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Cuba to USA: Welcome Back! August 28, 2016

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Cuba, Latin America , add a comment

By Tracy L. Barnett
For Westways Magazine

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It was my first walk down the Malecón, the famous seawall that has protected Havana for a century along the Straits of Florida. I ended up at a seaside café, where I met a friendly man with a baseball cap. He called himself John and showed me his ID card, which identified him as Juan.

“My parents named me John, and I was John until the revolution,” he explained. “Then, with all the problems—you know, John Kennedy, the Bay of Pigs—it just wasn’t possible to have that name anymore, and the government changed it.”

He wanted to be sure that I knew, however, that he had no hard feelings about the difficult past between our countries.

“We Cubans have nothing against the American people,” he declared. (more…)

Springtime in Paris June 4, 2013

Posted by Tracy in : Uncategorized , 4comments


PARIS, France – We arrived at Charles de Gaulle International Airport at 8:40 a.m., but between looking in vain for our lost luggage, filing a claim, learning to negotiate the metro system and buying a local SIM card for the phone, it was nearly 11 by the time that we emerged from the subterranean maze for my first view of the City of Light.
Unfortunately, as we approached the stairway leading to the outer world, we saw it being pelted from above by fat raindrops. We had arrived during the latest, wettest spring any Parisian could remember.

I’m traveling with my 17-year-old niece, Aniqa Rahman, who just finished four years of high school French studies, which is already proving enormously helpful. We had hit on the idea because of her studies, and because I had discovered family roots in Normandy, where a friend from San Antonio had invited me to come for a visit. Put all together, it seemed that France was calling to us.

Panama’s Ngorongoro: El Valle de Anton October 5, 2011

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On Day Two of our Panama adventure, we climbed 1,800 feet to the Valle de Anton to see the world’s second-largest volcanic crater – second only to the Ngorogoro in Tanzania. We were met by Ivan Hoyos of Ancon Expeditions, Panama’s only Virtuoso tour provider and a conservation-oriented company linked with one of Panama’s oldest conservation groups. Ivan, who is cited in Lonely Planet, is a lively interpreter of the country’s history, culture, ecology, and almost anything that might interest a traveler.

Meet Anna and Dave, the Permacyclists July 14, 2011

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Meet Dave and Anna, the Permacyclists.

She was a corporate lawyer from Brussels; he was a sociologist from New York. Neither of them was happy with their chosen profession, and after a great deal of soul searching, they decided to do what many dream of but few actually do: They quit their jobs, studied permaculture, bought bicycles and headed off across Africa, pedaling and working their way through 12 countries, 12,000 kilometers and 16 months from organic farm to organic farm, sharing what they’d learned along the way.

Now they’ve landed in Mexico and are launching a Phase 2 of their journey, but with a difference. This time they’re bringing a video camera and sound equipment, and documenting the stories of people working on solutions to the many environmental problems they have learned about in their travels. Their goal is to make it to the Earth Summit in Rio in June 2012. And this time they’re going by bus, instead of bike, to give them time to do reporting, writing and producing for their blog.

I was inspired by their story and by their plan, since in some ways it parallels my own – so we got together and shared stories. Here’s a little bit of theirs.


Southward Bound January 6, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, ecotourism, Esperanza Project, Latin America, Mexico, voluntourism , 12comments

backpack tracyST. LOUIS, MO. ­– Today’s the day.

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.

Four days and counting December 18, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, ecotourism, Esperanza Project, Latin America, Sustainability , 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.

Location Independent
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.

Havana to Tracy: Not so fast November 30, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Cuba , 4comments

Cuba, it seems, was not ready for me.

Definitely, I was not ready for Cuba.

It seems that getting a Cuban journalist’s visa is a great deal more complicated than I had been led to believe. My lack of attention to this particular detail led to a brusque reception by disbelieving bureaucrats, a long cold night in Jose Martí International Airport, and the first flight back to Cuba.

It was a costly, embarrassing and extremely painful lesson, but here’s what I learned. I’m sharing the story in the hopes that you will learn from my mistakes.

Countryside near Havana from the airplane window

Outskirts of Havana from the airplane window


Hot springs hideaway August 19, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, ecotourism, Utah , 1 comment so far

Kayaking the Great Salt Lake would have been adventure enough for some — particularly since our self-appointed wilderness guide had a bartending shift that began at 5 and ended at 10.


But Anne De Long is no ordinary wilderness guide. She’s also a tango dancer, along with the rest of my group, which means that life really begins long after the sun goes down. And so I found myself at 1 a.m., pack strapped to my back, hoofing an hour upwards into the Uinta National Forest in the wake of a troupe of tango dancers.

I am reluctant to reveal the whereabouts of these hot springs. Let me just say that they were well worth the climb. (OK, I’ll give just one hint: its name is Diamond Fork. But don’t ask me how to get there. I couldn’t tell you, anyway – I was asleep!) By the time I’d huffed and puffed my way up the last switchback, Anne had set the scene with candles all around the secluded pool and Suan had set the “table” – a rock in the center of the pool – with olives and brie and crostini and red wine.

When we were sated from food, wine and laughter — among the many talents that Anne totes around in that backpack of hers is the persona of a slightly bawdy showgirl — she led us to the foot of the waterfall where we plunged into its icy torrents and shattered the peaceful night with screams of delight.

We soaked our cares away till nearly dawn, when we crawled into our sleeping bags and slept like the dead until the hot rays of the sun popped over the canyon wall and crept into our bags. Imagine our surprise to find a troupe of blonde, uniformed cheerleaders making their way into our open-air boudoir.

All good things must come to an end, as they say. Sigh.

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Kayaking the Great Salt Lake August 15, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, ecotourism, Utah , 2comments

I’d never have believed you could pack so much life into two days. Salt Lake City and the surrounding countryside offer so much to the traveler, it really deserves a week or two. Possibly even a lifetime.

Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake

Nonetheless, two days were what we had, and our friends worked overtime to show us some of the highlights: Kayaking on the Great Salt Lake; a twilight concert downtown with the originator of reggae; a midnight hike up a mountain to an unforgettable night under the stars at Diamond Fork Hot Springs; a vegetarian buffet at a Taj Mahal-like Krishna temple in the sagebrush-covered valley and a drive through the verdant aspen forests of Sundance and the Alpine Loop.

First was the kayaking expedition. Anne De Long, our guide, warned us that the brine flies might be out in force, but we decided to chance it. We were so glad we did. The spectacular vistas, the salty air and the strange sensation of bobbing effortlessly above the briny depths made for an unforgettable experience.

Here’s a little preview:

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Mexico City offers tourists a healthy deal August 3, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in : Mexico , add a comment

Another good reason to visit Mexico: Mexico City, in an innovative move designed to combat fear of swine flu, is offering free health insurance to national and international travelers, the LA Times reported today.

Anyone staying in a Mexico City hotel will receive free hospitalization, prescription drugs, doctor’s care and even hotel accommodations during convalescence.

A total of 353 people have died of the virus worldwide since the so-called pandemic hit the news in April. Meanwhile, several hundred people die of regular flu each week, as CNN pointed out.

Mexico’s tourism industry, one of the country’s most important sources of income, has been battered by the wave of negative press coverage, first because of drug-related violence (virtually none of which has affected tourists) and then swine flu (ditto). Which is a shame, since Mexico is home to an enormous wealth of culture, history, cuisine and some of the friendliest people in the world – and it’s right next door.

As for me, I’ll be going to Mexico as soon and as often as possible. With or without free health insurance.