“One person can make a difference and every person should try.” -John F. Kennedy

To celebrate the anniversary of Peace Corps this March, I decided to take you on a stroll with me down memory lane- or in my case, a dirt road leading into my village of Bare, Cameroon…Where is that? You may ask yourself. I did when I read my invitation. West Africa… picture the arm pit of Africa on the map. Voila.

I hope you enjoyed my video tour! Peace Corps was important to the person that I am today, and could not imagine my life without having had the experience!

“We relish news of our heroes, forgetting that we are extraordinary to somebody too.” – Helen Hayes

Create change in your travels! In the last few years, my idea of “home” has taken many forms. When I became a flight attendant, my world view grew larger, and the more I traveled, the more that home warped into wherever I find myself, living, breathing, enjoying the moment. I became a citizen of the sky, which also meant that routine on the ground was thrown out the window. I began looking for ways to create change in my every day life, through my travels, and eventually creating something of a routine of my own. Below are a few ways to give back in your travels. No matter where you are, no matter how much money you have, YOU are totally capable of creating change in the world. My hope is to encourage you to create change from wherever you’re standing.

  1. hair3Donate to a local shelter.
    Collect your hotel amenities and pens, throw them into your bag, and store them in a box until it’s full! Someone needs those! I partnered with Mosaic Family Services in Dallas, but there are many shelters around the nation full of struggling families who would be most grateful for your contribution!
  2. Fight Human Trafficking with TraffickCam.
    U.S. Department of State estimates that 14,500 to 17,500 persons are brought into the United States each year for labor or sexual exploitation. By uploading photos of your hotel room, you can help in the rescue of these persons. Your photos will be used to determine where perpetrators of sex trafficking are committing their crimes. Download the TraffickCam App!
  3. Turn Someone’s Day Around.cuba-2016-04-11-23-53-39-tara-s
    Write a kind note to someone, compliment someone, send someone a photo you took of them, or share a song with someone who may enjoy it. This one may be fairly obvious, but I still wanted to include it here. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind, and yet it can mean so much to someone else, just to know that you’re thinking of them. Hannah Jones has compiled a great list of ideas, and spotlights stories of kindness at her website, Kindness is Beauty.
  4. Support The Little Man.
    Add small businesses to Google Maps and write reviews for the local venues you visit!This helps to support the local economy, gets the word out about small businesses, and helps those local entrepreneurs to thrive! My husband is now a Local Guide because of how many reviews he’s written- Pretty cool, right?!
  5. Create New Friendships.crew-travelers-in-greece-2016-06-19-10-48-47-cheryl-w
    If peace is understanding, then by simply introducing one culture to another culture, you’re expanding their mind, helping them grow, and in understanding why we do the things we do, we begin to grow empathy in others. This is not a new idea. When John F. Kennedy founded the Peace Corps, the second and third goals were to help promote a better understanding of Americans as well as of other peoples on the part of Americans. In the same way one friend might introduce his friend to another, introducing a group of people to another may just be the way to promote peace, understanding and harmony! Crew Travelers In Greece - 2016-06-18 02.29.25 (Cheryl W.)

I hope that this post inspires you to go forth and make the world a better place, no matter where you are in it. You don’t need money, nor a routine on the ground, to create change while you are traveling! I would love to add to this list, so please send me more ideas!

 

I’m still riding the high of emotions, breath-taking views, and the delicious fried feta pies. This month we successfully completed our first Crew Travelers’ trip to Lesvos, where 17 strangers from all around the IMG_0868world became a family, as they joined together to help in the refugee crisis during the Dirty Girls Beach Clean Up. Of course we also took time to explore Molyvos, and fell in love with the Lesbians (C’mon, you didn’t think I would write grammatically incorrect sentences, did you?). If you care to read a more detailed account of our trip (and learn more about the refugee situation), check out My Big Fat Greek Adventure! While I recounted our trip activities there, I felt I needed to take a moment here to paint the picture that drew me in.

