Susanna Shankar

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I was born and raised in small-town Alaska in the midst of glaciers and mountains. I realized one day after traveling that I was too big for my small town and set off to explore the world. I landed in Munich, which is now my home base. I'm a vocal advocate for the planet and focus on sustainable and responsible traveling. When I am not outside, you can find me in a burrito blanket drinking whiskey and playing video games. My blog is a sustainable outdoor adventure blog that hits pause for nerdy city breaks.

Location Munich Germany
Member Since MAY 16, 2019
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Border regions are some of my favorite places. You can see the blending of two cultures and the fine, fluid line that separates them. It is a reminder that the world’s current borders are not indicative of the cultures, languages, and food that separates modern countries.  This was a photo near the French and Spanish border as we drove through the beautiful Pyrenees. The region was a vibrant blend of S. French and Catalonian architecture, foods, and languages. But, it’s not just the blending of cultures that stood out to me, it was the shared natural ecosystem and biodiversity.  We like to think that extinctions aren’t happening in the modern-day, as many of us still only think about the woolly mammoth of the ice age. However, in the year 2000, the native Pyrenean Ibex (Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica) went extinct from the French Pyrenees. Two were killed in 1910 and the species wasn’t seen again until the last known female was found dead on the side of the road in 2000. However, with the help of its cousin, the Western Spanish Ibex (Capra pyrenaica victoriae) across the border in Spain, there are now nearly 400 Ibex living happily in France. It wasn’t all effortless though, there was some hesitation from Spain to help rewild the animals across the French border. It wasn’t until France offered full protection to the new ibex from hunting and other disturbance did Spain agree.  These border regions aren’t just a blending of culture, but also biodiversity and nature, and we need to manage the regions together in order to help restore our beautiful ecosystems like the Pyrenees. I find this to be a beautiful story of working together and a testament to the EU.  #pyrenees #pyreneesmountains #pureneesnationalpark #naturetravel #vanlife #europeanvanlife #vanlifeeurope #bullitour #vanlifecouple #homeiswhereyouparkit #europeanroadtrip #sustainabletravel #responsibletravel

🏞️ It rained a lot during our time in the Chartreuse mountains. We sat in the campervan and played games, ate cheese, and drank Chartreuse. During the little breaks in the rain, the low-hanging mist parted giving us views of deep green lush forests and mountains. We meandered the old walking trails, breathing the crisp air and smells of damp vegetation with the sounds of waterfalls crashing in the distance. It was like we were part of the living history, following in the footsteps of the monks that had been foraging in these mountains for generations to make the Chartreuse elixir. Back in the ice age large cave bears escaped from the harsh weather in nearby mountain caves, leaving behind bones and insight into the amazing creatures of a past life. Our campsite was a haven for biodiversity with buzz zones and community gardens. And the sleepy town nestled in the mountains had a small museum, boulangerie, and fromagerie. I fell in love with this little area and appreciated all that it had to offer.   🚐Last year we were supposed to take a three-month mega van trip around Europe. We canceled, rescheduled, and revised for this summer, carefully and cautiously planning two trips visiting only four counties. In a way, it forced us to slow down and explore more less and in-depth. I honestly think if we had stuck to our original plan we would have been overwhelmed - trying to cram it all in. I advocate for sustainable and slow travel, but I’ll be the first to admit, I get overwhelmed when planning a trip. I want to see and do everything, and I get stressed and major FOMO. Does this happen to you? One thing that helped me overcome this, was letting myself not do much research ahead of time. We had a general outline of what campsites we wanted to stay out, but other than we showed up, checked in, and then let ourselves take time to relax and experience the surrounding areas on a whim. I didn’t know if I was “missing anything” but I loved everything. I haven’t enjoyed travel this much in ages.  ⁉️What are your tips for not getting overwhelmed by trying to see everything and just enjoying what you do see? #chartreuse #chartreusetourisme #massifdechartreuse

