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Mar
13

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Family Travel Tips: How to Plan Your Vacation

Posted by on March 13, 2016 · 2 Comments  

Does it ever feel like winter will never end? Don’t worry, summer will sneak up on us sooner than we expect, and with it comes summer vacation!

For families, summer vacation can mean the rare opportunity to escape the demands of our work and school schedules to relax and have fun.

Summer vacation planning, on the other hand, might seem like the opposite of relaxing. But with the proper amount of time and consideration for the details of your trip, the planning process can be almost as much fun as the vacation itself.

We’ve laid out some great travel tips for summer vacation planning to make them simple and stress-free. Get the family involved in the planning process, and you’ll be enjoying the excitement of summer vacation together in no time.

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Feb
24

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How Volunteers are Impacting Mayan Children For The Better

Posted by on February 24, 2016 · Leave a Comment  

The Western Highlands of Guatemala offer a stunning backdrop to a fascinating, indigenous culture.

The southern border is rimmed by a chain of volcanoes, and the Cuchumatanes mountain range sprawls across the northern border. A lush landscape of lakes, streams, and valleys fills the space between them.

Unfortunately, the Maya communities that call this place home have struggled to maintain their identity while securing their place in Guatemalan society.

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Feb
12

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Our Favorite Places: 10 Countries That Stole Our Hearts

Posted by on February 12, 2016 · 1 Comment  

Valentine’s Day is typically a time to celebrate the people we love. But what about our favorite places?

Travelers know that places have the power to steal our hearts. When you find yourself in a new country, surrounded by stunning sites, rich smells, exotic sounds, and the beautiful people who call that country home, you might just fall in love.

We spoke to ten travel bloggers who have made their way around the globe, but found their hearts were stolen by one place in particular. Perhaps by next Valentine’s Day, you’ll have traveled to one of these places and discovered a new love in your life!

Our favorite places - Belize

Belize

I spent two weeks in Belize and fell in love with the country because it provided both peaceful relaxation and memorable adventures. I split my time between recharging on the picturesque beaches of Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye and exploring the interior’s caves and jungles.

I felt like Indiana Jones while exploring the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave, which features sacrifice remains and pottery. – David Lee of Travel Blog Success

Our favorite places - Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a near perfect combination of exotica, adventure, and hospitality, especially if you are on your first international adventure or traveling as a family with young travelers.

Our family loves adventure, so we took ourselves well off the beaten path, which isn’t that hard in Costa Rica, and inevitably got lost, repeatedly. This led to great encounters with people waving us to a stop on back roads and dirt tracks, to explain that a bridge was out ahead, or that we had taken one (or more) wrong turns.

In one small village a group of young girls laughingly stopped us from a wrong turn to nowhere and happily redirected us back to the right road.

Everyone expects Costa Rica to be beautiful, which it is. But what you quickly come to realize is that what makes Costa Rica special is its people. – Malone Hodges of Our Traveling Life

Our favorite places - Cuba
Photo credit: Barbara Weibel

Cuba

Few travel experiences have touched my heart more than my people-to-people tour of Cuba with Discover Corps. Through their remarkable connections, I was able to see first-hand how Cubans are transforming their lives by tapping into the arts.

José Fuster converted an impoverished fishing village into an international art destination with his ceramic mosaics. Another grassroots project, Muraleando, trained kids to paint murals on their fences and homes, turning a once-blighted neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana into a community filled with pride.

In the small colonial town of Cienfuegos, artist Santiago Hermes Martínez turned his home into a collective where starving artists could stay for free. The art they created eventually spilled out onto the street, becoming the basis for monthly street festivals that forged community solidarity. It was a heartwarming experience that renewed my faith in the indomitable human spirit. –Barbara Weibel of Hole In The Donut 

Our Favorite Places - Dominican Republic
Photo credit: Margherita Ragg

Dominican Republic

I went to the Dominican Republic looking for sun, sand and R&R. But I ended up having one of the best experiences of my travel life. One day a group of us rented a car and drove around the countryside. Away from the coast, the touristy glitz and glamour gave way to local life, and we spent hours exploring the landscapes.

