Ethical eye

Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv, Israel

Going Blind, by Rainer Maria Rilke

She sat just like the others at the table.
But on second glance, she seemed to hold her cup
a little differently as she picked it up.
She smiled once. It was almost painful.

And when they finished and it was time to stand
and slowly, as chance selected them, they left
and moved through many rooms (they talked and laughed),
I saw her. She was moving far behind

the others, absorbed, like someone who will soon
have to sing before a large assembly;
upon her eyes, which were radiant with joy,
light played as on the surface of a pool.

She followed slowly, taking a long time,
as though there were some obstacle in the way;
and yet: as though, once it was overcome,
she would be beyond all walking, and would fly. 


When I think about style ethics, I think of a lifestyle change.  Ethical fashion is not an ‘eco’ agenda; it’s shift in the mindset of the consumer. 

Rather than perceiving the movement exclusively as a way to feel righteous about your purchases, ethical fashion is really more of a conscious decision to care about the origin of your possessions: who made this, were they fairly compensated, and what was destroyed to create it?  Every small step in the right direction counts and contributes to the beginning of something incredible…

Vogue, JUNE 2013

Vogue, JUNE 2013

Here’s a little ‘Style Ethics’ and inspiration, via Vogue:

“Few things in life rival the tranquil serenity of spending a summer’s day perched on the sun-drenched dunes of an uncrowded (and Wi-Fi free) beach.  But in an age of rising sea levels and diminishing shorelines, it’s time to think twice about leaving carbon footprints in the sand.  Luckily, there’s peace of mind to be found in this season’s new wave of eco-friendly offerings – like a Rosel 100 percent-organic cotton-crochet carryall that’s fair trade – made by Peruvian artisans, and a pair of bamboo sunglasses from Panda, a buy-one/give-one line that provides prescription lenses to people in need.”

“An awning-striped sling chair by Gallant & Jones rests upon a frame that’s culled from responsibly harvested North American white oak and stained with natural UV-resistant oil (and for each chair sold, a tree is planted), while the Japanese Kakishibu-inspired fabric in Faherty Brand‘s string bikini is repurposed from recycled plastic soda bottles.  So grab a straw hat, a good book, and some sunscreen – and relax.” – Lindsay Talbot, via Vogue, JUNE 2013

Embrace all the ways to change for the better.

The complex minds over at The Economist put together a chart to show the world’s biggest markets for low-cost airlines.  I think the USA would really benefit from a super cheap, Ryanair style airline, no?  It truly baffles my mind that it can cost over $500 to fly from JFK to MIA.  If we can dream it we can do it.  Just kidding.  But seriously.

Flying cheap

The biggest markets for low-cost airlines 

LOW-COST airlines like Ryanair and Southwest Airlines have swollen to formidable size in recent years by offering a very different approach to that of more traditional full-service airlines. With their single-class seating, range of ancillary charges and pared-down approach to all things aviation-related, these budget carriers have become a familiar, often bemoaned, feature of holidays and business trips around the globe. In British airports, for example, more than 50% of all passengers last year squeezed into seats on low-cost carriers. But Britain only comes seventh on a list ranking countries on that criterion. Click me to read the rest.

Ecotourism is a trifecta of sorts, a perfect amalgamation of three specific components: ethics, travel/tourism and sustainability.  Introducing Mayakoba, an eco-estate in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

A mix of nature…

Pictured above, a cenote: a natural underground reservoir of water, found in Yucatán, Mexico

Pictured above, a cenote: a natural underground reservoir of water that occurs in limestone, found in Yucatán, Mexico

And crazy luxury…


A luxury indoor pool at Banyan Tree Mayakoba…WOW, right?!

Sign me up!

Mexico is one of my all-time favorite travel destinations, primarily because of its stark diversification.  Travelers have a huge spectrum to explore: beautiful beachy coasts (rocky or sandy), deserts, awesome urban areas, archeological sites, religious sites, coffee or chocolate plantations, craft towns/cities, etc.  You can experience practically anything in Mexico, and that’s why I travel there every chance I get.

