Tested in the most extreme of environments by Robert Swan, the first person to walk to both North and South Poles, the GROUNDTRUTH RIKR range of bags were declared fit for polar expeditions. “I take great care and caution when choosing my expedition equipment as at times it can mean life or death. Everything I use needs to be trustworthy, durable and tough. If recycled plastic bottles can be made into materials that for the first time in polar history performed for us on a journey on foot to the South Geographic Pole, no one can ever doubt the durability of the GROUNDTRUTH Range.”

Rob Swan with the prototype of the RIKR 24L


The developer and designer of the amazing RIKR range of bags and accessories is GROUNDTRUTH Global and it has 3 sisters – Sophia, Nina and Georgia Scott – at its heart who not only believe that humanity and the environment are inextricably linked, they seriously “walk the talk.” From their commitment to fair labour practices within everything they do, to reducing and mitigating their carbon footprint, to minimizing pollution and preserving valuable natural resources, their inspiring approach has purpose and extends throughout their supply chain. The Life-cycle of each bag aims to leave our world a better place.

The RIKR bags and accessories harness a new generation of technologies to innovate, design and create a range of 100% recycled plastic from a textile called GT-RK-001. For those interested in protecting and repairing our environment, it’s a technical wonder manufactured from 100% recycled PET, using plastic waste collected from landfill sites, waterways and oceans worldwide.

The RIKR range includes the 24L Backpack, the Technical Tote, the Camera Bag, the Laptop, the Tech Pouch, a Card Holder, Key Chain and TShirtThey are made from 100% recycled plastics with a 15 year guarantee and carbon neutral with bluesign® manufacturing. Purchasing the entire RIKR range will have removed a total of 284 bottles of plastic from the environment.

24L Backpack


GROUNDTRUTH offsets their travels and electricity usage to produce the RIKR range with Wildlife Works through the Mai Ndombe REDD+ project based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) which protects over 740,000 acres of the world’s second-largest intact rainforest and is home to an array of biodiversity, including endangered forest elephants. Their supply chain works to record and reduce the impact of the manufacturing process, and track and offset the carbon output of all their activities through the principles of the bluesign® system and the Global Recycled Standard.

Two years and two South Pole expeditions later, Robert Swan used his GROUNDTRUTH backpack while training in the mountains of California and noted, “With the convenient access points and pockets, my day hikes here are the perfect terrain to put the bag through hot weather testing. The waist straps sit comfortably on my hips whilst navigating rocks and I can conveniently adjust the sternum strap across my chest. Using this bag gives me hope that we can innovate new technologies and help clean up some of the mess we make – knowing this bag has removed 120 plastic bottles from the environment demonstrates that we can all make a difference.”

15L Technical Tote


The team tested the RIKR 24L Backpack, Technical Tote and Camera Bag while travelling in the rugged Suisse alps, in the dunes of Holland, and in cities in Germany, France and Canada for several months, carrying a heavy load of digital devices and camera equipment on hikes, by car, train and in flights. Rain or shine and extreme weather, our items were well protected and the bags were comfortable to carry with adjustable straps and solidly built with many pockets that made organizing easy and uncomplicated. The size and multifunctional design are ideal for outdoor adventures, active business and personal use. Plus most important, the RIKR range of bags reflects the values of the NOW team who were proud to carry them.


Perfect for the adventurous traveller on the go and individuals that care about people and planet, the GROUNDTRUTH RIKR Range is stylish, mindful, durable and will most likely be the most sustainable, purpose packed, high performance bags you will ever own.

Note from NOW Founder: will only test and review selected items relevant to travel from brands with similar values.  NOW reviews are featured in CLEVER STUFF or BE WELL article.  They are published in for two weeks and included in the NOW Editorial Archive and promoted in NOW Social.

NOW reviews are not advertorials and we do not accept any monetary payment for the review.  The NOW team test items rigorously to check on promotional claims and do not return used items. 

The NOW Community prefer brands that reflect their deeply held personal values and sustainability with accountability and transparency is on top of the list.


