Category: Around The World

4 Hotel Chains that are Embracing Sustainability

by Amy Hornsby for letsg.ooo.

If you’re an eco-conscious traveller, you may be a little wary about lodging in hotels, especially if it’s just for one or two nights. From the gallons of water it takes to clean the sheets and towels, to the single-serving toiletries, there’s a lot of waste that goes on. Finding an independent, green hotel is probably your best option, but if all you have to choose from are big chains, here are some that are changing their ways.

Hyatt

Take a look on Hyatt’s ‘Our Planet’ page and you’ll see a wealth of ways in which the hotel is tackling their environmental challenges. They’re working on reducing water and energy usage by upto 25% by 2020, and are at around 20% right now, and at one Connecticut branch they have an impressive 40% reduction in carbon emissions. They work with organisation Clean the World to donate soaps and shampoos and companies such as WWF to reduce or donate food waste. Working with WWF, they also make sure seafood used in their restaurants is sustainably sourced.

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants

Kimpton is on a more boutique level than the others, but is still a major player in the hotel business. While they practise water and energy conservation as well as using only recycled paper products, their main focus is on social responsibility, diversifying their staff and supporting the LGBTQ community, as well as locally sourcing food and drink used in their catering. They are certified by the Green Key Eco-Rating Program and regularly win awards for their environmental practices.

Marriott

A huge player in the game, Marriott holds many hotels under its names, like Starwood, W, Westin, and Sheraton. They claim to be the first “major hotel chain to calculate [their] carbon footprint” and take steps to do something about it. So far this has included changes like reducing their water consumption by 10% since 2007, and committing to a 20% reduction by 2020 with more water-efficient toilets, showers, sinks, and washing machines. They have reduced their energy consumption and carbon emissions by an impressive 13.2% since 2007, but most of all, have contributed more than $2 million to the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation to help protect the rainforest of Brazil.

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts

Fairmont, like many other hotels, makes its commitment to water and energy consumption, but also focus on locally sourced products but focus, in particular, on bees. Their ‘Bee Sustainable’ programme not only takes care of their local population of bees, but means they can source their very own honey right from their rooftop! Fairmont started building these bee hotels in 2014 and now have over 40 bee apiaries and hotels at over 20 of their branches. They have joined with Pollinator Partnership to help conserve wild bees’ homes and help them thrive.

5 Ways to Travel for Free

by Amy Hornsby for letsg.ooo.

One of the drawbacks of travelling is the often hefty price tag that comes with it. So is it really possible to travel for free? Well, in a word, yes. From physically being on the road (or in the air), to sleeping, and even eating, here’s some top ways to keep your travel costs down.

Couchsurfing

A common one you’ll find on a lot of roundup lists, but it really is worth the investment. Type in the place you’re travelling to and you’ll find a whole host of people hosting their digs for you to stay at – for free. Don’t go looking at it as just a free bed for a night or two, but as a way to enhance your travel experience with the community spirit that it’s really made for. Find people you have common interests with like yoga, sports, or cooking, and reach out with the offer of cooking them up your favourite stir-fry or practising yoga outdoors with them. In return you’ll not only have a place to sleep, but maybe even a friendship and some priceless local knowledge of the area.

Housesit or Houseswap

Okay, so this one’s not totally free as most sites do carry an annual fee, but if you score just one place to housesit or swap with, you’ve already made your money back. You probably have some idea what houseswapping is – trading your digs with someone else’s digs in another country at the same time. Did you know you can also do the same with vehicles and motorhomes? When you consider the price of short term rentals and car rentals, it’s a pretty good deal.

Housesitting is a slightly different idea. Usually you’ll be asked to take care of people’s house, garden, and at least one pet while they’re away. While this is “free”, it’s still a big responsibility, so only go for this one if you really love pets and/or general domestic duties.

Air miles

Air miles or frequent flyer miles work like a loyalty programme; the more you spend, the more points you earn. Earn enough points and you could bag yourself a free flight. Sounds easy enough, right? You’ll need to be loyal to one airline for your next few flights to earn enough points to get a free flight, but you’ll eventually get there. Credit card signup bonuses are also excellent for piling up the miles. American cards tend to be the most generous…if you have a US address, have a look at Million Mile Secrets for inspiration and tips.

Workaway

Donate your time and energy to helping out at a B&B, a hostel, a pet sanctuary, a standard family home, and many other things in exchange for room and board. Workaway combines volunteering with travelstay, and again comes with a membership fee. There are some really fantastic opportunities on here in all corners of the world, but it probably helps if you love volunteering.

