Save Sterling and See The Wild West

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The lure of a romantic past, when windswept native American Indians on mustang ponies kicked up dust as they galloped across the vast landscapes, lives on in our imagination. So do the days of cowboy life, with the cattle drives, bucking broncos and gunslingers- all last as an enduring memory of America’s wild western heart. The traces of the past linger under skies crimson at sunset followed by the vast star filled skies, when you spend time in America’s wild western spaces.

The humbling vistas of the Grand Canyons, Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks are once in a life time, dream destinations. Western travel tours and dude ranch accommodations cater to travelers who are itching to saddle up and see the wide open, natural spaces of America for themselves. This should whet your appetite for some of the best steaks, barbeques and Tex-Mex food you’ll ever taste.

Go west, pardner, and don’t spare the horses. Discover the friendly people, natural wonders and delicious culinary specialties for yourself and save yourself some Sterling doing it, to boot.

Tours to Grand Teton

What’s on offer on a western tour? You ride in a covered wagon, head down Snake River on a whitewater raft, spot wildlife at Grand Teton Park and see herds of buffalo thundering across golden plains at Yellowstone. You can set your watch by the famous Old Faithful geyser shooting a spray of steam, on schedule, 90 feet in the air.  Perhaps you’ll play a part in gunfights reenacted at Deadwood, South Dakota, the preserved western town where Wild Bill Hickok was shot and Calamity Jane was laid to rest beside him.

You’ll see the territory of the Great Sioux Nation, meet native American artists producing their traditional handcrafts at the Indian Museum and Cultural Center of North America and learn about American history and modern adaptations to their way of life from a Lakota native’s perspective. A 9 day tour runs to $2,407 (about £ 1,800), not including your airfare into Salt Lake City, Utah and out of Denver, Colorado with this American tour operator. There are other companies that also provide this standard tour, for the same price, but they fly into Jackson Hole and leave from Rapid City, South Dakota, which won’t offer direct flights to the UK, so the journey could be more expensive.

A horseback holiday on a Montana dude ranch doesn’t try to pack in nearly as much; the majestic sights on offer are pristine, green mountain vistas and the wildlife that roam there. Triple J Wilderness Ranch has a remote lodge you can stay in and take a horseback camping trip into neighbouring Bob Marshall Wilderness preserve. Pack mules carry your gear and tents, leaving you free to ride quietly enough to spot black bear, antelope, bighorn sheep and eagles in the unspoilt pine scented hillsides. Hiking, fly fishing for trout and nights spent beside a campfire under brilliant stars let you unwind, enchanted by the wonders of western America. Their rates for wilderness pack-trips are $400 a day and a night’s stay at their lodge before and after the trip, including meals, is complimentary. They also offer hunting trips, providing shooting lessons and licenses for legally hunting your own venison steak supper.

Tee Pee Capital of the World

The Crow Indian Nation holds their 100th Old Crow Fair in late August, inviting visitors to watch their rodeo competitions and see them in full regalia as they continue passing their traditional dances and rituals onto their children. They gather annually at an area an hour away from Billings, on their Montana reservation. Seeing them today, on lands where they once hunted buffalo, and still continue to honour their unique culture is a moving experience.

Native Americans hold many festive traditional gatherings called Pow Wows, where visitors are welcome to watch the dances and competitions. These events aren’t parties, they don’t permit alcohol, and there isn’t an extra tee pee set out for guests, so find a Pow Wow from this directory and look for a nearby hotel. Listen to Native festival music as you tour the area, it’s the perfect background sound for anyone who wants appreciate the western landscape from a Dances with Wolves viewpoint.

The Alamo

Texas’ most visited historical landmark is the former Spanish Mission building in San Antonio where Davey Crockett was among the approximately 200 men who died defending the Alamo from Mexican forces in 1836. In later battles, the cry “Remember the Alamo” proved the Alamo was a pivotal point in the Mexican American war, indeed, it mobilized men to join the Texas forces against the Mexicans. Texas ceased being an independent republic and it was joined to the United States in 1845, to thwart British involvement occurring there.

Perhaps this partially failed, since there is a British Society of Texas in San Antonio who meet for lunch at the pub. These proudly British expats don’t appear to be trying to blend in by wearing Stetson hats and boots. Are they on a daring mission to bring Morris dancing to Texas as this Yellow Rose of Texas performance appears to suggest?

