Going to Southeast Asia? Please be kind and don’t ride elephants.


It’s World Elephant Day, August 12th, which means it’s time for some real talk about riding elephants. Are you ready?

There was once a time, not even a decade ago, where riding an elephant in Southeast Asia was a pinnacle accomplishment in one’s travel diaries. The dreamy pictures of exploring the jungle on the backs of these massive wild giants.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s something that was always on my list to do one day, and live out all of my colonial safari fantasies.

It’s an idyllic image that has appealed to hundreds of thousands of tourists for a long time, me included, and no one really questioned it. Where did these elephants come from? How were they being treated? What was their quality of life?

riding elephants

In the late 1980’s, after logging was banned in Thailand, local elephant trainers turned their talents to tourism, inciting the elephant tourism boom we’ve seen on all of the travel blogs and in our Instagram feed today.

To the untrained eye, it looked harmless. You’d ride an elephant just like you’d ride a horse right?

How different can it be? What’s so different? If you’re like me, you grew up going to the circus and visiting the zoo, interacting with animals was fun and exciting, not many thought much further.

Even now, many of what we see online is slated with a “conservation” agenda designed to deter us from digging further. But how many baby elephants or lion cubs are really in need of rescuing?

In June National Geographic launched a massive exposé around the cruel reality of wildlife tourism.

riding elephants

The truth is what you might expect if you begin asking questions, hard and cruel.

For example, elephants who are broken in a process referred to as “the crush,” are trained to parade tourists around in a circle, receiving some of the worst treatment of all captive animals in the world. If you’ve done what I’ve done and gone down a rabbit hole of videos of this, you’ll be beyond shocked.

There are only 40,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, and more than half of Thailand’s 7,000 elephants still live in captivity, enduring daily beatings. So why do tourists continue to ride on the backs of captive elephants?

The main culprit is simply lack of awareness.

riding elephants

As travel has become more and more accessible over the past few decades, tourists and travel industry leaders have come face to face with the ethics of visiting a foreign country and what activities cross the line of being irresponsible and exploitative.

How is cuddling a lion cub or playing with an elephant or posing with a tiger anyway ethical?

In 2010 Intrepid Travel took the lead against standing up against elephant cruelty by partnering with World Animal Protection (who conducted extensive research on the treatment of captive elephants).

The results were shocking and Intrepid Travel became the first global travel company to ban riding elephants on their trips. Intrepid used to make a lot of money riding elephants until they realized how cruel a practice it was, and they stopped, heralding in a new era of responsible travel.

I really admire how Intrepid has owned up to this mistake; it speaks volumes about their ethics and backbone as a company. And hundreds of others have followed in their footsteps since and have banned riding elephants too. Talk about inspirational.

riding elephants

So what’s all the fuss about? Are elephant rides really that bad? 

I’ve been privileged enough to experience wild elephants on safaris in Africa and Asia, and trust me, you can’t get near them. In fact, elephant – human conflict is still a very real issue in many parts of the world.

People often think that an elephant in captivity is domesticated, and so somehow it’s okay to have them under human control.

But the reality is that elephants never have been domesticated. Even if born in captivity, they are still a wild animal and need to be ‘broken’ to accept human control.

 

If “breaking” an elephant sounds harsh to you, you’re not wrong. Baby elephants are taken from the wild and begin training immediately. Many times their mothers are killed in the poaching process, and if you’ve observed elephants in the wild you’ll see how cruel it must be to separate them – elephant babies stay with their moms for years, and the herds are incredibly social.

They are tied up and beaten with bullhooks until their spirit is broken and they obey their trainer to avoid more injury.

riding elephants

They spend their days carrying humans around on a tourist path which is not nearly enough exercise for these giant animals. Despite their large size, their anatomy is not suited to carry humans on their backs and many sustain long-term spinal injuries.

When the elephants aren’t working, they are usually kept in shacks and they’re bound by chains that can be so tight they can barely move. These social creatures are kept isolated from other animals and kept in solitary confinement until their next job.

Is it surprising some of them go berserk?

riding elephants

How can you help?

It’s truly an awful practice but as travelers, we have the power to change this.

You, right there, reading this blog. You hold the power. Elephant tourism simply cannot exist without the tourists so if it’s on your travel bucket list, it’s time to remove it.

Know a friend traveling to Thailand? Gently inform them of the severe cruelty captive animals face.

riding elephants

Most people who have ridden on the backs of elephants simply didn’t know anything about the animal’s treatment. Spreading the word works. Just 10 years ago riding elephants was incredibly commonplace but now, most seasoned travelers know the cruelty that lies behind the practice.

The more we talk the better. Many of my friends have ridden elephants in the past and regret it now. Many didn’t know better, and we’re not here to shame people, but rather use our collective voices to try and change how elephants are treated now and in the future.

riding elephants

So what to do if you’ve always dreamed of seeing elephants?

Keep this one rule in mind: If you can ride or touch an elephant, or watch it perform, chances are the elephant has been subjected to cruel training and is living in poor conditions and you should not further encourage the practice.

Thankfully, public awareness of cruelty to captive elephants has increased but unfortunately, many attractions are trying to dupe tourists by adding words such as “sanctuary,” “rescue center,” “refuge,” and “retirement facility” to their names.

riding elephants

HOW WE CHANGED THE ELEPHANT RIDING INDUSTRY

But the abusive training methods and deprivation are often the same and make the elephants follow the trainers’ commands to let people ride, feed, touch, or bathe them.

All those trendy Instagrammers standing by elephants at sunset? Think what it took to have that mighty creature beaten into submission to allow a person to stand there with them peacefully.

Do you research before visiting these places; riding elephants is cruel.

riding elephants

What can we do?

It can be hard to truly pin down the ethical tourism operators from the frauds but trust me, it’s worth doing the research.

