Category Archives: travel

Alberghi diffusi, the truest luxury is dictated by finely crafted authenticity

The recent Travel & Leisure article entitled Reviving the Italian Village takes a note of vanity efforts afforded by the enormously wealthy. That might seem a judgmental statement, it isn’t. I am grateful for anyone, for whatever reason, choosing to take on the arduous process of heritage preservation.

When Dr. Giancarlo Dall’Ara originated the concept of alberghi diffusi thirty years ago, long before futurists started speaking of circular economies, I believe he aspired to create a noble legacy which would positively impact rural Italian economies by driving tourism, ensuring the preservation of cultural heritage and providing a path to the continuation of a more connected way of living. As urban life has become more complicated and messy, much like the value proposition offered by Product of Designated Origin (PDO) assignation, the alberghi diffusi now has the potential to fulfill a demand for an authenticity remarkably devoid from most contemporary life. I don’t see alberghi diffusi as a Utopian fantasy but a model of socio-cultural, economic and environmental sustainability, scalable and practical in perfect harmony, and logical extension of what I set out to create with Thistle & Broom back in 2003.

The haemorrhaging of rural communities, and the diaspora of countries alike, is not new. Natural disasters and economic hardships have driven great migrations of people to cities nearer, and very far away from agrarian lifestyles for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

The currently running ‘Anno dei borghi’, organised by Italy’s MIBACT (Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism) is designed to entice visitors to explore 18 regions and help manage the impact of the tourism sector growth on Italy’s urban areas – as well as spread the economic impact around.

Creating an alberghi diffusi from a near ruined village without services takes time. Italy’s unemployment hovers around 11%, and is more than three times higher among those under the age of 25. Housing, following the 2016 earthquake, remains at a premium. At the end of a rather long and dark tunnel two emerging trends of isolation as luxury and experiential travel provide a much welcome light. Mind you this isolation is not a minimalistic, silence-only spiritual retreat but one replete with simple but exquisite accommodations, agro-tourism / slow food / gourmet dining, extraordinary privacy and ultra-high speed internet connections – all of which create jobs, and provide economic stability.

It is here that a sweet spot of sustainable development exists, a convergence of yet-to-be alberghi diffusi with a tremendous opportunity to prove systems destined for adoption in Smart Cities. I am not referencing autonomous cars but rather reinvigorating, and making contemporary circular economies which have always existed in communities bound by the ‘butcher, baker and candlestick maker’. The alberghi diffusi model is a solution to any number of pressing contemporary issues worthy of both investment monies and public policies support.

Clean-tech incubated in alberghi diffusi would pull villages off the easily hacked central grid while providing self-sufficiency. What’s more, this model allows those individuals not lured to the bright city lights to continue practicing (or develop) arts, crafts and traditional hand-skills of a region with the market (quite literally) coming to the mountain. Imagine bathing with organic botanical goats’ milk soap and sleeping on crisp linen sheets hand-woven from blue flowered flax grown in the meadows surrounding these villages which a year before was wafting in the breeze and growing tall in the sunlight. That the village is masterfully IoT connected and a set (or two) of those linens can be ordered and paid for with a voice command based upon block-chain technology generates real efficiencies and quality of life for all parties.

The truest luxury is dictated not by fashion, but finely crafted authenticity and the improved efficiencies offered by technology.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

ROI and Working with Social Media Influencers

amirandes-crete-minI have just read Skift’s latest which includes the use by tourism boards of social media influencers and my head is about to explode. In the piece the Tempe, Arizona tourism board is referenced as viewing the 2m social media impressions generated as a successful return on their investment for inviting 4 bloggers to be their guests. Let me express that I have more than a little experience, and many documented analytics to prove, that Tempe set the bar way too low.

As a first let’s understand that in 2016 tourism accounted for 10.2% of GDP and one of every eleven jobs globally, and despite our geo-political circumstances these figures are growing, not shrinking. In some markets, by example Croatia, tourism represents approximately 20% of their GDP. What’s more, because of globalization, machine learning and artificial intelligence employment for the average person will increasingly be found in the travel vertical; which makes customer care and attention-to-detail skills so important in your hiring decisions. A less than perfect cup of coffee in our social media connected world becomes an immediate, and widespread, negative review (Yvonne also shared her post on LinkedIn). So, before inviting anyone who is an influencer to visit, get your house in order (“Is your destination Instagram-worthy?”).

Next, there is an enormous disconnect between the possibilities which could be realised and the results generated largely because the right questions aren’t asked, nor have parameters been established around a visit from a journalist, blogger or social media influencer in advance. If you are the person responsible for coordinating ‘press visits’ allow me to suggest you embrace at least the following points before you decide to host anyone:

  1. The average global rate of engagement (on Twitter) is 1.6%. As influencers anyone you invite should be able to generate at least triple that (4.8%) and since they are in the very top tier of people on social media globally 6% is a very realistic objective. While previous performance does not guarantee future results you are engaging them, and their portfolio, on your behalf. It is entirely reasonable to ask to see examples of their previous work and the supporting 3rd party analytics (get as granular as you feel is necessary).
  2. Ask for references. No one has time for prima donnas (of either gender) no matter how large their following might be. It’s in your very best interest (mitigate stress levels for your organisation and those venues you will visit) to know how easy, or difficult, an influencer might be to work with as well as the satisfaction your peers had with their delivery of top quality content in real time and the subsequent results (again documented by analytics).
  3. The total number of impressions generated is a fragment of what should be part of your evaluation cycle. Unlike any other vertical, hospitality realises close to an 11% conversion rate on social media engagement (see point #1 above) making the quality of their content extremely important to your future revenues. Establish specific requirements about the content for the posts, what they need to post and how many times per day before, during and after their stay in exchange for your hospitality.
  4. Once you decide upon contracting a social media influencer to help you with your marketing efforts, it is entirely reasonable to me as I have done this for clients, to ask that they pre-market their trip to visit you. This can vary depending upon the scope of the package you have put together for the guest but a single Instagram and Twitter post each day for two weeks leading up to their visit is about right.

Transportation, accommodations, feeding (and providing beverages), spa treatments, and activities for a week can run into the tens of thousands per person and providing that hospitality needs to come with business objectives and metrics as part of your invitation. When I worked doing public relations in tech we used to use a CPI (columns per inch) metric to calculate the value of earned media against monies spent, anything above a 4:1 ROI was deemed a success. If you are spending 100,000 of whatever your local currency is (I think) at minimum you should realise a demonstrable 5:1 ROI (and yes, there are ways to measure this).

Finally, an entire portfolio of dreamy backlit views of your influencers pool or ocean-side are not going to fill your restaurants to eat your glorious gourmet food and drink the world-class wines in your cellar.  Whatever your budget might be for hosting please remember this point – their visit is not positioning them to expand their personal brands at your expense, it is about driving your incremental revenues by heightening the awareness of everything about your destination.

Post script. While the trade laws in every country will vary please be hyper-diligent about compliance issues related to in-kind and monetary payments to social media influencers. In the United States the “Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has rules in place requiring that “influencers” who share promotional materials “clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands”.”

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

Without intention, here in Jerusalem

So much about our personal journeys are about revealing truth, to understand, to find light, to connect to ‘source’ – so too in walking a labyrinth.

I was alone at mid-morning in 1995 in San Francisco’s breathtakingly chartres from abovebeautiful Grace Cathedral the first time I walked a labyrinth. In 2001 I traveled to Chartres (1220 AD) to visit the cathedral and walk its original 13th century labyrinth. 15 years later I can still feel the scope of mysticism, the pure intentions, meditations and powerful energy of tens of thousands who have come before me resonating through my own footfalls from the smoothly worn stones and soaring up to the buttresses and the heavens to the Almighty like a silent, but mighty choir.

As a result of the Crusades in the Levant a pilgrimage to Jerusalem during the Middle Ages was an extremely dangerous undertaking so the Roman Catholic Church designated that seven European cathedrals, mainly in France, become “Jerusalem” for pilgrims.  Both the layout and architecture of Chartres and its labyrinth were made to fit the demands of sacred geometry which include representations for the length of time, essence and substance of creation, the wholeness of God represented through the Trinity and the cycle of a week representing the completeness of God’s creation. At the time of its construction people believed they were creating the most Divine thing on earth to the glory of God.

“God made the world in measure, number and weight: and ignorance of number prevents us from understanding things that are set down in Scripture in a figurative and mystical way.” ~ St. Augustine

So I find myself, quite without intention, here in Jerusalem. Consciously, I am not making a pilgrimage but experiencing. I follow no guidebook or map, what unfolds is (mostly) magical and sometimes mildly corrosive but with everything there is darkness and light – a delicate balance of all that our universe represents. Yesterday, against a post Sirocco-driven rain storm a perfect blue sky day filled with light and kindnesses in Jerusalem, and yes, three ‘darknesses’.

I did not (intellectually) know that the labyrinths I have walked previously 20160109_150835-2were created with the intention of mirroring Jerusalem until this morning. For those who have visited, busy with their guidebooks and itineraries, if you had started at New Gate and walked to the right passing through the Armenian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, and the Christian Quarter eventually you will circuit the entire walled Old City. My total footsteps ultimately equaled 4.55 kilometers of ascents, stairs, flat walks and descents – a meditation on all things held holy and how (if we let it) the secular collides with (our) quietude.

My first ‘stop’ was at Couvent Armenien St. Jacques. Old stones speak a language all their own. Your touch joins 1300 years of the same, the oils found on our hands making the stone feel as soft as silk velvet. 20160109_132410-2.jpgKhatchkars (Armenian carved crosses) adorn the wall above your hand. Your head bows in supplication, a silent Our Father recited, a prayer for peace, protection and Divine intervention for our planet. The attendant returns and hands me a Host cradled in a white napkin, 9 January being the Saint’s Day of Polyeuctus, martyred in 259 AD. He tells me that I may take pictures, despite the sign indicating otherwise, he ushers me further into the complex to stand beneath 1300 year old stone arches, the orange, red and blue of the Armenian flag snaps in the wind against that crystalline blue sky. Rolls a poster documenting the Genocide and gifts it to me. As I take my leave he blesses me and then kisses me on both cheeks, outside the midday sun glints through ancient trees standing sentinel over the cemetery. I continue on my labyrinth walk. The next ‘sign’ (in both 20160109_134044senses) are old tiles pointing the way to the Western Wall but first I must pass Zion Gate and navigate the walkways around the Greek Orthodox Church, then the Jewish Quarter. The panoramic view of the Wall nestled at the base of one of Jerusalem’s natural amphitheatres, at this distance I take a 20 second video.