We watched an amazing sunset from the top of a hill, but then we couldn’t find our way back in the darkness. So we stopped in a nondescript village in the middle of nowhere and asked a random passer-by. His name was Tomas Cruz, and he was more than happy to direct us back to the resort… but not before we joined him at his house for a drink and a couple of cigars.

We didn’t know whether to “go with the flow” and accept the invitation or just drive away, fearing a scam. In the end, we spent a wonderful evening with rum, bachata and many, many laughs. It was a defining moment of my travel life: I learned that there are many more nice people than bad people out there! –Margherita Ragg of The Crowded Planet 

Our Favorite Places - Guatemala
The Fuego volcano erupting, as seen from Acatenango.

Guatemala

One word: avocados. A country full of avocados immediately wins a place in my heart.

But Guatemala stayed there once I conquered a 24,000 foot volcano to sleep at the top and watch an erupting volcano nearby. The challenges that Guatemala can impose make the journey that much more special. The people of the country have so much pride and they are using the pride to scratch and claw their way out of the violence that has stricken the country for some time. – Megan Stetzel of Forks and Footprints

Our favorite places - India
Elen Turner at Humayun’s tomb.

India

For several years, my biggest travel dilemma has been how to visit all of the corners of India that I haven’t yet been to, without completely neglecting the rest of the world.

I fell in love with India as soon as I arrived and have been back 6 or 7 times. I studied Indian history and literature at university, so I knew a lot about the country before I made my first trip. This really helped me appreciate everything I saw, and while most of the usual cliches apply — I found it a little overwhelming, scary, crazy — I also felt that I understood it on some level.

I love India’s variety, how the mountains of the Himalayas in the north are completely different from the steamy backwaters of Kerala in the south, and how the arid desert forts and palaces of Rajasthan are a world away from the swampy Sundarbans of West Bengal. I love how helpful Indians are, and how you only need to turn up at a bus stop to be immediately sent in the right direction. I love the food, from the cloying density of traditional sweets, to the creamy curries of Punjab, to the crispy dosas of the south. India is my happy place. – Elen Turner of Wilderness Metropolis

Our favorite places - Peru
Adonis Villanueva at Machu Picchu.

Peru

I’ve always been fascinated by the ancient Inca ruins of Macchu Picchu and Sacsayhuaman, the mysteries surrounding these structures, and the people that built them. Some are built with technologies and methods that have modern engineers left scratching their heads. The Nazca lines, for example, appear to have been designed to view from the sky, as if meant to be a message from the gods.

Peru also has some of the most extreme variety of landscape in South America, which provides excellent photographic opportunities, from the driest desert of the northern Atacama to the wet and humid jungles of the Amazon.

Aside from the ancient ruins and amazing sights, there are Peruvian fruits and cuisine. The savory roasted chicken dipped in green Picante sauce and paired with fried Yucca root, satisfies the belly and the soul. The variety of tasty tropical fruits like Passion fruit, Chirimoya, and Pepino you can enjoy for pennies on the dollar. – Adonis Villanueva of Always Wanderlust

 Our Favorite Places - South Africa

South Africa

My visit to South Africa changed my life in so many different ways, it’s difficult to put it into words.

It was during a week-long safari in Kruger National Park that I learned about the connection between ecotourism, nature/wildlife conservation, and the preservation of local cultures. It was also the first time I understood that the way we choose to spend our money can actually have a profound impact on local communities, whether for better or worse.

Touring through the townships of Durban, I saw the economic disparity created by decades of racial segregation and subjugation. In KwaZulu Natal, I stayed in a tradition Zulu village and learned more about the rich history and culture of these proud people.