Intrepid Travel is an industry leader when it comes to prioritizing animal welfare during their programs and if you still really want to have elephants be apart of your Southeast Asia trip, they offer programs that do so ethically. They are also inspiring many other tourism operators to follow in their footsteps, and they’re trying to change an entire industry.

Intrepid works with places like Elephant Valley Thailand, Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF) and Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES), three of the high welfare venues doing great things for captive elephants.

At these venues, you can observe elephants from afar, where they are free to just be elephants and not performers.

Trust me, the best way to see an elephant is when it’s wild and free, just being happy funny creatures. I mean, elephants are hilarious! I love watching the babies trip over their trunks and getting scared by birds. They are so smart and fascinating to watch.

Consider joining safaris that are responsible and traveling with operators that put animal welfare first. I’ve seen elephants in the wild many times on my travels in Asia and Africa, and it never gets old. These are old and special creatures, with wise eyes that deserve respect.

We are living in an era when animal cruelty is being tolerated less and less and while we have made significant progress in the past decade, there’s still so much more work to be done with riding elephants.

riding elephants

Help us spread the word today on World Elephant Day by using #StopElephantRides and #WorldElephantDay but most importantly, speak with dollars by only supporting organizations who prioritize animal welfare and want to #BeKind.

Spill – have you ridden an elephant before and would you now? Have you seen some of these dodgy wildlife sanctuaries on your travels? Are you committed to protecting elephants too? I would love to hear more. 

riding elephants

The post Going to Southeast Asia? Please be kind and don’t ride elephants. appeared first on Young Adventuress.





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A birthday getaway to New Zealand’s cutest cabin


All right, it’s happened guys.

I’ve found New Zealand’s cutest cabin. I know, I know, that’s a bold statement. Especially considering New Zealand doesn’t do “cabins” in the way my little American heart wish it did.

Let me introduce you to the High Country Cabin!

New Zealand cabins are called a “bach” short for “bachelor pad,” and are often cobbled together little holiday spots, usually build out of leftover supplies on someone else’s land, usually off the grid, no wifi and with an outdoor toilet. Picture corrugated iron walls and roofs and drafty windows.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good bach, but I often yearn for cozy cabins.

high country cabin

high country cabin

I’ve encountered very few wooden spaces and cabins in New Zealand, you know, that smell divine and remind me of my childhood in the Appalachia or my university years in New England. Why? Who knows.

My best guess is that most of New Zealand was deforested by us foreigners over the past century and and now all of the wood here gets sold overseas.

I really wish New Zealand would stop exporting everything great it makes, but I’ll save that rant for another day.

Someone please tell me I’ve got this all wrong.

Don’t forget you can join Airbnb today using my code for $45 off your trip to the High Country Cabin


Well, at least now, I can safely say I’ve found the cute cabin of my dreams and it happens to be in one of my favorite spots of New Zealand – Twizel.

Man I love Twizel. I don’t really know why, if I’m being honest. I just do, I always have.

Only 1.5 hours from Wanaka where I live, Twizel is just on the other side of the Lindis Pass on your way to Mt. Cook and Tekapo. The beginning of the Mackenzie Basin, here the weather is dry and beautiful, with man-made lakes and canals on either side and the twinkling Southern Alps right in front of you.

high country cabin

high country cabin

high country cabin

New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mt. Cook is just nearby, but Twizel remains a sleepy little town that tugs at my heart a bit.

Twizel is the perfect place to base yourself for exploring the nearby region and mountains.

The High Country Cabin is just outside of Twizel right at the foot of the mountains and has some of the nicest views and cozy vibes around and some sheep for company in the paddock outside. No wonder it’s hard to get a booking in! Plan ahead.

When I was thinking of nice spots to go for my 31st birthday in May, I knew this would be the perfect spot, especially when one of my best friends came down from Auckland with me.

high country cabin

high country cabin


I love spending time on high country farms and stations in New Zealand, and the year before rung in my 30th birthday further afield in Canterbury at Lake Heron.

Maybe I enjoy spending my birthday with sheep for company. What does that say about me?

Wait, don’t answer that. Oh god. All my friends are animals. Fuck, when did this happen?

high country cabin

high country cabin

I’ve been following High Country Cabin on Instagram for ages, and it’s been on my mind to come out and stay for a long time. After that, I was so excited to finally make it happen in May.

Fulling embracing both my millennial and blogger side, I wholeheartedly book places that I find on Instagram especially when they look as delightful as this spot.

Luckily, it lived up the expectations and was even better in person. So much better in person that we actually didn’t leave the cabin the whole time we were there!

Boom! The marking of a good spot, I reckon!

high country cabin

high country cabin

high country cabin

Tucked away on 10 acres of Ben Ohau outside Twizel, this is as high country as it gets in New Zealand.

Especially when the sheep peek in the window – trust me, endless hours of entertainment. Though, I did feel a twinge of shame or two when we had a lamb roast in the oven for my birthday. Sorry sheepies!

As fall was ending and winter on its way, we cranked the woodburner the whole time we spent there, a bit of an indulgence considering how warm and well-built the cabin is, unlike many New Zealand houses.

The sunrises and sunsets were magical out here, and being in a dark sky reserve, watching the stars was a unforgettable.


Read, write, cook, nap, eat, repeat.

In conclusion, I couldn’t think of a better birthday, and a true mark of being in my 30’s I reckon. I’d rather hang out with one good person and sheep than party or be in a city, or even put on makeup!

The older I get, the more I value good company and unwinding in a beautiful place. I need to make more time for these experiences, what about you?

How do you spend your birthdays these days? Do you love cabins too? Have any favorites to share? Spill!

Don’t forget you can join Airbnb today using my code for $45 off your trip to the High Country Cabin

high country cabin

high country cabin

Many thanks to High Country Cabin for hosting me on my birthday in Twizel – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own, like you could expect less from me!

The post A birthday getaway to New Zealand’s cutest cabin appeared first on Young Adventuress.





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Macquarie Island is a wildlife paradise


Have you ever wondered what you might find if you headed south of New Zealand? I had wanted to visit Macquarie Island for just about forever.

