HawaiiTravel with a purpose with your family in Hawaii this year for spring break!

Crooked Trails is excited to announce a new cultural immersion program on the Big Island in Hawaii for families.

This unique family adventure takes you beyond the typical tourist route to experience the true culture of Hawaii through the eyes of its people.  Join us in paradise for the most memorable family adventure ever for your spring break this year. Come play in the sun, laugh with the locals, learn the hula and swim with turtles on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Hawaii Family Program

Dates: April 14 – 19, 2012
Length: 6 days
Cost: $1,699 adults, $890 (plus airfare)

After flying into Kona, we’ll travel to the little-visited town of Kohala the to experience a local homestay at the house on Nani. We’ll explore her true Hawaiian roots by learning about her native Hawaiian ancestors and visiting her gardens full of native snorkelingflowers and vegetables like taro.

We’ll also wander the quaint streets of old town Hilo, where the slow, warm and breezy feeling will put us in touch with old Hawaii. The coastal drive is stunning, and includes a stop at Puukohola Heiau – one of the largest restored ancient temple in Hawaii.

Crooked Trails is setting up a meaningful service project for our travelers to participate in that will deepen their connection to this special place. Also sure to be memorable will be a snorkel trip at a black sand beach park, stargazing atop Mauna Kea, and a visit to the lava flows of Kilaeua. And naturally, we’ll swing our hips to the hula, make leis and dive into Hawaiian culture at a traditional Hawaiian luau.

by Crooked Trails co-founder Chris Mackay

98118 - Hirut's houseCrooked Trails’ first Travel 98118 Program was a feast for the senses! On September 24th, twenty participants had an enriching time at the homes of their host families. I acted as the guide for the group who went to the home of Hirut from Ethiopia. We spent 3 hours in her home in Rainier Valley with her two children and had a wonderful time.

Hirut’s home was filled with the fragrances of a special aromatic wood resin mixed with the pungent smell of roasting coffee beans and the spicey smell of shora simmering on the stove. Hirut showed us how Ethiopian women roast, grind and make their coffee in a traditional style. She also shared her homemade honey wine with us, which she makes from the bark of a tree I had never heard of.  Other participants made injera bread with their host families, and one group had a tour of a Somali shop which felt and looked like they were right in the Horn of Africa.

Everyone who took part in the Travel 98118 Program also got to volunteer fixing bikes, with the help of volunteers Tom, Giovanni and the great folks from Bike Works. We were able to fix 10 bikes and distribute them to needy kids who were more than excited to ride home that day on a new set of wheels. Many participants had their hair braided and others played soccer. Everyone danced and ate traditional Somalian and Ethiopian food.

98118 - working on bikes98118 kid on bike

Of all the activities we did that Saturday, most people came away saying spending time in the home of their host family was the best. And this is what we hear on our international programs as well. We know it’s about the cultural exchange. It’s about sharing. We hope you will join us on the next Travel 98118 Program, to be held in early 2012.

98118- rock star98118 - women dancing

Here’s a great video collection that gives you a peek into the home visits, service project, dancing and fun!

Also, be sure to check out the rest of our photos on our Facebook page.

Thanks to participant Mishelle Maas and Lauren Leary at HOAS for sharing their photos with us!

Don’t miss this chance to win the trip of a lifetime! Raffle tickets are available now.

$25 per ticket for one person trip; 5 tickets for $100
$50 per ticket for two person trip; 3 tickets for $100
Retail value: $2,214 for one person; $4,428 for two people

Raffle ends and drawing occurs: December 1, 2011
Trip dates: June 23 – July 3, 2012

Trip Details:Crooked Trails group at Machu Picchu
* stay in an authentic Quechua village
* volunteer project with a local community
* exploration day in Cusco, the Imperial City of the Incas
* visits to ancient temples on horseback
* exploration of the artistic, historic and shopping districts of Lima
* optional add-on trip to the amazing ruins of Machu Picchu
* an experienced Crooked Trails facilitator plus local guides
* all in-country transportation
* all accommodation
* all activities and meals as listed in the itinerary
* flexibility in dates and locations are available

Does not include:
* International flights
* International departure tax
* personal items such as internet, laundry and phone calls
* travel insurance

Rules & Restrictions:
* All tickets are for one drawing; there will not be a drawing of a one-person and two-person trip
* Flexibility in dates are available
* Additional locations are available

To purchase a raffle ticket email liz@crookedtrails.org

Crooked Trails is proud to introduce you to the newest member of our team, Liz Truong. Liz is coming on staff as our new Executive Director, and we couldn’t be happier about the addition of her energy and talents to our work! (Previous E.D. and Crooked Trails co-founder Christine Mackay isn’t going anywhere, by the way – she’ll just be focusing her efforts differently.) We asked Liz a few questions so we could all get to know her better.