120 Seconds with John Heller

John Heller is the Chief Executive Officer of Little Sun, a social enterprise with a misssion to design and deliver affordable clean energy solutions to communities without access to electric distribution networks in over ten African countries and inspire people to take climate action. He has also developed and led large-scale proograms to address issues such as child under-nutrition, clean water access, agricultural transformations, indigenous peoples rights and public health system strengthening

One word that describes You?


What project are you most proud of when it comes to sustainability?

The win-win-win nature of the Little Sun lamp: it is a practical way of improving people’s lives now, it reduces carbon and saves money, and it also tells a story of hope, symbolizing the renewable energy future we must create together.

Which is your favorite part of your job and which part do you enjoy the least?

Most: Unlocking hidden potential.

Least: Managing nitty-gritty details.

What is your personal indulgence?

Shopping for handwoven textiles in small villages and markets

In 2019, climate change activism sparked the support of millions worldwide and conscious people young and old protested, unified in their demand for governments and companies to take urgent action and reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025. Has Covid-19 lessened the urgency in 2020?

Not at all. All of these issues – climate, the pandemic, racial justice – are all connected. They all flow from the unconscious, unhealthy, unenlightened, unjust way we live. All that is happening now is a wake-up call. We all need to be activists for the same thing, a fair, just and sustainable world.

The united science warned us that we have less than 8 years left in our carbon budget and we will reach 1.5°C  (35.6 °F) above pre-industrial level.  This is half a degree away from severely destabilising our climate and worsening the climate extremes we are already experiencing today. Can we still prevent this? What must happen NOW to get people to change attitudes and behaviour? 

The solutions are ultimately political. Vote. Tell elected officials that your vote will be based on their climate record. We have to turn public will into political will and turn political will into policies and actions.

Beyond this, markets matter. Companies will follow consumer demand. Consumers should reward companies that are reducing carbon and operating sustainably with their business.

Finally our personal choices count. Power your home from renewable sources, wash your clothes in cold water, skip that flight, take small steps that add up and that remind you in all actions big and small that you are caring for the earth.

What would you say to those who do little to nothing for the good of communities and the environment?

I would ask them why, what’s the barrier? I suspect that millions if not billions of people want to do something for the environment but it is so overwhelming that they don’t know what to do or they feel that whatever they do won’t count. We can bring these people off the sidelines into the game, invite them to make small personal changes, to change the way the spend money, to get involved politically, make the threshold for engagement low.

How can we build a more stable and just world after the Covid-19 crisis?

Use the covid experience to show that we can all shift behavior when we need to, like the shift

we made to work online. Change is possible. Dramatically reverse the trend of income concentration, focus on redistributive fairness. Shift the global economic paradigm from perpetual growth and extraction to circularity and sustainability. Provide government and market incentives for green and blue economic development.

How are the next generation of leaders different from current ones?

There is, rightly so, more urgency, more electricity, more anger and more passion for a different and better world in the current/next generation of leaders. There is more willingness to question the fundamentals of the status quo than to push for changes at the margins.

What is your personal favorite place to stay that’s trying hard to be accountable and transparent around sustainability with no greenwash allowed? 

I have not actually stayed there, but I hear that Morgan’s Rock in Nicaragua is amazing.

What legacy would you like to leave behind from your leadership?

A shift from “working for” to “working with.” I want our work at Little Sun to be about accompaniment, working as equal partners, in relationships of trust and honesty and integrity with others. This involves a shift from mostly technical solutions to process solutions that are co-created in deep partnership with others, where all parties bring their unique assets and perspectives to create synergies and breakthroughs.

Who is your greatest influence?

I’ve gained so much from working with Otto Scharmer and the Theory-U community about learning from the future, about presence, about helping to give birth to what wants to be born.

Best advice you have been given?

I’ll share two:

  1. The answer to complexity is diversity. When we are solving complex problems, we need to tap the diverse perspectives and knowledge to find a way through.
  2. The most important force on earth is what we feel. What we feel drives our beliefs. What we believe drives what wedo. To change actions, we have to start with feelings.

