Oops! How I Ended Up Bringing a Puppy Home From Belize

How I Ended Up Bringing a Puppy Home From Belize #travel #explore #adventure

As I mentioned in my last post, my trip to Belize was mainly about service and education, mixed with a healthy dose of sun, sea, and silver tequila. But I did happen to bring home the best souvenir yet—a puppy!

How I Brought A Puppy Home From Belize #travel #explore #tips #adventure

The Important Stuff:

Saga Humane Society has been on Ambergris Caye for 16 years and remains the only humane society on the island. The organization provides low-cost or free procedures, like spay and neuter, as well as medicine to local animals. Why is this important? Without the free spay and neuter, wild dogs pose a major threat to both domesticated dogs and humans. Children are especially at risk for being bitten by a dog. And then everyone is scared of the animals, it’s just a vicious cycle. But that is why the humane society is there! Just like most humane societies in the U.S., the majority of animals serviced are cats and dogs of all ages. This means playing with adorable puppies. Located right behind the airport on the Tropic Air side (there are only two terminals) in San Pedro Town, the organization houses a ton of crawling kittens, friendly cats, sweet puppies, and big ole dogs. They love having volunteers stop by to walk the friendly dogs!

How I Brought a Puppy Home From Belize #travel #explore #Belize #adventure

Between Shell doing surgeries and me playing with puppies, we got to spend a ton of time with the big dogs! As in, taking the dogs for romantic walks on the beach. As much as I love animals, there are always some sacrifices, like being covered in mud constantly. Unfortunately, one particularly large labrador decided to rush the water without warning. I would have been slightly more keen if I had the time to remove my shoes. RIP Nikes.

But there was one particular little guy who caught my eye.  He was what they call a ‘pot-licker’ or a street dog. The humane society picked him up very thirsty, very frail, and very tiny. But, with lots of love, Saga helped him put on a little weight, and he absolutely loved people for it.   Every morning, we would walk in and greet the dogs, give pets and treats, the usually puppy love stuff. And I would always pick up the puppies because they need attention just like little babies.

So this little guy…

…literally the smallest one out of six, would always try to jump up to be picked up, but kept getting knocked down by the other dogs. One by one the pups would get picked up, held for a little, then squirm down. But when it was this little Pepito’s turn to be held, he would be so content in my arms. I could carry him for hours and he would just stare at me with those little brown eyes. So needless to say when the time for me to leave the island came about, he was coming with me. 

How I Brought A Puppy Home From Belize #travel #explore #tips #adventure

You might be thinking, “This cray bitch seriously brought a puppy from another country home! You can’t just toss it when it grows up!” etc. etc. etc. This ain’t my first rodeo, y’all. My first rescue puppy, Smokey Bear, just turned five in August. He was only six weeks old when I adopted him. Pepe was sixteen weeks old. Bringing home a pup from San Pedro wasn’t 100% spontaneous. Smokey is has been due for a little sibling for a few months. Dogs are pack animals, and the more often I travel, the more distressed Smokey becomes. I owed it to him, really… Plus my love and I already discussed it.

Flying an adopted pet from Belize to the U.S. is relatively easy.

  • Before anything, you must ensure a puppy is at least 4 months old
  • All vaccinations must be up to date
  • The last rabies shot must be 30 days prior to flying the pet home
  • Reserve spot for pet on flight home (some airlines won’t fly pets!)
  • Get a printed copy of certificate of health completed by a vet

 

How I Brought A Puppy Home From Belize #travel #explore #tips #adventure

So, he officially became Pepe/Pepito!

The lovely help at Saga Humane Society got him all washed up, and even gave him a little bandana. His cage said, “Yay! I’ve been adopted.”

 

Since I was staying at an Airbnb, I had to leave Pepe at Saga overnight until it was time to fly back. The night before departure, I SERIOUSLY couldn’t sleep! Would YOU be able to rest, knowing you were bringing back this little peanut?! The morning I was set to return to the U.S., Shell and I sped over to Saga to pick up little guy.

How I Brought a Puppy Home From Belize #travel #explore #Belize #adventure

Shell came with to make sure everything was sorted for flight number one from Ambergris to Belize City. No worries at all! He could even sit on my lap and peek his little head out.  But this was only the very beginning on the adventure. We had two more flights and a five hour layover, and I wasn’t sure how much longer he would sleep.