Tell us a bit about your background before coming to LizCrooked Trails. Where are you from originally? Where did you go to school? And where did you work prior to coming to the fold?
I was born and raised in the Southeast corner of Washington in a town called Colton – a small, farming town of 300 people. My graduating class was 15 people and my family were the only minorities where I was raised. When it was time for college I was ready for bigger things in the city so I attended the University of Washington and got two degrees in marketing and psychology. I originally started my career in the sports industry before making the move to the non-profit sector. Growing up in a small town really put an emphasis on the importance of community and giving back. I worked for a company called KTBA where I plan and executed over 130 charity events a year before moving on as the Executive Director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I spent 3 years at MDA before coming to Crooked Trails.

How did you find out about Crooked Trails and what made you decide to come and work for us? My friend Billy referred Crooked Trails to me over a year ago because he took a life-changing trip to Peru through the organization and I was looking for a way to do meaningful travel. My first traveling experience outside the US was to Thailand with the YMCA doing a cultural exchange in the hill tribes where we built an education center and lived with the locals. I’ve always wanted to emulate that experience in my travels for the rest of my life, and I found Crooked Trails was doing that. Their mission of educating on different cultures, bridging the world together and peaking interest and understanding in each other through travel really hit home to me. The more I learned about Crooked Trails the more passion I was building on carrying out their mission and helping to make a difference. Co-Founders Tammy & Chris are very inspirational in their vision and make such an impact on everyone they meet.

Coming in as E.D., what are you most excited about and what do you expect will be your biggest challenge? I’m excited to get other people involved in traveling and seeing the world in a responsible and meaningful way. Traveling outside of the U.S. is not common with Americans, but traveling this way is even more so uncommon. I think people are really missing out on an incredible opportunity to not only see the world, but understand the world. I’m excited to help create global citizens of the world.

What are your top 3 countries on your travel wish list right now?
Vietnam to meet my real family! Turkey, and Peru.

If you’d like to say hello to Liz and welcome her to the CT community, you can drop her a line at liz@crookedtrails.org

Dear Friends,      

Two or three times a year I pack my backpack, grab my passport and board a flight for hours of travel, spend 100’s of dollars to visit the families and friends in communities around the world where Crooked Trails works.

Last year, I grabbed my family, found an old soccer ball and headed to Tukwila, Washington where I was invited into the home of a family of 9 refugees from Somalia who had just arrived into the U.S.  We sat on the floor of their new home, shared a cup of Somalian tea and talked about their arrival into the U.S.  My son played with their 7 kids all dressed in traditional clothing, they played soccer in the apartment parking lot and laughed together as all the kids tried to get on one bike.  I took photos as the kids all crowed over my shoulders to see the view finder and the first pictures they had seen of themselves.  The father showed me his work permit and his professor’s certificate from back home.  We discussed getting jobs in America and he sat silent as we pulled out my computer to set him up an email  account.  The mother grabbed my hand, tears in her eyes and said “mahadsanid“, Thank you in Somalian.

We returned every week to visit them, sharing our lives, inviting them to our family events and helping the father to create a resume.  My husband and I brought gifts for the kids, clothes, books and furniture.  The family cooked us food and brought friends to meet us.   I cried when the husband called me and told me he got a job working in Alaska in fisheries.

 Have you always wanted to travel with Crooked Trails?  Please do not miss out on the opportunity to join us on September 24th, just one day, to the Rainier Valley, the most diverse neighborhood in the U.S., to share your life with a refugee family.  Bring your family, offer your friendship, learn about what it is like to be a refugee in the U.S.

This locally based travel program provides a unique opportunity for a cultural exchange experience right in the heart of the city. Participants will be paired with refugee families who will welcome them to their homes to learn and share. 

We will dance Somali style, learn new words in each others languages, prepare Ethiopian injera bread, work together on service projects such as repairing bikes for local residents, and much more. The experience will culminate with an inspiring concert to unite all the cultures represented and to celebrate the lasting relationships being forged.