Well, even if you have the slightest knowledge of geography, you’ll know that you won’t fall off the edge of the map but rather you’ll eventually reach Antarctica and the very bottom of the world.

But what about what’s in the middle? Open ocean? Atlantis?

Few know about the smatterings of islands that exist here, in between New Zealand and Antarctica, and let me tell you, they will blow your mind. New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands are uninhabited and redefine remote, few every visit, but those who do, become totally enamored.

An introduction to New Zealand’s subantarctic islands

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Wild and remote islands are kinda my thing. Give me a rocky windswept beach covered in seals over a white sandy tropical beach. And guys, I totally mean it.

Sure, I love a good relaxing holiday in the sun as much as anyone, but where my heart truly soars is at sea and empty, forgotten lands, usually accessible only by ship.

Here you won’t find a wifi signal or see another person, and birds often outnumber humans by the tens of thousands.

Expedition voyages are now one of my favorite new travel adventures, and when the opportunity presented itself to voyage to New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands earlier this year with Heritage Expeditions, I couldn’t stuff my duffel bag fast enough.


Specializing in expedition travel to remote areas and based out of Christchurch, near where I live here in New Zealand, Heritage Expeditions are leaders in my kind of travel.

Heritage Expeditions was founded in 1985 by Rodney Russ (a kiwi biologist working for the wildlife service), as a way of increasing awareness and conservation of the natural world through responsible expedition travel.

After spending years dedicating his life to work protecting endangered species like kākāpō and the Black Robin and working down in the subantarctic, Rodney learned that by sharing these special wilderness areas with others, they might become “ambassadors” advocating and supporting conservation efforts.

He has long held the view that conservation and responsible travel are partners, that together can achieve what might otherwise be unachievable. Totally agree, Rodney! Thanks for leading the way.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Over Christmas last year I spent several weeks at sea deep in the Southern Ocean with Heritage Expeditions exploring the subantarctic, and one of the biggest highlights had to be stopping at Macquarie Island.

Roughly 1500 kilometers south of Tasmania, it takes about 3 days sailing to get here in fine weather.

Unfortunately, the weather down here is never fine.

Past the Roaring Forties and deep into the Furious Fifties en route to the Shrieking Sixties, the prevailing weather in the Subantarctic can only be described as Windy As and on Macquarie Island is no exception.

“the most wretched place of involuntary and slavish exilium that can possibly be conceived; nothing could warrant any civilised creature living on such a spot.” Captain Douglass in 1822 

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Part of the Subantarctic Group of Islands, Macquarie Island is home to a research base and it is looked after by the Australian Antarctic Division. Lovingly dubbed “Macca,” it’s small, only 34 kilometers long and 5 km long at it’s widest point on the main island, and it’s positively teeming with wildlife; a real bucketlist spot for my fellow bird nerds, everyone on board was fizzing for our arrival.

Also I reckon everyone was equally excited for some sheltered bays, land and not the wild southern ocean seas that had many spewing in buckets.

I was fine and couldn’t wait to land and explore!

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

For any geology nerds out there, Macquarie Island is also extremely special because it’s the only place on earth where rocks from the earth’s mantle are actually exposed about sea level.

Recap from middle school science class: the mantle is normally 6 kilometers below the ocean floor and therefore not something we ever see except in that dissected and well-labeled globe from school, showing it to be the thick layer of molten rock between the crust and the core of the earth.

Macquarie Island is actually the exposed crest of the undersea Macquarie Ridge, raised to its present position where the Indo-Australian tectonic plate meets the Pacific plate. This one of a kind feature nabbed Macquarie Island a world heritage status over 20 years ago.

Also it’s a place of both outstanding natural beauty and wildlife. And a fuck ton of penguins.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

The history of Macquarie is a fascinating one, thought to be first discovered in 1810 by Captain Frederick Hasselborough on a trip from Sydney by accident on an commercial expedition looking for seals to slaughter for skins and blubber.

Perhaps early Polynesians visited long before because he reported seeing a shipwreck of an “ancient design” on the island – oh my! My historical nerdy brain is a aquiver with that!

And he was in luck, as there were probably close to half a million seals around Macquarie before they were decimated over the next decade. Even now you can see the remnants of the sealing industry on Macquarie with rusted bits of machinery used in the industry still decorating the beaches.

A grim reminder of a terrible past. Only now are the seal populations recovered. And in a beautiful piece of irony, often these historical sites are covered with enormous elephant seals, happily tooting and roaring at us as we scrambled past them.

visit Macquarie island

Though perhaps what drew me the most to Macquarie Island were the enormous bird colonies here. Home to more than 3.5 million seabirds, this wild little island stinks of glorious poo, and I love it!

It’s covered in birds! I knew it would be similar to South Georgia, which is one of my favorite places on earth.

For example there are around 850,000 pairs of Royal Penguins on Macquarie Island, which is enormous! Millions of birds visit Macquarie Island every year.

There used to be heaps more but they were hunted for decades for their oil after the sealers made their way through the seal populations.

What to pack for a trip to Antarctica

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Lucking out with the weather we were able to make multiple landings and zodiac cruises around Macquarie Island with Heritage Expeditions.

We got to visit the base at the Isthmus on the island and visit the researchers and scientists working on Macquarie and learn about what life is like on a place that is windy and rainy pretty much every day, and hazards include being chased by elephant seals.

Only just a few years ago after seven years of pest eradication, was Macquarie Island finally free from invasive species like rats, rabbits, mice and feral cats which had been brought over by humans and were quickly destroying the bird populations.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Lusitania Bay is home to upwards of 150,000 pairs of king penguins, the second largest penguins in the world and some of my favorites.

We lucked out big time with the weather and spent a long and beautiful afternoon in the sunshine at Sandy Bay. I’d die to visit Macquarie Island again.

