If you’ve been following along with our Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable tour, you know all about our buddy Drew (AKA Dr. Drew) – Toad Customer Service Sorcerer, and leader of our first leg of the tour. Fresh off the road, we couldn’t think of a better expert on summer packing. So our Superstar Web Merchant Lindsay sat down with Drew on our most recent episode of Toad Hacks (check out today’s Insta Story to see their chat IRL) to talk packing tips. Here are the highlights, plus some bonus tips ’cause we love ya.
BEFORE YOU GO
There are a couple of things Drew suggests you do before you head out to keep it simple and keep it sustainable once you Bon Voyage.
•Pre-trip recycling – If I buy something before a trip that comes in a wrapper or box (like a new phone charger or stick of deodorant), I make sure to recycle the packaging before I head out. Not everywhere has a streamlined recycling system, and this guarantees it makes it in the bin.
•Unplug before you…unplug – Before I leave for an epic adventure or a little R&R, I unplug the electronics in my house. It helps with my electricity bill and cuts down on energy usage, because did you know that electronics can steal power even when they’re turned off? Those sneaky little things…
Check it once, check it twice. Drew never hits the road without these essentials.
•Headlamp – It’s second nature to remember socks and underwear, but you never know when an extra light will come in handy.
•Power converters – It’s so easy to forget that you might need adapters depending on where you’re traveling. I keep these close to my passport to remind me when I pack.
•Layer it up – When it comes to clothes, it’s all about finding the right layers to get you through any situation. Plus, choose versatile options that work as well hiking and exploring as they will going out to dinner.
•Shoe bags – Bring shoe bags (or better yet, recycled shopping bags) to keep clothes from mingling with dirty soles.
•Stay organized – I don’t go anywhere these days without these packing cubes (genius invention). They’re great for separating groups of clothes when packing, but I appreciate them most when they double as dirty clothes hampers to keep the stinky clothes from going AWOL all over my good ones. Plus, the 3 cubes weigh less than 2.2 oz total, so no stress about packing extra weight.
ALWAYS KEEP IT ECO
As a master of eco-conscious living, Drew always keeps these tips in mind.
•Utensils – Nothing bums me out more than a bunch of single-use plastic. At the minimum, I keep a spork on hand but when I’m feeling extra I’ll travel with my whole utensil set.
•Water bottle and beer mug/coffee cup – I’m a thirsty guy, but I’m not going to sacrifice the planet to wet my whistle. A reusable water bottle’s a must, and my beer mug easily doubles as a coffee cup.
•Pack light – Not only will your back thank you from saving it from major suitcase schlepping, but going easy on your bag weight is way better for the environment. The more weight a plane (or a train, or a car) carries, the more fuel it uses, so keep that bag lean.
FAVORITE TRAVEL PIECES
We asked Drew and Lindsay to share which Toad pieces are on their summer packing lists.
•Drew – I lived in the Rover Short while I was on the road. I love these shorts because they clean up well, but they’re also super durable, quick-drying, and retain their shape.
•Lindsay – I love the Liv Dress for travel. You can take it from a hike to dinner super easily, plus it won’t wrinkle, no matter how rumpled your packing gets. Plus, it’s quick-drying, AND has pockets, so it really has everything you need for any sort of adventure.
Nothing beats a summer day that’s packed to the brim. The kind of day when your bones are tired from a day of rebel-rousing and joy-seeking. It’s the kind of tired that fuels your next wild idea. And that, friends, is The Solstice Challenge: We challenge you to use the longest day of the year to do something EPIC (pssst: there are prizes). Post a photo and quick itinerary of your ultimate longest day to Instagram and tag #ToadSolsticeChallenge. Winner takes a $200 Toad gift card.
Need some inspiration? We asked some of the Toads to recall their most epic days…
“I went to Fiji with my dad for a surf trip last October. The weather was horrible but we’d heard rumors that it was better on the other side of the island. So we took a taxi at 4am to the other side of the island (2 hrs), then hopped on a tiny boat (1 hr) to a world-famous surf spot, “Cloudbreak,” in the middle of the ocean over a reef. The boat dropped us off in the middle of the lineup with only a few other people. My dad and I spent the whole day surfing a world-famous wave in the middle of the ocean. When we got back to our side of the island, we were formally “accepted” into the local village through a traditional ceremony involving Kava and a lot of singing.”