The program is built on the belief that everyone benefits from the opportunity to connect and share with neighbors, and to learn a bit about yourself and the world in the process.

Tammy Leland
Crooked Trails Co-founder and International Program Director

This program has limited space and you must pre-register to participate – click here!

Alexis in NicaraguaBy Crooked Trails guide, Alexis Bonoff

One Friday afternoon, when school was canceled for a teacher’s meeting, I took the boys of Si a la Vida fishing. We walked down the dusty road to the port where the overnight ferry leaves twice a week. I had found a tackle box in the storage closet and had raided the lures and hooks, weights and line. The boys scoured the grounds for the perfect stick to use as a pole and we wound yards of nylon tight around them.

The port was empty except for the syolies, small flying insects that  linger by the lake. The port is concrete and raised with big heavy tires lashed to the sides. The boys had brought plantains as bait; the native mojarra and guapote were apparently just as fond of the fruit as the Nicaraguans themselves. It was a still day, overcast and not too hot and the boys tossed the lines into the dark waters.

Fishing in NicaraguaThe worst part about fishing is the waiting. For maybe an hour the nylon sliced in and out of the water, the boys intent on finding the perfect spot in the rocks or the best method of casting. Then one by one their attention wandered and before I knew it Nelson had been thrown in the water. Pretty soon the boys were jumping off the rubber tires and diving from the concrete pilings. Even the dogs went for a swim.

Just as the sun was starting to hide behind the volcano, there was a joyful shout. Junior, the youngest of the boys at age 10 , pulled a mojarra out of the water. It was six inches long and certainly large enough to eat. He proudly displayed it for a photo, then tossed it in the plastic bag to fry up for dinner.

As the shadows grew longer and the day´s heat began to subside we made our way down the dusty street comparing angling techniques and making bold predictions for the next adventure. It wasn’t the most successful of fishing trips but it sure was a wonderful day.

Has this little slice of Nicaraguan life whetted your appetite? Join us there this November, when Crooked Trails inaugural Nicaragua Volunteer Travel Program visits not only the boys of Si a la Vida but also ventures into the countryside of Ometepe Island to help register citizens to improve their access to better education and healthcare! Click here to read more and apply for the program.

By Aileen Ly

International travel? Get to travel to and stay on a volcanic island in the middle of a lake? Doing a service? How could I pass this opportunity up? I couldn’t! Crooked Trails’ November trip to Nicaragua reminds me very much of my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Vanuatu: sunny weather, sandy beaches, friendly people, learning the stories of the villagers, helping complete community projects, and of course, living on a volcanic island! I will never forget the experiences of my service because I made a difference, may it have been only one person or several hundred people.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hllewellyn/92388942/One of the things about this trip that got me the most excited was the chance to experience and see the Fiesta de San Diego in Altagracia. What I remembered the most about my Peace Corps service was the traditional celebrations (weddings, deaths, births, Christmas, Independence Day, etc) that I got invited to and got to see firsthand. The traditional dances, wide variety of food, sense of community, and celebrations always brought everyone together from near and far and gave me a glimpse of the way they really lived. The Fiesta de San Diego celebrations occur every November 12-18. The weeklong celebrations commemorate the pilgrimage and death of Altagracia’s patron saint, San Diego. During the week, the people of Altagracia and Ometepe gather and dance the Baile de Zompopo (dance of the leaf cutter ants) at night and a statue of San Diego is carried around the island as a symbolic reenactment of his pilgrimage. At the end of the week, the statue of San Diego is returned to the Catholic church in Altagracia until the next year.

You can have the opportunity to see and experience the Fiesta de San Diego for yourself this November and make a difference for hundreds of people by signing up to join Crooked Trails’ inaugural trip to Nicaragua to help register locals Nica volcanofor their birth certificates. Birth certificates are easy to obtain; it’s just a matter of getting to a local governmental office and registering. But for many locals on Ometepe Island, they live remotely without access to transportation. That’s where we come in! We visit the remote villages of Ometepe with a local government official and get as many people registered as possible. Along the way, we’ll story with the villagers, relax at the beach, experience the celebrations of the Fiesta de San Diego, climb a volcano, and make a difference.

Take part in this amazing cultural experience! We’re accepting applications NOW for the November Nicaragua travel program. Visit our website to learn more and apply.

Photo credits:
Festival procession by H Dragon


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