The Cowboy Capital, Dude

Fancy a few days on a dude ranch learning the ropes from real rootin’ tootin’ cowboys? On nearby Mayan Dude Ranch, you’ll ride the dusty trails twice a day, eat massive cowboy cook-out breakfasts, enjoy swimming in the pool, rafting and fishing in the river and do country dancing to work off the Texas-sized steaks, Mexican specialties and smoky barbecues. The daily rates for this family ranch’s rustic western-themed rooms is $165 (roughly £120) for adults and $80 for children under 12.

The ranch is near Bandera, “the Cowboy Capital of the World,” home to many champion professional rodeo stars. Watch riders on bucking longhorn steers and broncos and soak up some local atmosphere at Bandera Pro Rodeo where cowboy’s hats never seem to fall off no matter how rough their ride is.

Spend Less at a Luxury Lodge

The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming promises a blend of rusticity and luxury in majestic natural surroundings.  Log cabins and lodge rooms are well appointed with western themed décor and can accommodate family groups who want to travel back to the wild west in luxury the cowboys never imagined.  The largest lavish cabin sleeps six and includes a staffed private kitchen that serves you meals and premium beverages for $4,200 (around £3,150) a night.

How can you possibly save money on this lodge or, for that matter, any of the other itineraries described here? You simply use your currency company to transfer your payment and you get an easy, instant improvement on the Sterling to Dollar exchange rate. It’s a far better rate than your credit card or bank can offer you and you won’t pay any fees, either. If you book an all-inclusive trip, you haven’t got the hassle of sorting out any amusement for yourself and you’ll save money, as well.

That’s the way the west is won, these days, pardner.

 

 

Top 5 Sustainable & Sensational Travel Destinations

Note: This article was published to increase traffic to a British currency company’s website. As part of my salaried duties, I researched, wrote and posted 3-4 similar original articles weekly.

 

Top 5 Green Sustainable & Sensational Travel Destinations 

The UN declared 2017 the year of sustainable tourism, lending a boost to the growing momentum towards environmentally responsible travel. Green travel, in its purest form would be hopping on your bike or walking to your holiday destination, since your carbon footprint would be reduced to your literal footprint.  Taking planes or driving cars to reach destinations is avoided by some eco-tourists, who favour using trains or other low impact transportation to reach natural areas.

Another form of the industry supports the locals- often indigenous people- to preserve their pristine environments by bringing them an income where they live. This means they aren’t forced to sacrifice their cherished surroundings in order to support themselves. These trips usually include flying around the world in order to experience tropical forests, wildlife, organic orchards and farms that are managed by locals who boost their income by providing hospitality for international visitors.

The creative solutions that eco-friendly lodging employs to protect the environment help you experience the world in exhilarating ways that are far more meaningful than typical mass travel can ever hope to be. Many of the resorts have built in physical challenges, giving guests the opportunity to exercise more than they would on other types of vacations.

Here are five fabulous green destinations to inspire your travels:

  1. Taking tree hugging to new heights

Tree hotel juxtaposes contemporary Nordic design with the iconic childhood tree house. The result: seven distinctive structures in a Swedish forest. There’s a nearby restaurant with a bar, television and internet but in each of the tree hotel rooms the emphasis is upon fully experiencing the majestic woodlands you’re nesting inside of. Tucked high into the Lapland treetops, guests enjoy majestic views of the Lule river and the northern lights. You can reach your tree hotel by taxi or a helicopter flight from Lulea Airport, which is a short flight north from Stockholm. All prices are in Swedish Kroner, so you can pay the bill for your room, airport transfers and meals by using your currency company to lock in the very best exchange rates.

  1. Alpine luxury geo-glamping

Whitepod offers an eco-luxury alternative for enjoying the Swiss Alps. The geodesic domes set on a hill overlooking Valais, Switzerland are kept snugly warm by pellet stoves. Both the staff and guests hike up steep hills to the pristine site. Waste is recycled and local ingredients are featured at the luxury restaurant on the grounds. The Les Cerniers restaurant also offers guests delivery of gourmet meals which they will bring to your pod so that you can stay warm in the winter. In warm weather, they offer picnics for guests who want to enjoy the scent of wildflowers and hillside views while they dine al fresco.

Mountain biking, paragliding and dog carting are among the activities at this ecological glamping option and a massage can be booked when you make your reservation. Since payments are made in Swiss Francs, remember that you could stretch your budget by making a transfer to pay for your stay through your currency company.

  1. Airbnb’s green contemporary

Ecobnb brings you affordable and sustainable places to stay, especially across Italy where the concept of a bio hotel network was born. The rooms that are listed on the site have green buildings with 100% renewable energy and car-free accessibility options like bikes and buses. Organic food and wines are also an important feature of many places that offer retreats you’d otherwise never discover in the Italian countryside. Children can play with small goats and chickens while spending some memorable family time away at organic Tuscan farms. Adults can learn how to made homemade Italian pasta in a small luxury hotel in the ancient village of Rotonda.

