Tag Archives: travel

The International Ecotourism Society

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) published one of my Go Overseas articles onto their blog! Check it out: Volunteering Abroad for Women’s Rights.

You should also look into their upcoming conference in Monterey, CA in September. Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference 2012 #ESTC2012 http://www.ecotourismconference.org/

Guest post for Tripping – Destination Guide: Oaxaca, Mexico

Destination Tips: Oaxaca, Mexico (originally published on Tripping)

Katie volunteered in Oaxaca, Mexico in fall 2011 after studying public relations at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA and is now working as the Volunteer Director at Go Overseas. Go Overseas is the Yelp/Trip Advisor for programs abroad including listings of every volunteer, study, teach & intern abroad program in the world, with ratings/reviews and more. Follow Katie on Twitter: @VolunteeReviews and read about volunteer abroad opportunities on Go Overseas.

Oaxaca, Mexico is unlike any other place I’ve traveled to – the combination of old and new, indigenous and European cultures, family life and the bustling city, all of which go together well and make Oaxaca the amazing destination that it is. (Don’t let the name confuse you: Oaxaca is a state in southern Mexico. Oaxaca city, the capital of Oaxaca state, is located in the Valley of Oaxaca.) Oaxaca is the fifth largest state in Mexico, and number one in biodiversity. I spent an amazing 2 months volunteering in Oaxaca and here is a list of things not to be missed while in Oaxaca!

santo domingo church, oaxaca

Santo Domingo Church, Oaxaca

Monte Albán – Monte Albán, the most important Zapotec ruins, is one destination every visitor must see. These archeological ruins are one of the oldest pre-Columbian cities, which housed more than 30,000 Zapotec people around 500 BC. Located atop mountains just outside of the city of Oaxaca, Monte Albán had great religious and political importance in its time, with temples, tunnels, a grand plaza, and a ball court to explore. You can discover the views of the Valley of Oaxaca on top of a temple from this historical and cultural site, visit the museum and gift shop, and picnic in the beautiful gardens. Just 15 minutes outside of town, tourists can easily get a ride and a tour at Monte Albán.

Visit the Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán

Visit the Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán

 Mitla – The ruins of Mitla are just a 25 mile taxi ride outside of the city of Oaxaca. Although Mitla is much smaller than Monte Albán, it comes in second as the most important Zapotec archeological site – not to mention that more of the ruins and detailed mosaic designs are still intact. Mitla is even listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

Katie at the Mitla ruins

Katie at the Mitla ruins

Markets – As with many other areas of Latin America, the markets of Oaxaca are a huge attraction. Throughout Oaxaca, you will find traditional markets where locals do most of their shopping. These are great places to buy souvenirs to take home. Bartering is common but keep in mind that a few extra pesos may not matter as much to you as it does to those who make a living at the markets.

Hierve el Agua – Hierve el Agua, which translates to “the water boils,” is a natural wonder like no other. Just an hour or two outside of Oaxaca City, Hierve el Agua is made up of natural rock formations that resemble huge waterfalls. These “petrified waterfalls” have formed from a small amount of water over thousands of years. The region is also the site of an ancient Zapotec underground irrigation system. Above ground, there are a number of large pools (natural and artificial) where visitors can swim, relax, enjoy the views of the green mountains and valleys, and hike for the day.

View of the pools at Hierve el Agua

View of the pools at Hierve el Agua

Food and Drinks – Oaxaca is sure to please any palate. When it comes to food and drinks, my advice is to try everything – even chapulines (grasshoppers). It may sound strange but fried grasshoppers are a traditional delicacy. It’s said once you try chapulines, part of Oaxaca is with you and you are sure to return again. Other must-haves of Oaxaca’s cuisine include: cheese, tlayudas, mezcal and hot chocolate.

Volunteering – While in Oaxaca, why not find a way to immerse yourself in local culture while giving back at the same time? There are infinite opportunities to volunteer in Oaxaca – from orphanage work to health care campaigns to agriculture, find something that suits you.

Hijos de la Luna orphanage – Oaxaca, Mexico

Hijos de la Luna orphanage – Oaxaca, Mexico

But wait…there’s more! Art shows, plays, movies, festivals, churches – You will never run out of things to do in Oaxaca. The downtown center, called the Zócalo, always has something to do – from people-watching to browsing street vendors to eating and drinking. The capital city itself, along with Monte Albán, is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. There are many national parks, beaches, and festivals to keep you busy. For a list of current cultural events like movies, festivals, art shows, and more, check El Jolgorio Cultural and Oaxaca Calendar.

Oaxaca is a perfect place for anyone who is interested in traveling to a lesser-known Mexican destination full of life, culture, history, and more!

All photos by Katie Boyer

Berkeley Locals Making a Difference Around the World

Berkeley Locals Making a Difference Around the World

…New blog post I wrote for the Berkeley Patch news website. The article talks about the experiences that locals have had abroad and have written about and reviewed on Go Overseas. Reviews make Go Overseas the wonderful website it is and helps potential travelers make informed decisions about meaningful travel.

This is an especially great time to get the word out about travel program reviews because of the Go Overseas Leave a Review Contest! If you’ve been on a program abroad, leave a review of your experience for a chance to win an iPad3, tons of Apple gear, and travel apps too!

2012 Resolutions

I am never big on making resolutions but there are things I really want to do this year. They’re all broad yet somewhat doable, I hope!