– Danny, part fish/part Sales Manager
“The most epic day was when I went spelunking in the largest cave system in the world, Vietnam’s Son Doong. I spent the day climbing cave walls, examining rare geological formations, swimming in subterranean rivers fed by underground waterfalls, and capped it off with sleeping in (literally) complete darkness. (Does it count as the best longest day if it’s pitch black?)”
– Sarah, our Office Manager and resident geologist
“One time, I took a trip Amsterdam to play in an ultimate Frisbee tournament for one day, and it was totally worth it!”
– Holly, Product Tech and master of spontaneity
“I woke up to the desert sunrise in Nevada at 6am and hopped on my Harley. It always gets windy around the Nevada/California line in Mojave. It’s a gusty wind so riding becomes really physical. At certain points my whole body was on an incline, just fighting the wind. But I had to get back to Santa Barbara that day for my buddy’s wedding that night. So I drove about 600 miles through the desert, cleaned up nice, and made it to the wedding. That was actually a pretty epic day… now I’m getting excited for another trip…”
– Anthony, Graphic Designer and professional wedding date
“I recently spent an epic day in Philadelphia… coffee on the “Rocky” steps, a stroll through the Museum of Art, a planetarium show at the Franklin Institute, not one but TWO cheesesteaks, whiskey tasting in Fishtown, a tip o’ the hat to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, wandering along Spruce Street Harbor, open mic night at the Magic Garden, bar hopping on South Street, rooftop rosé for sunset (at 9pm!), and a dance party on Electric Avenue. I walked 16.3 miles that day…”
– Daisy, Content Manager and amateur Rocky impersonator
“A few years ago my buddies and I woke up at 5am to drive to Mount Baldy (the highest point in LA County) to catch the first chair lift of the day. Over lunch beers we had the wild idea to blaze back to Venice Pier in time to catch a few ankle biters… That day was an epic day.” – Napper, Creative Director and eternal “hell yes man”
Don’t forget to post a photo and quick itinerary to Instagram of your ultimate longest day and tag #ToadSolsticeChallenge. Winner takes home a $200 Toad gift card. Winner announced on 6/22, so hop to it!
When one eco-friendly trailer door closes, another opens. While Dr. Drew’s passion for sustainability and general stoke for life have been integral to launching our Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable mobile tour, his time on the road has come to an end. While Drew returns to the Toad mothership in Santa Barbara, CA, we’re kicking off a new chapter of the tour in Freeport, ME—with a new rad couple at the wheel.
Meet Rob and Rachel. Originally from Atlanta (Rob) and Connecticut (Rachel), the pair met at Appalachian State University, tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. They most recently lived in Denver where Rob worked as a land use planner and Rachel was working with geographic information systems for the city. Now, they’re onto their next big adventure as they hit the road to spread the word about how we’re helping to clean up the apparel industry.
Toad HQ: What made you want to join the Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable tour?
Rachel: We had been tossing around the idea of a big road trip for a while now, so when we heard about the tour through my sister Sam (who works at the Toad&Co Freeport store), we knew we wanted in! I’ve been a big fan of Toad for a while now and love the word that this tour is spreading.
Rob: We’re already fans of the brand and really support Toad’s ecologically responsible practices. We really wanted to be a part of increasing awareness of the environmental impacts of the apparel industry (4th largest global polluter—real bummer) and offering an alternative (go nude, or wear sustainable clothing). It was a no brainer!
What are you most excited about in the months ahead as you lead the charge on the STP tour?
Rob: I’m excited to see parts of the country that I’ve never been to, and engage the local communities as we raise awareness about sustainability.
Rachel: Aside from the two stops (Freeport and Chicago) on this next leg, every place will be new so I’m really stoked to see cities we haven’t been to and connect with the people in those communities.
What’s your favorite U.S. city to visit?
Rachel: It’s always whatever’s next! Recently, we’ve spent a lot of time in Santa Fe and we love it. The sunsets, food, and hiking are killer.
What about your favorite nationalpark?
Rachel: Rocky Mountain National Park, without a doubt.
Rob: Ditto! Living in Denver gave us the opportunity to spend plenty of time there. I’m stoked to visit new parks along the trip, especially Glacier NP and Northern Cascades NP. Who knows—maybe we’ll wrap up our time on the tour with a new favorite…
How about your favorite road trip songs?
