This Trippy Life encouraging eco tourism to embrace cultures, environment, and diversity

7 Jul 2022

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The Trippy Life by Kristen is a website dedicated to helping people get out and explore the world. She especially likes to write about unique travel destinations.  

“You can go onto Tripadvisor and find some nice attractions in a city but usually, the best spots are known by locals or by spending time in a location”. 

Kristen in Barcelona
Kristen is not that interested in a popular cruise or resort but much more interested in meeting a coffee shop owner that has been there so long who can tell you the history of their city going back 50 years. Or learning about a restaurant that is haunted and they like the ghost so much they have given him a name. 

See this blog post

Some of the most unique spots she has found by accident. 

“One time my husband and I were driving through the North Carolina countryside when we noticed a Dukes of Hazzard Museum. We had passed by it several times before and never noticed it. When we stopped to visit, we met the most charming man who had been collecting memorabilia for several years and had visitors from all over the world. And guess what? You won't find him on Tripadvisor!”.

Kristen with her dog Cookie
What started your interest in travel and travel writing?
I grew up in Utah where my family had a cabin in the Uinta mountains that we visited often. It was a wonderful childhood, and I loved the time spent hiking, sitting around the fireplace, and playing games. I loved having a cabin to visit but also love exploring new places so as an adult, I have done that as much as possible. I'm very spontaneous and when I get an idea for a trip, I try really hard to make it happen. I love spending hours planning every aspect of the trip. 

I've enjoyed being a piano teacher for over 30 years and I'm also a published composer,  but a few years ago, I started experiencing extreme depression from some difficult times I was going through. I decided to add something new to my life to help me cope.  
I found the creative act of blogging to be very therapeutic. I've also enjoyed learning photography and web designing skills. Since I already enjoyed traveling, it all fit together nicely. I am in a much healthier place now and look forward to growing my blog over the next several years.

Why did you set up The Trippy Life?
I wanted to push myself to travel more and to help others travel to interesting locations. I also enjoy helping promote small, deserving businesses. 

Where have you been based for the COVID lockdown and how have you been spending your time?
I live in the Raleigh, North Carolina area and I spend my time in Raleigh with my husband and three children teaching piano and also at our lake house rental that is an hour north of Raleigh on Mayo Lake. I do the maid service for the lakehouse and my husband does the maintenance. At the beginning of Covid, we were concerned that people would quit traveling and that we wouldn't get any bookings. But as people became tired of being stuck at home, vacation homes in my area have done quite well because they are a safe way for people to travel and maintain distance from others.

We choose to buy a home on this particular lake because it is a hidden gem in North Carolina that few people know about. The shoreline is protected from development and so we see a lot of wildlife there like Bald Eagles, Herons, Egrets, Fox, and Kingfishers.  (Link to VRBO rental)

How has the impact on tourism and travel affected you?
The travel and food industry has definitely been hit hard by the pandemic and therefore, travel and food bloggers have as well. Before the pandemic, I would be invited a couple of times a week to experience and promote food and travel destinations in my area in exchange for sharing about it on my blog and social media channels. Since the pandemic started, that has slowed down quite a bit.  
I have not wanted to fly anywhere, so the only travel I have done are road trips (other than flying to Utah one time to take care of my father after he had surgery.)

I recently took my daughter on a road trip to Florida from North Carolina and I have done a lot of writing about the nature trails in my area. Biking, roller-blading, jogging, and any outdoor activity has become extremely popular as well as road trips and RV trips. Sports equipment stores are often sold out of bikes, paddle-boards, and kayaks now so it can make picking up a new activity difficult if it requires new gear.

I personally love running, biking, and paddle-boarding.

Her son Jacob at a bird sanctuary in Costa Rica
How do you think the industry will change in the future because of this?
One of the positives of the epidemic is that people are exploring the outdoors and different ways to see it. I see people connecting with nature much more than they were before.  My hope is that will continue into the future. Everyone can find beautiful walking trails nearby. People have learned to travel to their own backyard and enjoy the beauty. This is much healthier for our planet anyway.