How I Brought a Puppy Home From Belize #travel #explore #Belize #adventure

American Airlines was such a delight from Belize City to Miami, and I lucked out and sat next to a mechanic, who encouraged me to have the puppy out the whole two hours of my first flight. We were stopped to have Pepe’s papers checked four times– not sure if it was because immigration is strict, or because the security wanted to check out the puppy. Pepe was SUCH a angel in the airport! Even for a five hour layover, he played it cool while I ate sushi and drank sake.  On our last flight home, I had a whole row to myself, so we both slept like babies. It was pepeperfect.

After almost 12 hours of travel, Pepe arrived at his new home! Pepe has been loving life in America, especially having a big brother. They play together a little too well…

How I Brought a Puppy Home From Belize #travel #explore #Belize #adventure

What’s the craziest souvenir you’ve ever brought home? Would you adopt a puppy abroad?

My First Voluntourism Trip to Africa… I’m Ghana Miss Y’all

my first trip to Africa... I'm Ghana Miss Y'all! #travel #explore

Things have been a little quiet around A Tipsy Gypsy Life, and for good reason. I didn’t want to spoil a surprise that I wasn’t certain was going to happen! This year, I promised I would personally explore a legitimate voluntourism venture and report back to my little spot on the interwebz, but with less than a month to get vaccines, a visa, and international bank transfers, I had my doubts. Before the drumroll, let’s catch up a little. 

Where Have I Been This Summer?

After my exhilarating trip to Hawaii, I spent some time over in the scorching Southeastern U.S.  First, I had the opportunity to watch my cousin get his Eagle Scout award in Tri-Cities, Tennessee. It was such a lovely party and needless to say, I was beyond proud of his accomplishments. Tri-Cities is a gorgeous little area in Eastern Tennessee that comprises of Johnson City, Kingsport, and Bristol. The communities are nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a stunning little portion of the Appalachian Mountains. If you make it over, be sure to get in camping and a visit to Dollywood, located a little under 2 hours drive away.

After Tennessee, I went straight to St. Petersburg for a few days of rest and relaxation. While visiting my hometown, I had to stop by the gem of the city- the Dali Museum. The collection never ceases to amaze, and the new building is the perfect setting for a post-tour rosé. I highly recommend grabbing the free audio tour- Dali had a mind worth exploring.

Last but definitely not least, I popped by New Orleans for a few days of sunshine and comfort food. No matter where I travel to, waltzing around the French Quarter on a Saturday is still one of my favorite past-times. Of course I had my favorite dish, pecan-crusted gulf fish, and a monsoon (or two). If you get the chance to visit, be sure to get at least a few of the city’s best drinks. Not much of a drinker? No worries, the food is what keeps people crawling back, anyways.

And the whole time I was worried because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make my trip to (drumroll please)….

Ghana in August!

As we’ve discussed once or twice, voluntourism is a little like U.S. lawyers- it’s either really, really good or really, really bad. Good intentions can so easily be twisted to long-term negative impacts, like displacing locals from jobs. A wonderful documentary I highly recommend is “Poverty, Inc.” The film offers a staggeringly honest look into the industries that have fueled the global poverty cycle.

Luckily, I put it out in the universe that I really really really wanted this voluntourism experience in August, and of course, you always get what you expect. From August 3-23, I’ll be working with local media professionals in Accra, Ghana to make a portfolio as part of New Lens Travel. Not only does the fee go to the expert leading the individual session, it also funds a youth newspaper. As of now, I’m between a blog editor, head of news at a radio station, and the creator of an online satirical publication. I’m ready to learn a thing or two.

While I’m in Ghana, I’ll be posting about everything I can get my hands on, from food, to nightclubs (yes, they have a rocking nightlife!), to nature explorations. If there’s anything you want to know about Accra, let me know and I will scope it out. That’s what travelers do, yeah?

Fun Facts About Ghana

I’m not going to lie, I knew literally NOTHING about Ghana prior to hooking up with the founder of New Lens Travel. Here are just a few of the things that excited me about the trip. 

They Speak English!

My Spanish is “get by-able” but not comfortably conversational. And any other languages? Maybe one day. But not today. And tomorrow doesn’t look too good either.  Although I love the feeling of disorientation in a new country, creating a legitimate media portfolio might be a little difficult if I can’t communicate! I’ve been told Ghana is a perfect entry country for a first-time visitor to Africa, but each community in each country is extremely unique. How unique? Ghana’s official language may be English, but they have over 250 additional languages and dialects!