🚐Are you curious about the best way to travel through Switzerland? Campervan, of course! Save this post for itinerary suggestions.  🏞️Traveling through Switzerland via campervan is a great way to discover nature’s hidden gems like UNESCO biospheres, national parks, historic cheese trails, marshlands, regional parks, bio farms, impressive glaciers, iconic mountain passes while still seeing some of the highlights. I’ve been to Switzerland a handful of times, but this road trip was by far my most memorable experience. Stop 1: Camping on a bio working farm in Swiss wine country. We rode out bikes through vineyards, walked nature trails, bought fresh eggs and baguettes daily, and of course engaged in a few wine tastings.  Stop 2: Camping among glaciers in the high mountains. Setting up a remote office underneath some of Switzerland’s most impressive mountains definitely beat working from home. Of course, we also went hiking and drank lots of whiskeys to stay warm.  Stop 3: Lakeside camping at Interlaken. Our campsite was right on the shores of a stunning lake, perfect for SUPing. We were right next to a nature reserve, which is home to multiple protected bird species - birder heaven! Stop 4: Camping underneath waterfalls. We fell asleep to the sounds of Swiss cowbells and water crashing on rocks in the breathtaking place that inspired Rivendell. We spent our days chasing waterfalls and visiting the top of Europe drinking prosecco on a glacier.  Stop 5: Agri-camping in a UNESCO biosphere. Learn about unique alpine marshlands and Karst rock formations for an environmental education experience. Hire a local guide to learn about the region while fostering cultural engagement.  ✨I’ve begun revamping parts of my website to offer more ecology insights into the destinations I visit. Make sure you head over to my link in bio to read my two new posts on Switzerland and learn a thing or two about the environment! ⁉️ Which stop would be your favorite!

🤔What destination sparked something creative within your soul? What did you create? A story, a drawing, a diary entry, a favorite photograph? Share the what and where in the comments! 🧝🏼‍♀️It’s no wonder that when J.R. Tolkien looked upon this landscape while traveling, Rivendell was born. I grew up on Tolkien. My mom has this giant beautifully bound edition of Lord of the Rings - all the stories in one massive book filled with hand-painted images. My mom loved reading Lord of the Rings to my sister and me, and I loved looking at the beautiful pictures. So, when I came to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland I was transported back into my cozy home in Eagle River listening to my mom read about Rivendell in excessive detail. Even now when I return home to visit, it is a mandatory requirement that we watch the trilogy movies during my stay. I became overwhelmingly thankful for this beautiful valley and the inspiration it sparked in one of the world’s greatest minds and the stories he created upon seeing it.  📖 If you didn’t know, I’m endlessly working on a novel, a feminist futuristic climate change dystopian novel (because that is totally a genre) that takes place in Alaska. It is a novel that  I may or may not ever finish, but I do love working on it in my free time. In fact, I have several stories I’m working on. I always travel with pen and paper and love soaking up the beautiful sights I see, the sweeping vistas, and quirky animals, and the interesting people I meet. I love weaving concepts and ideas into my stories, in this way they are always changing in line with my experiences.   🏞️I love taking the time to soak in the beauty of this planet and toying with the ways it sparks my creativity. Even if you can’t travel I hope you are able to see pictures of new landscapes and find your own inspirations.