Your best advice to the young generations concerned about their future?

Yesterday’s paradigms – the very thinking systems that determine how we live and the choices that we make – are seductive and powerful. They are so big as to be invisible. See them for what they are. Do not be seduced. Create your own paradigm.

Any regrets?


VIEW Clever Stuff article on Little Sun Charger and Lamp

Why I Love Alladale

I’ve always loved my visits to Alladale Wilderness Reserve, a whopping great 23,000 acres of dramatic mountains, gorse-clad hills and icy black lochs. I and my friends have done yoga retreats, fitness escapes and private stays here, and I’m constantly in awe of how inspirational the landscape is and what the team continues to achieve.

Alladale is a world-leading re-wilding project where to date, 920,000 native trees have been planted and several flora, fauna and animal species have been reintroduced including the red squirrel and Scottish wild cat. Ambitious plans are afoot to create a South-African-style game reserve in which apex predators including the wolf are released into a controlled area. And it has a zero electricity footprint on account of its hydro-generator.  Twelve full time local staffed are employed by the reserve to ensure eco-localism.  Recycling of waste is extensive.  And 2019 has seen them begin a new project whereby greenhouse aquaponics vegetable gardens are grown using water tanks fertilised by fish.

The Lodge at the centre of the reserve is a sturdily built Victorian stone house surrounded by woods and lawns on which the local stags come to graze – on one rather wild fitness retreat, I turned a blind eye to the fact that I was actually rolling in stag poo (I had my waterproofs on, naturally). Keep your eyes peeled for wilder species that pass through on occasion. Inside the lodge there’s a well proportioned sitting room with a log fire, enveloping sofas and sturdy armchairs and a large dining room appropriately lit by stag antler chandeliers and six traditional, comfortable ensuite rooms. As the elements rule up here, you’ll also find a drying room stuffed with wellies, walking boots, walking sticks and waterproofs in case you forget your own. At the back of the building is a less attractive modern extension with a sauna, small gym, snooker room and studio space for cooler or rainy days, and massage treatments can be arranged on site with local therapists.

Various wellbeing retreats are hosted throughout the year at the lodge, two high end self catering cottages or a more remote and recently refurbished bunkhouse, including extreme outdoor fitness programmes such as extraordinary Wim Hof Method retreats. Otherwise you can hire the property for a total digital detox with friends in dramatic natural surroundings.

Hiking, bird watching, mountain biking, fishing and more can be arranged with Alladale’s expert rangers, who will also offer you a tour around the amazing re-wilding project – seeing what was a barren landscape restored to its former glory can be both an inspirational and healing experience.

Find a remote picnic spot reachable only with a 4×4, and enjoy dishes cooked by head chef Natasha Buttigieg who uses local, seasonal, high-quality ingredients to create flavoursome dishes. Many guests are keen to try venison from the reserve – a lean meat as ethically sourced as it is possible to get. 

Whatever the reason for your visit, remember the weather in the Highlands of Scotland is hugely unreliable – so you could get brilliant sunshine, but then again you could get hail, mist, drizzle and rain – sometimes all in one day. That said, Alladale has its own micro-climate, with above average (for Scotland) sunny, clear and rain-free days. Be sure to pack for all weathers.


Summer 2020 at Alladale Wilderness Reserve

After weeks of cooking at home (with maybe the odd takeaway), even the most enthusiastic home chefs are ready for a break. Thankfully, Alladale Wilderness Reserve is offering hassle-free holidays where cooking is off the menu. The fully-catered stays are available at Alladale’s four lodges and cottages in the Scottish highlands, which are ideal for exclusive use groups of between 2 – 20 guests. 

Alladale Lodge reservations are all-inclusive, and week-long cottage stays come with a fully stocked kitchen and freshly prepared meals. Leaving guests more time to enjoy the dramatic glens, glistening rivers and native wildlife. Be inspired by multiple wildlife projects and native tree planting, or get hiking, foraging and fishing in this 23,000-acre utopia.

