Travel Tuesday: Iceland

My wanderlust continues to grow and so I continue the Travel Tuesday series which is fast becoming a wish list for me!

This week, I Google-searched “happiest places to live,” because given some of the recent news and my short-lived season of disillusionment (see Saturday’s less-than-hopeful post about the California Drought) I was wondering:

Where are the places where citizens live in harmony and peace with one another? Do they exist? Do they exist in places where I can still get a cup of coffee and a cozy cafe? Or do I have to visit a tribe in the middle of the Amazon or sign up for a hipster barter-system commune in the Carolinas somewhere?

Much to my surprise, there actually exists measurement called the Global Peace Index (GPI) that is presented every year by the Institute for Economics and Peace. Apparently the GPI is applauded by important, peaceful people like the Dali Lama and probably Oprah, so let’s see what it has to say.

In 2014, the country with the highest score on the GPI was….

!! ICELAND !!

Compilation 1 Melaleuca Freedom Celebration

In fact, Iceland has scored in first place every year since the GPI began in 2007! Either somebody on the GPI board has a soft spot for Iceland, or it is a pretty special place. And why is it so special?

The GPI is based on factors like crime rate, incarceration rate, weapon accessibility, and war involvement that are combined to make three subcategories: Militarization, Society and Security, and Domestic and International Conflict. There are lots in interesting statistics on the site, including the national cost of violence, which for Iceland was US$105,000,000. Compare that to the U.S. cost which was $1,713,095,000,000. (By the way, in case some of you were wondering, the USA scored at number 101 out of 162 countries. :/)

Photo credit: Giulia Cimarosti

Photo credit: Giulia Cimarosti

Other than the economics, here are some other candidates for explaining Iceland’s happiness that I came across searching the web:

  • Nine months paid child leave
  • Air purity
  • Highest male life expectancy and almost highest female life expectancy
  • It-takes-a-village mentality to meet priority of rearing happy, healthy children
  • Björk 😉 — no really though, a vibrant artistic culture
  • Only country in Nato with no armed forces
  • Thriving economic system
  • Low sexism, low homophobia
  • (Necessary) respect for nature
  • Geothermal energy heating

 

Photo Credit: Giulia Cimarosti

Photo Credit: Giulia Cimarosti

The verdict?

Fá mér til Íslands !

Happy travel planning!

~~~Simone~~~

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Travel Tuesday: Costa Rica!

Travel Tuesday is back and with an ecoconnection spotlight!

I don’t bring up ecoconnection as much as some of the other “connections” that are commonly explored on Life As a Wave, such as interconnection and animal connection. I was thinking about this and about Travel Tuesday and then began to wonder…what would be one of the most eco-friendly countries to visit?

The answer: Costa Rica!!

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Please keep in mind, that as I write it is 11:30 pm and I’m on a second glass of wine. I am not writing firm facts with APA citations. I’m writing the bytes that have caught my eye as I’ve explored Costa Rica via the internet. I will say this though, I haven’t come across many articles disputing that Costa Rica has emerged as one of the world’s leaders in environmental conservation and sustainability. As an illustration, when I Google search “Costa Rica Hype” I found myself sifting through a lot of World Cup stories and some trip advisor links with “..believe the hype!” in bold.

Anyway, after enough searching to make me a believer, here are some things I’ve found out about Costa Rica and its ecodevotion in the last couple weeks.

1. Beginning this year, Costa Rica has committed to generating all electricity from renewable resources. That’s incredible! And though Costa Rica’s model might not be transferable to larger nations it gives hope, direction, and momentum to the goal of cleaner energy sources.

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2. Costa Rica has set aside 25% of its land as National Parks and Reserves. From what I could find, this is a high percentage compared to most regions and also compared to worldwide percentage of protected areas (11.58%.)

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3. “Costa Rica has a stated ‘green growth strategy’. It has committed to carbon neutrality, increasing the share of hydropower, expanding eco-tourism and sustainable management of forest and marine resources. Mining activities are also banned and there is a three-year moratorium on oil and gas exploration.” From Globe International.

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4.Costa Rica wants to be carbon neutral by 2021 and has been reforesting it’s land to offset it’s emissions.

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5. Costa Rica has over 500,000 species which comes to 4-5% of the earth’s biodiversity and one of the highest density of biodiversity in the world. These include bunches of bugs and birds with great names like Quammen’s Green Mountain Beetle and the Cocos Cuckoo. Oh, and they have sloths.

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6. I keep seeing articles about how Costa Rica has strong environmental law and public policies to protect its biodiversity. I get the feeling that it’s not so much that there are “environmental groups” that push and struggle for environmental reform, but that there is a strong national pride for and allegiance to Costa Rican natural resources. And same goes for soccer. I get it, CR, I get it.

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7. They have lots of tree houses to choose from. Maybe this is normal for tropical climates, or even elsewhere; maybe I just haven’t been paying attention. Whatever the explanation, I’m all for experiencing the sights and sounds of a rainforest, unplugging from the electronics, leaving as small a carbon footprint as possible, and doing it all from the balcony of an Ewok village-esque treehouse like this one:

finca-bellavista-1My favorite treehouse option was Finca Bellavista because they seemed the least touristy and the most rustic. I want to pull on some wellies and get on those wet trails! I want to wake up to the sound of howler monkeys and not my phone alarm…I want to forget where my phone even is because I’m too busy watching the hummingbirds.

With that, I’m signing off. Yes, I’m leaving you with a list of, er, 7…mainly because it’s now past midnight and it’s time for bed. I’m sure I’ll be dreaming of beaches, forests, and volcanoes. Probably some soccer balls at this point too.

Good night, friends.