Now, how to describe paradise adequately? If Lesvos was a box of chocolates, every one of them would be sweet. Everywhere you look, the ocean views are spectacular. Everything you eat is delicious.The Aegean ocean is amazing for swimming in June, and the weather is just lovely. Every road is interesting. Every restaurant cat purrs with affection at your feet. Every person I asked for directions provided me with a friendly, elaborate explanation of how to be on my way, and would then smile and wave as I backed up, blocking traffic going the other direction as I continued on. No honks or dirty looks. What I noticed were people laughing a lot. I sensed a 13417664_10208571607839148_2327472806575214859_n (2)happiness, love and kindness in the people of Lesvos. The olive trees always shield you away from the direct sunlight, but you still feel the sun. The sunsets are always gorgeous. The blooming flowers scent the air with a naturally sweet fragrance that even make your nose buds happier. All of these things made me feel alive, and incredibly thankful to be alive. And I understood exactly what it meant when Katarina told me that you can feel free here.

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Aphrodite, Alison of Dirty Girls, and me!

During the week that I spent at Hotel Aphrodite, Aphrodite and her family made an even bigger impression on my heart, as they helped me each day to navigate my way through the island, pointing out things to stop and see along the way on the big map I unfolded every morning with Aphrodite in the hotel lobby. Aphrodite personally drove me to the market on the day that my group arrived because I needed help finding water shoes for them. She took me to her friend, who gave me a great price, and where I then fell in love with the most beautiful hand-made seashell chandelier

“We will close earlier unless something drastic changes the situation.”

I heard the stories of families, children- even musicians, who arrived on the pebble beaches in front of their hotel cabana, and the post effect of media images that scared away tourists, the main revenue source for Lesvos. Now hotels are closing down. “Room for rent” signs are posted everywhere. The hotels that are in operation aren’t full, in what should otherwise be peak season. Aphrodite wrote to me a few days ago. And let me tell you about Aphrodite Hotel! Established in 1988, rich in history, located directly on a pebble beach, their vegetables from fresh from the hotel’s organic garden, the breakfast spread is always delightful and everyone works very hard to take care of their guests. Aphrodite wrote to me, “We usually close the end of October, but this year, as we don’t have any reservations at all for the month, we will close earlier unless something drastic changes the situation.”

I would like for us to be that something drastic that changes the situation. Whether you go with one our incredible Crew Traveler’s tours or by yourself, please add Aphrodite Hotel in Lesvos to your “in the near future bucket list”! Tell your friends and family about the kind people of Lesvos, tell them it is incredibly safe, and that the Greeks are now suffering because they did what was right and helped the refugees who arrived onto their beaches. In the enchanted town of Molyvos, where a castle sits at the top, you will see spectacular Aegean views, you will experience that same kindness, you will stop to smell the flowers in bloom, and you will feel free.

Heart Art, made from refugee life vests.
Heart Art, made from refugee life vests.

If someone like you cares an awful lot, it’s not going to get better, it’s not. As a side project to our September trip, Crew Travelers will collect/deliver donated supplies for the refugee camps, volunteer camps and schools in Lesvos. For flight crew, throwing those hotel amenities into your bag can make a huge difference, and it only takes a call to Guest Services to double or sometimes triple your portions! I created the following Facebook event as a space where people can get involved and help, whether they are going on the trip or not, and where I can post progress pics of our roller-board suitcases! Check out My Big Fat Suitcase: Refugee Relief & Love to Lesvos!

 

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not. – Dr. Seuss

Title Credit: Bethany Reinhart

I woke up one morning in April to a calling, a direct line to my heart from the universe. As a citizen of the world, I knew that I had to do something with the passion and outrage stirring within me over the global refugee crisis the world has been watching. After all, we are all connected through our humanity. It was time to go see it for myself, and to create a space of opportunity for other airline crew who want to do the same. 