What is on the Menu?

Alladale’s chef Natasha Buttigieg prides herself on using the organic produce from the Reserve, as well as supporting local suppliers. Ethically culled wild venison is available together with local game, fresh and wild caught seafood and local trout. 

Time your visit for late summer and enjoy the first harvests from Alladale’s new Aquaponics gardens.  Natasha will be using the vegetables, salads, herbs and berries produced in the gardens throughout her dishes. Visit in August and enjoy freshly foraged Girolles.

The gardens will eventually feature three large greenhouses, 150 brown trout, 3 bee hives, and a variety of fruit trees that have been acclimated to the Highlands.  The greenhouses will be powered by Alladale’s own hydro-generator, making it a zero waste and zero emissions, ethical food production scheme. 

Accommodation Options

 Larger families & group reunions: Alladale Lodge (exclusive use)

This Victorian lodge comes fully catered and serviced, with Natasha serving up three amazing daily meals in the large dining room. Extras include a sauna, gym and snooker room.  Costs from £272 pp per night, full-board, based on a three-night stay for 12 guests.


Those staying in the cottages can have meals prepared and ready to put in the oven. Breakfast kits include ready-to-pour pancake mix, ingredients for a fully cooked, and healthy fruits, granola and yoghurts. 

Couples and small families: Ghillie’s Rest

A two-bed cottage alongside the River Alladale. Costs from £1,990 per week (minimum 7 night stay). Daily catering with breakfast ingredients: £85 (children £50) per person per day

Multi-gen family trips or small groups: Eagle’s Crag

A three-bedroom cottage in the cradle of Glen Alladale. £2,990 per week. Daily catering with breakfast ingredients:  £85 (children £50) per person per day.

Large Groups (sleeps up to 18): Deanich Lodge

If being off-grid is most important to you, then consider Deanich Lodge – one of the remotest lodges in Scotland. Hidden away in the heart of the Reserve, the rustic former hunting lodge has enviable views of the surrounding glens. Prices start from £2,750 per week for up to 8 guests (self-catering)

Is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) heading for a revolution in the name of sustainability and wellbeing?

What will you think of when you’re invited to visit the new jewel in the Middle Eastern crown? The Amaala resort on the unblemished Red Sea Coast of Saudi Arabia is being touted as an embryonic symbol of re-positioning the Middle East.  The new development anchors are wellbeing and sustainability and the experiences being created are considered to be unmatchable and world defining.  Of course, no one could have foreseen the Covid-19 pandemic or indeed, the far-reaching impact and re-imagining of future living (and spending) that has now been given an empty highway for reset.

There are opposing views of what economic recovery will look like. For the optimists, a V-shaped recovery scenario is being hoped for, others believe (labeled as pessimists) this is delusional. The truth will out.


The Public Investment Fund (PIF) is the cash fund behind the development of Amaala and is in pursuit of becoming the worlds ‘most impactful investor’.  Whilst the coronavirus pandemic is decimating economies throughout the world, PIF has moved up a gear in search of lucrative buys. From Live Nation and Carnival to BP, Boeing, CityGroup and Facebook to name but a few. Hindsight will decree whether these are wise opportunities seized or a white elephant but they are demonstrating their increased dominance and fire power.

 The uncertain times that we’re in are unlikely to disappear in short order. We’re already seeing a magnified and accelerated focus on the issues that were already in play pre Covid-19; rising inequality, climate change and global health challenges topped the scale then, more so now.  And in turn, consumer behaviour will dictate the response to any proposition that feels tasteless or vulgar; ‘considered consumption’ is doubling down on conscious lifestyle choices and purchases that negatively affect people and planet. There was a backlash during the 2008/9 recession against lavish spending and an element of ‘luxury shame’ – will that be back and will it be more sustained? We don’t yet know.