It would be apex of arrogance to visit the Western Wall and not be respectful of the sacredness of this place to Judaism, so before entering I pulled my shawl up over my hair (my clothing already very conservative). Despite having a Rabbi for an uncle and all of my 1st cousins being Jewish their religious practices never brushed up against my life; I  only understood the general rule of ‘no use of machinery or of working’ for the Shabbat. I had forgotten to write a prayer to place in the crevices of the Wall prior to coming, so before approaching via gender segregated ramp I found a flat surface, took out my fountain pen and tore a small piece of paper off of a folded sheet in my purse to write to God. It took no time at all for an Orthodox Jewish woman to yell at me for my violations, perhaps I could be forgiven actually writing to God and not being a Jew? I feigned ignorance of her English language. Mea culpa. Do I reconcile myself in the Divine presence of the Wall by walking backwards away?

The Muslim Quarter was a thrum of everyday life. The Muezzins voices ring out, at the fountain built by the order of Sultan Suleiman the 20160109_143948~2Magnificent a man does his ablutions, while a short distance away two men play backgammon. Spice and confectionary shops spill out into the streets filling the air with heady scents of Turkish delight, dried figs, pineapple, papaya and kiwi, mountains of rich Halvah.  I purchase a mixture of fruit tea and spices for making Bedouin and Moroccan rice, Jordan and regular almonds, the total takes my breath away – my second darkness. When I question it I know that I am being sucker-punched for being an American. It’s my own fault for not speaking Arabic (despite his English) or understanding the nuances of this culture related to negotiation because despite our lengthy conversation (and making his eyes fill with tears) I don’t feel like saying “put it all back” and haggling. The day has been too perfect, I bury my resentment; this is somehow the admittance price of being here so I give it over to God. I know that I have let this man feel he won a victory. Further along a spice pyramid crowned 20160109_171951~2by a crystal and gilt miniature Dome of the Rock, and then  God makes me an instrument of His will again. I duck into a small jewelry shop asking that two small silver links be added to my pearl bracelet so that the Roman glass charm can safely be held. I am poorer but wiser – when the price starts at 80 shekls I explain that I can wait until my Buddhist jeweler in the States can do this small thing for me for less than $5. Ultimately the work done for (the last) 25 shekls I possess. He needs to share his life story and in being kind I discover that his son nearby is (very) hungry but there is no money. A mere twenty minutes before I walked in he had told his son, God will answer. My purchase feeds the boy. An antique rose gold, handmade 19” chain is thrust upon me. No bill of sale, no expected date of payment or even a price. “When you can, pay me what you think it is worth.”

A text tells me that I need to get going to meet my friend for a ride back to her home, six hours have passed in the blink of my tear filled eyes.  I walk out of the Old City through the Damascus Gate, head up hill to the New Gate, too early by 45 minutes I sit on a park bench and am immediately accosted by a twenty-something man pan-handling. The only money that remains in my wallet are a handful of Croatian, American and Israeli coins – in total about $3 USD in value. He wants whatever I have and I find it’s easy to give up the coin than to stay exposed to his dark energy.

All day, “…yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.” 1 Corinthians 15:10

If you enjoy my blog please consider sending me the “price of a cup of tea” in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

AllThatINeedbizcardartfront

A place in the clouds. Motovun.

a place in the clouds

View from the terrace of Villa Borgo, Motovun

A place in the clouds.

There is a lovely movie that I thought of when I wrote a tweet about the powerful emotions which Motovun has unleashed in me this week.

Where do I begin? The logistics that can be easily found anywhere? Images from the Internet? No matter what you expect by viewing thousands of these, none will do it justice. Until you see it, and more specifically experience Motovun, you will never “understand” and maybe some of you never will, and that is perfectly okay. I live without expectations, thus I am rarely disappointed. That expressed I am highly receptive to energies (both positive and negative) and from a purely 20150820_115622physical perspective ‘there is something VERY special here’. Something that has me vibrating at a higher frequency than perhaps I have ever felt anywhere before setting foot here six days ago. I can’t tell you what it is. Yet. But today, on the month anniversary of leaving the United States to participate in the Istrian Tourist Board’s #ShareIstria campaign with my business partner Ken Herron, I can tell you that the ache of leaving tomorrow morning for Buzet (a mere 22 kilometers away) might break my heart.

I am sitting here listening to Gibonni on YouTube as I type (what else could I be expected to be listening to?). A lovely breeze off the Adriatic an hour away to the west wafts through the open window of Villa Borgo kissing my skin. I have been working on this blog post mentally all week, and most of the day I have been ‘trying’ to capture what I have experienced here. It’s nearly impossible. When I set out two years ago on the path of discovery to find a REAL place to call home – not merely a place in which to accept mail and to reside – I thought it would be in Croatia someplace near the Adriatic, likely in Dalmatia. As much as I have swooned under the soaring heights of Scotland’s Munros and having skied on a great many hills across the United States and Canada I never imagined wanting to make my final permanent home at an elevation of more than 100 feet above sea level, least of all an hour away from falling from my bed to swim at dawn in salt water, but here I am.