Some hotels call themselves ‘green’ based on their latest LEED certification.  Others tout their best practices for brand-wide organic farming methods or maybe for conservation of wildlife.  Essentially, ecotourism is a word defined by many interpretations.

Situated on Playa del Carmen on a ‘fortress’ of natural and man-made surprises and only mere miles away from archeological sites like Tulum, Coba or Chichen Itza, eco-conglomerate Mayakoba is a great place to see and do it all.


“The Mexican architect designer of the Master Plan of the site, and his team, including engineers, architects, biologists, hydrologists and tourism marketing experts, camped out on the land for two weeks, walking, getting acquainted with the flora and fauna, thinking of possibilities…”

Mayakoba has three hotels in RM, all on the same sprawling property of nearly 600 acres, each with varying landscapes and styles.  The philosophy is one of health, nature and beauty, creating an environment where guests can feel at peace with both themselves and their surroundings.

Residences are available on the property too, as well an extensive golf program (El Camaleón, a magnificent golf course, and the Jim McLean golf school).  Spend days away in mangrove forests, gin-clear waters and ‘virgin white’ beaches.

Crazy blue beaches at Rosewood Mayakoba

Shockingly blue water at Rosewood Mayakoba’s beach

“Located in the heart of the Riviera Maya, Mayakoba is a rare and inspiring coupling of luxury and nature – a haven of sophisticated design, innovative amenities and nature.  Mayakoba features a collection of some of the world´s leading luxury hotels and most exclusive branded residences, all brought together solely to pamper and delight each of its guests and residents.”

One of Mayakoba’s three properties is a Fairmont, pictured below.  I’ve stayed at many Fairmont hotels, and each one has their own unique policies in regard to sustainability, locally sourced food, etc. – they are a leader in ecotourism as far as major luxury hotel brands go.

Fairmont Mayakoba


Serene waterways at Fairmont Mayakoba

Alternatively, guests can choose to stay on property at a Rosewood.

Rosewood Mayakoba

A masculine and sexy suite at Rosewood Mayakoba

A masculine and sexy suite at Rosewood Mayakoba

Or, a Banyan Tree.

Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Who wouldn’t love a spa treatment here?

As a ‘green’ travel brand, they have several sustainable practices and accolades under their belt (via Mayakoba):

The Mayakoba Connection Eco-Tour Ferry and Nature Trail: guests get up close and personal with an array of more than 200 species of tropical wildlife.

Mayakoba is the only resort in the RM to be honored by both the UN World Tourism Organization and Rainforest Alliance for its commitment to sustainability.

Exclusive partnership with the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Mayakoba’s hotels can develop customized plans for guests to experience the reserve and become educated on the exotic jewels of the Riviera Maya including cenotes and water systems.

Hotels are linked by more than six miles of waterways (also referred to as Venice canals of the Yucatan), a unique aquatic ecosystem offering new habitats for wildlife.  Each resort has an on-site biologist to take guests on educational electric boat tours through the cenotes and lagoons.

Absolutely no motorized vehicles in the resort. Guests travel on electric golf carts, bicycles and electric boats.

Chefs use local produce (honey, lamb, chaya), staff are hired from local community, water is re-utilized and technology is implemented to optimize energy use.

Wander around viridescent rainforests.

Lush rainforest on the Mayakoba property

Lush rainforest on the Mayakoba property

Or hike beside mangrove trees.

Gorgeous mangrove trees are found all over the resort

I think it’s safe to say that the hotel’s self-proclaimed term ‘eco-haven’ was deemed appropriately.  Nice work, Mayakoba, you’ll certainly see me soon.  Let’s go!

One of the most pivotal moments in my career occurred at an Orient-Express Hotels event in 2011.