The Amaala development will contain 2,500 luxury hotel rooms, 200 retail establishments, art galleries, marinas and 700 villas along with a dedicated airport and their target market is Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWI). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia appears to be changing but will it evolve fast enough to satiate the growing dynamic of consumer consciousness? There are a few things to note that are contributory to the change I mention;

Women are now allowed to drive. They can even do so without the permission of their father, brother or husband but at the same time, there are several female activists still in jail because of the demonstrations and passion they participated in to make this possible.

There is evident diversity beginning to emerge toward a touristic hub and the ‘Riviera of the Middle East’. Undisclosed investment in the Amaala development  is happening within the nature reserve (on the Red Sea coast) owned by the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS). It is scheduled to be complete by 2028 and it is reported that it will have its own infrastructure, rules and laws, not dissimilar to the liberal feel of Dubai, at least on the surface. A stunning new dedicated airport has recently been announced to add to the exclusivity of the Amaala experience.

MBS, the de facto leader of KSA believes the Middle East can be the ‘new Europe’ – he was quoted from the Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh in October 2018 as saying “I believe the new Europe is the Middle East … Saudi Arabia in five years will be completely different”.  That may be opinion rather than fact but at the very least, it suggests a fundamental shift: not only in how Saudi Arabia is perceived but of how it operates, through legislation, political policy and building bridges destroyed by the Machiavellian actions of late. Will recovery from that be real in the midst of growing awareness amongst consumers?

How will those collective aspects resonate with you?  By the time the resort is fully open in 2028 one would expect consciousness amongst the luxury traveller segment to be deeper and even more discerning than it is now. The world is a smorgasbord of extremes – none less than the prickly ‘elephant in the room’ polarity that is the rise in travel and the simultaneous damage to the planetary ecosystem.  IATA forecasted pre Covid-19 that without government led protectionist measures, by 2037 there will be 8.2 billion air travellers – close to double the 4.3 billion in 2018.  This should be a concern for every country and company involved in travel but for KSA in particular, their target consumers are the ones epitomising the awakened, purposed, bona fide transformation seeking people. The Covid pandemic adds another layer of consciousness for all travellers, the future of travel is yet to be seen but the old issues of over-tourism have changed to under-tourism and under spending.


The Amaala project is not only a large scale tourism hub but also a national pursuit.  What if the de facto King saw an opportunity to shine in a world where the narrative and actions of peers and governments suggest regression over progress?  What if the KSA vision of the ‘new Europe’ isn’t just window dressing but a reflection of radical policy and legislation re-invention? What if KSA makes it their mission to be an inclusive beacon that cuts through global division and becomes the epitome of the still elusive ‘new normal’ for rooted wellness policy and the wellbeing of all citizens regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or religion?

If the project and the country is set on delivering the lofty declarations it describes, they will present a country and a destination that is transformation incarnate. If they can manage it, the result will be a poster child model of modernisation, revolution, and reinvention.

What do conscious travellers want today?

We are living at a time when intersecting crises and threats are reaching tipping points at a global scale, with climate destabilization, environmental degradation, veiled levels of inequality, as well as soaring public health risks, conflicts, populism and economic uncertainties.

Covid-19 is both an urgent warning and galvanizing moment. The enforced pause in tourism has been devastating as it surges and declines, but it may be the interruption needed for nature to have some breathing space and for us to ask ourselves some difficult questions. ‘It takes darkness to see the stars’ and the traumatic respite, hardships and loss must serve a purpose and must unleash the capacity of each person and company in tourism to become a life-affirming change envoy that restores, vitalizes and be worthy of consumer trust. The negative business-as-usual suicidal path that extracts and exploits must stop.

Globally, the growing importance of sustainability is now ingrained in the strategies of many industries and seen as a key business driver and risk mitigation. But, lagging behind in seriously “walking the talk” is the fragmented travel industry. In the hotel sector over the past few decades, more Hotel Owners and Operators fixated on sustainability, not for people and planet or because it is ‘the right thing to do’, but for cost savings, economic incentives, regulatory affairs and corporate brand image. And there are a few inspiring Owners and Operators, individuals with purpose and heart who truly stands out and they are taking responsibility for their total impact on communities and the environment with accountability and transparency.

