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Intrepid Travel

​There's nothing like the feeling of traveling to a new place for the first time.

Whether it’s tasting some new exotic food, visiting a fairytale-like castle that's steeped in centuries of history, or taking in a breathtaking landscape for the first time, travel is a powerful way to experience different cultures and natural wonders firsthand.

Image via iStock.


But whether you plan to visit ancient ruins in Europe, wander the markets of Marrakesh, or see wildlife in Africa, it’s easy to find yourself in a situation that you’re not used to. When that happens, sometimes we get overwhelmed by all the differences and "newness" — and that makes the experience less enjoyable not only for you, but also for your hosts. Here are some easy and practical ways to make sure you're getting the most out of your trip while also honoring and respecting the places you visit (and the planet in general!).

27 tips that can help us all be more conscious travelers.

1. Try to learn at least a little of the local language, even if it’s just "hello," "thank you," or the customary greetings.

A night street market in Marrakesh, Morocco. Image via iStock.

2. Shop and eat like the locals. Traveling can be a bit of a culture shock, so it might be tempting to stick with what you know, but not only will it be a more authentic travel experience for you, it will also support the local economy.

3. Wear clothing that's acceptable in the local culture. Some countries are more conservative, so do your research and dress modestly — yes, even if it’s humid or hot — to show respect.

4. Many places, such as those beautiful temples in Southeast Asia, also have rules about what you should wear and how you should act, so be sure to find out what they are and follow them, even if you don't love them.

A view of Bagan, Myanmar. Image via iStock.

5. Study (and observe!) the local customs as much as you can, especially when it comes to personal space, manners, sense of time, and dining. For example, in the Middle East, you should only use your right hand for eating or accepting food, and in France or Japan, blowing your nose in public is considered rude and repulsive.

6. Strike up a conversation with someone you meet! It’s often by talking and listening that we can reach a deeper understanding and appreciation of the people and places we're visiting.

7. Be ready to answer questions about yourself too. When you travel, the people you meet will be interested in you and where you are from, so be gracious in answering their questions.

8. Remember that you're the visitor, so it should be you who adapts to the local way of life — not the other way around.

The view from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, California. Image by Allie_Caulfield/Flickr.

9. Whether you are visiting an ancient ruin, an art gallery, or even a national park, respect the rules on where you can go and what you can do — don't be that person touching something you shouldn’t, disturbing nature, or taking things you shouldn’t.

10. Don't take selfies in places where it would be rude, offensive, or inappropriate — such as at memorials or holy sites. It can also be dangerous — even deadly — to take selfies from the edge of cliffs or while you are on the move.

11. Be careful what hand gestures you use because they can mean different things in different places. (Case in point: In many countries, a thumbs up means something quite different from "way to go.")

12. Avoid souvenirs that support harmful practices, such as ivory trinkets, which contribute to harmful practices like illegal wildlife poaching.

An elephant in front of Kilimanjaro. Image via iStock.

13. Be conscious about what you choose to eat as well. Some local delicacies — such as shark fin soup — are driving certain species to the brink of extinction.

14. If you haggle, do it with care. In places like Latin America or Southeast Asia, bargaining is a part of the culture, and it can be a fun way to interact with people — and even make a friend — but there are limits. Remember that it's their livelihood, consider the fair market value, and don’t be a bully.

Image via iStock.

15. If you're visiting a landmark that isn't too far away, walk or take local transportation (instead of a cab). It will give you the chance to see more along the way, and it will reduce your carbon footprint.

16. If you do walk, try asking for directions from a local. It will give you the opportunity to break free from tourist routes, find little hidden gems along the way, and keep you from getting lost.

17. Be conscious of your electricity and water use. In some parts of the world, electricity isn’t as basic as it is back home and clean water is a luxury.

18. Be mindful of your garbage. Waste management can be a major issue in some countries, and travelers can unknowingly contribute to the problem.

19. If possible, recycle or reuse what you can and carry a reusable water bottle. Pro tip: If you fill up your water bottle at a water station once you're through security at the airport, you can skip using a plastic beverage cup during the flight, too.

Image via iStock.

20. Leave a place better than you find it. If you come across a little litter while you’re hiking or walking down the street, why not pick it up and throw it away in the proper place? It's a small gesture, but every little bit helps.

21. Choose sustainable accommodations or tour operators. Find businesses that actively work with the local communities (e.g. ones that employ local guides from the area) and that use practices that help protect the environment.

22. Avoid activities that exploit wild animals, like elephant rides or taking photos with tigers.

23. If you do want to see animals on your trip, do it in a positive way, such as a visit to an ethical wildlife sanctuary. Opt for sanctuaries that are registered NGOs and are transparent about their business dealings, such as the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand.

24. Or plan a trip where you can observe animals in the wild from a safe, respectful distance. For example, Katmai National Park in Alaska offers outdoorsy people the opportunity to safely watch brown bears catch salmon from three viewing platforms.

Brown bears at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Image by Christoph Strässler/Flickr.

25. Don’t compare everything to "home." You left home to see the world and experience something new, so don't forget that while you're away.

26. Embrace the differences you encounter — those differences just might change how you see the world and your home.

27. Be an example. We've all met that tourist who makes us cringe. Be kind, polite, courteous, and respectful, and maybe all that goodwill will spread.

Image via iStock.

Of course, no list could contain everything you should or shouldn’t do while you are traveling.

Nor should we feel like we have to rely too closely on a set of rules. But if we all try to treat others with respect, keep an open mind, and learn about each other, traveling is bound to be an enriching experience for everyone.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Cellist Cremaine Booker's performance of Faure's "Pavane" is as impressive as it is beautiful.

Music might be the closest thing the world has to real magic. Music has the ability to transform any atmosphere in seconds, simply with the sounds of a few notes. It can be simple—one instrument playing single notes like raindrops—or a complex symphony of melodies and harmonies, swirling and crashing like waves from dozens of instruments. Certain rhythms can make us spontaneously dance and certain chord progressions can make us cry.

Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.

The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.

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A round-up of delights from around the internet this week.

Hey all!

Welcome to Upworthy's weekly roundup of delights from around the internet. This week's list features a little of everything—gorgeous music, cute kids, adorable animals, hope for the planet and a brand new video message from the late and great Betty White.

That's right, Betty White left us a message of gratitude shortly before her passing. It's brief, but how lovely to see and hear her speak to her millions of fans one last time. Few celebrities are as universally beloved as Betty White was, and though we knew she couldn't live forever, it would have been fun to see her celebrate her 100th birthday. Now, at least, we get to experience her joy and warmth with a few last words.

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