Author Archives: Zak Suhar

About Zak Suhar

Hola a todos y bienvenidos a mi blog! I like all things business, spanish, eco, and study them all at Mount. One day, I hope to work for a green enterprise, or maybe become an entrepreneur. Find out more about what's tweetin @zmsuhar.

Spanish for Business

Spanish for Business

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One of the classes I am taking here in Alicante is Spanish for Business. It’s a very interesting course that gives a perspective on how businesses are run in Europe, everything from writing resumes and cover letters to learning about leading industries. One thing that is different than the United States right off the bat is that resumes, CV’s or curriculum vitae, are universal for all of Europe and follow a certain format. The design of a resume in the states is something that helps put your resume in the good pile, of course coupled with great experience. That isn’t completely the case in Spain. Aside from that, other documents like cover letters share the same format pretty much worldwide.

Another part of the business class is learning the cultural factors that influence negotiation within the Europe business world. Certain things we went over were monochronic versus polychronic cultures, high context cultures versus low context cultures and individualism versus collectivism. Una cultura monocrónica is one where time is usually chronological and people follow definite schedules. Punctuality is crucial in this culture and exists in Northern Europe and the United States. On the other hand, una cultura polocrónica is one that doesn’t value as much punctuality but more so flexibility and exists in many parts of the world, specifically in Mediterranean countries.

High context cultures share a more personal relationship in business as people have much more in common and they have fixed expectations as well. Also, there is not as much of a necessity to write messages in great detail and be very explanatory. In contrast, a low context culture is where there is not as much personal importance and someone’s professional life is definitely separated from that of their personal life. These cultures communicate in many different aspects and usually pay great attention to detail. I would say that the United States is in the middle of both cultures, but Spain is more representative of a high context culture.

An individualistic culture is one where people have more of a personal identity, and are taught ‘I’ from a young age separate from others. On the other hand, collectivism looks at a group at large and relates to a part of a family or society. In collectivist countries, it is fundamental to be personal and have trust between negotiations. Collective countries include Latin America, Asia and poorer countries, and individualistic countries include the United States, Canada, Australia and developing Europe.

It is very interesting to see how business differs so much across the globe, but also between different parts of Spain. People in the central and southern parts of Spain exemplify different personality traits when it comes to business. These regions prefer informal topics and places, imprecision, a global vision, general objectives, flexibility, verbal agreements, charisma, passion, creative, quick thinking and talk with much energy. Certain characteristics that are not present are pretty much the opposites like high detail, preparation, punctuality, definite schedule, written agreements and structure. As you can see the world of business is very different on a global scale, but also within certain countries. Some people try to take advantage of certain customs and markets like American born Zaryn Dentzel who created Tuenti, a Spain-based, private social networking website for students and young people, which has been referred to as the “Spanish Facebook.”

Will your next venture be in Spain?

The Spanish American Culture War

The Spanish American Culture War

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Yes, Spain and the United States are somewhat different. OK, a lot different. Hopefully by the end of this post you will be able to decide for yourself which place would be the ideal place to live! Both places are unique in their own ways and there definitely are some culture clashes … just ask my host mom. I quickly found out certain things are much different here in Alicante, but I’ve been able to adapt to most of them. My list seems to be ever growing for this battle between cultures and if you would like any further clarification or more detailed stories, don’t hesitate to ask. Here we go …

1. The first difference and foremost difference I was aware of upon arriving on Calle de Foglietti in Alicante with my host family was the re-recognition of pronunciation, more specifically between the letter “z” and “s.” Authentic spaniards virtually have no ability to pronounce the letter “z” with a definite buzz, like the sound a bee makes. Therefore, my host mom and sister seemed like they were on a Saturday Night Live skit for the first month, and they covered up little chuckles after telling “Sak” that dinner was ready. Fortunately, many people in Spain are bilingual and can get a normal sounding “Zak” out, just not my family yet … I’m trying.