Rob: Can’t go wrong with a long Phish or Dead jam to crush some miles!
Rachel: You’ll usually find me listening to some folk or bluegrass. There’s a lot of John Prine and Vampire Weekend in my current rotation.
Which one of you is most likely to get caught belting out your favorite tunes while driving?
Rachel: We have a few solid duets in our repertoire, but probably me!
At Toad, we stand by the idea that every day is an adventure. What are your best tips for living life this way?
Rob: Go for it! If you’ve ever wanted to do something, you can find a way.
Rachel: And don’t wait. Just make it happen!
What outdoor activities get you most fired up?
Rob: Backpacking and fly fishing. But also into hiking, cycling, running, and climbing. I guess this is also how I live every day as an adventure!
Rachel: I love biking around to check out new spots, backpacking and hiking, and I’ve recently gotten into fly fishing with Rob.
Even the most adventurous of us need a little downtime. How do you like to spend yours?
Rachel: I love to bake (mostly pies) and garden.
Rob: Playing guitar, eating good food, and an occasional binge watch on a rainy day.
Can you share your best hacks for living life on the road sustainably?
Rob: Bring reusable cups and utensils, say “for here!” when ordering food and coffee, wear clothes a lot between washes (dirty is the new clean), and stop to make food on the road.
Rachel: We try to limit our waste as much as possible—make our own food, bring to-go containers, eat in if we don’t have them, and always say no to straws!
If we learned one thing from Drew, it’s that the search for the best cup of coffee and most tasty beer is critical on a long road trip (just kidding, Dr. Drew, you taught us a lot). What’s currently topping your list?
Rachel: I’ll get a vanilla latte when I’m treating myself, and my old neighborhood coffee shop in Denver, Queen City Collective, makes the best cuppa Joe. When it comes to beer, I’m really into the Milkshake IPA right now. WeldWerks in Colorado does ’em best.
Rob: You can’t go wrong with a good IPA, clear or hazy. Right now we’re in Maine and I’m loving Lunch from Maine Beer Co. For coffee, I typically go for a local light roast in whichever city we’re in.
Have you ever gone nude in the name of sustainability (we have to ask…)?
Rachel: We haven’t yet, but anything’s possible on the tour, right?!
What are your favorite Toad clothes to keep it comfy on the road?
When the phrase “car camping” comes to mind, you might envision the well-curated craft of surviving in the out-of-doors a la Wes Anderson. It’s a well executed blend of home sweet home meets the great outdoors into a savory alfresco. But when is comes to driving a rickety 1959 trailer across the country on our Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable Tour, the line between survival and car glamping begins to blur. But Dr. Drew, our Tour Manager and Master of Wingin’-It makes tight tour dates and long hours between the white lines look like a breeze. We caught up with Dr. Drew for his advice and insights into easy summer car camping.
Cot or inflatable or sleeping pad? No more sleeping pads! Cots or inflatable only to help keep the ol’ back in fighting shape.
Sleeping bag VS. Blanket? What you want is a high “warm and cozy” factor and the freedom to move freely. In the summertime, I go blanket. Currently using: Down-filled Kammok Bobcat Trail Quilt (mostly because I like the name). For a lighter but equally cozy option, I’m all about the Cashmoore Blanket.
Jerky – A tasty protein filled snack that keeps froth levels high and hunger levels low. Currently munching: Epic Provisions, high quality product and a mission-based company.
Kitchen – Never hit the road without a way to heat up water. No matter where you are, you can fire up a hot meal and warm the soul. Currently using: Jet Boil Genesis Base Camp System. Lightweight, packable, everything you need to get gourmet if you want.
Quinoa – Fills you up in desperate times. Good sweet or savory.
Trail Mix – When the Jet Boil runs out of fuel and you have to go caveman style. I’m currently snacking on Shar Snacks (rhymes with “bear”), which I picked up in Austin. Organic and responsibly sourced.
A good book – Currently reading: History of Haight Ashbury by Charles Perry.
Audio Book – The sound of another human’s voice can be quite comforting on the open road, especially when it reminds you of home. Currently listening to: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.
Tunes – DemerBox for indestructible tunes and a long battery life. Currently jamming to: 2 Spotify playlists, Highway Sounds (more rocky/bluesy) and I’m With Her (all the badass ladies).
