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
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Check out these termite mounds! Thousands of them dotted the horizon as we road-tripped through the Top End! I always thought of termites as bothersome pests that eat the wood in your foundation until your house collapses. But, here, where about 300 species of termites build massive compounds lasting 100 years, termites are essential to the function and survival of most species in this region. Termites are small insects with clear, almost translucent bodies. Because of this, they are typically not seen out and about in the sun, but they have evolved to survive in a land of extremes. They need to survive extreme heat and relentless sun in the dry season. In the rainy season, much of the land floods, submerging large areas, including some mounds. Species have responded to extreme weather conditions in different ways. In places prone to flooding, termites build their mound above ground with innovative ways to stay calm. Cathedral termites (images 1-3) create tall, rounded, hollow chambers designed to circulate cool air from the soil, keeping them safe from extreme heat. During forest fires, many species take shelter in the crevices of the cathedral's chambers as they deflect the fires’ heat. Birds will use the abandoned mounds as nesting and hunting perches. Meanwhile, magnetic termites (image 4) build narrow mounds facing magnetic north to south, so they receive very little direct sunlight. The termites are blind and have an internal compass to help them determine magnetic north. Radiating from the mound is a network of tunnels made of mud, soil, or wood. Hence, they never have to see the light of day as they move, consuming grass and plant matter, hollowing out dead trees so other animals can move in, dispersing seeds, aerating soil, and decomposing organic matter. Once a year, the termites will leave their mounds after growing wings. This annual exodus is to find a mate. The sky fills with billions. Most become a tasty and high-protein food source for animals in the surrounding areas. Only a small percent will survive to mate and return to the nest. Some queens can live 80-100 years!

One degree hotter! 🔥 I’m happy in these photos, but it took me a while to get there. After handing in my final in June, I thought I would hit the ground running. Instead, I curled up in a ball and cried, rethinking everything. While I am proud of my thesis, it put me in a dark space regarding the future of tourism and my role. I reviewed thousands of papers discussing tourism’s negative impacts on the environment, socio-cultural well-being, and economic aspects. Sure, I also worked on a potential solution to mitigate these impacts, and I read countless papers discussing the positive impacts of tourism. Still, it was all a lot to process. My time in Kakadu helped reignite my passion for tourism and belief that this industry can improve. If there is one thing I know for certain: travel is a huge part of what connects me to the environment and nature and is a source of my empathy for people globally. The environmental and historical education I receive while traveling is invaluable. I’ve learned about different people's approaches to sustainability. To avoid sugarcoating, tourism can be a force of very concerning destruction and degradation. It can also be much more; a tool for conservation, cultural connections, poverty alleviation, and equality. It is all our responsibility to change our behaviors at home and abroad, pressure the industry to do better, focus on solutions, and deprioritize relentless economic growth at the cost of biodiversity and community well-being. I thought about giving up this summer. But. I would be doing myself a disserve if I put all my hard work aside and walked away. So, I’m here for another day to fight for what I am passionate about: our planet and better tourism industry. I’m not a perfect sustainable traveler by any means, but I am committed to learning and growing. Who is with me? Share your reasons for wanting a better tourism industry. Thanks to Kim in Edinburgh for @flytographer for my amazing photos!

🪲 What is biodiversity? How's it related to tourism? Kakadu is a biodiversity hotspot. What does that mean? Biodiversity is the variety of all species, including animals, plants, microorganisms, and fungi. Hot spots are natural areas with many and sometimes rare and vulnerable species. Kakadu has 2k plant species, ⅓ of Australia's bird life, and ⅕ of its mammals. But Earth’s biodiversity is in danger. The WWF* delivers a grim message for our planet: prioritizing global economic development contributed to a 68% decline in monitored biodiversity between 1970 and 2016. So what? Our air, water, food, shelter, medicine, happiness, and culture depend on biodiversity. Tourism depends on biodiversity. COP15, a Montréal conference focusing on the biodiversity crisis, starts this week. Despite its shortcomings, this year's topics are invasive species, plastic waste, and pesticides. How's this linked to tourism? Research shows that the number and types of invasive species are higher in tourism-associated areas than non*. They spread via cruise ship ballast, recreational equipment (boats and shoes), hotel development, and more. Another study* reveals most of Thailand’s beach (plastic) litter originates from tourism activities. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Tourism can help benefit biodiversity, e.g., sustainable and well-managed birding tourism protects biodiversity. What can we do? •Research local issues w/ plastic & invasive species •Clean recreational gear •Book eco-friendly hotels that consider the environment in development and operations •Does your cruise ship ballast prevent the spread of invasives? Do they dump plastic waste into marine environments? •Reduce your plastic waste at home & abroad. Book companies with low waste commitments •Do a beach clean-up •Engage in community-led sustainable ecotourism that protects & incintivizes healthy biodiversity •Recenter tourism to ensure positive environmental & social impact resulting in equitable economic benefits. •Read my post on ecotourism Let's ensure tourism protects our planet's beautiful biodiversity. 💬Do you think about biodiversity when you travel? Why? *Sources as a comment