🤯Most people spend less than 24 hours in Venice, and they spend most of that time waiting in line! 🦸There is a much better way to see Venice, one that leaves you refreshed and appreciative of the history, culture, and modern life rather than frazzled and exhausted. 🌞I recommend spending at least 3 days in Venice - > Save this post to slow down with a sustainable multi-day itinerary - A full detailed post, including restaurant names, certified artisan shops, & other tips, is now at the link in my bio. Day 1️⃣: Hire a local private guide for an off-the-beaten-path tour of Venice’s local neighborhoods. I recommend ‘When in Venice.’ Matteo and Erika are part of the “guides for sustainable tourism." Don't forget espresso from a hip university cafe. After that, grab lunch and a local craft beer at an authentic panini shop before shopping for a one-of-a-kind souvenir and exploring neighborhoods at your leisure.  Finish the day with Cicchetti and Spritz at an authentic Venetian standing room only bar for the perfect Aperitivo. Day 2️⃣: Hire another local guide for a guided small-group or private tour of St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace. (yes, you can even skip this if it's crowded!) Before exploring food markets, grab more Cicchetti from a spot sourcing food locally and favored by locals. Next, head deep into Castello, meandering the streets, choosing whichever direction takes your fancy until you reach the Arsenal.  Catch a Gondola back toward the heart of Castello for your dinner reservation at a sustainable, locally sourced restaurant.  Day 3️⃣: Book a bike tour and honey tasting excursion on Venice’s agricultural island, Sant’Erasmo.  After, stop for lunch at a charming food truck embracing slow food principles.  You can visit Burano on the way back to Venice’s main island to learn about the history of glassmaking in the region.   Day 4️⃣ +: Take time to visit neighborhoods you missed, get to know your favorite neighborhood more deeply, or see more islands. If I were to return, I would use the ferry system and spend several days slow traveling from Jesolo to Chioggia, along Lido stopping in Venice. ⁉️ How much time would you spend in Venice?

I swore I would never visit Venice, Italy. “It’s too crowded. It’s not for my style of travel. I just know I won’t enjoy it. I don’t want to contribute to over-tourism” These were all things I told myself about Venice before taking the time to visit. Well, thankfully, I visited because it truly is a  special place.  Vulnerable places like Venice are suffering from over-tourism, and it can be frustrating to navigate crowds. However, as Venice emerges from the pandemic struggling to develop a sustainable tourism model, it will require people committed to sustainability and preserving the cultural authenticity to visit, altering their behaviors. Doing so will allow Venice to shift from economically relying on unsustainable tourism to realizing that sustainable tourism can be profitable. So, Ganesh and I visited to put our money and action where our mouth is, and we had a great experience. Here are my top five tips for sustainable travel in Venice. I have a brand new blog post linked in my bio covering 15 - so head over there for the full list.  🐌Slow Travel in Venice. Slow down, allowing yourself the leisure to explore the diverse neighborhoods, support local businesses, eat local food, and find hidden gems. 3 nights should be the minimum. 🎫Hire a Local Guide Committed to Sustainability. Spending a day with a local will give you a unique look at life in Venice while engaging in sustainable behaviors. 🎭Support Artisans with Authentic Souvenirs. Craftspeople in Venice have spent years perfecting skills from glass blowing to woodworking. Take the time to choose a unique souvenir that supports authentic local artists to take home a one-of-a-kind piece.  ♻️Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Venice has plenty of free water fountains, so fill up that reusable water bottle. They also have recycling facilities but aim for zero waste. 🏡Find Sustainable Accommodation. Look for hotels that are certified, locally owned, or have a commitment to maintaining Venice’s cultural heritage.  ⁉️Have you visited a place suffering from overtourism? What actions did you take to help alleviate the problem?

Hey all! Tomorrow July 17th, I will be going live with @_Trestle_ for an Instagram Live to chat about Sustainable Travel and the Path Ahead. We are going to talk about some actions to engage in sustainable travel, if and how you can engage in sustainable travel on a budget, how travelers impact the environment, positive impact tourism, travel post-COVID - and loads more. So make sure you turn on notifications, follow both of our accounts and come ready for a great discussion. I’m looking forward to seeing you all there. What questions do you have about sustainable travel?  #sustainabletravel #responsibletravel #regenerativetravel #ethicaltravel #ecotourism #ecoblogger #mindfultravel #slowtravel #sustainableblogger #sustainabletraveling #sustainabletraveler #responsibletourism #travelethics #thereisnoplanetb #curiositysavestravel #travelwithpurpose #responsibletourism #localtravel #ecotravel #impacttravelalliance #naturelover #ethicaltrouism #planetearth