20150818_145416-2Here in Motovun. Ancient stone streets. 441 metres of citadel walls and arches and its-never-been-conquered-by-an-invading-army-at-any-time-in-history. Five churches. Motovun perched above the Mirna River valley with its rich agricultural economy that produces 70% of all of the fresh produce in Istria surely is blessed by the heavens, here I fell into the rhythm of the place with the greatest of ease of any place, anywhere, I have ever visited or lived.

Of course gastronomes come for the truffles and the exquisitely prepared regional cuisine made of the freshest organic and slow food standards heartassociated with agroturizim here in Istria. I don’t think you can have a bad meal in Istria – anywhere. Though some meals which I have enjoyed both as part of the ShareIstria campaign and in the following three weeks have been beyond exquisite. Let it be understood that Istrian hospitality, while capable of offering tasting menus of perfectly prepared gourmet experiences you will still be stuffed at the end of any meal as though you were at your grandmother’s table and she thinks you look thin and pale. 😉 It’s said in Istria if you can still say the words “Ne mogu više “I can’t eat another bite” you still have room to eat more and another helping will be put on your plate. May I suggest you go to my Twitter account and search for #ShareIstria and #Motovun for a sampling of pictures of #foodporn which will surely prompt you to book a flight tomorrow.

I had a chance idea to (quite literally force) the inclusion of Klapa Motovun (they are new to Twitter please give them some love!) onto the ShareIstria campaign, I had no idea doing such would lead to my being Motovun’s guest for seven nights and foster a passionate desire to 20150820_211144~2become a Motovun citizen. The guys (of Klapa Motovun) having previously sung (at my request) Gibonni’s Lipa Moja in Vdonjan invited me to their rehearsal in Motovun’s iconic St. Stephan’s church, and surprised me in singing it again. This was basically a private concert in a sanctuary so perfect acoustically that the angels painted in frescoes on the soaring ceiling above surely were made real flesh and blood for four minutes. Such experiences cannot be purchased for any amount of money. These gifts alter the most essential aspect of who we are because they are given freely and from the heart; I have never felt so rich.

Yesterday I made the mayor of Motovun’s mother and sister both cry as I explained how I felt about their town. After speaking to Goran over a glass of his freshly squeezed grapefruit/orange/lemon 20150822_170717juice I followed a very elderly white haired lady as she methodically picked her way up the cobble-stoned hill that TripAdvisor reviewers have complained about doing – evidently she does this every day in her dress and cardigan and flat soled slippers. I found the most beautiful sewer grate on the planet, carved of stone, set into cobbles as I walked. Houses inhabited for four hundred (or more) years where nothing has really changed an ancient stone (or gorgeous antique metal) bench by the door can be found for ‘mental health purposes’. Despite the frenzy of activity and industry there’s 20150822_165006always enough time to talk, to be kind, to be a community of neighbours thoroughly welcoming of the astonishing scope of people from all over the world. All drawn inexplicably to this tiny town atop a 277 metre hill with the longest staircase in Istria – 1052 steps – which looks much as it did in the 12th and 13th centuries.

I finally, 10 hours after starting the writing of this blog post, did a search for “energy + Motovun” which got me this reference to something called “Dragon’s Furrows” and from there, suddenly, I had clarity about the sensation of feeling swamped with the energy of Motovun.

“an interesting study about “dragon’s furrows” in Istria. It’s about the directions of energy meridians and their converging points which are the sources of positive Earth energy. Energetic relations to the landscape, as Pogacnik stated, were known by the oldest civilizations, and their life, as well as buildings were organized due to the “dragon’s furrows” and their converging points. In this “Pogacnik system”, Motovun was the most powerful source of positive energy in Istria where three “dragon’s furrows” converge.”

The ‘how’ remains to be revealed but I believe I have come home to the place my soul has been seeking to return to my whole life (or lives).

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

AllThatINeedbizcardartfront

The only oil that goes with a Croatian bikini is olive!

German translation of the following here, and the Croatian translation found here, and now in Japanese here.

*** VICTORY! 22 January 2016 The new Croatian government announced a cessation of any further plans to drill for hydrocarbons in the Adriatic.

On the morning of 29 July it was announced that Marathon Oil had returned 7 of the 10 concessions for drilling for hydrocarbons in the Adriatic had been returned to the Croatian government.

In the interest of full disclosure, since writing this post in December 2014, and it subsequently going viral (nearly 125K reads in the original English version alone), I have been invited to join, and now serve the Clean Adriatic Sea Alliance as their Chief Strategy Officer.

Every link in the following post is VERY PURPOSEFULLY chosen toward education and action, I AM ASKING YOU MOST SINCERELY TO ACT on all three efforts embedded within this post (read on, don’t get caught up with the girl she’ll still be here when you finish)!

17 March 2015 UPDATE: http://www.croatia-split.com/blog/what-s-happening/adriatic-drilling-casa-replies-to-oil-agency-boss-barbara-doric.html

17 February 2015 UPDATE – the Croatian government is being sued for its illegal activities around drilling in the Adriatic. (I don’t agree with all that the HCSP stands for but…)

“This decision reacted by the Croatian Pure Party of Rights (HCSP).
Press Release signed by the President of HCSP, Josip Miljak in its entirety:
“A criminal decision of the Croatian government to announce an international tender for a fictitious oil and gas exploration in the Croatian economic zone is a crime which, if not prevented, Croatia could cost you dearly. If you sign contracts with foreign companies, a group of experts has already prepared two lawsuits, one Court for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, ie. The UN Security Council and other State Attorney’s Office.”