~~~S Wave~~~

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Travel Tuesday: Silent Meditation Retreat

Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.
― Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

It’s so fun to make a list of the places in the world you’d like to go. It’s interesting to ask yourself why you picked the places on your list. I have recently been considering the possibilities and with last week’s post about The Elephant Nature Park, I began this series: Travel Tuesdays. I would love to hear about your favorite places to travel too!

This week, I’m writing about silent meditation retreats. During some online daydreaming, I came across a list on The Huffington Post called, Silent Retreats: 10 Fantastic Retreat Centers in the U.S. For Peace and Quiet. Massachusetts and California rule the list, but there are other highly-ranked  locations in Oregon, North Carolina, and Hawaii.

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I wondered, what would be the benefits and challenges of a silent meditation retreat versus a regular meditation retreat? I can imagine the liberation of releasing the need to verbalize everything or to employ social niceties with everyone you encounter. I think for me it would be relatively easy to be silent…with the exception of the fact that I’m a chronic hummer and self-talker! I can imagine hearing new sounds you’d never noticed before. Like the quote above describes, I can imagine perceiving subtle energies in different kinds of silences. It all sounds lovely.

 "Listening to the Wind in Pines," by Ma Lin

“Listening to the Wind in Pines,” by Ma Lin

And what about the challenges? I know that sometimes when I’ve had a solitary day I feel a little stir-crazy in my own head (hence the self-talk). We are perpetually wanting to say what we think, how we feel. We want to ask questions and inquire. Being called to transcend those impulses would be quite the test. A worthy one I think! I also think there is a good chance that many hidden inner parts, seeking the ear that has suddenly become available, would present themselves and all of their needs. As long as there were skillful guides to help navigate these challenges, I would love to give this kind of retreat a try.

Have you ever been on a silent retreat? If so, where and for how long? And what did you think? Would you recommend a silent retreat to a fellow seeker?

For now, a silent retreat is officially on my list of “Get Me There!” places.

More next week. Enjoy your wanderlust and be beautiful.

~~~S Wave~~~

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Tuesday Travel: Elephant Nature Park

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

Sometimes I forget that traveling is something people actually do. It seems so easy to get trapped in daily, weekly, monthly, yearly responsibilities that the idea of traveling somewhere for any reason other than responsibility seems absurd. But I’ve got a newly awakened travel itch going on right now. Maybe it’s springtime in the air, who knows.

For instance, there is a beautiful place I would love to visit someday. It is in the northern Thai province of Chiang Mai and it is called Elephant Nature Park. If any of you have seen, “How I Became An Elephant,” then you know about the Park and its impressive founder, Lek.

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The other day, as I was reading about the Park’s many volunteer opportunities, I noticed how many aspects of Connection are being fostered there. The Park not only provides a sanctuary for injured and disabled elephants (and now dogs as well) but they also prioritize helping the very people who caused the elephants’ traumas in the first place. The owners and trainers–called mahouts–“break” baby elephants in a very violent way in order to be able to use the elephants for raising money for the rest of their lives through practices like street performing, begging, and logging. None of these things are very happy or healthy for the elephants of course.

However, the founders of the Park are very unique in that while they want to save these elephants, they also recognize the centuries-long ties that the mahouts and the grander culture have formed with the elephants. In order to honor these ties and the financial need of the mahouts while also bringing reformation to elephant exploitation, the Park is working with the people of Thailand to educate and train mahouts about alternative, humane, conservation-driven ways of earning a living and retaining their elephants. It isn’t perfect, but it is a beautiful example of EcoConnection, InterConnection, and Animal Connection at work. Throw in the volunteers from all over the world who are transformed by the opportunity to give back and gain perspective through their time at the Park and we can add InnerConnection as well.

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This all made me wonder: How else can Connection in all its facets be explored through travel? I intend to find out, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, do you know how much 12000 Thai Bhat is in U.S. dollars? $376.02. That is how much it costs to volunteer at the Park for one week. Makes travel for connection’s sake not seem so absurd, huh?

With love,

~~~S Wave~~~

Afoot and Lighthearted

We have found ourselves gathering photos of our feet. It wasn’t our plan, but a welcome wonder since it now leads us toward memories of places we have visited and the people (or empty spaces) that surrounded us. Looking back, we were able to find other similar photos and we share them all with you here.

Our feet ground us to a time and place, our footsteps mark the wanderings on.

Christmastime, 2012

Christmastime, 2012