Chocolate Galore.

Everyone has their weaknesses, and mine is definitely chocolate. I’ll shamelessly eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I thoroughly believe at least 30% of my joy in life comes from chocolate. And just my luck, West Africa produces significantly more cocoa than the rest of the world. And most importantly? Ghana is the number 2 exporter world wide. Unfortunately, the country gets a measly portion of the $100 billion industry. I’m planning on visiting a cocoa farm, time-willing, in hopes of supporting a legitimate, slave-free cocoa production and learning the tricks of the trade getting to know the people who make my favorite treat.

The Capital City Is On The Coast.

Y’all already know I’m a little mermaid! Even though I am *slightly* nervous about hanging out on a beach when I know it tends to be the target of plenty of terrorists attacks. As I’ve said before, I really am a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to traveling, but that’s why we do it… Right? Not only do the beaches mean sunbathing and swimming, but the tropical weather makes for perfectly plump fruit like mangoes!

How has your summer been? If you’re not in this hemisphere, how’s the weather down there?

Why Sustainable Travel is So Much More Than Being Green (Caution: Trigger Warning!)

Why Sustainable Tourism is So Much More Than Being Green #explore #ecotourism #wanderlust || a tipsy gypsy life

Did you know that over 27% of the earth’s reefs are gone— and not coming back? I haven’t even made it to the Great Barrier Reef! Being green while traveling is of the upmost importance, but, like a late-night infomercial, WAIT THERE’S MORE.

Travel is the one thing you buy that makes you richer, gives you insurmountable joy, becomes your anti-drug. If we think we’re going to keep having these surreal adventures, we’re going to have to take sustainable travel seriously. To be sustainable, we have to be able to explore without damaging the local culture, altering livelihoods, fueling inhumane markets, or destroying natural beauty.

There’s been a lot of negative comments regarding the state of Bali, a popular tourist destination. It is true that trash lines the beaches. It is true that no one seems to pick up after themselves.

 

 

 

But is it really fair to get every single thing you can out of a destination, and then claim it’s “not worth visiting”? I think not. 

 

 

 

Would it be so terrible to do a beach clean-up in Bali? My home-town (St. Petersburg, FL) holds them all the time- it’s the only way it would stay clean. There is something inherently wrong with exploiting something then abandoning it, especially a priceless community. 

But even more urgent than cleaning up our messes, we have to be more cautious of the demands we make. There is no way around it, tourism has led to an influx of fake orphanages and more orphans. If travelers hadn’t consistently requested orphanages to “help” (but mostly gawk) at impoverished children in foreign lands, they would not be on the rise. 

*TRIGGER WARNING*

I’ve mentioned once or twice that I’m a certified Green Globe Auditor. With U.N. beginnings, Green Globe has been providing sustainable travel certifications for complying tourism companies and their suppliers for 15 years. When a company desires a way to showcase their contribution to the community, we have to go in and evaluate on a 180 point scale. Starting with how the property was obtained, the amount of local employees, and women or minorities in management positions, the evaluation begins tame enough. However, if they continue passing inspection points, I have to ensure the property is sustainable economically, ecologically, and ethically.

One of the things we are to investigate is the likelihood of human trafficking (sex slaves) at the property.

 

Are there any young girls hanging around? Who stays more than a few nights? What is the relationship between that teen and the group of men she’s with? It never hurts to visit to local police station for information. What do I do if I have a hunch? What happens if I stumble upon something illegal that could put me in danger with local gangs? It’s part of the job. 

That’s why active consumerism matters.

Especially places like Thailand, Amsterdam, or Brazil, it really is a matter of life and death for the most vulnerable populations. When I say vulnerable, please do not confuse with “weak.” These communities were thriving prior to Western intervention and can utilize the global market today, just as fully-developed countries do. The very act of financially supporting hotels who turn a blind eye to child raping and kidnapping helps these criminals continue their activities. 

Last year, in Chiang Mai, I was eating tom yom across the street from a massage parlor. Two girls, probably between 15 and 25 years old, were sitting on the porch. We watched each other for a few minutes, until a white man, at least 60 years old, walks up and sits down with them. I see the girls tense up, and then put on their game faces. I knew I shouldn’t have, but I kept staring. One girl started writing on a piece of paper and handed it to the man. He shook his head, wrote something, and passed it back. While this was going on, my travel buddy suggested that they might just be deciding on a massage price. But all the prices were already posted outside for all to see. It just didn’t seem right. They passed the paper maybe three more times and then went upstairs. The girl who was left behind stared at me with a hollow look in her eyes that I will never forget. 