Bug Control – When you’re in Charleston in the summertime, you need all the help you can get. I’m not a fan of the chemical sprays so I like to wear clothes with Insect Shield® Technology built right into it. Currently wearing: Debug Mission Ridge Pants and Debug Peak Season Shirt – they keep the bugs out and still look presentable for date night.
Trash – Rule #1: try not to make any. I like to make my own meals, buy in bulk with mason jars, and avoid takeout. But if you’re driving, stick a box on the passenger seat floor, a perfect receptacle for cherry stems and peach pits.
Hydration Station – My ultimate long drive hack: strap a Camelbak to your seat and never deal with water bottle caps and spills again!
Happy Trails. Come out and see the Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable Tour on the road. Check out national summer schedule here.
Alright, full disclosure: There are a ton of National Parks that we could add. It’s hard to say that any ONE park is the BEST park. What’s not to love about Yosemite’s Half-Dome or the Grand Canyon’s… well, GRAND canyon? And the Great Smokey Mountains! One of the most mind-blowing network of trails on the planet! But try we must. So here’s our super-scientific, definitely not-subjective list of Best National Parks:
Best For Epic Views: Glacier National Park
With more than a million acres of forests, alpine meadows, lakes, rugged peaks and glacial-carved valleys in the Northern Rocky Mountains, Glacier National Park has no shortage of jaw dropping views. Bonus: cross the border to explore the Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada. It’s all part of the same range (because borders are a human thing, not a nature thing).
Best For Camping Under the Stars: Joshua Tree
Big rocks, dark skies, and some really freakin’ cute “trees.” There’s no better place to catch nature’s celestial spectacular than Joshua Tree National Park, the mystical rock field at the nexus of two great deserts. Plan your trip around a meteor shower and don’t forget to pack layers (it’s the desert!).
Best For Getting Wet: Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park actually has four different regions – the epic Pacific coastline, the western temperate rainforest, the alpine regions and the drier eastern forests. On the west side of the park is Hoh Rain Forest, where rainfall (12-14 feet annually!) and a lush canopy of coniferous and deciduous trees create perfect rainforest conditions for mosses and ferns to flourish.
Best For Tacos: Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is split into two sections that straddle Tuscon, AZ, making it an excellent park for people who love a taco pit-stop. On the East side, start at the Douglas Spring Trail and head up to Wild Horse Tank, then hit up Street Taco and Beer Co (free chips!) in downtown Tucson, then head to the West side to catch the King Canyon Trail before the sun goes down. The namesake Saguaro cacti abound.
Best For Solitude: Channel Islands National Park
Off the coast of Central California are five remote islands where island foxes reign supreme and there’s no such thing as cell service. The only way to get to the Channel Islands is by boat, and once you’re there it’s just you and your legs. Camping is available on all five islands, with some spots a half-day’s hike in. But it’s all worth it for a true off-the-grid experience and run-ins with the locals: The Channel Island Fox, the smallest (and cutest) fox on the planet.
Best For Rocks: Death Valley National Park
Before joining the Toad team, our Office Manager, Sarah, was a geologist by trade, running all over the US looking at rocks. So according to our resident expert, “Death Valley National Park has some of the most insane rocks.” These sedimentary rocks make up the hottest, driest place in the USA and consist primarily of sandstone, limestone, conglomerate, hornfels, and marble. They date back to the Triassic Age and you can actually see the markings in the rocks from earthquakes that happened millions of years ago. Now that rocks! (Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves).
Best For Craft Beer: Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is unique in that it shares Maine’s Mt. Desert Island (pronounced “dessert”) with a handful of 19th century fishing villages. Located along the Atlantic Coast, Acadia is surrounded by picturesque towns and harbors that you’ll drive through (or bike through!) as you drive the Park Loop Road. Stop in Bar Harbor to try Atlantic Brewing Company and Bar Harbor Beerworks. When you’ve gotten back to the mainland, hit up Fogtown Brewing in Ellsworth – all 3 come highly recommended from the Toads in our Freeport, ME store.
Best For Kayaking: Kenai Fjords National Park
Thanks to the food-rich waters in the Kenai Fjords, this national park is known for its lively residents of sea otters, humpback whales, dolphins and orcas. Get set up with a kayaking tour out of Seward, AK (we recommend a guide as the tides can be tricky) and dip your paddle into Aialik Bay or Bear Glacier Lagoon.