The network is dedicated to teaching travellers that there are better alternatives than visiting sites like Venice and Rome, which are increasingly overwhelmed by hordes of tourists. They suggest seeing lesser known places and travelling during the off-season to help support the destination by reducing the summer crowds which are destructive to the sites.

Ecobnb seeks to dissuade people from using cruise ships because they are the most ecologically destructive way of taking a holiday, as well as a fast-growing global industry. There’s hope that by educating travellers to the sustainable alternatives, the cruise industry’s popularity might wane.

  1. Nicaragua: Known for eco-tourism

The fame of Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and private luxury reserve has established Nicaragua as the world’s premier rainforest retreat. The lodge is tucked into a leafy canopy beside the Pacific Ocean where luxurious guest quarters with private swimming pools command spectacular views from a treetop setting high above the ground. Guests enter the resort from the jungle, crossing a suspension bridge through forest teeming with monkeys, sloths and tropical birds. Natural materials are used throughout the lodge; the buildings were constructed by local craftspeople and much of the produce is grown on the farm in the reserve. A 5-night special honeymoon package for two which includes an ocean view room with a private plunge pool, meals, cocktails, surf lessons and horseback riding among other amenities costs $3,900. That’s around £3,000, without considering the cost of the flight to Managua.

Cabins on an organic coffee farm nearby don’t come with plunge pools, but Finca Esperanza Verde affords guests the opportunity to enjoy 247 acres of cloud forest that is being organically farmed and preserved. The jungle views from cabins that are perched high atop stilts are breath taking and the meals fresh and locally sourced. The prices are more down to earth in a country where the average annual salary is under £350. The largest of the solar powered cabins of this finca are £85 a day, at most, and you can sip the local organic coffee all day, for no extra cost. What’s even better than free coffee? Knowing that your relaxing vacation is helping save the Amazon forests!

  1. Go native on Canada’s sunshine coast

There’s nothing new about living with reverence for nature. The Haida tribe have inhabited British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii Park, which means islands of the people, for some 13,000 years. Visitors can explore the waters of the park by kayaks, paddling in waters that are home to 20 species of whale and dolphin. Sailboat charters are also available and Butterfly Tours offer eight-day guided camping tours in the forests and kayak excursions into the Unesco world heritage site of SGang Gwaay, a sacred site which the Haida guard and preserve.

The watchman program serves to protect the native heritage site where trees carved into totem poles reflect their belief that chief’s spirits become one with the trees when they die. The Haida natives are also there to share their native culture with the very few visitors who reach this remote spot.

For those who wish to experience a rustic homestead on remote Rose Harbour, the few residents there will work together to provide lodging and exceptional meals for guests. The former historic whaling station outpost has no electricity or indoor plumbing; accommodation with three organic meals is $150 Canadian Dollars a day.  You can reach Rose Harbour by boat or chartered plane from the village of Queen Charlotte to enter a timeless world where rugged, friendly people live in harmony with nature.

During the summer months, Air Canada flies into Sandspit International Airport from Vancouver daily. There are also trains and buses that bring you to the starting point for your unforgettable wilderness holiday on British Columbia’s sparkling sunshine coast which is warmer and sunnier than Vancouver or the mainland of Canada.

 

Meta: Top 5 global travel destinations for an unforgettable holiday in nature with tips to help you save money, too.

Tags: Green, travel, tourism, currency, holiday, sustainability, luxury

 

 

 

 

Freelance VS Fear

It’s four am and utterly silent outside while a storm rages within me. The writing job is, like the chair I sat in for over eight hours a day, being pulled out from under me. I rail and pace and study my half-toned abs, awake too early, sipping red wine in my plan to go back to bed, after I find the thing to kick, punch or scream at. Four am is dark, still and warm for February, an intimate pocket of reflection between night and morning.

Four am is the time when the meat of sleep is over and, should you be so inclined, you can rest a little longer in that next stage, which I suppose could be the side dish. I don’t want to sleep and I do. I don’t want that job and I do. I am not angry and I am. It is pitch black dark, no sound of a car engine can be heard and there are shimmering pools of streetlights far below my window. Both things-light and dark are here, as are bad and good news.

I’m exhausted, fried to a crisp. I need a week or two off from the job of writing (that I am so grateful for!). I could get on top of the feeling that I’m sliding into a pit of feeling hard done by. I need to just write my guts out and let this shit go. I’ll be a writer even after this—I write every day at that wretched post, so writing is like breathing, now. That’s the bigger reality. From afar, if I could lift myself up a few miles and look down, would I see that this is all rather benign and wasn’t it always a risky proposition, this concept of a work visa that has to be renewed annually?