Still and beautiful and warm enough to peel off some layers, we spent hours exploring the beaches and walks around Sandy Bay, taking in all the different bird and seal colonies and enjoying being in the presence of abundant, care-free wildlife.

It truly was an experience I’ll never forget.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Even now I can close my eyes and immediately be transported back to that magical day at Sandy Bay on Macquarie Island. I can hear the calls of the penguin colonies, recall the smell of the seals and the sounds of the ways. Even remembering to watch where I walked to make sure I didn’t squish a penguin by accident.

How many places are like that in the world that we have the chance to experience firsthand? Visit Macquarie Island, and you won’t be disappointed.

Have you heard of Macquarie Island? Are you a wild beach lover too? Is this the kind of place you dream of visiting too? Spill!

Macquarie Island Expedition: Galapagos of the Southern Ocean

visit Macquarie island

Many thanks to Heritage Expeditions for taking me to the Subantarctic Islands – like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you could expect less from me!

The post Macquarie Island is a wildlife paradise appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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Going to Southeast Asia? Please be kind and don’t ride elephants.


It’s World Elephant Day, August 12th, which means it’s time for some real talk about riding elephants. Are you ready?

There was once a time, not even a decade ago, where riding an elephant in Southeast Asia was a pinnacle accomplishment in one’s travel diaries. The dreamy pictures of exploring the jungle on the backs of these massive wild giants.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s something that was always on my list to do one day, and live out all of my colonial safari fantasies.

It’s an idyllic image that has appealed to hundreds of thousands of tourists for a long time, me included, and no one really questioned it. Where did these elephants come from? How were they being treated? What was their quality of life?

riding elephants

In the late 1980’s, after logging was banned in Thailand, local elephant trainers turned their talents to tourism, inciting the elephant tourism boom we’ve seen on all of the travel blogs and in our Instagram feed today.

To the untrained eye, it looked harmless. You’d ride an elephant just like you’d ride a horse right?

How different can it be? What’s so different? If you’re like me, you grew up going to the circus and visiting the zoo, interacting with animals was fun and exciting, not many thought much further.

Even now, many of what we see online is slated with a “conservation” agenda designed to deter us from digging further. But how many baby elephants or lion cubs are really in need of rescuing?

In June National Geographic launched a massive exposé around the cruel reality of wildlife tourism.

riding elephants

The truth is what you might expect if you begin asking questions, hard and cruel.

For example, elephants who are broken in a process referred to as “the crush,” are trained to parade tourists around in a circle, receiving some of the worst treatment of all captive animals in the world. If you’ve done what I’ve done and gone down a rabbit hole of videos of this, you’ll be beyond shocked.

There are only 40,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, and more than half of Thailand’s 7,000 elephants still live in captivity, enduring daily beatings. So why do tourists continue to ride on the backs of captive elephants?

The main culprit is simply lack of awareness.

riding elephants

As travel has become more and more accessible over the past few decades, tourists and travel industry leaders have come face to face with the ethics of visiting a foreign country and what activities cross the line of being irresponsible and exploitative.

How is cuddling a lion cub or playing with an elephant or posing with a tiger anyway ethical?

In 2010 Intrepid Travel took the lead against standing up against elephant cruelty by partnering with World Animal Protection (who conducted extensive research on the treatment of captive elephants).

The results were shocking and Intrepid Travel became the first global travel company to ban riding elephants on their trips. Intrepid used to make a lot of money riding elephants until they realized how cruel a practice it was, and they stopped, heralding in a new era of responsible travel.

I really admire how Intrepid has owned up to this mistake; it speaks volumes about their ethics and backbone as a company. And hundreds of others have followed in their footsteps since and have banned riding elephants too. Talk about inspirational.

riding elephants

So what’s all the fuss about? Are elephant rides really that bad? 

I’ve been privileged enough to experience wild elephants on safaris in Africa and Asia, and trust me, you can’t get near them. In fact, elephant – human conflict is still a very real issue in many parts of the world.

People often think that an elephant in captivity is domesticated, and so somehow it’s okay to have them under human control.

But the reality is that elephants never have been domesticated. Even if born in captivity, they are still a wild animal and need to be ‘broken’ to accept human control.

 

If “breaking” an elephant sounds harsh to you, you’re not wrong. Baby elephants are taken from the wild and begin training immediately. Many times their mothers are killed in the poaching process, and if you’ve observed elephants in the wild you’ll see how cruel it must be to separate them – elephant babies stay with their moms for years, and the herds are incredibly social.

They are tied up and beaten with bullhooks until their spirit is broken and they obey their trainer to avoid more injury.

riding elephants

They spend their days carrying humans around on a tourist path which is not nearly enough exercise for these giant animals. Despite their large size, their anatomy is not suited to carry humans on their backs and many sustain long-term spinal injuries.

When the elephants aren’t working, they are usually kept in shacks and they’re bound by chains that can be so tight they can barely move. These social creatures are kept isolated from other animals and kept in solitary confinement until their next job.

Is it surprising some of them go berserk?

riding elephants

How can you help?

It’s truly an awful practice but as travelers, we have the power to change this.

You, right there, reading this blog. You hold the power. Elephant tourism simply cannot exist without the tourists so if it’s on your travel bucket list, it’s time to remove it.

Know a friend traveling to Thailand? Gently inform them of the severe cruelty captive animals face.

riding elephants

Most people who have ridden on the backs of elephants simply didn’t know anything about the animal’s treatment. Spreading the word works. Just 10 years ago riding elephants was incredibly commonplace but now, most seasoned travelers know the cruelty that lies behind the practice.

The more we talk the better. Many of my friends have ridden elephants in the past and regret it now. Many didn’t know better, and we’re not here to shame people, but rather use our collective voices to try and change how elephants are treated now and in the future.

riding elephants

So what to do if you’ve always dreamed of seeing elephants?

Keep this one rule in mind: If you can ride or touch an elephant, or watch it perform, chances are the elephant has been subjected to cruel training and is living in poor conditions and you should not further encourage the practice.