In a refreshingly honest dialogue void of spin, Regional VP and GM, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru – Armando Kraenzlin, and Environment Coordinator – Faisal Ibrahim – were recently interviewed by sustainability journalist and writer Juliet Kinsman. Many journalists from the UK and countries around the world joined for a ‘deeper dive’ uncomfortable conversation focused on sustainability.

View to learn what the inspiring Four Seasons Resorts Maldives is doing to advance sustainability with accountability and transparency alongside what else the industry could and should do in this new era of travel.

For 20 years, Armando Kraenzlin’s deep commitment to sustainability from an environmental, cultural and social standpoint has helped pioneer many of the Maldives’ most notable initiatives to date: the country’s first TVET-recognised Apprenticeship Program (with 600 graduates since 2002): the first Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, now 10 years old with close to 300 admissions so far; the first coral reef-scaping project in 2001, a project that has boosted the natural reefs around Four Seasons’ two Maldivian resort islands with more than 5,000 transplanted reef structures and inspired a country-wide program of coral reef-scaping.

On-site water bottling plants, Parley-linked community recycling programs, solar energy installations, health initiatives, community outreach projects, nationwide community-focused sports events and support for the Maldives’ last remaining lacquerware producers are just a few of the other ‘day-to-day’ initiatives that he spearheads.

The ripple effects spread outwards from the Resorts through guest-focused activities designed to transform people’s own sense of connection to the world around them: from days spent researching manta rays to coral reef transplanting, Junior Marine Savers experiences to wildlife monitoring dives.

The team at Four Seasons Resorts Maldives is committed to doing more to advance sustainability in all its forms. Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru is the first of 3 properties to implement the EarthCheck Evaluate programme with Earth Rating certification in partnership with the NOW Force for Good Alliance. Check out their total impact assessments and some glorious sustainable inspiration.

As part of the Sustainability Task Force within Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Armando Kraenzlin is boldly urging other properties to move and step up.  He pointed out that hotel managers and their team have the ability and power to create change and believes that as hoteliers, their job is also to make sure that if guests are sceptical about climate change, that when they leave, they are a champion to the cause.

Today, being well intentioned is no longer enough. Consumers and investors are now aware of climate change risks and the many threats upon us, and are more demanding of businesses to adopt sustainable business practices. NOW has raised the bar on accountability and transparency around sustainability which we define as ‘wellbeing of people and the planet’, and the goal for hotels is to be carbon positive and support the Sustainable Development Goals. Rigorous sustainability should be a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in every hotel, in addition to the extra mile cleanliness and safety guests expect before, during and after the coronavirus pandemic. 

As hotels navigate through the Covid-19 crisis and reopen for business this summer, most announced their aim to safeguard the ‘wellbeing’ of all guests and employees. Yet strangely, the key message of most hotels is about safety and social distancing, cleaning and disinfection protocols! These are our minimum expectations!

Conscious travellers want more. We yearn for travel with meaning and purpose and seek more sustainable choices. We want to indulge in authentic experiences that are representative of local cultures and we want the money we spend to go back into the local community. We dream of and seek transformative, meaningful and experiential travel whether we are in a city or in adventurous wildlife explorations and retreats. We want experiences that connect us deeply to the natural world, rich cultures, beautiful communities, and most importantly, ourselves.  And we want to stay in places we can trust, operated by those who understand that this is the true definition of luxury, and it is not new or a trend, it is a commitment from the heart to ensure the wellbeing of people and planet.

Mintel, a market intelligence agency, shared their insight on the big shifts in behavior revealed in their 2030 Consumer Trends Report as COVID-19 brought the future a decade forward.  On wellbeing (seeking physical and mental wellness), we are experiencing a collective grief globally and while much of what is felt today is temporary, there will be lasting impacts on individual wellbeing. It takes on new meaning and holistic health is no longer just about the whole human, or even the whole human community, but the whole human biosphere. On experiences (seeking and discovering stimulation), people in lockdown worldwide have been forced to appreciate this new state of slowness. Consumers will seek new ways to find fulfillment, comfort and reassurance, placing an even greater emphasis on experiences over things, and the value of the human connection. On identity (understanding and expressing oneself and place in society), elements once hidden from public display will be more openly shared. Consumers will emerge from social distancing having been forced to look at themselves and their priorities in a new way to determine what’s worth returning to once things get back to “normal,”  and will be even more empowered to stand up for the brands and causes that most align with their values. On rights (feeling respected), corporate ethics will no longer be a “nice to have,” but a “must-have”, and public demand for action will peak as more global social movements develop.