Best For Mountain Biking: Arches National Park
“The best mountain biking is in Moab, hands down. Plus, they have wild porcupines!” That review comes from Napper, our Creative Director, and with good reason: With over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, towers, and spinnakers in Arches National Park in Moab, UT has some of the best views you can see on a bike. To note: you can’t bike on hiking trails, but you can bike on paved roads (and you’ll want to – summer traffic can be brutal) and some dirt roads like Willow Flats Road and Salt Valley Road. There are also plenty of biking trails outside the park in nearby Moab.
Best For Vampires: Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Described by Will Rogers as “The Grand Canyon with a roof,” New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns are a subterranean sensation. There are 119 known caves, with the grandest one of all, The Big Room, clocking in as the largest single chamber in North America! Wander the caves at your leisure but make sure you’re out before sunset to catch the great Bat Flight at the main entrance to the caverns. At sunset, thousands of Brazilian free tailed bats take to the skies in search of dinner. Don’t worry, you’re not on the menu… yet…
With 61 national parks in the United States, it’s hard to pick just one -– tropical islands, active volcanoes, soaring peaks, teeming wildlife refuges, apocalyptic sand dunes…. But if we had to say which National Park is the BEST, we’d say it’s the one you’re currently visiting. Every time.
A warm summer breeze, an open bottle of wine, men in tights… it’s a midsummer night’s dream, or, Shakespeare in the Park. Whether you’re a longtime fan of The Bard or have fuzzy memories of that one high school English class, get thee to this summer tradition. The tradition goes back to 1954 (well, 1599 if you want to get technical), when a few New York visionaries wanted to make Shakespeare theater as free and accessible as library books. Well, turns out people love free stuff and outdoor drinking, so the idea was a hit and has since caught on with communities all over the world. So without further ado, here’s our list of the best FREE 2019 Shakespeare in the Park festivals in the US. Pack a picnic and bring your kin.
New York, NY – The grand dame of Shakespeare in the park and the one that started it all. Since 1962, over five million people have enjoyed more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The New York Shakespeare Festival runs May through August and offers two shows: May/June catch Much Ado About Nothing staged with an incredible all black cast! and July/August is Coriolanus, a riveting political epic of democracy and demagoguery. Ah, art imitating life.
Asheville, NC – On a campy-but-lovable Olde English stage,The Montford Park Players put on North Carolina’s longest running free Shakespeare Festival. Prepare with bug spray or our new Debug clothes.
Kansas City, MO – Does it get better than sonnets and BBQ? Kansas’ City’s Heart of America Shakespeare Festival knows how to party. This season’s show is Shakespeare in Love (we’re sensing a pattern…) and you can reserve your seating online beforehand.
Boston, MA – The 24th season of Boston’s Commonwealth Shakespeare Company goes off at the Parkman Bandstand 6 days a week. This year’s show is the little known mystical dramedy, Cymbeline, about the fates of King Cymbeline’s family. Expect mistaken identities, twists and turns, and the all-consuming quest for true love.
Louisville, KY – Coming in at the most ambitious company, The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival is putting on no less that 7 different productions. No tickets required, and dogs are welcome. All of Louisville’s a stage…
Buffalo, NY – Mark your cal for June 20th when the 44th summer season of Shakespeare in Delaware Park kicks off. The first half of the summer will bring The Tempest and late July switches to Love’s Labour’s Lost (the story of a king and his comrades who swear off women for three years… hilarity ensues.)
Dallas, TX – Park your lawn chairs at Shakespeare Dallas’s series at Samuell Grand Park, now in its 48th season. Catch Shakespeare in Love (not technically by Shakespeare but hey, it’s on theme) and As You Like It, a classic rom com where “Love is merely a madness…”
San Francisco, CA – A little different than the traditional set-up, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival actually travels to 5 different venues throughout the Bay Area. This year they’re toting a musical version of As You Like It from June – September.
Los Angeles area, CA – From San Pedro to Hermosa Beach to Torrance to Venice (and many stops in between), Shakespeare by the Sea makes the rounds. This season catch The Comedy of Errors (two young visitors arrive in the city unaware that their long-lost twins already live there), and Henry V (Shakespeare’s most patriotic and inspiring play tells of a young King Henry V who seeks to unite his beloved England). Gird your loins and your flip flops.
Seattle, WA – In the mood for some hormone-induced teen romance? Romeo & Juliet is calling your name. Love the idea of love triangle in Elizabethan drag? Twelfth Night is for you. Get your fill as the Seattle Shakespeare Company tours the Puget Sound region all summer.