2. Secondly, for everyone who absolutely loves to nap, Spain is the place to be. Siestas are integrated into daily life to the point where many city stores close and then again reopen around 5 p.m. Wondering why no one is out and about in a metropolitan area in the middle of the day? Oh yeah, siesta. My host mom and sister always come home in the middle of the day to eat and then relax/sleep for a little while. I have never been a big napper, but hopefully this grows on me (see point #4).

3. Lunch and dinner are eaten extremely late in Spain. The typical lunch time is right around 2-3 p.m. and dinner floats around 9 p.m. This was one of the hardest things to get used to abroad because I am used to eating lunch at noon or 1 p.m. and dinner around 6 p.m. I am not sure exactly why they eat so late — it just is what it is!

4. Next, if you thought staying out real late on the weekends was around 4 in the morning … guess again. In Spain, nightlife is one of the highlights of things to do. Bars and restaurants are open earlier on in the night but discotecas or clubs do not even open until 3 a.m. So right when you are thinking about calling it quits for the night in the states, places are just opening in Spain. It is typical for people to get home around 7 a.m. more or less. My host sister’s boyfriend was saying how when he was younger, he hardly slept every weekend and was just out hanging out with friends. This is a hard thing to adapt to for sure, and probably the main explanation for siestas!

5. Fashionistas. In Spain everyone you see is very well dressed, and there is a pretty good fashion statement. People like to dress in neutral colors and look good before they go for a stroll around town. Also, people usually only wear tennis shoes when they are going for a run, to workout or do something outside.

6. In España, conservation is a very important topic, which has drawn interest to me since I am enthusiastic about environmental topics. The main reason for this is because electricity and water are very expensive resources and utilities. I reckon water is highly priced because southern Spain is a very dry region, and desalination from the sea is to my understanding has a rather steep price. Moral of the story is to keep lights off when you’re not using them and take quick showers (like 5 minutes max!). Also, many Spaniards do not have dryers because it racks up the bill, and it’s more common to air dry everything outside or in the bathroom. I am lucky that my host mom has one, but we don’t use it much. If you are someone who likes the feeling of ‘shrinking’ back into your jeans, I advise you to buy them a tad small in the first place here.

7. Similar to conservation is the idea of public transportation and walkable cities. This is somewhat new to me since I haven’t lived in the heart of a city before, but Alicante has everything in close proximity. You can find a Farmacía, market, café, restaurant, bank and cell phone store on pretty much every block. Many people ride buses and the train to school and work as well. The price of gas is rather high, and people in Spain drive recklessly so I wouldn’t want a car here anyways!

8. Trying to quit smoking? Don’t come to Spain or Europe for that matter. Almost everyone smokes here, so it would be that much harder to burn out that habit! Also, the drinking age is 18, but people don’t abuse it as much as I feel college students in the states do. It is rather common to just have one beer with lunch or dinner in Spain or some Sangria.

9. Olive oil is a huge industry, so it’s heavily used. Spain provides about 25% of the world’s olive oil and 50% of Europe’s. In my cooking class, Antonio (the chef instructor) comes around to our respective stations and I usually predict his words …”más aciete, más aciete” or add more olive oil! One common brunch snack or lunch entrée is toasted bread with olive oil and shaved tomato on the top.

10. Further in the food category is related to what all of us college kids survive on, coffee. The size of coffee is completely opposite of your average Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, but rather very small cups and almost shot size. This is because there is a lot of espresso and the coffee is much stronger here. Another thing that doesn’t exist is ice coffee and refrigerated milk at the supermarket. Mercadona or the market stores have cartons of milk just sitting at luke-warm temperature on the shelves! I have yet to see chocolate milk too (besides Nesquick).

11. JamónJamón. Jamón. More jamón. Let me just say that right now in my kitchen my host mom has the whole thigh of a pig, hoof included, just sitting under towels ready for some jamón to be shaved off and eaten. Ham is very popular especially on bocadillos (sandwiches) in Spain, but also on chips. Of course there are jamón flavored Ruffles!

