We just finished two weeks volunteering with All Hands and Hearts in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico and it was an incredible experience. We met so many amazing people and helped make close to a dozen homes safer and more resilient to future threats from hurricanes. We even got to help clear away rubble for a new community garden! People often ask us what we have been doing since we arrived here, so let us walk you through a day in the life of an All Hands volunteer.
Travellers are blessed in so many ways and paid in experience, so what better way to give back than to volunteer while travelling? As we planned our 14 month round the world adventure, Mr. Zen and I pondered ways we could give back to the world that has given us so many incredible experiences. My previous time spent volunteering with All Hands and Hearts (All Hands) in post-earthquake Haiti was easily one of the most profound experiences that I have ever had while travelling and I was eager to volunteer with the organisation again, because their commitment to responsible volunteering is commendable.
With their fiercely staring eyes, pointed razor sharp fangs, and sleek powerful bodies, wolves have captured people’s imaginations throughout the ages. This popularity is perhaps to their detriment since people have begun breeding them with dogs and then swiftly learning that wolfdogs make rather terrible pets. Given how many are surrendered to shelters, who tend to have a kill-on-the-spot policy for animals that are suspected to have any wolf in them, sanctuaries for wolfdogs like the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary are extremely important.
With so many stunning trails and views picking a highlight of Jasper National Park can be a challenge, but hiking in the Tonquin Valley must be a contender. The combination of sky high views of the rugged “Ramparts” range jutting up from serene alpine lakes, and the chance to see rare wild mountain caribou make it as worthy a destination as any. It is also an accessible backcountry trail that can cater to many ability levels and even be trekked on horseback. Considering all these factors, it’s easy to see why the Tonquin Valley is a popular area for locals and tourists alike. But it just may be getting a little too popular for its own good.
June in Canada is National Aboriginal month, with June 21st being also being National Aboriginal Day, a day which should become a national stat holiday in my humble opinion. As Canada marks its 150th anniversary of its confederation, any good Canadian will tell you that this beautiful land was home to Indigenous peoples since time immemorial.
Perhaps an even more important milestone than Canada 150 is the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report in 2015. A long and painful read, the report includes the testimony of brave residential school system survivors and outlines the painful legacy of Canada’s colonial past on Indigenous peoples. The report finishes with 94 calls to action, some of which focus on improving education about Indigenous peoples for both citizens and newcomers to Canada. By learning about Canada’s troubled history with Indigenous peoples, as well as their inspiring culture and history, Canadian citizens, newcomers to Canada and tourists alike can do their part to facilitate reconciliation.
It is no secret that the natural world inspires us here at Zen Travellers and what better way to show it than by celebrating Earth Day and supporting causes that aim to protect it. That is why on this Earth Day 2017 in Calgary, we are challenging ourselves to climb the staggering 1,188 stairs in the Bow Tower to raise funds for the Alberta Wilderness Association’s conservation efforts.
Few places in the world have ever inspired as much awestruck in me as Africa. Not only is the continent huge with an incredible diversity of ecosystems and culture, it is a friendly, beautiful and otherworldly place. I have had the tremendous fortune to spend time in countries in West Africa, East Africa and North Africa and I cannot speak highly enough of the experiences.