Two truths 

It is becoming obvious that there are-in every moment-two contradictory truths. This thing that is happening at me: job insecurity, employers who aren’t sure if they can keep me and have asked me to stay and then asked me to wait for a few weeks to make sure they can offer me a job-that is all the noise, the distracting chatter, the background static still echoing in my head.

What is at the center, past this distracting crisis, is me putting my fingers onto a keyboard and producing my own song. Looking at my core muscles is important, since that is me, not the job. I am steeling myself, training to shatter the stuckness, the inertia, the weight of the world sticking to my ribs. My own foibles, folly and frailty. The place where I am trapped and waiting for a break just now is not unfamiliar. I have had this mosquito buzzing at my ear before, but I am aware this time around. Sort of. It’s all still a jumble I haven’t worked through. Writing about the Non-Farm Payrolls, about US job growth and wages rising, about unemployment of 4.1%. From an island that feels like kin to Greece, I write that 20% is a low estimate of that nation’s unemployment. I type away, badly, on a keyboard about these things, knowing I must empty my desk drawer in a week. It is…hard.  And the joy rising in me is as beautiful as feeling really alive again is.

I haven’t lost my job. It’s right down there, I can see the lights from here. I know where it is- it’s 40 minutes’ drive every day into an office that is clinical, devoid of soul; an IKEA desk and chair and a computer that I switch on, plug into and produce work from. Fear of losing my pay check, losing my ability to pay rent, losing my home, has kept me bound to the pages I produce. In my uneasy sleep, I dream in the sections of the deadline I dread, and greet, again, every day. I don’t even like weekends, like this, since there’s never enough time to recharge, what with ironing my business attire and preparing lunches for the week ahead.

The massive blue, blood red super moon hidden behind the clouds is a herald of changes. The new year is still so fresh that my fearful thoughts of leaving my home and moving in with a friend seem dramatically unwarranted. I’m grateful for the options the company is holding out towards me—working freelance for them—that keep the pennies and pounds from heaven coming around the next bend. I’m also glad for my sister’s wisdom, learned as a perennial government contract worker, that a job ending isn’t something to take personally. No one says I can’t write, they are just sacking all of their writers, but they hope to keep me. That’s nice…ish. But still, I scan the horizon for what next?

My worst-case scenario is that I lose this job, that the option of staying on as a freelancer doesn’t materialize. That fills me with more excitement than fear. I get time to do the work I would rather do! I can finish my neglected memoir Token Yank! I am freed from the penance of hauling my dressed-up, mascara-ed ass in there and that squandered time is mine! I get to write about what I decide to write about at four am or 4 pm.

Write, move your body, write!

I can work out in between assignments; I can clock out, clear my mind and come back when I am biologically freshened. It is so hard to sit and churn it out for nine hours, five days a week… Each session is survival, then weeks pass, you stop being alive to yourself or anyone else. You are deeply tired, then exhausted. I limped in with a broken foot and never sought medical care that was within walking distance. I was afraid I’d loss my place if I took an hour off to see a doctor. Wow. That was what I was willing to sacrifice, what I’m letting go of.

I can make this work for me. Hell, now that I don’t have a broken foot, I can learn to type properly. That would be fun. It really is fun to begin shaking this job off, and I can get paid to write about more than job growth and unemployment rates. Well, either I can, or I can’t, and I’d get to find out what I can do, if I let go of this white knuckled desperation.

It’s five o’clock. The roosters are persistently crowing, as if urging the sun into the inky sky. All is well and so utterly screwed up. A pair of truths, one in each hand, exist in tandem. My eyelids heavy, it’s quieter inside of me than it was, now before the dawn of another Sunday.

It’s hard to know in your bones that you’re going to lose a job that’s paid you decently to write for two years. I got what I needed out of the bargain, and now, fearful or free, my apprenticeship concludes, my work to write better continues.

I wonder how much faster I can learn to type once I quit looking at the keyboard, unsure of myself and the truths I hold in my two hands?

Learn WordPress and Yoast, kid.

What’s true for any writing job is the same truism you’ll hear for free lancing and authoring of any variety- dude, you gotta get some social media skills.I’m on a long distance team with a very patient genius who can post a website page in ten minutes.It’s powered by WordPress , so why doesn’t it look anything like the screen  I have before me? Where are the toolbars and the side menu? Ah- yes that might be Yoast, mightn’t it?