It must be NOW!


Message from NOW Founder:

Worldwide, these other inspiring NOW Force for Good Alliance properties are also in the forefront of rigorous sustainability and are led by courageous and big-hearted people who are doing better. They are at different levels in their sustainability journey, ranging from those that have just started out, to those that have been committed for decades. All of them are stepping up, showing progress, stopping the greenwash and being ‘the best’ they can be right now for our world.

Soneva with properties in Thailand (Soneva Kiri) and Maldives (Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani) is the original barefoot luxury inspiration and the benchmark for responsible tourism; and they offer a slower, more appreciative lifestyle to reconnect with oneself and the natural environment.

In Asia: The self-supporting Genghis Khan Retreat in inner Mongolia is a meeting place for nature lovers and polo enthusiasts that support a Mongolian community and the education and training of young Mongol polo players.  The Legian Seminyak in Bali is a sanctuary in the sand, active in supporting regional environmental and philanthropic organisations.

In EuropeThe Alpina Gstaad is an alpine spa hotel that combines passion and an innovative sustainability vision and The Dolder Grand is ever forward thinking and inspiring with a sustainable approach in an exclusive setting above Lake Zurich, Switzerland. The legendary Grand Hotel Huis Ter Duin in Holland  (Big House On The Dunes) is family owned and managed by three generations committed to doing better for their community and the environment.  Kasbah du Toubkal is a rebuilt fortress and mountain retreat in the village of Imlil in Marrakech, Morocco support the local community and providing an authentic and inclusive local experience.

In the UKThe Hari London offers conscious family-style hospitality and actively encourages guests’ expression of their own cultural heritage whilst enjoying British traditions.  Whatley Manoris a delightful family-owned spa hotel in the Cotswolds passionately committed to making real changes so it can operate in a more sustainable way. Alladale Wilderness Reserve in the Scottish Highlands aims for guests to reconnect with nature in the longest standing rewilding projects in the UK.

In MexicoBanyan Tree Mayakoba in the Riviera Maya Mexico have an emphasis on being in harmony with nature and contributing to the growth and development of the community.

In the USA: The family owned and contemporary Beechwood Hotel in Worchester, Massachusetts just begun its journey to becoming more sustainable and is committed to making ongoing changes.

Many more inspiring and extraordinary hotel operators have joined the  NOW Force for Good Alliance and can soon be viewed HERE.

My Journey in the World of Covid-19

I consider myself aexperienced travellerWith Canadian expatriate parents in the hotel and media industry living in Asia, I took my first flight when I was 6 months old and not a year has gone by in my 30 years when I have not flown through the skies at least once. I have also travelled and lived in countries reeling from tragedies such as the terrorist attack in Mumbai back in November 2008 and the repeated bombings in Bali during my younger years. 

In early 2020, I travelled to Hong KongIndia, the UK and then Switzerland where my travel paused in March as travel bans resulted in massive flight cancellations and airport closures worldwide.  The Covid-19 pandemic is something we all have in common and it has disrupted our world and global economies, and our lives are now filled with uncertainties as cases rise and fall, then surge again in different countries.

finally returned to Toronto via Lisbon on July 3rd I am used to the sights and sounds of a bustling, loud and chaotic international airports during summer months.  While none of the airports on my journey have been ghost towns and some people are indeed still travelling, it was oddly quiet considering the season. There was little to no line-ups in Check-In counters, Security and Immigration. The only line-up was the temperature check line which I had to go through to leave Lisbon airport for one night.  Most airport stores except for Duty Free in Geneva and Lisbon were closed and so were 90% of eateries in the food court in Lisbon Airport.  