If you care about the seas and oceans and clean water for all, renewable energy, the environment, cultural heritage, vacationing at the beach, water sports, sailing, boating, eating seafood, Croatia’s (or Italy’s) Adriatic and a quality of life based upon harmony with our planet in the face of greed and violation then this end-of-the-year post (originally written on 30 December 2014) is for you! No apologies, it’s a long one. I ask you to share it widely on all social media platforms. (Efforts are underway to translate it into multiple languages – hyperlinks will be offered in this paragraph as completed.)  Many thanks for an amazing year to all my readers. Sretana Nova godina, Happy New Year.

——————–

I think about consequences – all the time (including how many people I might piss off as a result of writing this, and how).  I am not (though perfectly capable to be) a corporate consultant of scenario planning. I see inter-dependencies in ways that most people rushing through their lives never consider. What stimulates me must be for a greater good, and my heart and head must find a perfect balance for me to say – YES!  A lot of things ignite my passions and expertise but for me to engage it always comes down to integrity and authenticity.  This post is about the Venn Diagram offered by the convergence of the Croatian economy, its environment and how the manipulation of European Union regulations could have a devastating and far reaching effect. This is about shortsightedness, immediate gratification for individuals and how their greed, if one thing goes horribly wrong, will destroy one of the greatest treasure troves of untouched historic, ecological and economic value in the world and the livelihoods of a people who have depended upon the Adriatic for tens of thousands of years.  This blog post is about finding a way, with all of your help (please, PLEASE SIGN THIS Change.org PETITION as well as THIS Avaaz petition and then SHARE BOTH with friends), to turn back and make things as the Croatian tourist board says, “The Mediterranean as it once was”, and keep it that way for all of us but make it better economically for Croatians.

The Travel Channel references Croatian Bikinis (a Croatian bikini, btw, way is nude) and cliff diving, and if only once everyone wants to enjoy the freedom of laying on perfect golden sand and swimming in the sea waters ranging in colour from cobalt to aquamarine naked – and Anthony Bourdain is talking about the food and how beautiful it is here, well, expect those numbers to grow. It would be an understatement to say that the impact of tourism is huge and should be amongst the greatest market segments to be cultivated in Croatia.  And yet, the right hand doesn’t seem to know what the left hand is doing here (not unique to Croatia) or they would have blocked this effort. Don’t Croatian ministers actually strategise in their cabinet meetings?

I am in Croatia because I am trying to determine if I can make this my permanent home. (Now back in the United States unhappily let me say I actually found a home in Croatia.) Save for the fact that I am here in the dead of winter, I was drawn here largely because of the Adriatic – just as some 11.5 million people who came in the summer of 2012. Put that into perspective, a narrow band of Dalmatia hosting nearly 4 times the population of the entire country within a three month (between June and August).

(Emphasis in the following is my own.)

The first page of Lonely Planet’s guide to Croatian music festivals reads:

Sonus Music Festival

http://www.sonus-festival.com/ Pag Island Croatia August 2015

“Croatia’s music festival scene is flourishing, with exciting new events popping up each summer. A lovely natural setting is pretty much guaranteed, with idyllic beaches, lakes, meadows and forest clearings hosting crowds of delighted festival-goers.”

Rough Guides best of the Croatian coast landing page reads:

When it comes to beaches in Croatia, the best advice is to head south: it’s on the Dalmatian coast where the most seductive sandy shores, pebbly coves and sun-fried rocks are to be found. Indeed all of the beaches that made our list are in Dalmatia, except for one (the bewitchingly sandy island of Susak in the Kvarner Gulf). A sizeable collection of swoon-inducing destinations has been left off this list, largely for simple reasons of accessibility: islands like Korčula, Vis and Šolta boast any number of heavenly bays […].”

Croatia has been named the #1 world travel destination on the rise according to Fodor’s. The value of tourism to Croatia’s economy (like so many things here) is subject to wide ranges of statistics – the EU says 15%, while locals estimate that it makes up as much as 40% of the entire Croatian annual budget.  Croatia’s Minister of Tourism,  Darko Lorencin, said that the first six months of 2014 totaled € 2.12 billion, which was 2.2% more than the same period last year.  Estimates put 69% of the Croatian economy coming from the services industries – things like renting sailboats, bar and restaurant trade (offering seafood from the beautifully clean waters) and yes, those taking care of all those sheets and towels. If you take words of The World Bank’s front page on Croatia’s economy as sacred, then:

DSCN9906

Drvenik Channel, the Croatian Adriatic, view from my balcony 30 December 2014 to where I have been swimming for the last two months.

Croatia remains an ecological treasure in Europe, with 47% of its land and 39% of its sea designated as specially protected areas and areas of conservation. Croatia boasts 19 National and Nature Parks, with some- such as the Plitvice Lakes National Park – designated as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites. Croatia’s natural beauty draws in millions of tourists each year, with tourism revenues representing around 15% of the country’s GDP. Preservation of the environment is high on the development agenda and has been a requirement for European Union membership.”