12. Tapas are also a big difference, and most comparable to appetizers in the states. When at a restaurant or bar you can order a beer/drink and pay a little extra for a small plate of food, but if you’re lucky it will be gratis or free. Some popular tapas are potatoes with meat, ham and mantiditos (little sandwiches), and the best I have had to date were in Granada! Going from bar to bar can definitely be a substitute for dinner on some nights.

13. The concept of tipping when eating out is much different. In the states waiters, make a very low wage and bank on getting awesome tips, making service and the quality of it very important. In Spain, waiters make a higher-based salary, which makes for not the greatest service, and for this, a very little to no tip is usually left at the end of the meal. My one friend left about a 20% tip out to eat once and the waitress came running out to tell her she left money on the table!

14. Sundays in both the states and Spain are a day to relax, go to church, be with family and maybe go out to eat. The only difference in Spain is that literally nothing is open in the whole city besides some restaurants. Unless it is a really nice day, Alicante on Sundays feels like a ghost town!

15. Next, whereas it is common to invite company over to your house for some movies, a poker night or to just hangout in the states, people in Spain do not socialize in the house. The only people who really visit my apartment are my host sister’s boyfriend, and socializing normally takes place at local cafés, plazas or out on the town.

16. Lastly, since fast food is popular in the states, I thought I would mention that Alicante has McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Subway! I can’t tell you how they taste differently because I am making a pact with myself to eat no fast food while I’m here. However, one thing I could say is that the bigger chains have more elaborate design to them, have very large eating spaces and seem to be a hangout spot for younger kids!

Phew, you made it through the Sweet 16. Now is your chance to leave comments about what place you think would be better to live!

Hasta luegoo,
Sak (man am I really embracing this name, which could be a bad thing…)

5 Keys to Learning a Language Abroad

5 Keys to Learning a Language Abroad

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It has been two months into my study abroad program and I have a confession, I am not bilingual. One misconception about achieving this is that “you will just pick up the language right away,” or that one day a switch will turn and you will know everything Spanish. The truth is that you need to work very hard to achieve this milestone, and with time you may be able to accomplish this goal. Hopefully with two more months to go, I will be able to say that I am at least almost bilingual. Here is a basis that every study abroad student should follow, and perhaps read before they go to a new country and learn a new language.
  1. Force yourself to hangout with locals or intercambios. I came across a Robert Louis Stevenson in which he says, “there are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” The matter of fact is you would be surprised how open people are to help you. You are in the same world and on the same planet, just in a place where people prefer to speak a different language. After making some friends, maybe you could teach them a bit of English too.
  2. Make a pact to speak Spanish amongst Americans. For me, it is a challenge to speak Spanish amongst other USAC students because it is way to easy to resort back to English. This won’t work for everyone, but if you find another friend who is very dedicated to learning the language and totally emerging themselves in a new culture, never speak a lick of English to them. Make it be your own little manifesto.
  3. Although it may feel like you are on vacation, study and do your homework. It is important to remember that you are still in school. You start achieving a higher level when you practice a lot in bookwork, then apply what you learned to the outside world. You really have to want to learn, and constantly be motivated by the possibility of being bilingual. This is hard, patience is a virtue.
  4. Converse with your host family or roommates. If you live with a host family don’t sit in your room all day. Hangout with your new family and converse, the best learning is having people help correct you on the spot. If you live in an apartment, try to live with Spanish kids, or go out in the town and to the market to practice buying things, bargaining, etc.
  5. Above all, positive attitude!

I hope this helps anyone who will be studying abroad, is thinking about studying abroad, or people who need to kick it in high gear before the semester ends. I may go find a new intercambio as we speak, this kind of opened up my own eyes a bit! Be motivated by the possibility of being bilingual, patience is a virtue…

Ale Ale Jandro, Ali Ali Cante

Ale Ale Jandro, Ali Ali Cante

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The time has come! I have finally settled into the new place I will call home for the semester. After another long night in Madrid and one more endless bus ride, our USAC group pulled up to la Plaza de Luceros only to meet our landlords and new host families. I told myself that I would study all my Spanish notes from previous years before I left, but that never happened. I resorted to deciphering lyrics by Michel Teló, Belanova, Fonseca and Juanes. This was my only practice of Spanish before I met my host family.