I was welcomed with open arms to volunteer with Dirty Girls of Lesvos, a wonderful non profit organization that washes clothing and other items to recycle back into the hands of refugees who need these supplies. Alison, Founder, recommended a great family run hotel, and like that I booked some rooms. The itinerary was neatly woven together after discovering island charms such as the Healing Springs and historic Molyvos castle, and thanks to a lot of assistance from Aphrodite Hotel. Within a couple of weeks, more than a dozen travelers signed up for the trip, and I realized that this calling was not just my own. With big hearts and smiles, 16 of us found each other on the island of Lesvos!

The drive into Molyvos was lovely, a twisting curvy road that leads you through cities and across the island, until we came upon Molyvos, a beautiful enchanting town with a castle at the top of the mountain! Our hotel was just behind the mountain, facing a beautiful beach. Our first activity on the itinerary would be eating a dinner at the hotel taverna, meeting with Alison of Dirty Girls, and to see a photo slideshow by Aphrodite herself. We needed to know more about the refugee crisis, and how we could help.

…the media has portrayed a crazy image of the island that has scared tourists away, and now local businesses are suffering. Hotels are going out of business.

It has been said before that if you take care of others, God will take care of you. But in the case of Lesvos, they have welcomed refugees, because as Aphrodite says, “What choice do I have?” She tells us of how she was in the middle of serving customers last summer at the very same spot that we were sitting in, when boats would arrive, and she would excuse herself and go check on the incoming refugees. It’s the right thing to do to give someone water if they are dehydrated, and to provide clean clothes if theirs are wet and dirty. The golden rule, quite literally. And yet, not many have stepped forward to back up Lesvos, in fact the media has portrayed a crazy image of the island that has scared tourists away, and now local businesses are suffering. Hotels are going out of business. The world needed to know what’s going on, only because it deserved the world’s attention and reaction. I’m so glad I put my feet on the ground as I attempted to put myself in their shoes. It’s hard to imagine that less than a year ago, up to 8 boats were arriving jam packed with people, sometimes with no gas, often taking twice as long as it should have taken, on the beautiful beaches I enjoyed during my stay. The locals helped the refugees, despite the laws against it. There are now some boats arriving, but not anything like they did last summer, receiving up to eight boats per day at Aphrodite’s beach. I’ve only seen refugees driving through Moria where the largest camp exists. I noticed the barbed wire fences, and a few people walking alongside the road. 

But the help that Lesvos truly needs requires you do nothing more than go to Lesvos and enjoy yourself!

But the help that Lesvos truly needs requires you do nothing more than go to Lesvos and enjoy yourself! As Katarina at our lovely hotel says, “You can feel free here.” I felt both guilty and lucky to be given the extra attention, and perhaps a more personal experience. Our euros spent there push the economy forward, and if more tourists returned, we could turn it all around for the locals and their land- the same land where Aristotle first studied birds, where Sappho was born, where the prices are right, where gorgeous sunsets can be seen every evening, where they’ll gladly help you if you’re lost -and in fact you will probably get a long, detailed set of directions- and where you’ll never eat a meal alone because there will always be some sweet stray cat that keeps you company. From the breathtaking views to the beautiful beaches, hot springs and castles, in your effort to create change, you may be subjected to wonderfully kind people as well!

Day One, we collected together many bags of accrued amenities, pens, ladies underwear & water shoes. Alison invited Crew Travelers to participate in a beach clean up at Light House Beach, where we hiked down to work in the hot sun to collect trash, discover clothes to be recycled, and cut up 4 plastic boats! Afterward, we jumped into the clear blue ocean to cool off! After we hiked back up to the road, we made our way to a lovely restaurant on a terrace surrounded by flowers and olive trees, with a view of the ocean, and Turkey in the distance. We shared a wonderful meal, and then a lemonade liquor shot over a big “Opa!” That evening, we enjoyed a delicious Greek BBQ by the sea. We kidnapped some of the Light House volunteers for a pool party, which followed by a night of dancing at Congas, a beautiful beach-side bar with great music!

