Giving Thanks, Making Peace November 25, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Colombia, El Salvador, Esperanza Project, Guatemala, Mexico, Mexico City, Travel wisdom , 5comments
MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Thanksgiving day – I awoke this morning far from home and family but filled with a profound sense of gratitude.
Grateful for the sun that was just beginning to brighten the sky outside my window; grateful for the dear friends who have given me a home in this city of cities. Grateful for the health and the support of my family, who continue to love me faithfully despite my wandering ways.
Most of all on this day, I’m grateful for the path I’ve been given this year, a path that has led me from inspiration to inspiration as I traveled from Mexico to Argentina, seeking to learn from those who are each changing our world in their own way.
Guadalajara Guerreros: Fighting for a better world February 19, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Esperanza Project, Guadalajara, Mexico, Sustainability , add a comment
Today I awoke in the verdant mountains near Tepoztlán in Central Mexico, far from the commotion of city life in Guadalajara. Before I move on, I want to take a few moments to acknowledge the work of 24 extremely dedicated, talented and creative people I met during my time in that city, people who touched my life and gave me hope for a better future.
To read about them, please visit Guerreros de Guadalajara, a bilingual entry in my Flickr account.
La Minerva, warrior woman of old and symbol of modern-day Guadalajara, photo courtesy of TheLittleTx, Flickr Creative Commons.
Southward Bound January 6, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Esperanza Project, Latin America, Mexico, ecotourism, voluntourism , 12comments
I’ve made my list and checked it a million times; selected and reselected my gear; said my goodbyes and received good wishes and safe travel blessings from near and far. I’ve left my car keys, my smart phone and my GPS behind. I’ll be making my way by foot now and by mass transit; everything I’ll need is either in my pack or shoulder bag, or it’s something I’ll have to find along the way, or live without.
A special appeal December 31, 2009Posted by Tracy in : Esperanza Project, Latin America, Sustainability , add a comment
Somewhere to the south of us, an indigenous farmer is raising his voice against the eradication of ancient seed stocks by corporate interests. An army of volunteer gardeners is sowing a food security system on rooftops, patios and abandoned lots. A tribe in the Amazon is using Google Earth to give virtual tours of its ancestral forests in a bid to build global support for their preservation. A troupe of young bicyclists is plotting colorful new ways to capture the public’s attention and steer its city policy toward the path of sustainability.
As forests burn, icecaps melt and sea levels rise, people at the grassroots aren’t waiting for the government to fix things for them. Nowhere is this more evident than in Latin America.
Four days and counting December 18, 2009Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Esperanza Project, Latin America, Sustainability, ecotourism , 4comments
Tuesday the movers come to put all my things into storage, and I’m fluctuating between exhilaration, panic and denial. The to-do list keeps growing, the time keeps shrinking. Here’s a piece I did for The Buzz Magazine that summarizes where I’m at right now, how I got here and where I’m going.
Digital nomads redefine the office
by Tracy L. Barnett, contributing writer
Last spring, I was handed an amazing opportunity. But at first it seemed like a disaster.
Like millions of others in this recession, I lost my job. It was especially unsettling, as I had moved to Houston not so long ago to take that job.
Nonetheless, I took stock of my situation and realized it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. My daughter was grown and nearing completion of her education; I had no mortgage, no debt, no health problems and a little bit of savings. I had a marketable skill set, and no urgent need to make a lot of money.
This might just be the moment to follow my dreams, I said to myself.
Most of my life I’d worked for someone else: Newspaper corporations, nonprofit organizations, a university. I had always wanted to see what I could do working for myself. And I’d always wanted to take a year for travel.
I spent hours surfing the web, seeking a way to make it happen, and I found that I was far from alone. In fact, an international community has emerged to share ideas and support each other in what is being called the location-independent lifestyle.
Lighting out for the South November 24, 2009Posted by Tracy in : Cuba, Esperanza Project, Latin America, Sustainability , add a comment
Today I will follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, Che Guevara and Celia Cruz to the irrepressible rhythm of the Cuban son – emanating from Cuban human beings, not my CD collection or a cover band in downtown Houston. Far from the Bayou City, I’ll savor the sunset breezes on the Malecón, the famous boulevard that stretches the length of the city along the Bay of Havana. As many a tourist has done before me, I’ll sit at Hemingway’s favorite bar and have a mojito in his memory.
And while I will embrace the cultural magic of this legendary land, my journey goes beyond culture to something more essential, something universal and urgent.
Greening the barrios in Mexico City October 28, 2009Posted by Tracy in : Esperanza Project, Latin America, Mexico, Sustainability, Uncategorized , add a comment
Saving your garbage is a tough sell in a place where gardening is seen as peasant labor. But that doesn’t stop Dulce María Vega from rolling up her sleeves, going door-to-door and recruiting her neighbors for a grand mission.