This is heavy shit, but it’s real life. We can’t use a vacation or holiday as an excuse to ignore human rights atrocities.

One way we can add to the active consumer process is through bringing business to locally-owned accommodation, which can provide 3 times as much income for the local economy as a chain company

This is essential in locations like Haiti, where over 70% of the country lives in poverty. AirBnB is generally an excellent, simple choice for attempting to stay locally. VRBO, Homeaway, and Tripping are alternative booking options when AirBnB is overbooked. You can also try house sitting or WOOFing, depending on how much outdoor activity you enjoy.

 

 

Remember the whole human trafficking thing? You can actually help support hotels that fight it by booking through TripAdvisors Green Leaders program or find one through Green Globe here.

 

 

Another reason why actively researching your accommodation matters- many properties are obtained unethically and illegally, and then block off ocean access for locals. One of the rights of humans is access to the sea for navigation and food. However, private property signs are popping up in places like Hawaii and Jamaica, where the people still live off of the land when possible. Jamaicans fought for 5 years to regain access to the popular local spot, Winnifrid Beach.  I wonder how many other voiceless communities have lost their rights to foreign hotel developers. 

Overall, being aware is the most important step to becoming an ethical traveler.

This isn’t a prescription, this is an active conversation that EVERYONE can add to.  There are probably some wonderful things you already do without even realizing it, like packing your own shampoo or bringing a reusable water bottle. Every little bit truly helps. Let’s continue staying locally, learning from other’s mistakes, and being active in our consumerism. We got the power.

Have you ever done something unethical while traveling, without realizing it? What’s the hardest part about being an active consumer while traveling?

How to Protect Yourself from Greenwashing

Want to protect the environment without compromising your adventures? Read why #greenwashing is Public Enemy Number One.
If you’re traveling to a destination, you probably care at least a tiny bit about it, right? You make the effort to memorize some key phrases, look up where the locals hang, and try to behave while you’re there. You might even take it a step further by taking time find an eco-friendly hotel that supports the local ecology and economy. You book ahead of time, excited beyond relief. When you arrive, you notice an immaculate fountain flowing with clear water at the entrance. You get to your room to see a little “Please Save Water – Reuse Towels” sign on the door. You take it off, bring it inside, and check what the room service has to offer. Pineapples? In China? Doesn’t sound very local to me… You order it anyway, and hop in the shower only to notice at least 6 mini bottles containing everything from mouthwash to leave-in conditioner. “Pretty sure green hotels are supposed to use bulk supplies,” you think. “Oh well, dinner time.” You answer the door to notice your “Please Save Water- Reuse Towels” sign has been replaced- already! Hmm.. Seems like you are making all the effort while the hotel continues what it normally does- wastes. You realize you’ve been greenwashed! The worst part about greenwashing is it makes the job a helluva lot harder for the people who are honest in their pursuits. There really are companies out there who are connecting visitors with legitimate, eco-friendly activities and properties that protect the natural beauty of the land. There are also plenty of companies who have taken the effort to try to fool unkowning travelers, like me and you! That is why I write to you today, to help protect you for the horrors of greenwashing. Let’s continue exploring how to be a better traveler, shall we?

 

Ask a million questions.

Then ask some more. The legitimate companies will be ecstatic to explain their mission statement. If you dedicated your life to the pursuit of ecological preservation, wouldn’t you be excited too?!  The companies who are up to no good will get irritated- fast. Some typical questions you should ask are who owns the company, how was the company started, and how do they measure impact?

 

If a company claims non-profit status, make them verify it.

Ask for their tax info or search them on guidestar, one of the leaders in NPO verification. Generally, it’s illegal to say you are a NPO (non-profit organization) without actually being one. In the states, when an organization claims 501(c)3 status, they must make all tax and financial information available. If they are unable to provide or verify NPO status, you can pretty much assume they are full of shit.

 

Research any certification claims.

Remember all that time you spent looking into hotels only to find out they were full of shit? What is the point? Try to at least make it difficult for companies to greenwash by taking a few minutes to research. All you have to do is google whatever certification they have. If nothing immediately pops up, on google, you can guess that the certification is illegitimate.