In the end, the people of South Africa affected me just as deeply as the remarkable wildlife encounters, creating a deep love affair with the continent that has left me yearning to return, over and over again. – Bret Love of Green Global Travel

Our Favorite Places - Tanzania
Photo Credit: Meg Jerrard

Tanzania

Tanzania has a way of reeling you in. Between the wildlife, the beaches, the fascinating cultures, and the spectacular way the sun sets each evening over the African plains; the country was quick to steal my heart. And the emotional rollercoaster of pushing yourself beyond physical and emotional limits to reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro strengthened my soul.

Though it wasn’t just the country I fell in love with. I also met my husband there. Having climbed Kilimanjaro on separate tours, we had 12 hours together to bond over our love of the country before leaving to catch separate flights. What followed was a long distance love affair, a destination wedding, and a lifelong partner with whom I continue to travel the world.

So yes, my heart was stolen on my trip to Tanzania. Perhaps it was the wildlife, or perhaps the chance encounter with a handsome traveler who I ended up bringing home. Hows that for a souvenir!  –Meg Jerrard of Mapping Megan

 Our Favorite Places - Thailand

Thailand

I fell in love with Thailand because of a fire.

I stood on a busy corner of Bangkok, jet lagged, disheveled and sweating through the long sleeves I was wearing as proper attire for temple hopping. In the distance, across the river, I could see angry black clouds of smoke, churning. It was clear that this was not a peaceful, contained fire. It was an emergency.

Out of nowhere, barreling down the road, a red pick-up truck headed my way. A man in the passenger seat held a flashing light in his hand, propped to the roof of the truck, a gesture of official response. Several other men sat and knelt in the cab of the truck, a small army of first responders on their way to the scene. And I smiled. Here was the Thailand I had heard about – resourceful, scrappy, and eager to help. And I was in love.”– Julie Smith of Drive on the Left 

Has a country ever stolen your heart? Tell us which one!

Feb
9

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The Best Family Volunteer Vacations

Posted by on February 9, 2016 · 2 Comments  

Sometimes it can be a challenge just to gather the whole family together for dinner. Everyone has different schedules, different tastes, and different distractions from the time you’d like to spend with them. So organizing family volunteer vacations might just seem like a headache waiting to happen.

But participating in volunteer vacations can be an incredibly rewarding experience that brings your family closer. When you find yourself in an unfamiliar place, stripped of daily routine, you and your family can rediscover the joy of spending time together, with the shared purpose of doing something good for others.

We believe that family volunteer vacations can present the best kind of travel opportunities for families of all shapes and sizes. The following options are all family-friendly trips offered by Discover Corps. Explore these exciting options for family volunteer travel experiences and discover the rewards that might await you and yours.

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Jan
27

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Discover Corps Reviews: Kristin McGarey on Costa Rica Sea Turtles

Posted by on January 27, 2016 · 2 Comments  

Kristin McGarey and her family recently returned from the Sea Turtle Initiative in Costa Rica, where volunteers are introduced to the beautiful and endangered leatherback sea turtles. This Discover Corps trip offered the McGarey family a unique opportunity to spend time together while working to help a very special cause.

Participants in the Sea Turtle Initiative travel to the Caribbean coast (from January to July) or the Nicoya Peninsula in the Pacific Ocean (from July to December) to meet with environmentalists and learn about the turtles and the stunning habitats they call home. 

Costa Rica Sea Turtles currently face many threats, including boat traffic, climate change, and trash in the ocean and on the beach. Since 1980, the leatherback turtle population in Costa Rica has dropped a shocking 90%. 

Discover Corps volunteers help to offset these threats by cleaning up the beach and releasing baby turtles back into the ocean. This is a hands-on Sea Turtle conservation experience that’s perfect for anyone who is passionate about helping an endangered species. 

Allow us to introduce Kristin, who shares the unforgettable memories she enjoyed with her family in Costa Rica…

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Jan
21

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How to Plan a Volunteer Vacation

Posted by on January 21, 2016 · 1 Comment  

So, you’re thinking about taking a Volunteer Vacation. How exciting! But where do you start?