Ride sharing

So you’ve already decided to drive from point A to point B, but it’s gonna cost a lot in petrol money. Pop your trip on ridesharing sites like BlaBlaCar, where people looking t o take a similar journey will tag along and chip in for petrol costs. If you end up having a car full, this may even work out as “free travel” (to fit in with the promise of the post). Looking for a ride yourself? Set up a ride alert to cut travel costs by sharing someone else’s ride. It’s basically a much safer version of hitchhiking.

While all (or most) of these are free, of course we’re talking about money costs and nothing else. If you’re travelling on a budget, be prepared to spend your time and energy even if you aren’t parting with money. Nothing is completely free, after all.


Note from letsg.ooo: Thanks for the post, Amy! Great tips. It seems silly not to take advantage of this opportunity to mention that this very site can help you save a huge amount on travel. So there you have it – blatant self-promotion! Fantastic. Click through to the home page to find out more.

Exploring Ethiopia’s Fabulous Sights

by Alex Skinner for letsg.ooo.

Ethiopia is one of those countries which you rarely hear very much about, which is a shame as it is home to TONS of incredible sights! The good thing about it flying under the radar however, is that you’ll often find yourself visiting a jaw-droppingly beautiful landscape or astonishing UNESCO World Heritage Site with absolutely no other tourists around.

What to expect:

One of the oldest countries in the world, Ethiopia is often described as the ‘cradle of mankind’ and so on your journey you’ll come across ancient monasteries, impressive castles and mysterious rock-hewn churches while the scenery is not too bad either!

Add in its rich cultural heritage, delicious food and…feeding hyenas with your mouth (?!!) and, well, you’ve got quite the package!

All in all, it is a very affordable country to visit with some amazing sights which you can’t see anywhere else in the world.

Getting around:

To get around, you can either opt to take a short, comfortable flight or a series of long and uncomfortable (but scenic!) bus journeys. Strangely enough, I’d actually recommend the latter as you nearly always end up making friends on the bus and, well, getting there is part of the experience!

That being said, if you’re pressed for time then you’re probably better off taking a flight and Ethiopia’s numerous cities are very well-connected.

Where to head to:

There are a number of places which you just have to make sure you visit when in Ethiopia and I can almost be certain that you’ll come away awestruck at what you’ve just seen.

Photo by Trevor Cole.

First up is Lalibela. Now, it is almost impossible to convey how impressive Lalibela is but if it were in the US or Europe, the site would undoubtedly be teeming with visitors and there would be a queue to enter. As it is you’ll find yourself almost alone and this makes visiting even more memorable.

Ok, so Lalibela is a complex of eleven monolithic churches that are hidden away amongst some remote mountains in Ethiopia. Built between the seventh and thirteenth century, the architecture on show is absolutely incredible and they are remarkably still in use to this day. The churches were designed to be the ‘New Jerusalem’ and lots of underground tunnels snake their way between the different churches which are built deep into mountainside.

Another place which is well worth visiting is Gondar. Nicknamed ‘the Camelot of Africa’, the city is home to some amazing fairytale castles which are very well-preserved and the surrounding area also has some centuries-old churches and monasteries for you to enjoy. While in Gondar, try and give learning the local dance a go. You will probably have to ask someone from the city to teach you as it mostly involves using your neck, shoulders and head!

Not far from Gondar lies yet another must-see sight: the stunning Simien Mountains. This breathtaking mountain range lies mostly 3,000 metres above sea-level and is so beautiful that it has been nicknamed ‘the Chess Pieces of God’. Trekking through its sweeping valleys and along its plummeting cliff faces is an awe-inspiring experience – just remember to bring some suncream as the sun is stronger at this altitude! While passing through the spectacular scenery, you may be invited into a local home to eat some injera – Ethiopia’s national dish. Although this is certainly a kind gesture, by this point on your trip around the country you may be a bit fed up of it as you’ll have been eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Now you may remember that I mentioned something about feeding hyenas with your mouth. Outside the walled-city of Harar, hyenas congregate every evening and feeding them is now a popular (if hair-raising!) thing to do. Simply spear some meat on a stick, hold that in your mouth and in no time at all you’ll have a hyena eating off of it! Besides this, Harar is a beautiful city to explore with lots of lovely old mosques and ancient buildings for you to enjoy.

Very much off the beaten path, Ethiopia is definitely worth visiting if you have the chance and Lalibela, Gondar, the Simien Mountains and Harar are just some of its fabulous sights. To not ruin the surprise, I’ll leave it up to you to discover the rest of what Ethiopia has to offer!