Dulce is the friendly face of sustainability in her neighborhood. With more than 30,000 residents, Lomas de Plateros is one of Mexico City’s largest apartment complexes. When she first teamed up with Noelle Romero of Organi-K, a local environmental group, to establish a pilot Ecobarrios project at the massive complex, people thought she’d lost her senses.
Journeys with a cause October 27, 2009Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Africa, Biking, Esperanza Project , 1 comment so far
Many of you know I am currently in the process of gearing up for a year-long journey with a mission: to raise the visibility of the unsung heroes of Latin America’s environmental movement. In the process I hope to build a well of creative ideas and inspiration through the new web portal I’m designing, a networking tool for the groups themselves and a sharp contradiction to the sense of hopelessness and cynicism about the future that has enveloped much of our population. I’m calling it The Esperanza Project, and I’ll be filling you in on the details in the weeks ahead.
Meanwhile, I’ll be taking the opportunity to highlight the journeys of other travelers whose journeys represent a larger purpose. Today I ran across the story of Tendai Sean Joe, a former street child from Zimbabwe who has become an advocate for disadvantaged children and youths. He has launched the Trail of Hope Foundation to provide a base for his advocacy work. Currently the group is raising money for a three-motorcycle trip through 16 countries to document the conditions of street children from Cape Town to Berlin.
You can follow Tendai Sean Joe on his blog, on Facebook or on Twitter, and you can read his guest post in Deb Corbeil and Dave Bouskill’s excellent blog, Canada’s Adventure Couple, where I first learned about him. Deb and Dave (@theplanetd on Twitter) bring a great deal of insight to the subject, having biked from Cairo to Capetown to raise money for Plan Canada, another group that raises money for underprivileged children. Their blog also highlights journeys for a cause, and you can find a list of stories from their Giving Back, Travel the World and Make a Difference series at the end of Tendai Joe’s guest post.
Here’s one of many photos from Tendai Joe’s Facebook page, taken on a preliminary trip to one of the sites he will visit on his tour.
A leap of faith in Guadalajara October 24, 2009Posted by Tracy in : Esperanza Project, Latin America, Mexico, Nature tourism, ecotourism , 5comments
“This is my office,” he says with a broad smile and a sweep of his arm toward the mirror-like pool in front of him, the basalt formations all around and the forest beyond. We’re in a place he’s dubbed “Naturaleza Mistica” or “Mystical Nature,” where water has carved these crystalline pools into the rocks all around.
It’s a place that invites contemplation, inspiration and renewal. Birdsong ricochets from tree to tree in the stillness of the afternoon; the water drips from pool to pool, and a cricket chirps from a nearby crevice. I can’t imagine a better place for an office. Luis is the founder of Eco-Tours Guadalajara, the area’s first tour company dedicated to outdoor adventure. Now he and his 10-member crew lead adventures in rockclimbing, rappelling, ziplining, mountain biking, scuba diving and canyoneering. Today he leads a group of travel writers, in Guadalajara for the SATW convention, through various degrees of terror and exhilaration on the first three, beginning with a rappel down a 50-foot sheer wall and a clamber up another one, followed by a leap from a cliff on a zipline.
Now we’re following him through a grassy field to a rocky forest as he interprets the geological and biological wonders of this place.
It was a leap of faith that brought Luis to this place in his life. He was an excellent secondary school teacher – so good that he was promoted to school principal. He enjoyed education, and his wife Lucinda taught there, too. But something in Luis kept calling him to the great outdoors, to the wilds of the mountains that encircle Guadalajara.
“Finally I couldn’t take it anymore,” he said. “I needed to be outside, in nature.”
So after 11 years in public education, he and Lucinda left their jobs and founded Eco-Tours, taking their teaching skills to a new audience. Now their pupils learn to overcome their fears and bond with the natural world around them.
“Ecotourism in Jalisco? There’s no demand for it,” he was told. But he persevered, and now business is booming. His is one of four ecotourism companies in the Guadalajara area.
“We have one of the most spectacular sites in the country for ecotourism – excellent walls for climbing, beautiful landscapes, amazing canyons, and all just 45 minutes from Guadalajara,” he says. “This place is a natural for ecotourism.”
Mexico City Ecological Park: A wilderness restored October 22, 2009Posted by Tracy in : Esperanza Project, Latin America, Mexico, Nature tourism, Sustainability, ecotourism , 3comments
This could be any other forest on the outskirts of any other city, I think to myself as the path curves through a grassy field, past a burst of orange sunflowers and into the shade of a mossy oak grove. Then Guadalupe stops and gestures for us to take a seat on the cool boulders in the clearing.
“Close your eyes,” she says. “Breathe deeply. Feel the peace that is in this place.”
Far in the distance, the murmur of traffic dissolves into the timeless rustle of the wind in the trees.
I do feel the peace; but my mind is straying back to what Guadalupe has just told me about this place, and it defies imagining.
Just two decades ago, this ferny hillside was virtually indistinguishable from the city below. And had it not been for Ajusco’s position as one of the most important aquifer recharge zones in Central Mexico, and a political drama that is still playing out to this day, it would have remained that way.