Eventually, we'll all be boarding airplanes and traveling the world again, but hopefully, people will hang on to their running shoes and kayaks and continue to enjoy the outdoors around them.

There is a big growth of digital nomads (before corona) how do you think this industry will be affected?

It's definitely still possible to be a digital nomad and may be easier to self distance by finding a secluded beach or destination. I have no desire to fly right now, but travel bans are being lifted making it possible for those that want to.

I think the success of a digital nomad depends on the field they are in. The company Fiver, which offers freelance services to businesses like website and logo design has exploded since the pandemic. If you can offer an online service that is in high demand right now, you could do well as a digital nomad.

I'm teaching online piano through Zoom and I know of piano teachers that travel and teach as they go. It's all about being online right now. Find something you are good at or can learn, and offer it online.
Kristen's Husband with monkey at animal sanctuary in Costa Rica

What are your thoughts on the status of eco-tourism in the last few years?
My family has taken two trips to Costa Rica and my son has done another trip to Costa Rica through Outward Bound. My husband, a PhD Chemist, is a huge nature lover and can identify thousands of different animals on sight. When we travel to Costa Rica, it's mainly to enjoy the wildlife. We're fascinated by any wildlife including insects like the Glowing Click Beetles, reptiles like the Common Basilisk, as well as Spider Monkeys and Scarlett Macaws. 

Our latest trip to Costa Rica was to the Osa Peninsula, one of the richest and most diverse tropical areas in the world. The rain forest there has not been developed like other parts of Costa Rica and the only power comes from solar panels and generators.  The homes have an open-air concept meaning they are not completely closed off to nature. You may wake up to geckos on the wall or furry friends in the bathroom. We did, and we loved it. Most open-air homes will have no washer or dryer, few appliances, and minimal electricity. It may sound off-putting to some people, but the open jungle is surprisingly comfortable and safe.

Our home sat on the beautiful coast and included a freshwater pool. The kitchen was out in the open and three times a day, a Costa Rican lady would come to prepare our meals. We could not speak Spanish to communicate with her, so she would take whatever items we had in the kitchen and transform it into a fantastic meal in about 30 minutes. She would then clean up after six people in another 30 minutes. This was without the use of most modern kitchen conveniences like a microwave and dishwasher. Our meals included local foods like beans, rice, papaya, mango, pineapple, chicken, and eggs, but she would find a different way to prepare them every time.

After I booked the home, I realized the owner was an award-winning conservationist named Adrian Forsyth. My husband actually had one of his books on his nightstand at the time. We were beyond thrilled to find out we would be staying at his home. 

When Adrian found out my husband was a chemist, he asked him to develop a synthetic lure for Dung Beetles to help him study the Dung Beetle population in the Amazon rainforest. The interesting part of the lure is that it needed to smell like "poo". My husband laughingly called it Poo Brew, and was delighted to develop it for Adrian.

When my son visited Costa Rica through Outward Bound, he hiked several miles through the rainforest to stay with local families where he learned to live, work, and cook like Costa Ricans. One of the difficult things he had to learn to do, because he loves animals so much, was to cut off the head of a chicken. He loved his time in Costa Rica and hopes to go back. 

We also visited a bird sanctuary and animal sanctuary. 

Even though ecotourism may involve flying, which is not beneficial to the environment, people can embrace the cultures, environment, and diversity of a different country when they travel instead of looking for the biggest resort or shopping mall.

Kristen and baby tiger
Where would be a top destination for you to recommend when we can travel again?
I would definitely recommend traveling to Costa Rica to seek out new experiences. Find a fantastic guide that can spot animals in the rainforest, visit a coffee plantation to learn about the coffee-making process from bean to brew, and get to know the wonderful Costa Rican people. They have a strong work ethic and have learned to respect the rainforest they exist in.

I also enjoyed traveling to Barcelona, Spain but enjoyed the nearby town of Sitges even more because it's smaller, less crowded, and less touristy.