 

Ask for testimonials.

Especially for long-term trips! If you plan on trying to volunteer with an organization for longer than a day, you really should consider obtaining testimonials. A legitimate company will be able to not only provide you quotes, but connect you with former volunteers/participants.

 

If there is a fee, compare with similar programs in your country of choice.

Be extremely wary of a costly volunteer trip or ecolodge! To be charged $100 USD for a proper recylcing program is reasonable, but $400 USD a night? Probably trying to cash in on the green business.

 

If something seems amiss, speak up.

This especially applies to any encounter with children or animals. If an elephant sanctuary claims to be stress-free for the animals, and the workers use bull hooks, cry foul. Scream foul. Let everyone know! Why not? People who work in conservations have to fight for very limited funds and resources- save them for those who actually give a damn. Remember, when it comes to equality, there is no such thing as complaining!

 

 

Have you ever been the victim of greenwashing? Did you speak up or not? How do you protect yourself from marketing tactics?

Ecotourism in Bali (P.S. it involves coffee!)

Ever heard of kopi #luwak? One of the most expensive coffees in the world is made in Bali- you'll never guess how! #explore

 

Maybe you’ve heard of the world-famous Kopi Luwak from Bali. Selling at $100-$600 USD per pound, you might wonder, “What could be so damn special about it?” First, you have to meet the civet. The civet is a small, furry, nocturnal mammal that roams Southeast Asia. I had the chance to hang out with a few while visiting the Luwak plantations in Bali, and I must say, they are quite feisty animals. Supposedly, they are nocturnal, but they were showing out while we were visiting.

A civet at the Luwak Plantation in #bali #explore

What does this little guy have to do with some of the best coffee in the world?

The civet eats the coffee cherry, digests it (fermenting and adding flavor), and for lack of a better word, shits it out. The beans are cleaned (thank God) and ground up into an amazing cup of strong coffee.

How Kopi Luwak is Made in #bali

In addition to the civet cat, the plantations are home to small dogs and chickens.

I’ve mentioned my passion for ecotourism/agrotourism, and had the absolute pleasure of exploring a few of these plantations where the civets live. Another reason agrotourism is so important is that you have to opportunity to see how the animals are treated. I did notice that the largest civets were in cages together, with enough room to walk in circles. Not only were there animals, fruit and herbs grew wild. One of my favorite things was the baby pineapples! This was the beginning of my blogging days, and I completely forgot to use my hand for scale… Just trust me. It’s itty bitty.

baby #pineapple in #bali

Luwak Plantations have a ton of cute animals that roam around #bali

Have you ever visited the Luwak farm in #Bali? Adorable!

Everyone we met at the farms were very knowledgeable and took us through the whole process of how the coffee is made.

Some of the places let us grind up the coffee beans and all let us roam around the lush plantation. Then, the tour guides offer you free (yes really!) tea/coffee of all different kinds like ginseng and lemongrass. While you do not have to pay for the tour, you do have to pay to try the luwak coffee. I generally prefer these types of establishments because it implies that we truly are peeking into the production of a farm, and not adding to tourist exploitation. My partner-in-crime and I went to at least two during our short trip to Bali.Girl at Luwak plantation in #bali

Different coffee and tea at the kopi luwak farm in #bali #wanderlust

I highly recommend stopping by one called Bali Pulina, located in the Denpasar area.

#bali luwak farm in Denpasar

Our boy Derrick (the driver we spent a few days rocking out to AC/DC with) knew all the spots, and I was especially delighted that this sweet lady let me snap some pics of her lighting the daily offering of rice, incense, flowers, and other precious goodies. My recommendation is to always ask while taking pictures of any religious ceremony. I noticed during the water ceremony, adults were fine with photos but children said no almost every single time.

Woman in #bali gives daily offering outside of luwak plantation

 

My favorite part about agrotourism is being able to not only support a local trade, but getting to know how it is done and by whom.

We had a great time chatting with the girls (and a few guys) that worked at the plantations. Most of the girls were our age (university age) and a few were in high school. All thought the civets were a little crazy! My partner-in-crime and I both purchased some Kopi Luwak to try, and I would most likely compare it to the coffee with chicory from New Orleans. Delicious!

exploring the luwak plantation in #bali

Luwak Plantation in #bali

 

Have you ever tried kopi luwak? Would you pay $100 for a pound of coffee?