I honestly asked if I could come in on the weekend and ‘play with the assignment’, knowing I’d not likely be much swifter at uploading the same sort of complex page from here. Sure- I can play with hyperlinks…but I knew that  before the tsunami of ‘holy cannoli batman- what’s all that information coming at me!’ came…at me.

Playing with an image editor- I’ve seen a tutorial which came from a video that had waaay more info than this screen now shows. So…here’s how you learn, right? More playing!

learning

Learning is fun, right?

Acing the Writing Job means…

Holy cow, they expect me to write content that’s-what? Based on metrics? And delve into financially dulled data emerging with some fascinating insights that that 6 minutes to read? Ok, sure it’s SEO friendly, that isn’t too hard to figure out, but as the last reflections of sunlight drain from the sky, I blink toward the dark unknown fearing the challenges that must certainly be ahead.

This is the reward of getting a paid writing job! The certainty that uncertainty is around the corner. It liberates the critical broken record that plays in my head- that voice seeking safety at all costs has woken up to demand center stage. Images of my  future self’s failure to learn something are flickering on my mental screen now,before I’ve even made my first day’s appearance. Okay, you’re a familiar lie, I nod, playing the kinder mentor to myself.

The thing I know for sure is that writing is what I’m doing now, to deal with feeling nervous about writing.And I’ll write about learning new techniques, too. I’ll find writing tedious and no doubt write that I’m sick of writing. And then edit that and whine about being sick of editing. Writing is what helps me learn and so what better than a chance to learn more about writing? I can’t know more than I know today, although writing has helped me imagine what a year from today may be. I wrote  about getting through a first year at the job and it worked like a lasso to pull my imagination  into visualizing success.

If I didn’t write, I can’t imagine who I’d be. I can imagine both trial and triumph, success and setbacks in the new job ahead. In crafting sentences that readers can well imagine, I’ll be extending this habit that sustains me. My neighbor told me that the job was meant just for me- a kindness meant to reassure me as I explained how in shock I was. It is, however a possibility. It’s an open door  in a mansion full of words I’ve yet to shape into form.

Getting Those Babies In The Sun

Writing can be too dang solitary. Lots of writers work in coffee shops because being near other people gives them the ability to cop a buzz of energy. I laughed today when I passed the village coffee shop, snickered at the ludicrous image of myself trying to focus on writing there. Since I write non-fiction, maybe this is a stretch toward making new patterns, the following imaginary interaction which is fiction:

The men nod, but fall silent as I enter their domain. I try giving each a respectful flash of eye contact that’s neither so long it might possibly enflame passion nor so short that it appears I’m a shy child. I tip my head toward all seven of them as I say “Yasas.” Their raucous laughter has skittered away, replaced by the void of shocked silence and their eyes flashing volumes of suppressed conversation between them. It’s insane, they begin to mutter. The one with the largest mustache rises and strides out the open door, scowling back at me, his eyebrows twitching. It’s too sunny to sit outside at a table-I couldn’t see the screen in the midday glare and it’s not much better in the corner, so I have to angle my notebook and scrunch down in a position that makes my neck ache even before the woman comes to take my order. There’s no hope of them having decaf, so I don’t even ask.  I do enjoy a Greek coffee but…it’s a small shot that packs a lot of caffeine. You knock it back in six sips and then there’s the glass of water which you could drag out into a half hour affair, at best. It’s not as easy to nurse as a latte. And when the beverage has been consumed, there I am: the Foreign woman squatting in the men’s territory: The coffee shop. The laughter resumes; it’s good I don’t speak Greek because I don’t need to know precisely what’s being said about me. These old timers know all about laptops. People use them to watch porn. Period. That’s the one and only thing they do on them. Ever. And look at me with my nose almost touching the screen- my God what a nymphomaniac I obviously am! Brazen hussy dragging her obscenity right into the last bastion of Cypriot male sanctity- to their coffee shop! Filthy slut.

Yeah, what a charming work day that would be, eh?

This site seems like a better alternative today. Yesterday I entered my first writing contest ( Creative Nonfiction on the topic of weather)and now here I am starting this site because my babies need to see the light of day. I’ll never be as good a writer as I ache to be, but I’ve graduated to the stage where I need to join a community. A single expat American woman living in Cyprus, I’m writing a memoir-a big ambitious first book that’s teaching me how and why I write. I write to connect. I write to learn. I yearn to meet fellow travelers and writers in every nook and cranny of the globe. Whether you’ve put your work into the glare of the light or are just coming to be ready to do that, like me, I’m joining the tribe and I hope to be of some use to you.