Kingfishers! Kakadu National Park is home to incredible bird biodiversity, including several Kingfishers, like these cuties. Kingfishers are agile and quite hard to photograph. Thankfully, we explored Kakadu with expert guides that knew their calls and where to spot them. We visited Kakadu during bird week, and our park passes gave us free guided bird walks with ecologists and Indigenous bush rangers. While the birds in Kakadu are a-plenty, they are under increasing threat from wildfires and invasive feral animals. To help manage extreme fires, Indigenous bush rangers will engage in annual controlled burns. Frequent and well-managed burns ensure the fire temperature remains low enough to prevent long-term damage to the surrounding ecosystem while fostering new growth from species that rely on heat to germinate. We saw some of these burns as they occur at the dry season's end. It was initially a bit triggering to see parts of trees smoldering, but also reassuring that conservation in Kakadu incorporates scientific knowledge and ancient Indigenous stewardship. I used to casually make fun of birders, but the older I get, the more I realize that birding is awesome! It makes sense that for my recent 35th birthday, Ganesh gifted me a guide to Canadian birds. Birding is actually one of the more beneficial forms of tourism. A few studies show that birding tourism brings in substantial funding for conservation, justifying the protection of bird habitats while alleviating poverty in surrounding communities in areas like Colombia. In Alaska, birding is a $400 million industry, with birders staying longer, contributing to rich cultural and ecotourism tourism while diffusing mass over-tourism. On top of all that, birding embraces many elements of slow and low-carbon tourism. It sounds like a win-win-win to me! I suggest traveling with a lightweight set of travel binoculars, so you can spot birds and enjoy their chaotic behaviors. So, where are my birders at? Not convinced? What other animals have you enjoyed seeing in a low-impact scenario in the wild? Image 1: Forest Kingfisher Image 2-3: Blue-winged Kookaburra

Safari lodges in Australia? Yes, they exist! After years away, we wanted to make a splash with our return to AUS. I crafted a responsible itinerary through the Northern Territory that included Bamurru Plains (not sponsored), located at the very top of Australia. Ganesh and I aren’t usually luxury people. We were carrying liters of water, sunscreen, and snacks, looking confused when staff handed us eucalyptus-scented towels and cold water in reusable bottles. But, we quickly got used to it, enjoying the rustic luxury. I loved the simple design of the bungalows with see-through screens. Every night we would fall asleep to the sights and sounds of bats, geckos, wallabies, barking owls, and even the occasional dingo. With the sunrise, we would be up with the squawking birds to start one of the day’s planned adventures. Before the day's heat, we would ride an airboat, gliding through glassy water and bird-filled wetlands, returning to cool off by the pool, grab a cold beer, or relax. For sunset, we would take cocktails and canapés and head out on a safari. The group always carried binoculars and stopped to observe flora and fauna every few minutes and chat about life in rural NT with our guides. Our guides were endless wells of knowledge about ecology, wildlife, and culture. For dinner, guests would come together for a shared 3-course meal and wine pairing to discuss the day's exciting wildlife sightings and cultural events. Ganesh and I opted for a special excursion into Kakadu with the lodge. Our guide had taken a 6-month course on the environmental, socio-cultural, and economic aspects of Kakadu National Park, which enhanced our educational experience! We picked Bamurru Plains, an Australian-owned and operated accommodation, as they have a solid commitment to the environment and socio-cultural respect for the surrounding Indigenous population through education and action. They do share land with a controversial cattle ranch. While a bit unsettling for me, it sparked healthy discussions among guests and staff about animal rights and invasive species. We had a great time and hope to return for the wet season. Where is a unique place you've stayed?