Thankfully, public awareness of cruelty to captive elephants has increased but unfortunately, many attractions are trying to dupe tourists by adding words such as “sanctuary,” “rescue center,” “refuge,” and “retirement facility” to their names.

riding elephants

HOW WE CHANGED THE ELEPHANT RIDING INDUSTRY

But the abusive training methods and deprivation are often the same and make the elephants follow the trainers’ commands to let people ride, feed, touch, or bathe them.

All those trendy Instagrammers standing by elephants at sunset? Think what it took to have that mighty creature beaten into submission to allow a person to stand there with them peacefully.

Do you research before visiting these places; riding elephants is cruel.

riding elephants

What can we do?

It can be hard to truly pin down the ethical tourism operators from the frauds but trust me, it’s worth doing the research.

Intrepid Travel is an industry leader when it comes to prioritizing animal welfare during their programs and if you still really want to have elephants be apart of your Southeast Asia trip, they offer programs that do so ethically. They are also inspiring many other tourism operators to follow in their footsteps, and they’re trying to change an entire industry.

Intrepid works with places like Elephant Valley Thailand, Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF) and Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES), three of the high welfare venues doing great things for captive elephants.

At these venues, you can observe elephants from afar, where they are free to just be elephants and not performers.

Trust me, the best way to see an elephant is when it’s wild and free, just being happy funny creatures. I mean, elephants are hilarious! I love watching the babies trip over their trunks and getting scared by birds. They are so smart and fascinating to watch.

Consider joining safaris that are responsible and traveling with operators that put animal welfare first. I’ve seen elephants in the wild many times on my travels in Asia and Africa, and it never gets old. These are old and special creatures, with wise eyes that deserve respect.

We are living in an era when animal cruelty is being tolerated less and less and while we have made significant progress in the past decade, there’s still so much more work to be done with riding elephants.

riding elephants

Help us spread the word today on World Elephant Day by using #StopElephantRides and #WorldElephantDay but most importantly, speak with dollars by only supporting organizations who prioritize animal welfare and want to #BeKind.

Spill – have you ridden an elephant before and would you now? Have you seen some of these dodgy wildlife sanctuaries on your travels? Are you committed to protecting elephants too? I would love to hear more. 

riding elephants

The post Going to Southeast Asia? Please be kind and don’t ride elephants. appeared first on Young Adventuress.





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Nostalgia and adventure: returning back to Spain with my little sister


“What’s the tea?”

Me: a bit confused. “What tea? You know I only drink coffee.”

18 year old sister gives me side eye and laughs. “Nevermind.”

Me: “what? What? TELL ME!”

UGH. This basically sums up a good 10 percent of our conversations while travelling, and yes, I’ve never felt my 31 years more than this past June while in Spain with my 18 year old sister on her high school graduation trip. Sister travel, let’s do this.


I maybe be all big and famous on Instagram but the reality is that I’m still a dork and STILL out of the loop and have no idea what these youths are saying.

Turns out “tea” is a metaphor for gossip, for all you equally old and dorky folks out there. You’re welcome.

This is one of an infinite number of moments where I felt super old on this sister trip to Spain. You see my beautiful half-sister is enjoying her last summer before going off to college in the fall. Over a year ago I promised once she graduates high school, we could go on a trip together.

We’ve been looking forward to this for a very long time.

sister travel

sister travel

And the time finally arrived, and she wanted to go to Spain, a place that has long held a huge part of my heart, and I place where I really began to grow up and get my first taste of travel; where I learned to become independent. How amazing to share with my younger sister?

Cue all the nostalgia, all of the “oh I remember when…” moments from when she was born up until now. She’s so well-spoken and put together, much more than I ever was at her age.

I mean, I remember when she was a baby, and when she barfed on me once when she was a toddler at the beach and when she started school for the first time. And now she’s taller than me and going to college!

OMG I’m not ready!

If this is what having kids is like, count me out!

sister travel

sister travel

I first moved to Spain when I was only a year older than she was now. My first great adventure overseas was when I was 19 and I studied abroad for a year in Salamanca, Spain’s renowned university city, and also (equally important) home to the most bars per person in the country with a nonexistent drinking age.

I would call home and chat with her and she was only a little girl.

But back in the day, we didn’t have iPhones and used calling cards at internet cafes and you could still smoke inside the bars and Instagram wasn’t a thing, travel insurance didn’t even cross my mind, and flying by the seat of my pants was the only way I knew how to live.

If I had a couple hundred bucks in my bank account, I was stoked! I used to save money by couch-surfing and sleeping in airports, spending every euro on a trip or an adventure. Consumed by curiosity for the world and the newfound freedom of adulthood, I wanted to see and do it all!

I was unstoppable.

sister travel

sister travel

In retrospect, I also can’t help but reflect on all those crazy moments that led me to developing a lifelong passion and love for travel. And also all those memories where now I’m all like, man, how did I survive?

I won’t go into details (perhaps because I truly can’t remember) but your girl was FUN.

The very definition of winging it without a care in the world, I lived perilously close to the edge for a long time, convinced of my own immortality, with a very whimsical “c’est la vie” attitude that kept me going. The “what-ifs” and “oh shit” moments back when I was 19, didn’t seem to matter.

Consequences were temporary, but a damn good story lasts forever. Trust me, I’ve got heaps.


And so began my 10 day walk down memory lane with my sister through Spain, beginning and ending in Madrid with a jaunt up to Northern Spain for a week in between. Is there anything better than summer in Europe when you’re young?

It didn’t take long for me to utterly bore her with those “oh when I was your age…” narratives that promise nothing but eye rolls and deep sighs. I mean, I get it. No one likes that condescending life lesson from older people, it’s super annoying; and yet I couldn’t stop myself.