There’s nothing more gratifying after a long hike than a plate full of tacos and a cold cerveza. Trust us, we Toads are experts. With half of HQ born and bred Californians and the rest happy transplants, we’ve got this state pretty well covered. If you find yourself in the Golden State, here’s where we recommend heading. And we know you know, but stay on trails and pack-in-pack-out. Save your reckless abandon for the taquerias.
Torrey Pines State Park – Easy trail along the Pacific coast with a glimpse of the rarest pine tree around.
The Taco Stand – Tacos al pastor, Mexican street corn, mango chile paletas. YUM.
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Willow Hole Trail – Big rocks and an oasis; great spot to see wildlife like big horn sheep.
Algobertos Taco Shop – Hole in the wall taqueria with burritos bigger than the front door.
Bronson Canyon – Part of LA’s Griffith Park, so hike up to the Observatory and channel James Dean.
Ricky’s Fish Tacos – There are 3 options: fish, shrimp, and special. Get all 3.
Horn Canyon – Crisscross streams toward an epic pine grove with distant views of the Channel Islands.
Ojai Tortilla House – Cash only, handmade tortillas daily. Buy some to go if you know what’s good for you.
Rattlesnake Trail – Named for the twisty nature, not the inhabitants. Moderate to the meadow, then steep for .5 miles to the top. Good views abound.
Mony’s Tacos – Great salsa bar (hello pistachio salsa) and 5 minute walk to the beach.
Old Cove Landing Trail – 3 of the 34 miles of trails in the Wilder Ranch State Park. Bonus: Wheelchair and stroller accessible!
De La Hacienda Taqueria – Carnitas are bomb, but so is the veggie burrito. Something for everyone!
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Trail – 4.4 miles through the oldest trees in the WORLD. Like 5,000+ years old.
Taqueria Mi Guadalajara – A sedentary taco truck with bizarro hours and delish barbacoa.
East Ridge Trail – In Redwood Regional Park; you can see SF on a clear day then hike down into the redwoods.
Mariscos La Costa – Cash only so you know it’s legit. Great ceviche tostada.
Golden Gate Park – Start at 9th and Lincoln, mosey through the Botanical Garden, loop around Stow Lake.
If you can’t be eating $2 street curry in Malaysia, you might as well be dreaming about it. Whether you’re an overachiever and already booked your 2019 travels or you’re more of the “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” type, half the fun of travel is fantasizing about it. Here are 12 places to visit in 2019 dreamed up by Team Toad. Some trips are booked, some just pipe dreams, all possibilities. See ya out there?
BAD ISCHL, AUSTRIA
“The Austrian mountain topography is very different than the US, so I’ve always been intrigued to ski there. You can cover a lot more vertical ground. I do an annual ski trip with a close group of friends and it just so happens one of them is directing a film in Ishch this winter. I’ve never been to Austria, but the Europeans have been dealing with intense mountainous snow culture for centuries, so I’m excited to see what’s what. I’ve also heard they go hard for the aprés.”
– Napper, Creative Director & Perpetual Party-Starter
“Melbourne has amazing coffee. It’s kind of their thing. I used to live in Melbourne and there’s a reason it always ends up on those “Most Livable Cities” lists… it’s urban but has gorgeous green spaces, great beaches, old architecture, great public transit (the most extensive streetcar system in the world!), a bangin’ music and art scene, and did I mention the coffee?? It’s seriously the best.”
– Holly, Product Developer & International Coffee Connoisseur
“I want to see Hawaii with my own eyes! There are so many outdoor activities, but at the top of my list is backpacking across Haleakalā Crater. You start at sunrise and hike in, camp in the old ranger huts that are INSIDE the crater, then hike down the other side into Hana Forest Reserve. It’s a 2-day backpacking trip that ends with me snorkeling in Hana and eating all the fruit I can find. My kind of paradise.”
– Ashley, Production Assistant & Lifelong New Englander
“This is the year I get my butt to Japan! I want to go in the spring for the cherry blossoms (obviously) and fly into Tokyo to check out the Yayoi Kusama Museum (she’s the artist who does all those crazy dot installations). Honestly, I just want to go to all of the Japanese grocery stores… I just love them. All of the hill towns of Japan are supposed to be stunning, too. Kanazawa is one of the oldest towns with temples and canals dating to the 17th century. They have a samurai district! I don’t even know what that means, but I bet it’s awesome.”