BP over Adriatic

This map, provided by Richard West, shows the scope of the BP Gulf Oil Spill, aka Deepwater Horizon spill, as overlaid against the Adriatic; it wouldn’t ‘just be’ Croatia impacted but also Italy, Slovenia, Montenegro and Albania.

So, after two months of swimming in these pristine waters the fight for keeping the Adriatic clean is now VERY PERSONAL to me! WTF!? Why, oh WHY!?, would anyone think that drilling for gas and oil in these waters is a good idea? Even if there isn’t an environmental catastrophe on the scale of the (British Petroleum) Gulf Oil Spill (I wish someone would overlay the map at left against a similar one showing the whole of the Adriatic to see what might happen) from one of the ten platforms currently licensed to operate in Croatian waters, the impact on the developing film industry (Game of Thrones et al), tourism, fishing – Eurostat figures for 2013 put the export value € 115.2 million, archaeology (at the bottom of the sea) and culture, and yes, the preservation of these rare dolphins, let alone the livelihood of more than 50% of the Croatian population from even the smallest accident could be catastrophic. To which point I was just (8 Feb) introduced to the technical expertise and wisdom of Croatia’s internationally, and highly, educated Nenad Duplančić.  If you are Croat read this from Dignitea Hvar in your language, if you are from any place else I BEG YOU to use a translation tool to grasp the importance of his commentary on the proposed drilling in the Adriatic.  For the rest of you new drilling platforms have been banned in the United States since 1969 so you start to understand why (to maintain corporate earnings and salaries) multinational oil companies are looking at impoverished countries to exploit and destroy (unemployment here in Croatia is above 23%).

Barbara Doric

Barbara Dorić – perhaps someone should be checking her bank accounts?

As I see it the Ministers of the Croatian government who should be fighting this with every fiber of their collective being include: Ministry of Culture, Ministarstvo culture, Mrs. Andrea Zlatar, Ministry of Economy, Ministarstvo gospodarstva, Mr. Ivan Vrdoljak, (who SHOULD BE looking at wave, wind and solar technologies and ditching petrochemical energy altogether because as Duplančić points out this industry is near it’s logical end), Ministry of Environmental and Nature Protection, Ministarstvo zaštite okoliša i prirode, Mr. Mihael Zmajlović, Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, Ministarstvo pomorstva, prometa i infrastrukture , MPPI RH, Mr. Siniša Hajdaš Dončić, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministarstvo poljoprivrede, Mr. Tihomir Jakovina and, of course, the Ministry of Tourism, Ministarstvo turizma or MINT, Mr. Darko Lorencin. So ask yourselves why a company blocked from exploration on the Italian side of the Adriatic should be given reign to do so by the head of the Croatian Hydrocarbon Agency, Barbara Doric? (Who, quite frankly, should be stripped of her citizenship and exiled to a very dirty beach for her role in promoting this debacle.)  Croatians are hardly indifferent to the beauty and life provided by their location – when so often you hear them express “who could buy this?” with a broad sweep of their arms across the vista offered by their Rivas and the Adriatic. Could it be that the Italians actually understand all that is at stake better than the Croatians?  

Saudi Arabia is manipulating the oil markets to keep the price of crude artificially low to discourage the further development and expansion of renewable energy, and with croatia nudethe established dangers of hydraulic fracturing to obtain natural gas it should be clear to everyone that petrochemicals are the very last thing that should be anywhere near a Croatian bikini.

This isn’t my country, yet I am supremely indignant about this and I hope all of you reading this are too.  Haven’t we seen enough destruction and war over the greed and insatiable consumption that comes with oil and gas? Climate change scientists indicate that a rise of sea levels will wipe out coastal communities around the world, hello? has anyone looked to see how much of Croatia’s population lives at very nearly sea level? In Europe climate change is expected to magnify regional differences in natural resources and assets. Negative impacts will include increased risk of inland flash floods and more frequent coastal flooding and increased erosion (due to storminess and sea level rise) and is projected to worsen conditions (high temperatures and drought) in a region already vulnerable to climate variability, and to reduce water availability, hydro-power potential, summer tourism and, in general, crop productivity.

oil croatia

Photo source: Croatia Week online magazine

It needs to stop – now. 16 February is the deadline for open comments to the Croatian government, the form required for submission is found here.  It has painstakingly been translated into English to the right of the original Croatian so, REGARDLESS OF WHERE YOU LIVE, non Croatians who care about our seas can also submit comment. Please do! As you can imagine this fight is going to get expensive from a legal perspective, please “help with the heavy lifting” by making a contribution to the Clean Adriatic Sea Alliance.

Croatians have a real chance to set a world standard for clean energy working in tandem with the rest of their economy but it takes all kinds of people, everywhere, to put their ‘big boy and big girl pants on’ and say NOT HERE, NOT NOW, NOT EVER, and cap those wells and dismantle those ten platforms.  Join me?

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

AllThatINeedbizcardartfront

It’s a long way to Croatia (3 bags weighing 150+ pounds later)

As an American I recognise that we ‘take up too much space’.  We are also a largely enthusiastic society – we really believe all things are possible. Not that I would change anything about my Ugly Americanmixed European (German, Polish, French, Scottish, Irish, English) American heritage but sometimes our enthusiasm can be taken for being ‘too loud’. My cognition of these attributes and my self awareness makes me try a little harder to bridle my enthusiasm and blend in when abroad but that’s not always possible (because life should be lived abundantly and passionately). Still we have a reputation for being – ugly.