And therein lies the deeply personal conflict I felt on this trip – wanting to both bond and have an unforgettable time with my sister but also remembering how wild I was when I was her age and I would honestly lose my mind if I saw her do the things I did.

sister travel

sister travel

Lucky for me, she is a good egg, as we say in New Zealand, and the genes of wanting to push every single button possible and laugh while doing it skipped her generation. Phew!

Beautiful, sweet, kind but also fun, I couldn’t think of a better person to share my favorite country with. My face hurt from smiling so much to see her joy in visiting all of these cool places and watch her fall more in love with travel too.

It took a decade for me to hone my travel intuition and skills, a decade of screw-ups and unpredictable adventures, that taught me more than I could have ever learned anywhere. That’s what I hoped to share with her, to teach her travel skills and preparedness but also the sweet joy of spontaneity while on the road.

It’s a delicate balance in travel, walking that tightrope in between being prepared and smart AND not being too anxious or fearful.

sister travel

sister travel

It was in these moments that I truly felt my purpose, after a decade of inspiring you guys to travel more and step out of your comfort zones, here I had the chance to do the same firsthand with my own sister. I could teach her how to be an amazing traveller too. How cool is that?

“Christ. Don’t be an idiot and leave your purse out like that. You’re asking to be mugged. BE VIGILANT.”

Why is it that all tact goes out the window when you’re travelling with family and the people you love the most? Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever learn.

sister travel

sister travel

And so it began, a journey together in Spain. Visiting new places together and returning to some of my old haunts that shaped and made me who I am today.

It was so cool to return to places like Toledo, Bilbao and San Sebastián, where I used to visit in my ESL teaching days, before social media. I’m also not going to lie, it was pretty cool to go back to these spots from my early twenties now that I’m in my early thirties and not broke AF.

I also made sure to remind her all the time she was getting lucky now that I have reached a certain expectation of travel comfort, and therefore she reaped the benefits of it travelling with me, i.e. there’s no amount of money you could pay me now to step foot in a backpackers.

sister travel

sister travel

I told her how I used to never be prepared, how I’d travel with basically no money and end up in a shit creek on the regular, in the hopes that she’d be smarter and more practical than me in her future travels. Utterly ruthless in my anecdotes of being the cool older sister in Spain, I was determined to lead by example. Or not.

Taking the time to share my best travel advice and tips for her, like how I’ve always made sure I’ve had travel insurance for years. I told her about how now I buy an annual policy with Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI), my go-to provider for all things insurance related on all my travels around the world, and how I can’t imagine how reckless I was when I was her age to not look after myself like this.

Obviously I taught her other important things like how to drink vermouth like a local in Madrid and the importance of picking the right jamón serrano to eat, and how I just couldn’t bring myself to go to the discotecas to dance until dawn like I used to.

I LOVE saying yes to seemingly crazy new adventures and returning to Spain with her, and SCTI really gives me the freedom to explore the world with peace of mind.

sister travel

sister travel

So what’s the verdict? Have I empowered, inspired and shaped by beautiful sister into being an expert traveller at the tender age of 18?

Who knows but I can say at least I helped try and share how I travel around the world safely. Not to mention showing her how to prepare for overseas adventures.

I can also happily report there were no pickpocketings and/or muggings from our time in golden Spain. And most importantly, how to get your overweight bags packed with too many things from the Spanish summer sales checked in for free. You’re welcome, baby sister. Til next time!

Have you ever traveled with a sibling like this? Any good sister travel stories? Do you have nostalgia for a place like Spain when you were younger? Any advice to share? Spill!

sister travel

Many thanks to SCTI for sponsoring this post – like always I’m keeping it real  – all opinions are my own, like you can expect less from me!

The post Nostalgia and adventure: returning back to Spain with my little sister appeared first on Young Adventuress.





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Macquarie Island is a wildlife paradise


Have you ever wondered what you might find if you headed south of New Zealand? I had wanted to visit Macquarie Island for just about forever.

Well, even if you have the slightest knowledge of geography, you’ll know that you won’t fall off the edge of the map but rather you’ll eventually reach Antarctica and the very bottom of the world.

But what about what’s in the middle? Open ocean? Atlantis?

Few know about the smatterings of islands that exist here, in between New Zealand and Antarctica, and let me tell you, they will blow your mind. New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands are uninhabited and redefine remote, few every visit, but those who do, become totally enamored.

An introduction to New Zealand’s subantarctic islands

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Wild and remote islands are kinda my thing. Give me a rocky windswept beach covered in seals over a white sandy tropical beach. And guys, I totally mean it.

Sure, I love a good relaxing holiday in the sun as much as anyone, but where my heart truly soars is at sea and empty, forgotten lands, usually accessible only by ship.

Here you won’t find a wifi signal or see another person, and birds often outnumber humans by the tens of thousands.

Expedition voyages are now one of my favorite new travel adventures, and when the opportunity presented itself to voyage to New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands earlier this year with Heritage Expeditions, I couldn’t stuff my duffel bag fast enough.


Specializing in expedition travel to remote areas and based out of Christchurch, near where I live here in New Zealand, Heritage Expeditions are leaders in my kind of travel.

Heritage Expeditions was founded in 1985 by Rodney Russ (a kiwi biologist working for the wildlife service), as a way of increasing awareness and conservation of the natural world through responsible expedition travel.

After spending years dedicating his life to work protecting endangered species like kākāpō and the Black Robin and working down in the subantarctic, Rodney learned that by sharing these special wilderness areas with others, they might become “ambassadors” advocating and supporting conservation efforts.

He has long held the view that conservation and responsible travel are partners, that together can achieve what might otherwise be unachievable. Totally agree, Rodney! Thanks for leading the way.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Over Christmas last year I spent several weeks at sea deep in the Southern Ocean with Heritage Expeditions exploring the subantarctic, and one of the biggest highlights had to be stopping at Macquarie Island.

Roughly 1500 kilometers south of Tasmania, it takes about 3 days sailing to get here in fine weather.

Unfortunately, the weather down here is never fine.