Planning a volunteer vacation can seem like a lot of work if you aren’t familiar with the process. But we’re here to ensure that, with the right guidance and a desire to make it happen, the planning process will be much easier than you think.

We’ve outlined the steps that you need to plan a volunteer vacation that’s just right for you. And if you have any further questions, feel free to contact us via the comments below or email at info@discovercorps.com!

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Jan
17

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Best Travel Blogs to Follow in 2016

Posted by on January 17, 2016 · 19 Comments  

Travel blogs are a great source of inspiration and information for anyone who’s interested in seeing more of the world. Whether you’re a seasoned nomad or just building up the courage to take your first big trip, there’s a travel blog out there that will help warm up your wanderlust.

The sheer volume of travel blogs to choose from can be helpful, but also daunting. Which is why we’ve narrowed the Best Travel Blogs to Follow down to our favorites in four categories– Baby Boomer Travel Blogs, Cultural Travel Blogs, Responsible Travel Blogs and Solo Female Travel Blogs.

These blogs offer high-quality stories and photography, matched with the same passion for travel that fuels what we do here at Discover Corps. Dive in, find a new favorite, and get inspired!

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Dec
23

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7 Ways to Improve Yourself in 2016

Posted by on December 23, 2015 · 1 Comment  

The end of the calendar year marks the time when people commit to resolutions that will hopefully improve their lives in the coming year.

We can work to make improvements in our lives all year long, of course. But there’s something about the fresh possibilities of a New Year that inspire us to make resolutions, set goals and start working towards them. 

If you’re looking to make positive changes in 2016, there are myriad different ways to do so. But if you’re going to stick to your resolutions and achieve your goals, it’s important to choose the right ones. Here are a few of our favorite ways to improve yourself in the New Year:

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Dec
17

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Holiday Giving: 9 Global Charities That Need Your Help

Posted by on December 17, 2015 · 1 Comment  

The holidays are a time to be grateful for what we have, like good health, warm clothes, food on our table, and loved ones around it. They’re also a time to consider others who may not enjoy those same blessings.

While we embrace the joy of this holiday season, it’s also important to reach out and help others. Many people make holiday giving an annual habit around this time of year. It’s a wonderful way to extend our blessings to others, and share a little joy with those less fortunate.

Here at Discover Corps, we love to combine travel with giving back to the world we explore. Donating to charities around the world is a great way to celebrate travel, even if we’re staying at home this holiday. Consider these great charities from different countries around the world this holiday season.

 

Q-ewar Project Dolls

The Q’ewar Project, Peru (Peru)

This social work initiative, based in the rural highlands of the Andes Mountains in Peru, enables local men and women to craft dolls, doll clothing, and other material articles. The workshop provides locals with the opportunity for self-growth, creativity, and valuable skills.

The project was started by Julio Herrera and Lucy Terrazas in 2002, and they have been helping the local community to create these beautiful, hand-crafted dolls ever since. They also provide yarn to local women who can craft sweaters in their home.

You can support the Q-ewar project by purchasing a doll or donating to their operation.

 

TIDE Belize

Tide Belize  (Belize)

The Toledo Institute for Development and Environment is based in the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor. They help promote responsible use of the region’s resources, from the mountains to the oceans.

Tide organizes projects that bring people together with nature, promoting the importance of caring for the local environment. For example, The Freshwater Cup combines sport and environmental education by hosting a football game that students can participate in, only after completing an environmental education class.

To help support the biodiversity of Southern Belize, you can donate here.

 

Tuleeni Orphans Home

Tuleeni Orphans Home (Tanzania)

Many of the children who come to Tuleeni have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. The Tuleeni Orphans Home provides them with hope, encouragement, and care, as well as a place to call home. There are currently 80 children who call Tuleeni home.