I arrived in Split, Croatia five days ago. It feels like a Mediterranean version of Scotland – which, frankly, is why I am here. I almost didn’t make it. Despite 12 months of thinking about it, being an awfully good at spatial relationships, arriving at the airport two and half hours before the first leg of my flight and being one of the (normally) least-stressed-out-about-traveling people you could ever meet (I am the person calming the woman about to throw up or pass out from fear about taking off or landing. I am the person walking your child up and down the aisle because you just can’t cope anymore. I am the person who rallies 400 people in playing word games whilst stuck on the tarmac in Aberdeen, Scotland for more than three hours.) BUT… gauging weight of luggage is not such a strong suit of mine. I figure if I can still lift it IT MUST BE in compliance with the airline allowances.

20141107_061951This is my luggage (and pillows, yes two – one tucked inside the pillow protector of the other and then both inside a single case) once I arrived in Croatia. For the record one of the least civilised things about travelling by air in the United States is the absence of these wonderful little trolley carts that Europeans and Brits understand are so sensible! What is also annoying as all get out is a complete lack of porters – where they would do the most good. And if you are traveling alone without one or the other, in the midst of a driving rainstorm, trying to get said luggage that does not possess wheels and weighs more than 150 pounds in total and contains three months of all kinds of weather and occasion clothing and provisions,  as well as a down comforter and duvet cover and spare pillowcases, and is not-water-repellent but handwoven Belgian tapestry with hardwood frames and solid brass locking mechanisms and suede trim that means a porter stand near the parking lot. Getting this into the airport to check in – reasonably dry – and to leave the car for your best friend in “the pre-designated spot” on your own is not possible. Rather it is TRULY impossible. Mine is the stuff of porters and tips. It is the stuff of a bygone era steeped in some measure of elegance. While utterly gorgeous, it is the least practical thing I own (of all the impractical things I own) and it weighs a freaking ton empty. So you can imagine with weight restrictions on luggage how this might be a problem waiting to happen – it was.

DSCN9829

Ziploc bags show a small portion of my tea haul.

DSCN9827

Tea bags, Kind, Odwalla and Abound bars that were also in the duffle bag.

Special kudos to the lovely couple nice enough to have lingered to kiss on the staircase as I tried the parking garage instead of leaving the car outside who helped me haul it into the terminal. And thanks also to the AMAZING United Airlines agent who patiently and politely let me stay at his counter with one bag on one scale and one on the other for more than fifty minutes moving items around the three bags to be in compliance with the fifty pound per checked bag weight limit. Note that the clock is ticking, fifty minutes has passed and I still have not cleared security. What remained was the tapestry duffle bag on the top of the pile, within  which could be found two boxes of Odwalla Super Food bars, bags of sea salted pumpkin seeds and garbanzo beans, golden flax seed, dark chia seeds, hemp hearts, and tea bags – lots and lots and lots of tea bags. (When I finally got to Munich the ever efficient and polite Lufthansa gate agent expressed astonishment that Rochester let me on the plane with it – they didn’t (actually couldn’t).)

You see because of the groceries I had packed in the carry-on I was subjected to both re-scans and wand-ing. And then unpacking and more scans, repeatedly. By the time I cleared TSA I had misplaced my passport and boarding ticket and all I recalled was my seat assignment but mistook that for my gate – meaning I went to the wrong terminal for boarding. Which in turn meant that I was paged – that has NEVER EVER happened before – not once but twice. And think about it, in this age of mobile phones when was the last time you saw a courtesy phone attached to the wall in an airport? I did find one. A maintenance guy rescued me and carried my bag to the opposite end of the other terminal. The United Airlines staff found me and walkie-talkied to the gate. They held the plane (or would have had to unload all the luggage so it was probably more expedient to do so). In finally getting onto the plane I HAD TO apologise to the whole plane – seething, ugly stares ‘greeted me’. Oh, and my tapestry duffle bag with the tea and Odwalla? Gate checked. Which was really very nice because it would have cost me $300 to check all three bags initially. Instead I just have bruises all over my arms and legs from wrestling it all the way to Germany and I didn’t pack the Arnica gel!

A final shout out to Chris, who was behind me in security and ultimately turned out to be my travel mate on the Rochester to Washington leg – he admitted he wanted to kill me in the security line (I was ‘taking up so much space’). He actually gave me a kiss goodbye at Washington Dulles.

Yes, I am here. Where I didn’t think it would be, the tether binding me to Rochester was really hard to break – cosmic interference that my girlfriend Nancy Lyn Cotter had forewarned me of, and felt (confirmed by phone earlier today – before I told her this story). Sometimes you have to REALLY work hard to make something happen.

If you enjoy my blog please share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book ‘all that I need, or live life like a dog with its head stuck out the car window’ below, thank you! 