Hotel Ritz Madrid

The Hotel Ritz Madrid

I was still working full-time for Forbes Media and one of the lifestyle journalists sent me an invitation to an NYC luncheon for the Hotel Ritz Madrid, a very famous hotel in Spain. Of course, I decided to attend; I wanted to become a travel writer and I knew nothing about travel writing or the tourism industry.

At the luncheon, the GM presented a Powerpoint that showcased the exquisite Hotel Ritz in all of its splendor. As he talked about Spain’s tourism, I was floored by the following statement:

“Tourism is the second largest industry in Spain, after gasoline.”

“Whaaaat??” I thought to myself at the time. Ah. Tourism is political because it has significant economic power. Finally, I found my niche in the tourism industry. I suddenly realized its importance: tourism builds economies, and countries all over the world depend on the industry for survival. Now I’m excited.

Before that moment, travel was simply a luxury and lifestyle topic in my mind. Upon realizing that travel had a legislative side, I began to figure out my passions and my destiny.

Tunisia is a perfect example of a country that needs tourism to sustain its economy. The passages below are from a recent article titled “Tunisia to tourists: Never mind the Salafis, feel the warmth”, by A. Craig Copetas, via Quartz,

Tunisia tourism

Tunisia’s turquoise waters

“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it,” was Rudyard Kipling’s foremost recommendation to adventurous 19th century tourists intent on visiting troublesome locations like the ruins of Carthage in the French Protectorate of Tunisia. Some 150 years later, Tunisia’s prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, recently told holidaymakers that the new prime directive for enjoying a vacation in his roiling Islamic North African nation is ”not being afraid of the beards.”

Calling all travel agents: Tunisia needs tourists, and Jebali’s proclamation is the latest salvo in a global marketing campaign launched last summer called Tunisia, Where Dreams Come True:

“The jihadist nightmare engulfs the entire region,” says the Maghreb nation’s ambassador to France, Adel Fekih. “We must fight this internationally. This is not a local brawl. Our development as a nation is linked to tourism.

Read the rest of the Quartz article here, at

Travel is a key component of strong, influential and effective diplomacy.

As one of the largest and most profitable industries in the world, tourism has the power to make or break international economies.  The article below is from Diplomat Magazine, a decades old British publication that reports on international affairs and diplomatic relations.  The article reviews the history of the ancient art of negotiation and explains how travel and new media are integral to the success of “people to people” diplomacy.

Citizen to Citizen Diplomacy, via Diplomat Magazine

By Caroline Clennell Jaine

People around the world are connected to each other like never before.  Three hundred million bloggers account for over a million posts every day, and ‘Twitterers’ increasingly micro-bIog important moments of their lives, which can be followed by strangers on the other side of the planet.  I have written about our new-found human network many times before, but what does it mean for diplomacy?

Citizen to Citizen Diplomacy. Photo Credit:

Citizen to Citizen Diplomacy. Photo Credit:

Egypt produced the world’s first known diplomats over three thousand years ago, and Ancient Egyptian rulers were also responsible for one of the first recorded international peace treaties – their Kadesh treaty with the Hittites of 1258 BC, copies of which survive to this day, inscribed on stone tablets.  The origin of modern European diplomacy can be traced back to the Italian Renaissance, with the first embassies being established in Northern Italian city-states during the thirteenth century.  Until relatively recently, ambassadors were noblemen who required large residences and who held lavish parties.  But as modern diplomats will testify, there is neither the budget nor the necessity for such grandeur in today’s world!

Historically, travel was the preserve of the elite – rarely did ‘ordinary’ people connect internationally.  Before the invention of mass media, high-level handshakes sealed deals of which the public remained largely ignorant.  But with global communication and low-cost travel, the world has got smaller and people have got closer.  Perhaps governments do still need an elite service of interlocutors for those crucial contacts and collaborations; but given the rise not just in connectivity but in the power enjoyed by the ordinary citizen, are we not entering a new era of interpersonal diplomacy that could prove equally effective in addressing the challenges of international relations?

Click here to read the rest of the article in Diplomat Magazine and peruse the site at