Category Archives: South America

Some Recommended Authors for International Mysteries- Get Your Travel Reading On!


So I’ve started off a great list of authors that a friend and I once created under the subject of adventure and encourage you to add to the list of any great ones you are aware of or love!

Recommended Authors for International Mysteries Reads


  • Malarkey, Tucker
  • McCall Smith, Alexander


  • Bradby, Tom
  • Liang, Diane Wei
  • Xiaolong, Qiu


  • Garcia-Aguilera, Carolina
  • Latour, Jose
  • Parker, Barbara
  • Standiford, Les
  • Truman, Margaret


  • Armstrong, Vivien
  • Dexter, Colin
  • Fowler, Christopher
  • Hall, Patricia
  • James, P.D.
  • Marsh, Ngaio
  • McCrery, Nigel
  • Rendell, Ruth


  • Claudel, Philippe
  • Simenon, Georges
  • Temple, Lou Jane
  • Vargas, Fred


  • Ewan, Chris
  • Freeling, Nicolas
  • Mathews, Adrian
  • Van De Wetering, Janwillem


  • Adiga, Aravind
  • Keating, H.R.F.


  • Brady, John
  • Malarkey, Tucker
  • Nugent, Andrew


  • Dibdin, Michael
  • Eco, Umberto
  • Hewson, David
  • Leon, Donna
  • Nabb, Magdalen


  • Hunter, Stephen
  • Nonami, Asa
  • Okuizumi, Hikaru
  • Rowland, Laura Joh


  • Fossum, Karen
  • Nesbo, Jo


  • Benard, Cheryl


  • Bradby, Tom
  • Kaminsky, Stuart


  • Beaton, M.C.
  • Mina, Denise
  • Murray, Colin
  • Rankin,Ian


  • Perez-Reverte, Arturo


  • Mankell, Henning
  • Edwardson, Ake
  • Nesser, Hakan
  • Tursten, Helene

A Traveller’s Checklist


After speaking with a rather well-travelled client the other day and hearing their tales of passport dramas I decided it would be great to do a short review of a well-advised Traveller’s Checklist!


Your safe and well-planned trip begins with most or all of these important steps:

  • Carry a personal passport from your country of residence/citizenship that is valid well beyond the date of your anticipated return to your country of residence; keep a copy of the identification page separate from the original. I also scan one into my computer and take with me in digital format as well/store on an external storage site ie. Cloud etc.)
  • Leave copies of your passport indentification page, itinerary, and insurance policy with friends or family(I also scan one into my computer and take with me in digital format as well/store on an external storage site ie. Cloud etc.)
  • Obtain any required visas well in advance – do your research or ask your travel professional as you might need a lot of lead time to obtain!
  • If travelling with children, carry documentation proving your right to accompany them ( eg. a consent letter or court order)
  • Arrange for Travel Health Insurance
  • Plan your Itinerary and Budget
  • Anticipate financial needs: local currency, traveller’s cheques, departure taxes which may need to be paid in local currency at destination
  • Take care of health needs: vaccinations, prescriptions,medical certificates,supplies, extra eyeglasses/contacts
  • Check whether Dual Citizenship is an issue for you
  • Carry an Emergency Contact Card with the coordinates of the nearest home countyry government office in your destination
  • Obtain an International Driving Permit, if required(you must have a driver’s license in your home country – if not it can prove to be difficult)
  • Carefully attend to luggage, documentation, and airport security.
  • While abroad, keep receipts for purchases and make special arrangements for any food, plants, or animals brought back to your home country.( I try to remember to take pictures with my camera/smartphone or use a small portable scanner that links to my computer by USB like NEAT – fits nicely into the suitcase or carry-on)


For those of us here in Canada I also suggest signing up for the Registration of Canadians Abroad Service at

Another helpful thing that our Canadian Foreign Affairs and International Trade offices provide is the Bon Voyage, But… from the Consular Services which contains essential information for Canadian travellers. You can also get copies of the Country Travel Reports for your destination(s). before you go that are filled with some great information and contact names and numbers. An email address to keep in your “travel “go-to” list is the following: and is to only be used in cases of emergency when you are abroad.

I hope this checklist was helpful and informative and will guide you to better planning or remind you for the next journey you head out on!

Travel Safe!



What is Eco-Friendly in 2011?


Here is a fast-n-furious navigation through the environmental consciousness with some easey-peasey definitions that aren’t too sci-fi when you travel and are reading just what your destinations are providing you for options.

Ecological Footprint: The amount of natural resources required to sustain a plant or animal to full growth

Eco-conscious: Having the awareness and being concerned for the environment

Fair Trade: Those people who make the textiles and the clothing – being paid a fair price and having decent working conditions

Organic: In relation to fabric, Fibres that are grown and produced without chemically formulted fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, growth stimulants, etc.