So after every study abroad student’s luggage was pulled off of the bus, I was the very last student to meet my new fam. I exchanged “besos” with Pilar and Sandra, a custom in Spain when meeting or greeting someone. They helped carry some of my luggage to the apartment, and I tried to start and grasp my surroundings because on my first day back from class I was nearly lost! I definitely am happy with my family and it helps to have two people in the household, especially when I can’t fully understand something they both are able to explain it to me. Pilar works for a little gift, wedding and homemaker shop in downtown Alicante, and Sandra works as a dentist’s assistant nearby. Part of my new little family is three English Cocker Spaniels – Carla, Lola and Luna.

I take the train to class everyday, which is a lot faster than the bus line and it’s a five-minute walk from my apartment. At the Universidad de Alicante, I am taking composition, conversation and Spanish for business classes as well as Spanish cuisine, dancing and sailing. The university is much bigger than Mount Union, and approximately around 25,000 students. It also was previously an airbase but has updated with modern architecture and features many palm, orange and pomegranate trees. I can’t wait until it gets a little warmer here!

The thing Alicante is most known for is the Castillo de Santa Barbara, one of the largest medieval fortresses in all of Europe. The castle covers the complete summit of the Benacantil Mountain and was originally built by the Moors in the 10th century, influenced much by the nearby continent of Africa. The castle received its name from the conquest of King Alfonse the Wise that took place on December 4, 1248 – Saint Barbara’s day. The castle seems to be the highlight and main point of interest in Alicante, with great 360-degree views! There is also La Explanada, a hallmark and symbol of tourism in the city of Alicante. The mosaic tiles stretch for many blocks aside the Mediterranean port and are home to many street vendors and crowds. Fútbol is one of the biggest things in Spain and Alicante has a team called Hércules CF. The team is in the Segunda Division but hope to return to La Liga after this season, where well known teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona play. I was fortunate to experience my first professional soccer match between Hércules and SD Huesca, where Samuel and Tote netted a goal a piece to give the home team a victory.

One last highlight of Alicante would have to be my favorite restaurant thus far: Cervecería 100 Montaditos. This chain serves many drinks, salads and appetizers, but is know for its 100 different types of bocadillos (smaller sandwiches). Although I absolutely love the home cooked meals from Pilar, Wednesday nights are certainly ones I look forward to since everything on the menu is only 1 euro. Yes, everything! My friends and I definitely took advantage of this deal, and plan to almost every Wednesday. We ate a lot of tasty food for only about 6 euro ($8). As you can see, Alicante is already treating me well, and like the Olsen Twins, Spain is acting like my Holiday in the Sun.

Hola. España.

Hola. España.

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Excited, nervous, anxious, but also born ready. There were many, many mixed feelings as the days were winding down until January 10, the date I departed from Chicago to Madrid, with a pit stop in London. As I was packing, and doing a lot of unpacking, it was hard for me to completely grasp that I would be living along the Mediterranean coast for the next six months. I definitely was going to miss my family but also was looking forward to shaping new friendships and a family abroad, amongst my home-stay and other USAC students. With that being said, there is no doubt that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and I was looking forward virtually keeping up with people at home. That presents one of the biggest challenges while trying to soak up this awesome experience with you…sharing it! But no worries, I’ll do my best to get to the point, be engaging and fun and hopefully you can try to vicariously live through my time in Alicante.

After meeting up with some other USAC students on the group flight, we finally arrived to Hotel Regina in Madrid where a five-day excursion was upon us. There were several places we visited first in the capital of Spain, all of which were very impressive. We visited the Prado Museum, which features the works of El Greco, Diego Velazquez and Goya, and the Reina Sofia Museum to view Picasso’s Guernica, a piece made after bombings during the Spanish Civil War. We also walked through the Plaza Mayor and to the Royal Palace of Madrid, where every room was jaw dropping. Another fun part in Madrid that was not part of the guided tours was the tapas restaurants and discotecas. It was very fun to get an early taste of what Spanish nightlife is all about!