Frank from Rescuers Down Under is super cute in real life! I recently made Ganesh watch Disney’s Rescuers Down Under since it's my go-to movie about The Northern Territory and Australian wildlife. P.S. I was horrified that they never showed the animals getting rescued at the end of the movie. They could have given us some closure for a movie that explores illegal poaching and the wildlife trade. I have to tell myself it’s implied, and they all live happily ever after, but in reality, I AM NOT OK! Frank, my favorite character, was a Frill-neck lizard who was a small-brained unexpected hero in the movie. Naturally, I was thrilled to see one in real life. Our guide was also excited. He said it was the first one he had seen all season (and we visited right at the end of the season). They used to be a common occurrence in the area, but feral cats, invasive and poisonous cane toads, and habitat loss have caused a decline in their population. Invasive feral cats kill about 466 million Australian reptiles annually across 250 different species! Our guide said our spotting one was a good omen and that ongoing conservation efforts to control invasive feral species are working! We even saw 3 more throughout our trip! Go, frill-necks, go! Every time we spotted one, it would be enjoying a later afternoon sunbathing session. The closer we would get it would run away on its two hind legs like a bat out of hell. Australia is a haven for reptiles, home to at least 1020 species, or 10% of the world’s lizard and snake population. Many likely remain undiscovered. Almost 100% of their reptile species are found only in Australia. Many people think lizards and snakes are scary, but they are just trying to exist in this harsh and cruel world like you and me. 🐍Reptiles are the longest-lived animal; Jonathan hatched in 1832 and celebrated his 190th birthday! 🐍The oldest-known reptile was the Hylonomus which lived about 312 million years ago. 🐍Reptiles can lay eggs or have live births! 🐍They don’t sweat, which helps them conserve water in hot environments. 🐍While most commonly associated with warm climates, we have snakes here in B.C.! What is your favorite reptile?

🐊 Gingas, salties, or saltwater crocodiles have been around for about 85 million years 🤯with the Traditional Owners of Australia living alongside them for 65,000 years! 🐊 Their perseverance provides a false sense of security that the oldest reptile will be around forever. 🐊 In the 1900s, explosive and uncontrolled commercial hunting caused a 95% drop in the Australian population. Only a few thousand remained by 1970, ushering swift hunting and management regulations with the species remaining protected today. 🐊 It worked! The Ginga population in the Northern Territory, Australia, is stable or increasing, with over 100,000 in the wild. 🐊 Australia's leading conservation and management model benefits the species and rural communities through tourism, ranching, conservation, and education. Traditional owners rely on the species for bush tucker food and employment in conservation, management, egg collection, ranching, tourism, and scientific research. 🐊 Sadly, the global outlook is not as bright. Half of the world’s 24 crocodilian species are at risk of extinction from habitat loss/development, live-animal trade, pollution, logging, invasive species, hunting, and the rare leather black market. The critically endangered Philippines crocodile has only 100 left in the wild. 🐊 While crocodilians look scary, they are misunderstood and understudied. They have played an essential role in their relative ecosystems for millions of years, and to lose them suddenly after so many years would be tragic. As apex predators, they are a vital part of the food web and are culturally important. Their extinction could have large impacts on wetland and river biodiversity and productivity. 🐊 Education and awareness are key to their survival. As travelers, ensure you are aware of local crocodilian concerns in the regions you visit. Do not exacerbate conflict; support conservation. Ensure you are not purchasing souvenirs made from animal parts from at-risk species. Engage in sustainable ecotourism to see them in the wild - providing value for conservation. The IUCN specialist group on Crocodilians is a starting point for learning!

🍇 Agritourism in Mudgee! 🇦🇺 To wrap up my mini-series on agritourism, I want to share an in-depth look at sustainable agritourism in Mudgee, Australia. This can help you plan your next agritourism adventure, considering a region's environment and socio-cultural aspects while contributing to the local economy. 1. Socio-Cultural •From Sydney, we drove a scenic byway established by First Nations people. Unfortunately, the road is named after the first white man to trek the route. •The Wiradjuri People are the traditional landowners. Mudgee comes from their language, meaning “nest in the hills.” European colonization decimated their population. One clan had only 1 survivor. •We bought wine featuring First Nations artwork. •During our wine tastings, we engaged with the owners and employees, asking about local agricultural practices, concerns, and their way of life - learning (+&-) relationships with the land and surrounding community. 2. Environmental •We visited many vineyards committed to organic, biodynamic, vegan (wine), or regenerative farming practices. •Other vineyards were keen to share environmental information about the unique geological and climate features that allow them to produce certain types of wine. •Ganesh and I walked when we could like running 5km into town, rewarding ourselves with wine. •We visited a nearby nature reserve to learn about threatened species like the platypus, native turtles, native bees, and rare birds. 3. Economic •We checked into a locally-owned farmhouse on a working vineyard. •To ensure we had a sizeable economic impact while reducing the environmental impact, we stayed for 4 nights and 5 days. •We supported small wine producers, visiting small family-owned vineyards in rural small towns outside of Mudgee and visiting a Small Wine Producer tasting room. •To revitalize rural economies, we stopped at cafes, restaurants, and boutiques. •We normally go to Hunter Valley, a larger and more established region closer to Sydney. Venturing 5 hours NW of Sydney to a less commercial rural area meant our $ had a bigger impact. ➡️ Read more about sustainable agritourism: Click the link in my bio, then Agritourism.