🍇Are you curious how you can revitalize rural economies while traveling? If you haven’t noticed, my latest obsession is agri-camping - or camping in rural agricultural areas like vineyards, bio farms, and orchards, and it’s a great way to see new places!  🫒When booking campsites for our Italian road trip, we found this small Italian vineyard in the Chianti region of Tuscany. We were a bit skeptical at first; their website was dated and had very little information about what to expect. Our booking process left us unsure if we had even secured a spot. But, I knew I wanted to stay in the rolling hills of Tuscany after driving through many years ago on my first backpacking trip. So, we rolled the dice. When we pulled into the vineyard, our lovely Italian host greeted us, and before we even checked in, she handed us two glasses of chilled wine straight from their vineyard. We settled in for a few nights of enjoying simple home cooked meals, tasty wine, olive oil, and for the first time in months, Ganesh and I ignored work, school and just lived in the moment watching the stunning sunsets in peace.  🌻Agricultural camping is a great alternative to camping in large campsites or even remote natural areas. The industry often supports women in rural areas, and it revitalizes rural economies, supports cultural heritage, helps diffuse mass tourism, and helps connect people with agriculture. You don’t always need a campervan, as many places have space for tent camping and even have little eco-accommodation pods for a glamping experience. We love it because we can get local farm-fresh products direct from the producer, which saves us a trip to the supermarket while on the road.    🚜Until recently, rural agricultural areas were places we simply passed through on our road trips admiring the rolling hills, lush vineyards, and bountiful orchards, but now they are places to park the campervan, relax, and enjoy a slower pace of life.  🍷Where would be your dream destination to try agri-camping?

🦏Today is endangered species day. Can you name an endangered species from your favorite travel destination or home region? If not, Google “Endangered species in X and leave a comment to tell me about the species, where it’s located, and why it’s threatened. Were you fortunate enough to see it during your travels? Whenever I travel, I always look up some of the threatened or endangered species at my destination. That way, as a traveler, I am aware of the human activities that put these species at risk, and I can avoid engaging in these activities as best I can. Tourism can both threaten and protect endangered species, as we learned on my post about mountain gorillas. How you travel matters. 🦭This is the Steller Sea Lion, Eumetopias jubatus. These adorable chonky critters are right at home in Resurrection Bay, Alaska, near Kenai Fjords National Park. The entire western population was listed under the Endangered Species Act in the US in 1990 after a sudden and unexpected decline. If you’re headed to Alaska this summer, click my link in bio to find the section on Alaska for a sustainable guide to Seward with my recommended eco wildlife viewing tour with @majormarinetours to see these animals. 🔥Steller Sea Lions are threatened with a variety of anthropogenic and natural causes. Climate change causing rising sea levels, temperature changes in water, algae blooms, increased mortality from disease and parasites and acidification is the biggest threat. Unsustainable or poorly managed fishing may result in a loss of prey, entanglement, incidental take, and boat collisions. However, since the species was listed, the fishing industry in Alaska has undergone many changes to reduce threats from commercial fishing. But, even recreational kayakers may threaten the species - if a kayaker or recreational boater gets too close, the herd may stampede, killing juveniles. This photo was taken with a telephoto lens, giving them plenty of space not to cause unnecessary stress. 🐯It is critical to learn about threatened species as you engage in nature-based tourism, so you don’t unknowingly contribute to the decline of some of our planet’s most remarkable species.

