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President’s Corner

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Hi. I’m Jeremy Sampson, the new President of Greenspot Travel. I’ll be writing a monthly post covering a variety of topics I hope will be interesting and relevant to our community of passionate travelers.

I joined GreenSpot in November, after five years at a global nonprofit called Sustainable Travel International, where my work focused on improving lives and protecting places through travel. I’m thrilled to join the GreenSpot team, where I’ll have the opportunity to continue the pursuit of my passions, albeit through a different lens.

I started my career many moons ago working for a boutique travel agency in San Francisco called Ambassador Tours. I’ve always believed in the tremendous value that travel specialists provide. It’s noisy out there, with endless blogs, booking engines, resources, and travel guides telling you what to do.But there’s nothing like talking with a knowledgeable listener on the phone who will take the time to understand your vacation needs and desires.

At GreenSpot, we pride ourselves on our destination expertise and relationships, and most importantly, on our patented Trip Design process. Using this approach, we work with all of our travelers to create unrivaled ecotourism itineraries and ensure special touches that matter most.

I’m particularly excited for the year ahead, which is a special one for GreenSpot because it’s our 10th Anniversary. How do we plan to celebrate?

  • We’re going to offer new and improved ways to bring our Trip Design process to life, including a new website in the coming months.
  • We’re bringing you new destinations, including Ecuador, Iceland, and the Yucatan. Stay tuned for a special announcement about our 10th Anniversary trip!
  • We’re providing you new opportunities to travel authentically while giving back to the communities we serve, which is core to our sustainability commitment (more on this in future posts)
  • We’ve made a promise to remain laser focused on unrivaled traveler experience at all costs. This steadfast commitment over our first 10 years, is the the very same reason we’re recommended travel specialists at Conde Nast Traveler and WendyPerrin.com, and why travelers have given us nothing but positive feedback about the trips we’ve created over the years.

I look forward to joining you on this GreenSpot journey. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime at jeremy@greenspottravel.org
Jeremy

Trust Us – It is Not too Early to Book December Travel

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As spring and summer approach, most of us aren’t thinking about the holiday season right now, but when the colder months approach, many people long to jet off to warmer climates. Sadly, some of those people will be disappointed when they find out that they should have started planning well in advance. So, if you tend to dream about tropical destinations during the winter, we urge you to consider planning now.

December is definitely a popular time to visit Costa Rica. Christmas kicks off the beginning of the dry season and since there are also school holidays to consider (both abroad and for local Ticos) activities and accommodations tend to fill up quickly.  Advanced reservations – as far ahead as six months to a year, for some of the more popular hotels – are strongly advised. Once the planning process begins and you find your dream hotel, we don’t want you to be disappointed. We hate it when that happens. After all, we’re in the business of making people happy.

Where the Wild Things Are: Why you Should Expose Kids to Wildlife

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Like most children, I grew up with a love for all things small, innocent and fluffy. For years, I begged my parents for a puppy, but since we traveled a lot, I ended up with fish, gerbils and rabbits, as they were easier to pawn-off on people when we went away.039_36

Yes, I would consider myself an animal lover from a young age. However, it wasn’t until young-adulthood, while traveling abroad, that I had the chance to see exotic animals in their natural habitat. Although I was in my mid-twenties and did not yet have children of my own, I remember thinking what an amazing opportunity it would be for a child to experiences true wildlife encounters.

Recently, as my daughter and I watched in awe, as two wild stags fought antler to antler, she expressed it perfectly when she said, “Wow! This is way better than Animal Planet!”  Wildlife documentaries are wonderful, but here are some reasons to expose kids to the real thing.

Encourage their Caring Nature20140809_114016_Android (2)

As many parents will tell you, connecting children with wildlife helps to develop kind, thoughtful, considerate and caring qualities. As children begin to realize that not all animals are respected and cared for, they can learn about the people who are working fervently to preserve wildlife. You can discuss what your family can do to help and even visit a wildlife sanctuary to see caring in action. (Contact us and ask about such experiences!)

Promote Environmental Values

Respect for wildlife and the environment go hand-in-hand. Develop this knowledge in your kids and produce great role models and advocates of future preservation.

Do it for Health

Studies show that getting outdoors is healthy for our body and our mind. Whether you are going on a nature hike in your area, or hopping on a plane for a wildlife expedition abroad, getting children (and ourselves) to abandon computer screens will keep us moving and reduce stress.

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Education

The world is a living classroom (we can’t say it enough). Even your backyard can support a love for wildlife and educate kids about local flora and fauna. Take them on a family wildlife expedition abroad and they will return with a treasure chest of knowledge that they will never forget.

An Opportunity to Bond

A love for nature and wildlife is something that is stimulating to people of all ages. Through learning and discovering the natural world, you will find boundless wild activities to do together.

How do I find out more?

