 2016
Traveling with a Purpose: Anita Wing Lee

Anita Wing Lee is a 25-year-old blogger turned international broadcaster, humanitarian, and meditation guide. She is the founder of Project Soul Fam and has done international development work over the past couple years.

She recently found her passion through Periscope, an site that lets you explore the world through someone else’s eyes, that allows her to produce content and share her story in real time, evolve with her audience, and build a community. On her Periscope @anitawinglee she shares daily scopes of guided meditation, her travels, spiritual guidance, book clubs and more.

Anita knows it’s hard to make that initial leap to travel. Once she did, and once she discovered her purpose, she couldn’t get enough of it.

Her advice? It’s not about being where you are in the world, she says, but about the state of mind that you have (the traveler’s mindset!) — being alive, aware, empathetic, and compassionate.

Check out the interview with Anita below to find out how to find and fund travel opportunities with a purpose everywhere — even in your own neighborhood!


April 13, 2016
Climate Change Work & Life Abroad In The Philippines

TM: What kind of work do you do with climate change in the Philippines?

Naima: I am working under two different hats in the Philippines: one a policy hat, the other a private sector hat, but both hats share the same “green” color.

Under the policy hat, I work as a research fellow for the Ateneo School of Government towards collaborating with the private sector on developing policies and incentives consistent with sustainable development and climate change objectives in the Philippines.

Under the private sector hat, I work with WEnergy Global, a one-stop renewable energy solution provider with a regional focus in ASEAN countries.

How did you come to work internationally?

After graduating high school, I decided to take a gap year and volunteer in Guatemala, where I taught English and health to the children of migrant coffee workers. It was during that year that I was first exposed to both the challenges and excitement of living in another country. I have since become addicted to that environment.

During university, I spent a summer in Uganda working on malaria prevention. I also returned to Guatemala to carry out my thesis research. Since then, I have also lived and worked in Bangladesh, Germany, Spain, and now the Philippines, with a two-year New York City stint in between.


What are the effects of climate change on a country made up of islands?

The Philippines constantly ranks in the top three most vulnerable countries to climate change. A country made up of 7,000 islands, the Philippines is in a part of the world that gets a lot of big tropical storms. In the past few years, the Philippines has experienced some of the worst storms ever to make landfall on Earth. The mayor of Tacloban, one of the cities that was hit in 2013, continues to find cadavers around every two weeks.

As a developing country, with very little access to vital resources, the Philippines has a low ability to adapt and cope with disasters brought about by climate change impacts.

A report by the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources identifies five different risk factors that contribute to its vulnerability: A rise in sea levels, extreme rainfall events, extreme heating events, increased ocean temperatures, and a disturbed water budget. Given the Philippines’ vast shorelines and built-in geographic susceptibility, any one of these could be disastrous.

Debris lines the streets of Tacloban, Leyte island. This region was the worst affected by the typhoon, causing widespread damage and loss of life. Caritas is responding by distributing food, shelter, hygiene kits and cooking utensils. (Photo: Eoghan Rice - Trócaire / Caritas)

Climate change will continue to affect sectors that are strategically important for economic growth, e.g. agriculture, fisheries, and water resource management.

Given the island remoteness of much of the population, many people are not connected to the main electricity grid and have to buy expensive diesel instead.

In addition, while the country is committed to reducing 70 percent of its emissions by 2030, the government is considering approving 20+ coal plants. This is clearly a big case for transitioning to renewable energy!


How does life as a non-native give you a different perspective on the country?

More than 10 percent of Filipinos are OFW (overseas foreign workers), a majority of these living in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Compared to the reputation of the U.S. among most other countries in the world, Filipinos actually adore the U.S. They fanatically follow politics, sports (especially basketball), and pop culture. Most of my colleagues here know more about the latest Kardashian update and Trump idiocy than I do. So be prepared, if you plan to visit here, to answer A LOT of questions about the U.S.

One of the most startling realizations I made here was how many Filipinos work in call centers. Because of the Philippines’ history under U.S. rule, most Filipinos speak English and learn it in school. The accent is very light compared to other call-center-heavy countries (e.g. India), so the U.S. prefers to hire them (to lessen the harassment that some rude Americans give to people who speak English with any hint of a foreign accent).