Past the Roaring Forties and deep into the Furious Fifties en route to the Shrieking Sixties, the prevailing weather in the Subantarctic can only be described as Windy As and on Macquarie Island is no exception.

“the most wretched place of involuntary and slavish exilium that can possibly be conceived; nothing could warrant any civilised creature living on such a spot.” Captain Douglass in 1822 

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Part of the Subantarctic Group of Islands, Macquarie Island is home to a research base and it is looked after by the Australian Antarctic Division. Lovingly dubbed “Macca,” it’s small, only 34 kilometers long and 5 km long at it’s widest point on the main island, and it’s positively teeming with wildlife; a real bucketlist spot for my fellow bird nerds, everyone on board was fizzing for our arrival.

Also I reckon everyone was equally excited for some sheltered bays, land and not the wild southern ocean seas that had many spewing in buckets.

I was fine and couldn’t wait to land and explore!

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

For any geology nerds out there, Macquarie Island is also extremely special because it’s the only place on earth where rocks from the earth’s mantle are actually exposed about sea level.

Recap from middle school science class: the mantle is normally 6 kilometers below the ocean floor and therefore not something we ever see except in that dissected and well-labeled globe from school, showing it to be the thick layer of molten rock between the crust and the core of the earth.

Macquarie Island is actually the exposed crest of the undersea Macquarie Ridge, raised to its present position where the Indo-Australian tectonic plate meets the Pacific plate. This one of a kind feature nabbed Macquarie Island a world heritage status over 20 years ago.

Also it’s a place of both outstanding natural beauty and wildlife. And a fuck ton of penguins.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

The history of Macquarie is a fascinating one, thought to be first discovered in 1810 by Captain Frederick Hasselborough on a trip from Sydney by accident on an commercial expedition looking for seals to slaughter for skins and blubber.

Perhaps early Polynesians visited long before because he reported seeing a shipwreck of an “ancient design” on the island – oh my! My historical nerdy brain is a aquiver with that!

And he was in luck, as there were probably close to half a million seals around Macquarie before they were decimated over the next decade. Even now you can see the remnants of the sealing industry on Macquarie with rusted bits of machinery used in the industry still decorating the beaches.

A grim reminder of a terrible past. Only now are the seal populations recovered. And in a beautiful piece of irony, often these historical sites are covered with enormous elephant seals, happily tooting and roaring at us as we scrambled past them.

visit Macquarie island

Though perhaps what drew me the most to Macquarie Island were the enormous bird colonies here. Home to more than 3.5 million seabirds, this wild little island stinks of glorious poo, and I love it!

It’s covered in birds! I knew it would be similar to South Georgia, which is one of my favorite places on earth.

For example there are around 850,000 pairs of Royal Penguins on Macquarie Island, which is enormous! Millions of birds visit Macquarie Island every year.

There used to be heaps more but they were hunted for decades for their oil after the sealers made their way through the seal populations.

What to pack for a trip to Antarctica

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Lucking out with the weather we were able to make multiple landings and zodiac cruises around Macquarie Island with Heritage Expeditions.

We got to visit the base at the Isthmus on the island and visit the researchers and scientists working on Macquarie and learn about what life is like on a place that is windy and rainy pretty much every day, and hazards include being chased by elephant seals.

Only just a few years ago after seven years of pest eradication, was Macquarie Island finally free from invasive species like rats, rabbits, mice and feral cats which had been brought over by humans and were quickly destroying the bird populations.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Lusitania Bay is home to upwards of 150,000 pairs of king penguins, the second largest penguins in the world and some of my favorites.

We lucked out big time with the weather and spent a long and beautiful afternoon in the sunshine at Sandy Bay. I’d die to visit Macquarie Island again.

Still and beautiful and warm enough to peel off some layers, we spent hours exploring the beaches and walks around Sandy Bay, taking in all the different bird and seal colonies and enjoying being in the presence of abundant, care-free wildlife.

It truly was an experience I’ll never forget.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Even now I can close my eyes and immediately be transported back to that magical day at Sandy Bay on Macquarie Island. I can hear the calls of the penguin colonies, recall the smell of the seals and the sounds of the ways. Even remembering to watch where I walked to make sure I didn’t squish a penguin by accident.

How many places are like that in the world that we have the chance to experience firsthand? Visit Macquarie Island, and you won’t be disappointed.

Have you heard of Macquarie Island? Are you a wild beach lover too? Is this the kind of place you dream of visiting too? Spill!

Macquarie Island Expedition: Galapagos of the Southern Ocean

visit Macquarie island

Many thanks to Heritage Expeditions for taking me to the Subantarctic Islands – like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you could expect less from me!

The post Macquarie Island is a wildlife paradise appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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Nostalgia and adventure: returning back to Spain with my little sister


“What’s the tea?”

Me: a bit confused. “What tea? You know I only drink coffee.”

18 year old sister gives me side eye and laughs. “Nevermind.”

Me: “what? What? TELL ME!”

UGH. This basically sums up a good 10 percent of our conversations while travelling, and yes, I’ve never felt my 31 years more than this past June while in Spain with my 18 year old sister on her high school graduation trip. Sister travel, let’s do this.


I maybe be all big and famous on Instagram but the reality is that I’m still a dork and STILL out of the loop and have no idea what these youths are saying.

Turns out “tea” is a metaphor for gossip, for all you equally old and dorky folks out there. You’re welcome.

This is one of an infinite number of moments where I felt super old on this sister trip to Spain. You see my beautiful half-sister is enjoying her last summer before going off to college in the fall. Over a year ago I promised once she graduates high school, we could go on a trip together.

We’ve been looking forward to this for a very long time.

sister travel

sister travel

And the time finally arrived, and she wanted to go to Spain, a place that has long held a huge part of my heart, and I place where I really began to grow up and get my first taste of travel; where I learned to become independent. How amazing to share with my younger sister?