When the founder, Mama Faraji, first opened her home to orphans in Tanzania, she used her own small salary to support them. Now, Tuleeni relies on the generosity of donors to provide the children with the resources and comforts that will help them thrive in life.

You can support the Tuleeni Orphans Home by donating here.

 

Save Elephant Foundation

Save Elephant Foundation  (Thailand)

Everyone loves these massive creatures with their dark, intelligent eyes and their long, silly trunks. But the Asian Elephant is often captured and mistreated. Lek Chailert started Save Elephant Foundation to rescue and rehabilitate captive elephants, while educating the community and helping to support the survival of this endangered species.

Elephant Nature Park is where the elephants make their home after being rescued by Save Elephant Foundation. Tourists can visit Elephant Nature Park for an educational experience with the elephants without exploiting them, which so often happens in elephant tourism operations.

To help support the humane treatment of elephants in Thailand, you can donate to Save Elephant Foundation, here.

 

Pretoma

Pretoma (Costa Rica)

Pretoma is a marine-conservation and research organization based in Costa Rica. They promote sustainable policies for fisheries to protect the ocean’s resources. Pretoma has led many ground level initiatives to protect Costa Rica’s oceans, including a public campaign against shark finning, direct conservation projects to protect sea turtles, and educational programs to inform students about environmental issues.

To help protect Costa Rica’s precious ocean resources, you can donate here.

 

Forjando Alas

Forjando Alas (Costa Rica)

This after-school program is based in the Bahia Ballena community of Costa Rica. Forjando Alas provides arts and crafts, games, education, English practice, and even surfing lessons to kids of all ages. The mission of Forjando Alas is to encourage children to become positive members of the community and steer clear of drugs and other negative influences.

It’s important to keep kids busy after school while their parents are often still occupied with work. Forjando Alas provides a safe and supportive space for them to gather and learn together.

You can help support the children of Forjando Alas by donating here.

 

Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre

Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (South Africa)

You can help ensure the survival of cheetahs, wild dogs, blue cranes, ground hornbills, sable, antelope, or rhinos through the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Center in South Africa. They focus on the conservation of endangered and vulnerable species through breeding, rehabilitation, education, ecotourism, and more.

Adopting an endangered species is a great gift for the animal lover in your life.

 

Care For Wild Africa

Care for Wild Africa (South Africa)

Care for Wild Africa was started by Petronel Nieuwoudt, a passionate woman with twenty years of experience in caring for wild animals. She concentrated her efforts to develop a center in South Africa to care for and rehabilitate the region’s many animals. Petronel specializes in the care or orphaned and injured rhinos.

You can help support Care for Wild Africa’s rhino sanctuary by donating here.

 

Peace Corps Community Fund

Peace Corps Community Fund

You’ve undoubtedly heard of The Peace Corps — a national organization that connects committed volunteers to projects around the world for 27 months. Peace Corps volunteers work directly with communities on pressing issues and help to inform the global perspective of Americans back home, all while participating in life-changing work.

You can support the National Peace Corps Association by making a donation that will help fund Peace Corps projects, from educating girls around the world to improving water quality and sanitation.

If you find an organization that touches your heart this holiday season, spread the holiday cheer by supporting their efforts with a charitable donation. And if these global charities are inspiring the wanderlust in you, you might want to consider visiting one of these great locations in the new year!

Dec
8

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Holiday Gift Guide: The Best Gifts for Travelers on Your List

Posted by on December 8, 2015 · Leave a Comment  

Giving the gift of travel is a wonderful way to share the world with your loved ones this holiday season. But as with any other gift, it can be overwhelming to select one that’s just right. There are so many travel styles and preferences to consider, and you want to make sure they truly enjoy the experience.

Our Holiday Gift Guide will help you decide which trips would be the best gifts for travelers with their particular strand of wanderlust.

We know you can’t wait to see the look on your friend or family member’s face when you give them the gift of travel! So let’s make sure that gift is just right…

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