The unfortunate consequence of this outsourcing is the negative impacts of the work on the health and psyche of these mostly young employees. They work shifts ranging from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. (given the 12 hour time difference to EST). This leads to unnatural biorhythms, high HIV rates, and increasing rates of depression–thanks to the monotony of the job and abusiveness of the clients. So next time you call customer service, think about what time of night it may be for the other person on the line.

Children greet the aircrew of an SH-60F Seahawk helicopter in Balasan, Philippines, July 1, 2008, after they delivered humanitarian supplies to their school. The helicopter and its crew are assigned to Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 4, Carrier Air Wing 14, which is embarked aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) under way in the Sulu Sea off the coast of the Philippines. The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to victims of Typhoon Fengshen, which struck the Philippines June 23, 2008. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Spike Call/Released)

Nonetheless, no matter what difficulty Filipinos face (including probably the most annoying one of all–the inescapable traffic of Manila), they always maintain a light-hearted spirit.

I have never come across a people as sympathetic, happy, friendly, welcoming, smiley, positive, fun-loving, generous, and hospitable as the Filipinos. The vibe here feels like the exact opposite as that of New York City.

Several times, I have had an experience such as the following one: I wait forever at the bank, for an Uber driver, or at a cashier due to some technical issue, system failure, or crappy Wi-Fi connection. I am exasperated by the time I am finally attended to, and want to make some snarky remark.

But within 10 seconds, that cashier, driver, or bank teller has won me over with their smile, sincere apology, and go-lucky attitude. And I am once again feeling so happy to be here.


About Naima

d77646_5588ead6fb934947b5d44cf026e848cbBorn in Guatemala to Costa Rican and German parents, Naima proudly brings a global perspective to whatever she does. Previously working as a strategist to accelerate public mobilization on sustainable solutions, she has also worked with GIZ in Bangladesh, and UN Women in New York. She is now based in the Philippines. Naima earned her degree in Public Policy from Duke University and wrote her thesis on the use of efficient cookstoves in Guatemala. Alongside her work, Naima is a trained salsa dancer/acro-yogi and loves performing.

March 31, 2016
Settling Down Without Settling: A Sketch Artist’s Serendipitous Encounter with Thailand's Moken Tribe

TM: What key things should people know about the Moken tribe?

Candace: The Moken are a tribe of nomadic people who traditionally live on boats, but have recently been forced to settle on the mainland of Thailand. There are all sorts of tribes scattered all along the Megui Archieplago, which consists of about 800 islands off the coast of Thailand and Burma. The Moken would travel between these islands.

When they were nomadic, their homes were dug-out wooden boats called kabongs. They lived on the boats for nine months out of the year, and then built temporary huts in which they would stay for three or four months during the monsoon season. They cooked, slept, and even gave birth and died on the boats. It was an entire life cycle taking place on the water. Their livelihood was diving, and they would collect all sorts of underwater creatures. Children would swim just as naturally as we might grow up running.

Since the Moken didn’t belong to any particular country, there have been a lot of issues with citizenship in the last 20 or 30 years. The Thai and Burmese governments are now forcing the Moken to settle down, in order to have a sense of control over these people for whom movement was a way of life. There are now about two or three hundred Moken who live on the Surin Islands.

It is a human rights issue, because there are many restrictions placed on them. They can’t travel very far or leave their province. This is a group of people whose entire livelihood and way of life was built on movement, and who are now being forced to be completely still. It is just a complete reversal of everything that they were used to and had built their lives on.

moken tribe thailand

How did you get the most out of your time with the Moken?

I’ve never had a more profound week in my life. I had hardly any internet access while I was there. I was so completely immersed — I did nothing but sit there and take notes constantly, just watching, observing, and interacting when I had the chance. I’ve never felt more engaged in and aware of a new culture. I wanted to learn every single thing I could while I was there that week.

I’m fascinated by the idea now that if you’re completely alive and aware of a new place, a week could feel much longer, and each day could almost feel like a week, because you’re engaged the entire day.

I tried to live as fully as possible when I was with them, and since my time with them, I’ve been reading and talking about the Moken tribe as much as I can.

Is there a difference in how the children are growing up now on land instead of on the water?

I was struck by how, even though these kids were born on land and are living their lives on land, they are still so comfortable in the water. They had a very natural relationship with water. It’s different for them now, but they do seem to be holding on to some aspects of their beautiful culture.