Day Two, we made our way up the castle for some rich history, fun photos and incredible views. Then we headed over to the best natural hot springs and spa in Lesvos, where we enjoyed the beach, some of us received massages, and where we couldn’t help but feel like models in the infinity pool! We made our way back to Molyvos, where some travelers went to explore the traditional market. Bethany and I picked up some hand-made olive oil soaps and locally-made olive oil, before meeting up for dinner at The Women’s Cooperative of Petra, the #1 Restaurant via TripAdvisor, and an initiative to increase and expand opportunity for local women! Costas and his staff of waiters did an amazing job of giving us a taste of Greece as we chatted and drank white wine on the balcony and looking out onto the sea every once in awhile. I felt like I was part of a beautiful painting. We said “Opa!” a lot, and after dinner we all stood around on the cobblestone streets of Petra, taking photos, looking into the shops, and slowly saying our goodbyes. This group of strangers turned family in just a few days, as we fell in love with Lesvos over and over again.

Everything about the island will steal your heart.

There’s no reason not to go to Lesvos, as the people are lovely and kind. Everything about the island will steal your heart. As an added bonus and way to give back, you will support a local economy that is truly appreciative of your euro money by simply doing whatever you want on the island. And there’s even more to explore, such as a boat ride to snorkel and visit Rabbit Island, perhaps a tour to the Ouzo factory, a trip to the Oxy beach-front nightclub, and more time at the hot springs spa. The day I got back to Texas, I was already thinking about returning to Greece, with 3 travelers requesting a return trip in early October. The truth is that I would return again and again. Somewhere between the sun’s kiss and the salty blue ocean in beautiful Lesvos, you will find my heart! Opa!

If you have 8 or more people in your group who would like to volunteer and explore beautiful Lesvos, I would love to coordinate your adventure! Just send me an email with dates to  [email protected]! Check out more trips at http://crewtravelers.com! Efcharisto!

 

“The adrenaline filled walk up the bridge to spectacular city views made for memories to last a lifetime.”

This year, my mom, dad, sister, boyfriend and I decided on Australia for our vacation spot. We weren’t sure what to expect down under, but we figured we would have fun. We were not expecting to fall in love with the city of Sydney. Our trip was far too short (we only stayed for a week), however we made the most of the time we had! Here are the top five things that I’d recommend doing:

1. The Sydney Bridge Climb12966504_10208937088052910_812079975_n

I was a bit unsure about booking this tour, as it is a bit on the pricey side and seemed a little too expected and touristy, but it was worth every penny! The adrenaline filled walk up the bridge to spectacular city views made for memories to last a lifetime. Word to the wise- Do NOT stop for a beer before you go. They actually breathalyze you before the climb! Also, if you are a flight crew member, bring your badge! You get 50% off!

12939087_10208937088572923_1070321638_n2. Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach Coastal Walk

Best part about this activity? It’s FREE! This gorgeous trail can take a couple of hours or more based on how many times you stop and take pictures! My family stopped what felt like every 10 feet, so this walk took up most of the day for us. If you get hungry, I would highly recommend stopping for lunch at “Nourished: The Healthy Food Co.” near Avalon Beach for lunch. It was on the way, and the food included was very tasty and energizing.

“Being up close in the mountains, it was more like being in a mystic, fairy-like world.”

3. Blue Mountains/Scenic World

12935220_10208937089332942_77927553_nThe Blue Mountains are about an hour outside of Sydney. They are called the Blue Mountains because they appear blue from far away due to the eucalyptus oil evaporating from the plants. Being up close in the mountains, it was more like being in a mystic, fairy-like world. Scenic world is basically a place to explore these mountains, and the world includes three attractions: Two cable car rides and one sort of train ride that is apparently the steepest train in the world. All of the rides were awesome and offered spectacular views.