It is clear that airlines are struggling right now and it’s going to be a rough year for the travel industry. Many flights have been cut and my flight to Toronto was half full. I found some of these travel tips helpful:

12 Travel Tips To Help Travellers Stay Safer When Flying During COVID-19:

Request an aisle seat

Well, I didn’t ask for it but I had a whole row to myself, which was pretty amazing for economy during summer season and it almost made up for having to wear those infernal masks.

Wear a mask throughout the entire flight to help protect yourself from any airborne particles.

It was mandatory to wear the immensely uncomfortable masks in the airports and during the flight which I loathe even though I understood why the rules are in place. Wearing masks for over 8 hours with short breaks for food is horrible, especially with glasses since I had to spend half my day in a blind fog. I gained even more respect for the medical team in the front line who have to wear full PPE gear.  

Practice social distancing as much as possible, both at the airport and on the flight.

The airport definitely tried to make sure people kept their distance and they succeeded since the airport was quite empty.

Keep purses and other small carry on bags closed and zipped up as much as possible, as this can be a source of exposure.

I always do this, last thing you want in a plane is your stuff going all over the place due to turbulence.

Use disinfecting wipes to sanitise your seat, seat belt, windows, and tray tables before being seated.

I expect the airlines to sanitise the entire plane before a flight.  We were not provided any disinfecting wipes by the airlines, though I did bring some myself. 

Use a wipe or paper towel to open and close high traffic, high touch areas like the overhead compartment, tray tables, restroom doors, etc.

I am terrible at remembering to do stuff like this and I am still working on developing the habit. Also, few travellers travel with that much supply and disposal of contaminated wipes and paper towel is another problem.

Use hand sanitiser throughout the flight after touching any surfaces, including the overhead bin, tray table, arm rests, etc.

This is impossible!  Airlines do not provide them onboard and no one travels with that much sanitizer and there is a 100ml limit on the size of items allowed onboard a flight.  If travellers needed to wipe down everything every time we touched it, we would be doing nothing else. We are touching surfaces all the time!  Sanitizers are also flammable!

Try to avoid using the bathroom on the plane, but if you are on a longer flight and that isn’t possible, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly.

There’s no way anyone can fly for over 8 hours long haul and not go to the bathroom.  I did wash my hands though. 

Stay hydrated! This will allow your mucous membranes to function more efficiently. After your flight, wash your hands right away and blow your nose. You can also use a saline spray to maintain a moist protective barrier.

I always travel with a water bottle since I get thirsty on flights.  I did wash my hands again as soon as I got off the flight.

Take a protective vitamin with immune boost – doses of vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals have shown definite improvement in immune response.

I had a multivitamin the day I left Switzerland and I should have brought the bottle with me, …whoops!

Bring your own freshly laundered or purchased travel pillow and blanket.

I did not … and I didn’t see anyone bring their own either.   I didn’t use the ones on the airline either since I don’t sleep on most flights and this one was a mostly a day flight.

Wash your face and hands with soap for a minimum of twenty seconds after the flight.

I did soon after getting off my flight, but I didn’t see many others doing the same. 

Toronto Airport was also quiet and I was required to fill out forms with instructions about 14 days of self-isolation and the penalties involved.  In all honesty, was truly sad to witness and experience travel this way.  I’ve seen destinations suffer from tragic circumstances before, but this isn’t just a destination, this is happening everywhere which is heart breaking. We are also, once again, having to regress and use so much single-use plastics and disposables. 

Airlines claim their airplanes are safe from virus contamination, but they are not.  If one is truly concerned or vulnerable, it is best to avoid airplane travel for now.

As I write this blog, I am in my 5th day of self-isolation. I hope all of my fellow travellers stayed well after their flight and during these difficult times.  A part of me looks forward to the days when I can once again complain about the guy next to me who was hogging the armrest and how the flight is pack full like a sardine can with no empty seat in sight.