My favorite revelation was discovering how to communicate with the kids through art. I don’t speak Thai, so communication was difficult. I saw one of the girls drawing in the sand with a stick one day, and I gave her a paper and pen. The other kids caught on, and by the end of the week we had a group of 10 or 12 kids sitting around and drawing together.

The first thing they did was draw a wavy line across the middle of the paper. Then they’d draw a scene on land, and then a scene under water. So many of them did this over and over again. I was struck by how vivid and detailed their underwater scenes were. They were drawing anemones and seaweed, and their fish were gorgeous, with fins and scales.

Sketching is wonderful because anyone can speak art. It’s a universal language. It’s a way for someone of a different culture to instantly understand what I’m doing, what my impressions are of their home, and what I’m thinking and taking in about that place. They can get all of that without a single word needing to be spoken.

As a traveler, and as someone who’s often traveling to places where I don’t speak the language, art has become the most extraordinary tool to still be able to have conversations and connections, just visually instead of verbally.

candace rose moken tribe thailand

How have the Moken been influential in your life?

When I visited them, I was struggling to figure out how I could settle down in my own life. I had been traveling for several years at that point and living overseas, so movement had become a way of life for me. I felt myself yearning for a home and longing for a stable community, but there was this gap between my current movement and my dream of settling.

To me, settling felt like death. I love the world. I love being out in the world. I love being with other cultures. How could I bring myself to a place where I could be settled down without traveling and moving all the time? How do you settle down without settling?

The Moken were going through the same exact process and transition when I visited them. What I loved about my week with them was that I would get these little glimmers of how they had really held on to their love of movement and to their love for the water. It was incredibly influential to see my own struggle made manifest in a much larger way, and with much greater ramification.

My own little nomadic problem pales in comparison to this great human rights issue, but it was still very uncanny that I happened to find myself with these people from whom I learned a great deal.

candace rose moken tribe village thailand

How can the Moken be influential to other travelers as well?

It comes down to change and how we deal with it in our lives. Everybody transitions at one point or another in his or her lifetime.

I have been very scared of change. I don’t like change in my life. I like to rely on things. When you go through a deep change, you’re not going to be the same person on the other side. It can be very scary.

The Moken are changing while also holding on to a very distinct and special part of themselves. I think that’s something that anyone, whether you’re a traveler or just a human being trying to make your way through the world, can learn from.

It’s important to learn how to move through change gracefully while still holding on to the essence of your identity.

How did you overcome your fear of change?

It’s been very gradual, for sure. It was such a profound experience that it took me a whole year after I was with them to start writing about them. It just felt like something I really needed to protect for a while until I understood what it meant.

I always encourage people who experience change and transformation to just give themselves time, and to let the ideas that are percolating in your head take full form before making any drastic movements or actions. It’s like a stone dropped in a pond that just continues to make ripples.

candace rose moken child thailand

Is there anything being done now to help the Moken?

There is an NGO that is very involved there. I have friends in Thailand who are still researching them. The problems are still ongoing, so I try to keep some of those things abreast as best I can. The Moken are getting more attention in the press, and a documentary has been made about them.

It’s a positive thing that their plight is being put more and more in the international spotlight. There’s a great concern with indigenous tribes all around the world. We have to figure out how to honor and protect their indigenous ways of life, while also moving them into modernity. Access to education and healthcare are good things, but I also feel very strongly that their ways of life are beautiful and shouldn’t be completely lost.

I always try to make clear that it is something of a human rights issue, and that there is the issue of citizenship at stake. There isn’t a ton of friendliness towards minority groups in Thailand. As a white Westerner, it’s easy to romanticize about their way of life and celebrate it, so I’m cautious whenever I do talk about them. It’s just something that I encourage people to be aware of.