Another place we visited was the city of Segovia, a place known for being home to the famous Roman aqueduct and the wonderful Alcazar of Segovia. Walking through the city was incredible and there were many buildings designed with brilliant architecture. My view from lunch was breathtaking as well, overlooking the whole city with the Guadarrama Mountains in the background. The last city in Spain we visited during our stay near Madrid was Toledo. Here, we toured a synagogue that still has working church services, which features amazing fresocs on all ceilings and more gold in one place that you will ever see! I was also able to get a shout out and quick feel good from the states on this tour. Since Toledo, Spain is sister cities with Toledo, Ohio, we were pointed to Calle de Toledo de Ohio, which easily made me smile. All in all, the tours in Madrid were tremendous and you can see some more photos at the links below! Hasta pronto. -Z(S)ak o Gustavo

Candy, Candy Canes, Candy Corns, and Syrup

Candy, Candy Canes, Candy Corns, and Syrup

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Tis the season! Christmas, for me, is the best time of the year because I get to go home and be with loved ones I haven’t seen in months. I found a quote from Burton Hillis that hits home. “The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” There are certain things that really keep me in the Christmas mood, aside from the most important that some people forget to celebrate, the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas mass is one of the largest, most decorated and beautiful masses of the year. It also celebrates a season of giving, and I make a valiant effort to give personal and homemade gifts, giving more of experiences not unneeded things. What really keeps me going though is the music, movies and activities throughout the month.

I am a sucker for Christmas music and listen to it a lot during the month of December, but am not one of those people who turn it on right after the Thanksgiving meal. Sheesh! I listen to the classics like Burl Ives, Jackson 5, Elvis, Eartha Kitt and Wham, but really love the songs from artists like Kenny G, Mariah Carey, Babyface, Whitney Houston, Boyz 2 Men and Michael Buble. [Insert joke about my music preference here]. Also, because of my interests in social good, charitable efforts and a global perspective coupled with my enthusiasm of Christmas cheer, one of my favorite songs is by Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas (video). Here are some lyrics, to keep things in perspective this Christmas.

“And in our world of plenty
we can spread a smile of Joy
Throw your arms around the world
at Christmas time.”

“Where nothing ever grows
No rain or rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”

Movies are another part of me during the winter season, especially my favorite of all time – Elf. I mean, who doesn’t believe that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear? And, what better things are there to do than making snow angels for two hours, going iceskating and eating a whole toll of Tollhouse cookie dough as fast as you can? Will Ferrell definitely makes Christmastime much more humorous and passes smiles along.

I truly hope everyone enjoys their holiday season and can celebrate it with the ones who are closet to your heart! Be merry.

A Simple Guide to Surviving Finals Week

A Simple Guide to Surviving Finals Week

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Finals week. Yes, I am typing this post already having many side effects of dreaded exams including baggy eyes and searching for an abundance of sleep, but seem to only find more pots of coffee. It’s undeniable that final exam week could feature the highest stress levels per square foot of Mount Union property than any other week of the academic year. By reading this guide however, I am sure you will be able to push through the dreaded last week of the semester being in higher spirits, at least a little. Give these hints a try, as they might help you.

Remain Organized
Find the exam schedule and determine which days and times your final exams will be held. It may be helpful to prepare a written schedule of the date of your tests along with when you plan on studying for them. With having many tests crammed together, your mind may slip of when certain things are due. It is important to prioritize your workload and study for comprehensive exams more. Also write down study sessions, final reviews and times you will meet with groups to go over material. All of these will help you better understand the class material. In addition, calculating your grade in class and determining a goal for the final will help you stay focused.

Stay Healthy
Final exam week may force you to lose many hours of sleep, but don’t let it be a habit! Sleep is crucial for your body to rejuvenate and rest allowing you to be more focused and observatory, which are essentials for taking a test. Another important thing is to not skip meals. Food is energy to the body and it feeds your mind to help ideas flow and stay concentrated. Also, remember to take study breaks by going for a run, working out or just getting up to dance for 10 minutes on a study break. Remember to stay hydrated too! A dehydrated body is weak and lethargic, something you don’t want just in time for finals.