AllThatINeedbizcardartfront

Tethering our lives to love

It might seem hard to process the concept of being grateful for starting your day in tears. To feel something, anything, so keenly that the only possible response is a clench of your throat, Staples-Mill-Pond-Dam-Break-2-bigfollowed by the flooding of your eyes where salted droplets spill as over a millpond dam. I am not particular in how this happens – only that it does. To feel this alive in sadness, in humility, in joy, in reverence, in gratitude, my truth is that I write best when I am so filled with emotion that the only outlet, after the tears have dried, is my keyboard.

I have been bouncing the concept of tethering around for a couple of days but suddenly it was the bonds of an impossible-to-hold-in-your-hand love that proved to be the greatest measure of tethering.  Tether is an Old Norse word. Traditionally, tether meant a rope, chain, or similar which binds an animal to a fixed object so as to limit its range of movement but it can also mean the utmost extent or limit of one’s ability, endurance or resources. It’s been commandeered by the tech community to refer to connecting one mobile device to another (such as phone to a laptop) to share the Internet connection of one with the other so as to sync mobile tethercontent and actions between the devices either by a wireless LAN (local area network) such as a Wi-Fi or by physical means such as a cable through USB ports. This post about tethering is not about technology… nor is it about animal husbandry, but it is about connection –establishing it, maintaining it and pushing the boundaries of our conceived endurance to be something more.

In just sixteen days I leave the (rather dull) surety of my life of the last six years for something unknown. To be honest the last six years have been the longest I have lived in any single place since marrying out of my childhood home 30 years ago. I am more gypsy than anything and Gypsybeing so planted has caused me to chafe just as any animal would tethered to a fence or a building.  It is a test of my endurance, my abilities and certainly my ability to perform superhuman (all legal) financial machinations, to do this. There is ABSOLUTELY no safety net (though I have listed my apartment on AirBnB and am selling some of my possessions on eBay in hopes of offsetting my collective expenses).  While I have leapt into the void in response to being pulled toward Croatia, I know that whatever awaits me is going to be trans-formative. That’s a good thing, to keep expanding and not to contract into some ever smaller portion of myself where fear rules and which can happen far too easily as we get older. But this action of mine is accompanied by a confluence of apprehension and exhilaration – the Swedes (bless them) have a word for this – Resfeber. With resfeber comes a totally illogical and travel anticipationunexpected need for ‘tethering’ myself with the familiarity of my pantry found in the packing of a duffle bag filled with teabags, Aztec Elixir Vosges drinking chocolate, dark Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, golden flax seeds, Odwalla Superfood Bars and a long discontinued, exquisitely scented candle (I admit to hording three of these from when they were reasonably priced) from the defunct Henry Slatkin & Co. It’s utterly insane as intellectually I know that foodstuffs are only too easily available to purchase, Split being one of Croatia’s major urban areas as well as having immediate access to the harvest that can be found from the sea literally 50 metres from the apartment I am renting. It is because I currently can’t read more than a half dozen words in Croatian and none of them relates to food that I have taken this action – a safety net of sustenance until I can purchase honey, olive oil, yogurt, butter, flour, sugar and fresh vegetables. Some part of me feels weak to need this tether  yet every nomad has carried provisions with them against uncertainty for tens of thousands of years.  I am managing resfeber with my tether of comfort – uniting the woman that I am in this moment and who I will become beginning the afternoon of the 6th of November – much as a child clings to its softie or binkie.

Earlier this morning the source of my tears was a video posted by a friend on her Facebook wall for two of her friends. Facebook (despite all the less than ethical machinations of the company) has developed something truly beautiful, likely on the success realised by Upworthy, called Facebook Stories. In this video (originally posted on Vimeo) a woman in São Paulo befriends a man who had been homeless for 35 years; a man, who but for the grace of God, who could be any of us. A man who bent by life still had the discipline to write his poetry every single day; this, kindness (2)perhaps more than the happy ending this woman brought about by her acts of compassion and kindness is what made me cry.  Our greatest selves are realised only in the extension of, being a vessel for, the amplification of the universal energy commonly known as love. His words expressed, her energies to empower those words. The connection to one another possible through social media that fostered a real community of support and an endless cascade of tears thousands of miles away; the pebble in the pond manifest, tethering ourselves to another (or a vast unknown collection of others) energetically.  We do as we have been done for – the coding of our DNA and the memories housed within the epigenetics of who we all are, our expectations, our will to survive or to create or to provide comfort it’s all “there” within each of us waiting to be connected, tethered to the rest of humanity. We can be envious, resentful and mean or we can take pleasure from the fact that what we give, who we are, is part of an endless ripple of love.

Friends have suggested that I am leaving them while also cheering my ‘bravery’ for doing this Croatian rentalwithout a plan, this action of mine isn’t either – it simply ‘is’. Life is shortened by each passing day – it is our duty to live it fully whilst we have power to do so, to embrace impermanence with passion and commitment. The recent death of the younger brother of my friend Deborah and  the discovery that both of my parents have been diagnosed with cancer served as the catalyst for booking my ticket. The 2″ square box of my parent’s entire lifetimes chafes at me even though we have not had contact in more than a decade of years. Facing such I recognised that I need to live more fully again. I also need to write again. Not sporadically but wholly committed to six to eight hours a day, every day for 88 days. My second book has no definition as yet but I know I will find it in salty tears at the edge of the Adriatic and the unexpected (but most welcome) kindnesses of people met as a result of social media who have become integral to my journey in this lifetime.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

AllThatINeedbizcardartfront