Cue all the nostalgia, all of the “oh I remember when…” moments from when she was born up until now. She’s so well-spoken and put together, much more than I ever was at her age.

I mean, I remember when she was a baby, and when she barfed on me once when she was a toddler at the beach and when she started school for the first time. And now she’s taller than me and going to college!

OMG I’m not ready!

If this is what having kids is like, count me out!

sister travel

sister travel

I first moved to Spain when I was only a year older than she was now. My first great adventure overseas was when I was 19 and I studied abroad for a year in Salamanca, Spain’s renowned university city, and also (equally important) home to the most bars per person in the country with a nonexistent drinking age.

I would call home and chat with her and she was only a little girl.

But back in the day, we didn’t have iPhones and used calling cards at internet cafes and you could still smoke inside the bars and Instagram wasn’t a thing, travel insurance didn’t even cross my mind, and flying by the seat of my pants was the only way I knew how to live.

If I had a couple hundred bucks in my bank account, I was stoked! I used to save money by couch-surfing and sleeping in airports, spending every euro on a trip or an adventure. Consumed by curiosity for the world and the newfound freedom of adulthood, I wanted to see and do it all!

I was unstoppable.

sister travel

sister travel

In retrospect, I also can’t help but reflect on all those crazy moments that led me to developing a lifelong passion and love for travel. And also all those memories where now I’m all like, man, how did I survive?

I won’t go into details (perhaps because I truly can’t remember) but your girl was FUN.

The very definition of winging it without a care in the world, I lived perilously close to the edge for a long time, convinced of my own immortality, with a very whimsical “c’est la vie” attitude that kept me going. The “what-ifs” and “oh shit” moments back when I was 19, didn’t seem to matter.

Consequences were temporary, but a damn good story lasts forever. Trust me, I’ve got heaps.


And so began my 10 day walk down memory lane with my sister through Spain, beginning and ending in Madrid with a jaunt up to Northern Spain for a week in between. Is there anything better than summer in Europe when you’re young?

It didn’t take long for me to utterly bore her with those “oh when I was your age…” narratives that promise nothing but eye rolls and deep sighs. I mean, I get it. No one likes that condescending life lesson from older people, it’s super annoying; and yet I couldn’t stop myself.

And therein lies the deeply personal conflict I felt on this trip – wanting to both bond and have an unforgettable time with my sister but also remembering how wild I was when I was her age and I would honestly lose my mind if I saw her do the things I did.

sister travel

sister travel

Lucky for me, she is a good egg, as we say in New Zealand, and the genes of wanting to push every single button possible and laugh while doing it skipped her generation. Phew!

Beautiful, sweet, kind but also fun, I couldn’t think of a better person to share my favorite country with. My face hurt from smiling so much to see her joy in visiting all of these cool places and watch her fall more in love with travel too.

It took a decade for me to hone my travel intuition and skills, a decade of screw-ups and unpredictable adventures, that taught me more than I could have ever learned anywhere. That’s what I hoped to share with her, to teach her travel skills and preparedness but also the sweet joy of spontaneity while on the road.

It’s a delicate balance in travel, walking that tightrope in between being prepared and smart AND not being too anxious or fearful.

sister travel

sister travel

It was in these moments that I truly felt my purpose, after a decade of inspiring you guys to travel more and step out of your comfort zones, here I had the chance to do the same firsthand with my own sister. I could teach her how to be an amazing traveller too. How cool is that?

“Christ. Don’t be an idiot and leave your purse out like that. You’re asking to be mugged. BE VIGILANT.”

Why is it that all tact goes out the window when you’re travelling with family and the people you love the most? Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever learn.

sister travel

sister travel

And so it began, a journey together in Spain. Visiting new places together and returning to some of my old haunts that shaped and made me who I am today.

It was so cool to return to places like Toledo, Bilbao and San Sebastián, where I used to visit in my ESL teaching days, before social media. I’m also not going to lie, it was pretty cool to go back to these spots from my early twenties now that I’m in my early thirties and not broke AF.

I also made sure to remind her all the time she was getting lucky now that I have reached a certain expectation of travel comfort, and therefore she reaped the benefits of it travelling with me, i.e. there’s no amount of money you could pay me now to step foot in a backpackers.

sister travel

sister travel

I told her how I used to never be prepared, how I’d travel with basically no money and end up in a shit creek on the regular, in the hopes that she’d be smarter and more practical than me in her future travels. Utterly ruthless in my anecdotes of being the cool older sister in Spain, I was determined to lead by example. Or not.

Taking the time to share my best travel advice and tips for her, like how I’ve always made sure I’ve had travel insurance for years. I told her about how now I buy an annual policy with Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI), my go-to provider for all things insurance related on all my travels around the world, and how I can’t imagine how reckless I was when I was her age to not look after myself like this.

Obviously I taught her other important things like how to drink vermouth like a local in Madrid and the importance of picking the right jamón serrano to eat, and how I just couldn’t bring myself to go to the discotecas to dance until dawn like I used to.

I LOVE saying yes to seemingly crazy new adventures and returning to Spain with her, and SCTI really gives me the freedom to explore the world with peace of mind.

sister travel

sister travel

So what’s the verdict? Have I empowered, inspired and shaped by beautiful sister into being an expert traveller at the tender age of 18?

Who knows but I can say at least I helped try and share how I travel around the world safely. Not to mention showing her how to prepare for overseas adventures.

I can also happily report there were no pickpocketings and/or muggings from our time in golden Spain. And most importantly, how to get your overweight bags packed with too many things from the Spanish summer sales checked in for free. You’re welcome, baby sister. Til next time!

Have you ever traveled with a sibling like this? Any good sister travel stories? Do you have nostalgia for a place like Spain when you were younger? Any advice to share? Spill!

sister travel

Many thanks to SCTI for sponsoring this post – like always I’m keeping it real  – all opinions are my own, like you can expect less from me!

The post Nostalgia and adventure: returning back to Spain with my little sister appeared first on Young Adventuress.





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