Reclaimed:Those textiles or garments that have been discarded or given away and are suitable for re-use

Recycled: Those textiles that have been manufactured from previously made items/products such as bottles and cans

Renewable: Those resources that can be replenished within just a few years – not decades

Vegan: Those products that are made without the use of animal bi-products

My Guest Post on Vallarta Escapes :: Food Safety Tips for Home and Away


Food Glorious Food! Just the thought of tantilizing flavours from far away conjures up the most amazing of sensations. Maybe at this exact moment you are remembering a favourite dish a parent, relative or friend made like Uncle Jim’s perfectly barbequed tasty ribs or Grandma’s expertly rolled homemade cinnamon buns. The thing about food is – it sustains us both emotionally and physically – it’s not just a necessity for living but also a joy and a simple pleasure so let’s discuss the challenges of taking this joy on vacation.

If you’re in a non-English speaking country, it’s a good idea to get referrals from other travellers and your travel agent if possible as well as having a phrase book on hand to help translate the menu and avoid potentially risky dishes. Do some research online or at the library to better understand the cuisine of the location you will be visiting. Make sure that your food is always cooked thoroughly and served hot if that is what the dish is supposed to be. This is not the best time to be super adventurous and have a runny egg huevos rancheros or some prepared tartare in a country not known for its “raw” menu items. It’s also a good idea to see how an eatery runs their clean “ship” as that will usually tell you how clean they might be keeping their kitchen.

One of the best things about travelling is enjoying the tastes and smells, the experience of new cuisine; one of the worst things about travelling is the possibility of food related illnesses. When choosing to place to eat, try to dine in busy tourist destinations, which are more likely to have higher food safety regulations, standards and practices in order to maintain their reputation and the continued return of business.

A new little travel tip I was recently enlightened to has helped to ensure that I don’t create a recipe for disaster and digestive chaos was the following: if the drinking water you will have access to is questionable, simply add 2-5 drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract (otherwise known as GSE) to each glass of water. Be sure to get its full effects by stirring it well and letting it sit for a few moments before you consume it but be forwarned its quite bitter(think citrus on steroids) . As an excellent antimicrobial it’s great to have on hand to keep those digestive complaints at bay while travelling. Most will say that the best advice is to only consume those beverages that are bottled and served to you sealed(it’s not uncommon for bottles to be refilled from a contaminated source and order your drinks without ice,including those ones that are blended- I know- takes away the fun but its about being safe!

Danger Danger …sometimes its only skin deep so only eat fruits such as oranges and other citrus fruits, bananas and mangos that have a protective, peel-able layer of skin. The peel of the fruit acts like a protective barrier to microorganisms that can make you sick. The peel protects the fruit inside but also makes it a net that harbours the growth of bacteria and molds so always make sure you completely wash and peel it first so you don’t tranfer anything.

Wash, Wash, Wash! Don’t forget to wash your own hands many times over! Washing your hands is even more important to travellers in a foreign locale than at home because of the possibility of picking up “little critters” or microbes that you have never been exposed to.

Paying attention to food safety is not just a travelling issue as we are such a global community that comes with a very global food supply. Food is sourced and delivered from multiple sources and your favourite fruits and veggies can travel thousands of miles to grace your table and even our local produce is handled many times over before we pick it up at the supermarket and the local veggie stand.

Travel safe!

~ Namaste ~



Greetings in this fabulous New Year and new decade! Deborah has graciously asked me to write a guest post for her blog, explaining my work at La Sirena, since we will be working together from this point. I am a Canadian living and working in Ecuador since 2006, and I offer yoga and alternative therapy retreats in various locations in Ecuador. The purpose of La Sirena is to provide participants with quality yoga instruction, alternative therapies, and spiritual and wellness teachings combined with adventure travel.  Ecuador has been a very special place for me since I arrived, and although I was already on the path to great change, those changes have been happening at warp speed since I arrived here. I arrived here semi-conscious, just after losing someone dear to me, and finally aware that I must live life to the fullest and follow my heart. From that beginning, through a series of ‘adventures’ on an often precarious road, I am now the proud operator of La Sirena Yoga Adventures and a Reiki therapist. I want to share this magical energy that I have found here in Ecuador and facilitate transformations in others, and that’s how I developed the idea for La Sirena.  La Sirena’s mission is to provide yoga and alt therapy retreats to visiting English speakers while supporting the local communities of Ecuador through fair and ethical trade practices and a Giving Back program.