Contact us and ask about the best family itineraries for optimal wildlife viewing. Experiences can range from staying deep in the rainforest, surrounded by nature and animals, to visiting wildlife sanctuaries or locations where endangered sea turtles are nesting.

Education in the Classroom and Beyond – Missing School for Family Travel

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Have you been caught in the middle of the debate regarding taking children out of school to travel? It has been a popular topic in the United States and Europe and is certainly not without controversy.

Schools make the case that absences will put the child behind, can disturb the classroom flow and make extra work for teachers. Furthermore, there is no doubt that schools are concerned about standardized testing scores and overall school ranking. Some schools in London have implemented fees for unexcused absences. There has also been dialogue in the US, surrounding the idea of making it illegal for parents to take kids out of school for family vacations. Yes, you read that correctly…illegal to take your children on vacation without school approval.

In a recent post, we discussed some of the reasons why family travel is so important. Besides the significance of relaxation and quality time together, most parents strongly believe (as we do) in the value of education outside of the classroom. Therefore, it is no wonder that many parents have been fighting back regarding such stringent policy.

3125755833_15d66056b4_oHowever, the debate runs deeper than ethics – many families cannot afford the cost of travel during peak (school break) times. In fact, off-peak travel could average a cost savings of $2,000 or more, per family. In addition, not all businesses can have the majority of their staff out of the office simultaneously.

From a tourism perspective, if schools dictate when families can and cannot travel, this becomes problematic for communities that rely on year-round visitors. Likewise, it is not enjoyable for the thousands who are fighting for space on the beach, waiting in long lines at attractions, or crashing into each other on the ski slopes.

In the past, schools treated each family as an individual case, which is what many parents are hoping they will revert to. We believe strongly in the benefits of traveling with kids – yet also in the value of classroom education.

Before taking children out of school, don’t forget to consider the grade your child is in and how are they doing in school; informing the school and collecting homework assignments in advance; the length, timing and frequency of your travel.

Don’t forget to make it memorable, fun and educational!

We’d love to hear your opinion.

Suggested family itinerary: Costa Rica Family Vacation

 

Are You More Tico Than the Gallo Pinto?

Salsa Lizano
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If you are familiar with this warm culture and country, the title above would make sense, well maybe…

In Costa Rica there is a dish so popular an entire day of celebration has been dedicated to it. Gallo Pinto is usually made daily and available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The name means “spotted rooster” in Spanish and it is said that this name was given because of the speckled appearance that comes from rice being cooked with black or red beans.

As easy as this recipe sounds, it took speaking with locals to perfect it. I made the mistake of using plain old white rice like the recipe I found in The Costa Rica Star says and it didn’t look a thing like the pictures that were sent to me by our Tica friend, Lleana Koons, who is quite the culinary genius. I have been told that jasmine rice or long grain brown rice are much better alternatives. Lleana told me that, “For me it is so hard to tell you how much of each ingredient, as we were taught to eyeball the measurement when cooking, which is the norm for every Tico. I just taste the food and in this way I know what else I need in order for it to be tasty!”

So if you want to be adventurous in your kitchen and try to make Gallo Pinto at home, here’s the list of ingredients you would need: long grain rice, black beans, cilantro, white onion, green onion, garlic, red pepper, cilantro, salt, olive oil and of course there is always a secret ingredient, Salsa Lizano (which is featured below, you can pick this hot item up on your trip to Costa Rica, we have yet to find it in the States).

First, you cook the beans in a pressure cooker with enough water, finely chopped onions, garlic, red peppers, cilantro and salt. Cooking time is approximately 25-30 minutes. Next, in a different pot, we make the rice. First add the oil, then the finely chopped onions, cilantro, red peppers, and onions. Fry this for a little bit and then add the rice, salt, and water. Now we will make the Gallo Pinto. In a pan, add more finely chopped onions, cilantro, red peppers, and green onions. Fry this for a little bit and then add the rice and beans. Now add the Salsa Lizano and a little pepper and we have Gallo Pinto. Enjoy!

So… an entire day of celebration for Gallo Pinto? San Jose crowds gather together to eat Gallo Pinto with tortilla, sour cream and other traditional recipes such as sweet bean pie and rice pudding at The Paseo Colon in March every year. According to The Costa Rica Star, “The culinary activity, which showcases the most representative folkloric dish in Costa Rica, was part of the “Smoke-Free Sundays” initiative that the Municipality of San Jose is promoting each year. During each Smoke-Free Sunday, one of the main arteries of downtown San Jose is closed to vehicular traffic. Smoke-Free means that pedestrians are asked to take tobacco products away from the event as well.” Sounds like a wonderful, delicious, and healthy celebration to attend if you happen to be traveling with us this March. There is still time to plan your spring trip with Greenspot to Costa Rica, check out our adventures today!

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