About Candace
d77646_ad5f2521f9b14331b2be93f5c5084103Candace Rose Rardon is a writer and sketch artist with a passion for telling stories about the world — through both words and watercolors. Her work has appeared in places such as BBC Travel, World Hum, and National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel site, and she also runs her travel blog, The Great Affair, which has been featured in the New York Times.
March 6, 2016
Find Your Courage Through Solo Travel: Jackie’s Story
This is possibly the most important interview that Jackie Norse of The Budget-Minded Traveler has published to date.
Together with Nathaniel Boyle from Holocene, the three of us explore solo travel as a tool for personal growth and healing, by sharing Jackie’s own personal story on the heels of her divorce.
Through a number of hard questions and deep topics, and based around a piece she wrote recently: 5 Beautiful Lessons I Learned From Making the Hardest Decision of My Life, we discuss the unparalleled power of change, transformation, and strength that comes with traveling solo.

Listen below, or download the episode and listen on the go.

And please, do reach out if you’re going through a break-up or divorce and want to heal and feel like yourself again. As Jackie says, “If you think there’s nothing waiting for you on the other side of the world, you’re wrong,” and we would be honored to support you in your journey.


About Jackie
Latina by heart, Californian by birth, and Montanan by choice, although currently traveling the world with her office in her backpack. At age 18, she chose travel as a lifestyle and never went back to “normal” as she knew it. Over a decade later, travel is her full-time profession, and home is (once again) where the toothbrush is. Connect with Jackie at Traveling Jackie or The Budget-Minded Traveler.
February 24, 2016
A Taste of Japanese Food Philosophy, And A Donburi Recipe Too

People tend to think of sushi and teriyaki when thinking of Japanese food, but there is in fact a lot more to the cuisine than what we are exposed to abroad!

Japanese food philosophy is so unique, emphasizing care and consideration with every detail, that it really reflects a beautiful mindset towards how we view food. Understanding Japan’s food philosophy goes a long way in understanding the other nuances of the culture. I truly believe that the best way to help spread Japanese culture is by sharing the food.

While it is impossible to pick a favorite Japanese dish, one dish that I love to introduce is donburi, since it’s different enough to be exciting, but not too different from what people already love about Japanese food.

In Japanese, donburi literally means bowl, but it also refers to the dish that’s served in the bowl. Sometimes shortened to don, the dish consists of an oversized bowl of rice, served with a variety of toppings simmered in a savory sauce. While the ingredients can vary, donburi are usually seasoned with three essential Japanese seasonings: soy sauce, mirin (a rice wine), and dashi (fish stock), which are what make it so delicious and so distinctly Japanese! To finish the dish, an egg is often added to the top in the last minute of cooking, but you can always leave it out.

The first donburi was topped with eel, like the picture above, and appeared during the Edo era. Serving the rice and the main dish in the same bowl was efficient and practical—it was a Japanese version of fast food.

The dish fit perfectly with the ever-bustling Tokyo culture (just as busy back then as it is today), so it quickly caught on and variations soon appeared. The variations include Oyakodon, which is served with chicken; Tendon, which is served with a fried pork cutlet; and my all time favorite, Gyudon, which is served with beef.

There are a lot of restaurants that specialize in donburi, and every region has its own distinct type of the dish. What’s great about donburi is that they’re cheap and flavorful, which makes for a great, affordable meal while traveling in Japan!

d77646_d650026a438e48eb8d8a43d9611cea6aBeef Rice Bowl – Gyudon
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Yields: 2 servings
Calories: 600

  • ½ pound beef
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons dashi stock
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 eggs (optional)
  • 2 cups cooked Japanese Rice
  • 1 green onion
  • pickled ginger
  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Small Mixing Bowl
  • Wide Skillet
  • Spatula
Quick Directions:
  1. Cut the onions and beef into thin slices.
  2. Heat the oil in wide skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the beef cook until browned.
  4. Add the sugar, sake, mirin, dashi and soy sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer until most of the liquid is gone.
  5. Scramble the eggs in a small bowl. Add the egg to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until the egg is just cooked.
  6. Place the beef and egg on top of steamed rice and pour desired amount of sauce. Top with pickled red ginger and green onion, and enjoy!

About Dani


A foodie at heart, Dani Baghernejad is especially eager to share Japanese cuisine. While she’s always been curious about Asian cultures, she first fell in love with Japan after taking a Japanese class in college. She was first introduced to Japanese cooking by reading Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji, and fell in love with the food because of its unique style. She launched Otaku Food to make Japanese cuisine more accessible, emphasizing, recipes that are simple, yet true to form, in the hopes that everyone can have a little taste of Japan, no matter where they live.

February 12, 2016
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