🌎Happy Earth Day today and every day! 🌍Sustainability is a journey. My journey has a lot of ups and downs. If you read my last post you know I grew up close to nature embracing a sustainable lifestyle before I even knew what that was. One winter my family ate roadkill moose for nearly every meal! 🌏When I grew up and hit my 20s I decided I was too big for my small town, traveled the world to discover myself engaging in unsustainable tourism, and I moved to Vegas. My brief stint in Vegas was all about consumption! How much fast fashion could I buy? How many tiny $20 water bottles could I collect from a club? How much glitter could I fit on my body? How many times could I drive around the city with no purpose or destination?  🥾But, the more I traveled, the more I became aware of the transformative power of travel both the positive and the negative. After working in the tourism industry in Alaska I saw the life-changing connections people made to nature, but I also saw the problematic tourism leakage and environmental concerns brought by unsustainable tourism. I saw beautiful biodiversity and how different cultures experience and combat climate change. I learned about our environment through travel. ♻️I met Ganesh in Vegas and after moving to Germany we both decided to embrace a more mindful lifestyle little by little. We cut out meat. We cut seafood (unless it's that wild AK salmon). We reduce, reuse and recycle. We travel more mindfully. I say no fast fashion. We consume a little less. We reduce waste. We walk. We ride bikes. We learned about climate justice and embraced diversity in environmentalism. With every trip I took and every step I make I try to push myself to be a little better. I’m not perfect by any means. For me Earth Day is every day, as I continue to learn. I hope you all start or continue on your journey to be kinder to our planet.  🏞️Where are you on your journey? Let me know in the comments so we can all support each other. Click my link in bio for ways to celebrate.

🌲Hi, I’m Sooz, and I’m a self proclaimed tree hugger. So much so, that when I was in kindergarten I started a club called the Little Tree Club. Our mission was to protect little baby trees from being trampled on during outdoor play time. I rescued a damaged tree one day and brought it home. I planted it in my backyard to honor my guinea pig that passed away and nurtured it into a nice big adult tree. My mom was not too happy about this because what started as a little tree quickly grew into a massive pine tree and took over her yard and garden. The squirrels and birds love it though, and she loves bird watching, so we cool now. 🦉I walked to school growing up and I had to walk through a little forested area. I remember sometimes encountering the occasional moose - that’s a legit reason to be late to school, if you ask me. I loved that little slice of forest. My sister, friends and I used to spend hours playing make believe, hide and seek and observing bugs, plants, fungi, and birds.  🌳The older I get my love for trees only grows stronger. They still provide me with a place to play and enjoy nature, but I also understand my dependence on their ability to sequester carbon, create oxygen, prevent erosion, keep stream ecosystems cool and healthy, and host the hundreds of species that depend on them. 🌴Do you visit different forests when you travel - what's been you're favorite? I love seeing different forests are around the world - from the Tongass forest in SE Alaska, to the remnants of the Hercynian Forest in Germany, the redwoods in the US, the Daintree tropical forest in Australia, to the Tropical forests in Panama - they’re all amazing! 🌱Have you hugged a tree today?

🦏Every new natural area you travel to comes with its own set of guidelines to protect you, nature, and local residents. @ecokats has some created local do’s and don’ts for visiting National Parks in India. We can certainly follow some universal guidelines, but it’s important to do research so you know what the appropriate behavior is while visiting different natural places as you engage in ecotourism. 🦁She also created a guide to some of India’s most amazing biodiversity including the one-horned rhino, snow leopards, Asiatic elephants, lions, leopards, and more! India is often featured for its grand architecture and delicious food, but with over 100 National Parks it is a hotspot for biodiversity. Who is ready to book a future trip to India for a safari with local guides? I know I am! 🧐So, how do you find the unique guidelines for natural protection as you travel to engage in sustainable ecotourism? Reach out to the National Park visitor center, google it and check government websites, check tribal or Indigenous websites and resources, and use local experts like @ecokats as a resource.  ➡️Head to the link in bio and click ecotourism to read Ketki’s guest posts for some inspiration to see nature in India. And make sure you follow her for sustainable travel with a focus in India. ⁉️🗣️What are some unique local guidelines for natural areas in your region and why do they exist? Let us know in the comments. Here in Germany, certain regions are off-limits during spring or winter, as threatened birds are nesting or experiencing food scarcity.