You’ve heard me rave about agritourism - probably because I spend a significant amount of time in vineyards and wineries when I travel. But, what is it? ⭐SAVE THIS POST!⭐ For real, though, during our campervan trips in Europe last year, we mostly camped in vineyards, orchards, farms, and other rural agriculture spots. It was such a great way to stock up on fresh, local foods for our campervan, learn about rural cultures and traditions, explore nearby nature, and feel good about how we were spending our money - while maintaining a sustainable budget. Even before our campervan trip, I prioritized getting outside urban zones while traveling and immersing myself in rural life and agriculture. Doing this always allowed me to gain in-depth knowledge about the places I was visiting. Agritourism is a great way to engage in sustainable tourism that creates meaningful cultural and environmental connections, revitalizes rural economies, and supports economic diversification for agriculture businesses. But, there are certain things to consider to ensure your trip is actually sustainable and benefits the triple bottom line. 🗨️You’ve likely already participated in agritourism during your local or international travels; share some examples of your most memorable experiences in the comments. If you haven’t tried agritourism, what is one thing that excites you about trying it in the future? ➡️ I have a new post all about agritourism, click the link in my bio and then visit the Agritourism post! #agritourism #slowtravel #winetourism #ruraltourism #farmtourism #mindfultravel #naturelovers #sustainabletraveler #responsibletourism #travelslow #sustainabletravel #localtravel #travelwithpurpose #ecotourism #culturaltravel #heritagetravel #offthebeatenpath #agricamping #agriculture #ecotravel #responsibletravel

Recap: A week of indulgence and agritourism in the Mudgee wine region. Mudgee is a small, but growing wine region northwest of Sydney that should be on your radar.  I recommend checking into a farmhouse or glamping pod and staying awhile. That way, you can visit the numerous small towns nestled among the rolling hills, support small wine producers, and sample organic wine made using regenerative agricultural practices. The drive from Sydney takes you through the Blue Mountains, with plenty of chances to stop at national parks to stretch your legs. Agritourism in Mudgee is a great way to enjoy local products like wine and honey while boosting the rural economy and revitalizing small towns.  #mudgee #australia #mudgeeregion #visitnsw #exploreaustralia #agritourism #slowtravel #winetourism #newsouthwales

20 Amazing Things to do on a Long Car Ride

Because we’re about to hardcore swan dive into, count em, 20 of the most amazing things to do on a long car ride – activities that you never really considered before and that will help you transform your road trip into the journey of a lifetime. Okay, when I say “document your trip”, I know it sounds like I’m your sixth grade English teacher who is telling you to write a thousand word essay on your summer road trip. So, get creative and, like I said earlier, write a blog post about the trip, record daily activities in a travel journal, take photos, vlog it up and record some road trip videos, or buy a souvenir from cool places that you stop at along the way. And if this sounds even a little bit like you, then one of the best things to do on a long car ride is to talk about where you will travel next.

What is Tailwind and How Can I Use it to Skyrocket My Pinterest Traffic?

You can also schedule your pin to multiple boards at the same time by typing in the name of all the boards you would like to schedule the pin to into the tab that says “type a board name”. However, for even more in-depth information about your top-performing pins, click on the “Top Pins” tab of the “Insights” section and see not only what pins are doing the best on your profile, but see detailed information about impressions, closeups, saves, clicks, save rate, click rate and more. From here, select the Tribes you want to add this pin to (just check the box of each Tribe you want to submit to) and click the “Add to Tribe” button to confirm. * Use the Tribe Preview Button: Click on this button before you join a Tailwind Tribe to assess the quality of the pins in the Tribe and to see information in the Tribe Overview section on the number of reshares vs the number of repins from the Tribe.

23 Amazing Gifts for People Who Work from Home

Because it also comes with a durable steel flywheel, four non-slip rubber foot pads, an adjustable foot strap that can accommodate almost any size foot, and a fab little tension knob that allows you to easily adjust resistance levels to suit your personal fitness needs. So, if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to transform your sitting desk into an ultra-modern standing work station, then this VIVO stand up desk converter is the work from home gift of your dreams. Plus, this package actually comes with gift wrapping and personalized message options, making it feel a bit more personalized and like you actually put some thought into this gift. That’s why, if you’re looking for the perfect gift for people who work from home, then look no further than this awesome, Basic Concepts, Under Desk Footrest for just $23.95.

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