Be Confident
This is the most crucial part of surviving finals. Having studied material for lengthy periods of time, it is easy to say you probably know the material better than you think you do. Keep things in perspective. This is just another test that you are prepared for, so put it in your mind that you will do well. Remember too that confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong. As long as you do your best what else more could you ask for?

Good luck to everyone on final exams! Be great.

Video Scholarship Contest – Vote for Me!

Video Scholarship Contest – Vote for Me!

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I recently applied for the Grand Trunk Study Abroad Scholarship for my spring semester in Alicante, Spain and need your help! Students were asked to submit a video and explain how he or she has a unique and inspired passion for travel, a desire to experience new places with an open mind, to see the delicate interconnections between humankind and nature and have a deep understanding of intercultural relations.

Like Grand Trunk, I share an incredible passion for the outdoors and am adamant about protecting our wild and natural places here on this earth. This reason, along with many other similarities between my lifestyle and values, is why I feel I can add value to the brand as a Grand Trunk Ambassador. Ultimately, I love encountering new experiences, and I define these experiences as travels that stay with you for the rest of your life. I believe travel can add value to our lives like nothing else. Travel teaches compassion, humility and a desire to realize the interconnectedness of our experiences here on this planet. For me, what I enjoy most, is sharing these connections through the images produced from my journeys and documenting their stories on my blog.

Vote at http://studyabroad.grandtrunkgoods.com/project/zak-suhar-the-ultimate-traveler/

There will be a public voting period from December 1 – December 31 to narrow down entries to only six. Then, from January 1 – January 3, Grand Trunk employees and sponsors will determine a total of three winners. There are scholarship rewards for three students along with an awesome prize pack! I really hope you can help me in the voting period by posting my video to Facebook, tweeting and emailing friends who would be willing to support me. Each person can vote up to five times a day throughout the whole month of December, and I hope you can remember to vote as much as possible! You can watch my video at the link above, then select “vote for this video” and login through Facebook to submit your votes.

Thank you for all your support, and I cannot wait to share incredible experiences with you!

“Travel often, getting lost will help you find yourself.”

Study Abroad, Travel Often – Getting Lost Will Help You Find Yourself

Study Abroad, Travel Often – Getting Lost Will Help You Find Yourself

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A study abroad experience is truly an adventure, one where you are exposed to an unknown area but where you can ultimately find yourself. The decision of going abroad is a challenge, but being immersed in a totally different culture is something I could not pass up. Mark Twain said it best. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” I hope to not only discover and learn many new things about a foreign place, but also to discover new things about myself and what my true purpose really is. This, along with many other reasons, are why I want to study abroad in Alicante, Spain.

Taking the opportunity to study overseas will definitely help me broaden my horizons. I anticipate meeting many new people and creating relationships that will last for a long time. I also want to explore a language and culture that I have been studying ever since middle school. You can only learn so much by practicing speaking and reading about cultural activities. Being able to put all these things into an actual experience will be second to none. Going abroad will also challenge me to travel on a budget and be able to effectively live on my own. I hope to become even more independent as my spring semester progresses in Spain.

Alicante is a Mediterranean port city in the southeastern part of Spain, which has a sunny climate, beautiful beaches, tall mountains and a rich culture and nightlife. I plan on swimming, surfing, sailing and enjoying the four-mile-long beach of San Juan, which is considered one of the finest in all of Spain. One thing I cannot wait to experience are the many festivals that will be going on in Spain such as Carnaval in Barcelona, Fallas de San Jose in Valencia, La Feria de Abril in Sevilla and Cruces de Mayo in Grenada. This is the one thing I look forward to the most … experiencing the richness and taste of real Spanish culture.