– Helena, Asst. Women’s Designer & Cookie Monster
“We’re taking my father-in-law back to the homeland for the first time in 60 years. I’ve heard a lot about Calabria so I’m excited to see it first hand. I want to explore the coast, the countryside, and generally eat my way through “the toe.” The cured meats, the seafood, the homemade pasta… that’s the best part about visiting family – you skip the touristy things, and just get to live.”
– Bradley, Sales Ops & Award-Winning Chef
“I’m headed to Galway with my parents to visit our friends who live on an old battleground! Then we’ll make our way to Galway. It’s smack dab in the middle of Ireland’s western coast, so it’s a great mid-way point to explore the coastal towns and islands. I want to take a day trip to hike the Gap of Dunloe, a mountain pass that leads to a lake and you can boat back to the bottom. It drops you off at a 15th century castle! Ireland is so dreamy…”
– Kira, Men’s Designer & Queen of Crafts
“The Sawtooth Mountains are a gem. They’re reminiscent of the mountains you find in Alaska, but on this side of Canada. There’s unbelievable mountain biking, hiking, fishing, epic rafting down the Salmon River… it’s the ultimate outdoor playground. Driving the 93 to Missoula, MT takes you through 3 National Forests! We’re taking our boys and meeting a few other families. It’s a great place for kids of all ages to roam.”
– Scott, VP Global Sales & Amateur DJ
MOUNT COOK, NEW ZEALAND
“The geology of New Zealand is insane. It’s located on a tectonic plate boundary so the mountains jut straight into the sky, rising quickly from water’s edge to 12K feet! I read a book once about a dude who solo hiked all of NZ. He hiked through the fjords and the glaciers and eventually up Mount Cook, the highest point in New Zealand. It all sounds breathtaking.”
– Sarah, Chief of Staff & Resident Geologist
“Bhutanese food is like Nepalese food but with Indian and Tibetan Chinese influences. Bhutan may be small, but it’s very innovative. They’ve done significant things in terms of the environment – I think they’re the world’s only carbon negative country, meaning they capture more carbon than they produce. Nearly 75% of the country is still forested and they measure development by Gross National Happiness. There’s a great TEDTalk by the Prime Minister about it.”
–Divas, Controller & Momo Master
“I want to surf this wave in Morocco that breaks off a shipwreck at Boilers. It’s a great right hand break, a natural footer’s dream. I want to explore the souks, maybe get a sick stained glass lantern… As for food, I want it all. I want to see what my body can handle. I want to see the Sahara desert. I don’t need to ride a camel, though. I did that once and that camel was pissed. I don’t need to do that again.”
– Drew, King of Customer Service & Thrift Store Finds
“I love that Mexican history always starts with the native peoples. If you go to the Air & Space Museum, the first thing you’ll see is how the Olmecs used the stars to navigate thousands of years ago. Mexico has such a rich culture and diverse landscape. And the food! The food is out of control. I want to go to Oaxaca because it’s the “Land of Seven Moles” – there’s one with chocolate in it! I’d love to go first weekend of November to catch the Dia De Los Muertos celebrations.”
– Daisy, Content Manager & Mole Enthusiast
TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE
“I think Chile is amazing. You get the hot and the cold, mountains and seaside… what a great place to reflect and rejuvenate for the new year ahead. I want to spend the the holidays in a lodge in Torres del Paine National Park, then hit the beaches for New Years. Cachagua is a beach town north of Santiago. Pisco sours on the beach sounds like a fantastic way to ring in the new year!”
– Kyle, VP of Design/Merch/Supply Chain/Leisure Sports
Part three of a series by Andreea Lotak of Conservation Atlas. See parts one and two.
Kazakhstan has not yet entered the radar of many travelers, but it’s a country that packs a lot of surprises for those who venture there. Its huge surface makes it the 9th largest country in the world, but with only 17 million residents there are vast expanses with minimal human presence, and every trip on land becomes a journey. The Kazakhs of the past used to crisscross these giant open spaces with their herds of horses, creating temporary yurt settlements and celebrating a nomadic culture rooted in storytelling and songs inspired by the unbounded steppe.