4. Featherdale Wildlife Park12966386_10208937091813004_346930791_n

This was our chance to experience Australia’s wildlife up close! We had the opportunity to feed and pet kangaroos and wallabies! They were very sweet and docile. We also got to pat and take some pictures with an adorable koala. The experience made me realize that koalas are my spirit animal. They are just so cute and cuddly, and I share their love for the eucalyptus plant!

“…I can truly say that the trip was like a detox for my soul.”

5. Surf Bondi Beach!

Okay, so we were pretty unsuccessful at our surfing attempt, as conditions were pretty terrible, but it was still fun to try! If you have never surfed before, or maybe even if you have, I would definitely recommend splurging for a lesson. Surf’s up!

12966121_10208937092493021_1197413524_nAll these fantastic adventures aside, what truly made our experience in Sydney unforgettable was how kind everyone was to us. To be honest, it was a bit surprising at first. Nevertheless, we found ourselves smiling more and more, and when it was all said and done, I can truly say that the trip was like a detox for my soul. There is something about that city that makes everyone be nice to each other, and it makes you want whatever juice they are drinking. We are all just human beings seeking joy in the world, and Sydney was definitely a place where we found it. I can’t wait to go back!

 

 

Packing your bags again? In my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Flight Attendant and Travel Writer, I’ve learned a few secret hacks that I must share with all of you! These tips will change your life!

1. No Leak Travel Size Bottles.

emotions.engagementpic
Photo by E-Motions Photography.

This is one of those things that will make you happier than you ever thought it would. Fork up the money and invest in this because the peace of mind is worth it. Your soaps won’t leak or explode all over your suitcase, despite how rough your luggage is handled. But my favorite characteristic about them is the way my soap squirts out of the bottle and into my hand, with such a precise squirt that inspire flower and heart designs; I suddenly become an artist with every shower!

2. Post Card of The Future.

balloon
Photo: Terrell Smith.

Instead of purchasing a postcard and stamp, consider the Postagram app. Take a photo of wherever you are, type in the receiver address, connect your credit card and off your card goes. No need to find a mailbox either! Thanks to this app, my grandparents are much happier!

3. Travel Extension Chord.

For those inconvenient and often times non-working hotel outlets, every traveler needs their own 6 foot long extension chord. A flight attendant hack, this is a sturdy and compact extension chord that can handle up to three power chords, and it rolls up nicely without getting tangled up with other belongings. Many of my flight attendant friends don’t leave home with out one of these.

4. Flight Track App.

Flight Track alerts and notifies when gate changes or delays occur, you can see when a plane has taken off and landed. It has saved me from walking to a gate in a different terminal, and in some cases has alerted me to a delay before my airline did. There is a free version as well.

5. The Diva Cup!

swim.divacup
Photograph by Kathleen Kerr.

Menstrual cups have existed since the 1930’s , yet its breakthrough into the feminine hygiene industry is much more recent. The Diva Cup empowers women to connect with their bodies and menstrual cycles like never before. Perfect for travel, its easy care and use make for a better period experience. Ladies can wear the Diva Cup for up to 12 hours without leaks or worry. Ladies, you will never need to buy tampons again! And guys, go tell your ladies about this! This rubber device is efficient, comfortable and re-usable. This is my favorite on-the-go item because of the way that it has improved the entire traveling female experience!

6. Granola Bars.

HKGhangry
Photo by Tara Smith.

These may not be much of a thought right now, but you’re going to be happy when you’re aimlessly wandering through a strange city, hangry for food, or when you’re stuck on the tarmac because you’re flight is delayed. I like Kind bars because of their nutritional value. Granola bars can’t replace a hot meal, but they can certainly provide you with enough protein so that you don’t become weak. Store your granola bars in a plastic container or Ziploc bag so that their flavors aren’t contaminated! By the way, you do have an emergency travel kit, don’t you?

Do you have a few secret hacks that you would like to share with us? We would love to hear from you! Please send submissions and ideas to: [email protected] !