Retreats take place in various locations in 3 of Ecuador’s 4 distinct geographical regions: the mystical Andes Mountains of the Sierra, the spectacular Ruta Del Sol on the Coast, and the Galapagos Islands, also known as the Enchanted Isles. Participants will enjoy exploring a different culture, stepping out of their everyday lives into a completely new environment, while enjoying the comfort and safety of group travel with spiritually likeminded companions. If you have always wanted to travel to exotic locations but were not quite ready to go it alone, or were worried about the language barrier, then La Sirena is for you. La Sirena also meets the needs of adventurous types who want a yoga based vacation but don’t want to stay in resorts.

At the heart of La Sirena Yoga Adventures is the desire to do something good for the world, to be of service, to help others. I pray daily that I may be successful so that I may be in a position to help others. That’s why you’ll find a section on the web page called Giving Back. Micro finance for disadvantaged and abused women is a great way to give back to the local communities of Ecuador and make a lasting difference in the lives of many people. Regular charity is a temporary solution; it may feed a family for one day, or two or three, but what about the future? As the Chinese proverb says, give a man a fish, and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime. 

One of my heroes is Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, the first micro-lending program, which was designed specifically to help women get out of poverty and improve the lives of their families.  Grameen lends exclusively to women for specific reasons. “Not only do women constitute the majority of the poor, the underemployed, and the economically and socially disadvantaged, but they more readily and successfully improve the welfare of both children and men. Studies comparing how male borrowers use their loans versus female borrowers, (sic) consistently show this to be the case.” [i]

My own experience here in Ecuador has shown me the same. I was tired of watching my friend, Nancy, who treated me as family, struggle to put meals on the table while her husband spent half of his income on alcohol and drugs, but the most I could do was buy groceries whenever I visited. With time, I convinced Nancy’s husband to allow her to work outside the home, and after working 12 and 14 hour shifts in a factory, 6 days a week, for 2 months, (of course while still cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry- without a washing machine- for the family of 7) she used her income to start her own business with literally just a few hundred dollars. Then she found a micro-finance program and kept investing more and more into her business as it grew. Within a few months, she had bought a new stove and dishes, the kids were never hungry, they all had nice clothes, the older girls were enrolled in after school language classes, and they even had a new CD player. And the amazing thing is, Nancy had only attended school up to age eight and was almost illiterate, but as soon as she was given the chance, she was off to the moon!

Another frustration is seeing abused women stuck in their situations because they have no way to support their children on their own, and in some cases need to move to a new town to escape their abusive husbands. The heartbreaking part is that they could escape and find work or set up their own business with literally as little as a few hundred dollars.

I was tired of seeing these situations and feeling helpless. When I started La Sirena, I realized that the participants in our retreats could be the key to helping women like Nancy. Built into the budget for each retreat is a small amount of money from each participant, that when pooled together, will be used for micro-finance programs. Each retreat will generate enough capital to lend to between 1 to 5 women, depending on the size of the loans and the number of retreat participants. So when you participate in a La Sirena retreat, not only are you helping yourself to a life changing experience and improving your own life, you are helping to improve the lives of seriously disadvantaged women and children here in the host country. What could be better karma than that?

Now here’s the sad part of the story. Nancy and I have been separated for over a year and a half now, because her new partner, who swooped in to rescue her and the kids from her first husband, fell of the AA wagon and has been horribly abusive for over 2 years now. She is not allowed to see me, and we only have contact in secret. Every time she tries to be independent and gets a job, her partner uses the influence of his family in the small city they live in to have her fired so that she will be dependent on him again to feed the kids, and has no choice but to go back to him. He is going on an extended trip to the US to visit family in February, so we plan to get Nancy and the kids out of the house and set up in a new town where he won’t be able to find them when he gets back. I have told her that she is the intended first recipient of assistance from La Sirena and she is thrilled, ready to move on with her life, and wants to work with me to form a foundation to manage the Giving Back funds generated by La Sirena to help other women in similar situations. I need to sell a minimum of 5 spots on La Sirena’s February Eco Beach Retreat (February 20 – 27) by this Monday, January 17th, in order to ensure that the retreat runs and we can generate funds to help Nancy and the kids. Anyone who signs up by this deadline gets a $200 Early Bird discount, as well as the knowledge that they are doing something wonderful to change their own life with the retreat, and the lives of one very deserving woman and her 4 children.

For details and to sign up via PayPal, please see the La Sirena blog at For more complete details about La Sirena in general, you can check out the web page at

For more information on Grameen Bank, visit

[i] Muhammad Yunus, BANKER TO THE POOR Micro-lending and the Battle Against World Poverty, 2003 Public Affairs, New York, pages 72 – 73