🦍Curious about what sustainable ecotourism looks like in practice? @kesitoandfro has created an awesome resource from her first-hand experience detailing all the benefits of mountain gorilla eco-treks in Uganda, and DR Congo. These tours target all three pillars! 🌍Environmental Benefits - mountain gorilla population is increasing. The population is now around 1,000, up nearly 600 since 2010! This is largely in part to permit fees from eco-tourism that supports conservation and deters poaching.  🪙Economic Benefits - Uganda prioritizes a conservation economy and economic wealth that meets local community needs and restores natural and social capital - how cool is that? Many businesses surrounding gorilla ecotourism are owned by locals such as @buutu_safaris   🤝Social Benefits - quality local-led tours fostering cultural exchange between locals and travelers.  ➡️For the full post head to my link in bio and click ecotourism to find her entire post including more info about her tour.  ⁉️Curious? Then make sure you follow @kesitoandfro and sign up for her newsletter to stay up to date. She will be offering group trips to Uganda to engage in sustainable mountain gorilla trekking ecotourism! 🗣️Who wants to join her?! Drop a comment and let her know something cool you learned from her guide.

❓Curious about ecotourism? What is it? Let’s dive into the good, the bad, and the importance of sustainable ecotourism. Feel free to share! 🌱I know, I know, I’m just adding more buzz words on top of each other, but unsustainable ecotourism can sometimes do more harm than good. In order for ecotourism to be sustainable long-term, it should address all three pillars of sustainability: Environmental education/conservation, and the economic and social well-being of local communities. 🧐Before traveling to protected natural regions it is important to do your research to ensure your trip addresses all three areas and that you understand some of the pros and cons of travel in vulnerable regions. As travelers we have the privilege of leaving a region and going home. If we leave our destination worse than when we arrive, the locals are the ones left suffering the fall out. Ecotourism relies on healthy natural areas and community stability, if we lose that, we lose one of the greatest benefits of traveling - to see nature.  🌲Ecotourism in the Tongass National Forest is hailed as a sustainable and economic alternative to the large-scale clear-cut logging industry that ended in the region. However, if we allow ecotourism to become over-tourism exploiting locals and nature, then did we just replace logging with tourism? ➡️The slides just scratch the surface, and I encourage you to visit my link in bio - click on the ecotourism button and read the entire post (best viewed on a larger screen). I have created easy-to-follow charts, tables, highlighted red flags, provided actionable steps, summarized case studies, and more.  🦍Tomorrow I’ll share an in-depth look at a great example of sustainable ecotourism with positive environmental, economic, and social benefits - gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda.  🌍Whats an ecotour you’ve been on and can you list benefits in all three pillars? Let me know in the comments! If not, you can share a lesson learned during an unsustainable ecotour? We’re all learning on this journey - even me!

🐣It’s Easter for many of you - so Happy Easter! I grew up Orthodox Christian so our Easter isn’t until May. Ganesh and I spent the day spring cleaning. We were supposed to go on a hike with friends, but sadly Munich’s emergency lockdown means we're on a curfew and are not supposed to meet more than one person outside our household, so whomp whomp.   🐝There’s something about seeing bees in the spring that makes me so happy! When Ganesh and I went out for our walk the other day, we just sat under the blooming tees and watched the colorful flowers blowing in the wind. Fat bumble bees stumbled from flower to flower like fuzzy pollen drunk cuties. 🚫The EU banned several pesticides that hurt bees in 2018. However an independent study by Greenpeace highlights pesticides are often still used in emergency declarations. Which either means that farmers don't have resources to use alternatives or loop holes are used in unnecessary cases (like keeping golf courses green in Denmark 🤨). On one hand, it’s amazing to see the EU banning harmful chemicals, but I often wonder about the strength of the follow up and implementation of their policies and if they are just empty promises that look good on paper. 🌸As we celebrate spring, let’s celebrate and save new life - the birds, the bees and new spring blooms. Pollinators play an important role in food production and global biodiversity. Vote for legislation protecting pollinators and do your best to purchase food that doesn't use certain pesticides like neonicotinoids.

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