Throughout the Soviet Union era almost 60% of the kazakh steppe was converted to agriculture, which led to the deterioration of the soil that has now turned into a semi-desert. Even like this, Kazakhstan is still home to one of the world’s largest and relatively intact temperate steppe regions, an area roughly the size of France. Through an international coalition and the efforts of a local organization, the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK), some 12 million acres were protected. We got to visit maybe 0.001% of that during our week-long trip on bumpy roads and unmarked tracks – a trip which remains one of our most exciting to date. And to get a better understanding of just how extraordinary this country is, we were also headed south to the border with Kyrgyzstan, where the 21 hours spent in a bus across a flat landscape ended at the foothills of some of the tallest mountains in the world: the Ile Alatau of the Tian Shan mountain system.
Before venturing into the open steppe, we took a trip to the southern border of the country outside the old capital, Almaty. Less than an hour from the busy city lies the Big Almaty Lake in the Ile-Alatau National Park. At over 8,000 ft altitude, its stunning color and the surrounding mountains have captured the attention of adventure travelers.
Summer at 10,000 ft can bring morning snowfalls and freezing temperatures. We continued our trip above the Big Almaty Lake after negotiating our way through a military barrier. The soldier spoke no English and we spoke no Russian, so amid smiles and drawings we think we understood that it was alright to camp and return the next morning. The national park is a militarized zone because of the nearby border, but we didn’t get the sense that it would be a problem.
Between the mountains and the steppes we stopped to visit Kazakhstan’s “Grand Canyon”: the Charyn Canyon National Nature Park. At a much smaller scale than its US counterpart, Charyn is still a sight to behold. The park’s biodiversity includes a very rare species of ash tree: the Sogdian Ash (Fraxinus sogdiana).
From Astana, the country’s capital since 1997, we spent almost the entire day on the road to get to the more intact steppe. The ACBK have started to organize trips to the sites where they work, including the huge Altyn Dala and Irghiz-Torgay reserves where the saiga antelope gather. This was one of the campsite areas where we pulled over for the night, together with our driver Sayat and the organization’s tourism coordinator and guide, Saltanat.
Mountains easily capture us, but it’s said that you need a special soul to love the prairie. These vast spaces of grasslands and steppe regions around the world have been built upon and turned into agriculture or grazing lands. It’s where highways, roads and railroads have been constructed. They seem empty, but when you tune in they’re actually buzzing with life. Surprisingly, they also teem with color and wildflowers. We would move from dry areas to wetlands to meadows within minutes of driving, in a mosaic that made us fall in love with this misunderstood landscape.
So what’s a saiga, after all? These amazing animals have been around since before the Ice Age. They look more like a character from Star Wars, but they have been surviving for thousands of years unchanged right here, on Earth. In the past they used to cover areas all the way from Alaska to Europe’s Carpathian Mountains to the steppes of Eurasia. Today, Kazakhstan still has the largest population of this critically endangered species, while smaller groups are still surviving in Russia, Mongolia, and Uzbekistan.
The saiga gather in large numbers in May, when the calving season begins. That’s also the best time to visit the steppe with ACBK because you have the best chances of seeing these animals up close. Since we were there in the summer, the herds were already on the move and most of the times we’d only spot them from afar. In 2015 these saiga populations were in big trouble due to an epidemic that killed 90% of them. The disease is connected to a warming climate, but in these past years they have made a comeback. The ACBK is also working hard to protect the saiga from the threat of poaching.
Due to the nature of the area’s soil, the strong sun and the hot summers, evaporation is common in the steppe and many bodies of water turn to surreal landscapes of salt lakes which, when covered by a shallow layer of water, reflect the sky.
Even in what seemed an empty landscape we would always find life in the most surprising of ways: ground squirrels popping their heads up, an eagle gliding just above the grass, colorful dragonflies landing on flowers, a saiga running in the distance at 50 mph, or the movement of the grasses in the wind. Everywhere we turned there was reason to snap a picture.
Conservation Atlas is a 501(c)(3), US-based nonprofit started in 2017 by Andreea & Justin Lotak. Conservation Atlas aims to raise awareness of global conservation causes by appealing to intrepid travelers. Through leading online resources and annual international festivals, CA inspires people to visit unique places and support the mission of grassroots organizations. Through 2018, The Lotaks are touring 14 countries to document successful conservation projects, meet the people who are making these positive changes, and photograph beautiful landscapes and biodiversity.