Overall, I have been waiting for a study abroad experience for some time, and I cannot wait to fly into Spain. There are many things I will learn from the experience, and hope to grow personally. I also look forward to taking interesting courses that can apply right to my major. I do not want to be disappointed in the things that I have not done, so it is time to explore. My brother recently shared with me an article with the 50 most inspiring travel quotes of all time. Here are some of my favorite quotes, and I can’t believe that in about only one month I will be in the air flying to Spain!

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” -Lao Tzu

‘The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” -St. Augustine

“The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

“Less is more: the art of voluntary poverty – an anthology of ancient and modern voices in praise of simplicity. This adventure is truly an exercise in simplifying modern life.”

“I don’t worry so much about the destination, I prefer to enjoy the journey and see what we discover together along the way.”

“Travel is the only investment with guaranteed returns. Count on it.”

“He went into the wilderness not primarily to ponder nature or the world at large but, rather, to explore the inner country of his own soul.”

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” -Mark Jenkins

A Conscious Holiday Season – 5 Tips for Being a Sensible Gifter

A Conscious Holiday Season – 5 Tips for Being a Sensible Gifter

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Thanksgiving time has surpassed and some might say it’s now time to spread Christmas cheer, singing loud for all to hear. My final few weeks of the semester are definitely going to be daunted and seem endless, but the reward of going home over winter break will be second to none. The reason I anticipate Christmas break so much is because it is really the only time of year I get to go home and spend a generous amount of time with my family! Also, not to mention I leave for Spain in just about a month!

Come this holiday season, I am sure there are going to be tremendous acts of kindness and irreplaceable gifts. One thing to keep in mind is to be extra kind to our planet, and be sure to shop with a conscious. I recently read an article on Grist, and it said that, “in general, we need to be sensible gifters, steering clear of buying unnecessary, useless stuff. Give experiences, not things. Or give wanted things. Or make things for people, if they’re open to it.” I think that it is very important to keep these points in mind, and have the needs champion the gifts you want. To help, I listed some tips for helping to be more conscious this Holiday season.

Do More with Less
Instead of buying a brand new article of clothing, buy a used one that is in just as good condition. The company Patagonia is actually encouraging its customers to stop buying their products, part of its Common Threads Initiative. The company believes that reducing, repairing, reusing and recycling its clothes can help contribute to a better environment, thus lowering its carbon footprint. This is a part of an initiative where that together we can reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace. Part of this program was for Patagonia to open up its own Ebay store, where Patagonia wearers can find used clothing for reuse.

Shop Online
Online shopping is generally a greener way to shop because trucks can deliver goods efficiently, and it takes less energy to run a warehouse for goods than a whole mall!

Make Your Own Wrapping Paper
Most wrapping paper you find in stores is not recyclable and ends up in landfills. This is an opportunity to get creative, use old magazines, newspapers, comics or old posters to wrap gifts! According to the Sierra Club, if every family wrapped just three gifts this way, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

Give a Gift that Tells a Story
The Sierra Club allows you to “sponsor a wild place” and share the country’s most special wild places and national parks with friends and loved ones. Sponsorships start at $20 and come with a range of special gifts, like a photo, plush animal, certificate of sponsorship or a backpack. Also, you could give the gift of an annual pass to a National Park, a place where you can appreciate the outdoors.

Use Holiday LED’s
Instead of using ordinary Christmas lights, purchase some LED lights that use 90% less energy than conventional holiday lights. This could save you up to $50 on your energy bills during the holiday season as well … just saying.

I hope these tips help for this coming holiday season. One of Raider Relief’s past projects was H20 where we raised money during the holiday season to build wells supporting clean drinking water. Americans spends 450 billion dollars on holiday gifts each year, and it would only take 10 billion dollars of that money to solve the world’s water problems. When you think about it, there are many little gifts that are used just as stocking stuffers. I challenge you this Christmas to think about only a few gifts of what you really need, not just desperately want. Also, try to focus on some of the tips I listed, it might make a gift you give have a more personal touch, feel more intimate and make a positive impact on the world. Everyone loves a homemade gift or one that tells a story anyways!