1. Travel: maybe just domestically, hopefully abroad, why not?!

2. Eat healthier: be aware of what I’m eating and how much, only eat when I’m hungry, maybe less beer too?!

3. Exercise more: walk < jog < run around the lake, bike more

4. Expand my writing portfolio: get in publications other than Go Overseas, write about what I’m interested in

5. Save money: I am good about being frugal but with a salaried job now I can really start putting money aside each month

6. Read more: I have so many books on my waiting list now, I want to take a little bit of time every day to read

7. Be craftier: Use my sewing machine, knit

8. Cook more: Try a new recipe from all of my wonderful cookbooks at least once a week

9. Volunteer: Get into something like Big Brothers Big Sisters again

10. Explore: Go to a new neighborhood, restaurant, bar. Try new things!

Next article: Harvest Season Around the World

Harvest Season Around the World

As Thanksgiving approaches in the United States, other cultures and people around the world are celebrating the harvest season with their own traditions. While some of these fall holidays preceded the American Thanksgiving, several shared the theme of giving thanks.

Fall is the harvest season when crops are gathered for storage and consumption during the coming cold months. Since ancient times, many cultures have celebrated and shown gratitude for the bounties of harvest season. Take this time to learn about a new harvest season tradition and think about the origins of your own.

In the U.S., we know the American tale of Native Americans and Pilgrims coming together on a cold autumn night to share food from both cultures. The Native Americans helped the Pilgrims get accustomed to the new land, and without such help, the Pilgrims wouldn’t have known how to best utilize native crops and animals or how to survive at all. But modern day American Thanksgiving can be described in very different words: football, turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, the beginning of the holiday and shopping season, being thankful, and family time.

In Canada, Thanksgiving Day has been celebrated on the second Monday of October since 1957. While it is more religious than the American tradition, Canadians still celebrate in similar ways. The three day weekend consists of parades, pumpkins, cornucopias, and other harvest-related festivities. Both Canadian and U.S. Thanksgiving holidays are national secular holidays with religious roots.

The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, or Moon Festival, has spread around the world and is one of the most popular harvest festivals today. Originating over 3,000 years ago from the practice of moon worship, the Mid-Autumn Festival always falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month on the Chinese calendar, which is in August and also the day of a full moon. This holiday is the second most important in Chinese culture, after Chinese New Year. At the Moon Festival you can be sure to find mooncakes (traditional pancake), Lord Rabbit (a human with a rabbit mouth and ears the icon of the festival), matchmaking (a skill of the moon god), lanterns, and dragon dances. Also celebrated in Vietnam and Taiwan, it has been a national public holiday in China since 2008.

Sukkot, a Jewish holiday, is celebrated with a feast, like Thanksgiving. In contrast to Thanksgiving, it’s a biblically mandated pilgrimage festival that lasts seven days. Sukkot is named after the huts the Jewish people create to represent the temporary shelters Israelites had to stay in while wandering the desert. Farmers stayed in the sukkahs, or booths, during the end of harvest before the rains came. Most of the Sukkot rituals are related to thanking God for the harvest.

There are a number of festivals in India to celebrate the harvest during different times of the year. One example is Pongal, celebrated in South India. Starting on January 14 and lasting for three days, the festival is named after pongal, a sweet rice porridge dish, which is offered to the rain gods and the sun. The last day of the festival honors the families’ cattle by cleaning it and dressing it up with flowers, bells and colored powder.

The celebrations in the other parts of the world vary dramatically. In Liberia, Africa, the Catholic National Thanksgiving Day and the Church’s Annual Harvest Celebration fall on the first Thursday of November. On the same morning as American Thanksgiving, the Dutch hold a Thanksgiving Day service in Leiden; the Netherlands celebrate the hospitality the Dutch Pilgrims received on their way to Leiden after fleeing from the English in the early 1600s. Ceres, the Goddess of corn, was honored with fruit, grains and animals while the people enjoyed sports, music and parades. No matter where you go around the world, there is always a way to give thanks and celebrate the harvest season.


Yes, it’s true…I made it to Oaxaca!

I left at 1am PST and got to Oaxaca at noon (central time, 2 hours later). I am dead tired but somehow still awake, must be all the excitement. I just finished a big meal made by my host parents, Magda and Pedro, so that will probably help me pass out for a siesta soon. (I just want to sleep until tomorrow and it’s only 4pm here!) Since I am vegetarian (but also I eat fish), they served fish and salad. Fish means the WHOLE fish too, I forgot how many little bones fish have. It was good though, I ate some of it in tortillas with beans and salsa too.

Magda and Pedro seem sweet. They have a daughter and a son who live at home and I am not the only foreigner they are hosting, two other girls from the US will be here during my stay. Gabriella is from Oaxaca but lived in Seattle her whole life and is taking classes here for three months. The other roommate, also named Katie (they said they’ll call me Katie One!), arrives late Saturday so I will meet her at orientation on Sunday morning.

The house is amazing…tons of rooms, beautiful gardens and courtyard, my own bedroom and more. Check out my greeen view!

PS add me on Skype and we can video chat! (username: katiee_elaine)

Pre-departure Post 4: Spanish Phrases

I’ve been trying to come up with some phrases to learn before I leave for Oaxaca that will be specifically relevant to what I will be doing. Any other suggestions are appreciated :)

(I do have experience speaking Spanish in school, locally and abroad but am not too confident and am a bit rusty as well.)

  • Bicycle, bike = la bicicleta, la bici
  • Helmet = el casco
  • Human rights = los derechos humanos
  • Feminism = el feminismo
  • Empowerment = otorgamiento de poderes
  • Volunteer = el voluntario/la voluntaria (noun), ofrecer (verb)
  • Vegetarian = un vegetariano, una vegetariana
  • Fish = el pescado
  • Internship, intern = prácticas, aprendizaje, pasantía, internar
  • Host (noun) = anfitrión o anfitriona
A website I like to use, besides Google Translate, is Word Reference. It has conjugation, many languages, compound forms, pronunciations, and more.