The vaccines are welcome news, but we're not in the clear yet. Until it's safe to travel, consider this newsletter inspiration for trips to come.

Next week is Climate Week NYC, the time and place to share environmental solutions and plans of action that individuals, businesses, and government can take to accelerate climate action (and fast). So it's fitting that today's guest, Paloma Zapata, is CEO of the nonprofit organization Sustainable Travel International, which is affecting change in the industry by maximizing tourism's "contribution to conservation." In this newsletter, Zapata talks about the current challenges she's facing, her travel happy place, and steps individuals can take to become better travelers. Does that last part sound enticing? You can dive in deeper at the Regenerative Travel Summit's three-day virtual meeting-of-the-environmentally-conscious minds. We're giving away ten tickets below.


Back at the Ranch, Canyon Meets Coast

The Ranch at Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach, California
Modern, $$ ($269)

Part of the problem with being the designated trip-planner in the group is trying to appease everyone's wishes, desires, and modes of operation. The morning people versus night owls. Mountain lovers versus beach bums. Active types versus athleisure types. When part of the group wants to do absolutely everything and part of the group wants to do absolutely nothing, send them all to Southern California.

At The Ranch at Laguna Beach, a boutique coastal ranch and spa in Orange County, water meets earth, canyons meet beach, golf meets surf, luxury meets eco-consciousness. And everybody wins.

The Vibe: Homesteading gets the OC treatment.

Standout Detail: The entire hospitality industry needs to get on track with sustainability. A special shout-out to those who lead: The Ranch installed an irrigation system utilizing reclaimed water for the resort grounds, a project expected to save over 21 million gallons of water annually in a region where droughts have increased dramatically over the years. The resort also organizes and hosts no-cost overnight camping experiences for Girl Scouts, the YMCA, and other non-profits on its property, providing gear, daytime activities, and mentorship.



Paloma Zapata
Climate Steward, Low-Impact Evangelist

What do you do?
I’m the CEO of Sustainable Travel International. We’re a nonprofit organization focused on transforming tourism’s impact on people and nature. At the end of the day, our goal is to protect incredible destinations and ensure that tourism is benefiting local communities. Some days I’m busy facilitating sustainability trainings or implementing projects in destinations. Other days I’m researching innovative solutions or collaborating with industry leaders.

What's the biggest work challenge you’re facing right now?
Right now, the greatest challenge is getting the tourism industry to take concrete action around climate change. As the latest IPCC report made apparent, we need to act now if we want to prevent climate change from devastating the places, natural resources, and communities that tourism depends on. At Sustainable Travel International, we’re raising awareness around climate-friendly travel practices. Through our Climate Rangers program, we’re helping companies go carbon neutral. Along with reducing emissions, we help travelers and tourism businesses offset carbon as a way to conserve ecosystems and promote cleaner energy.

What are the crucial considerations to make when planning a  trip?
There are so many things to consider! The most important thing is to always be aware of the impact that your actions are having on the people and places you are visiting. There are lots of simple ways to make a difference, from spending the time to immerse yourself in the destination to buying local products to reducing plastic consumption to utilizing low carbon transportation. We actually outlined our top 10 tips for sustainable travel in this blog post.

Any post-pandemic changes you'd like to see?
For far too long, tourism has taken more from destinations and communities than it has given back in return. As tourism builds back, I hope that sustainable travel is no longer perceived as a niche concept, and that it becomes embedded into every travel product. This begins by the industry rethinking its priorities and putting the needs of local communities and the environment first. Through our work with the Future of Tourism Coalition, we are working to support the industry in doing just this.

What's a travel trend you’re excited about?
Right now, I’m really excited to see the increasing buzz around carbon neutral travel. The long pause in travel gave people time to reflect on their impacts on the planet. Travelers want businesses to take responsibility for their environmental footprint and take action to restore the earth. As tourism continues to recover, I think that we are going to be seeing a lot of innovation and movement in this space!

Share some recent discoveries.
TV → I can't get enough of Trevor Noah and The Daily Showhe is witty and profound at the same time. Trevor's satirical commentary on world news is actually reassuring. I particularly like how he breaks down topics for easier understanding in the section “If You Don't Know, Now You Know.”

Books → I recently read a book called Food in History, and I learned so much about human civilization through the lens of how our gastronomy evolved — from the mastering agriculture to the demise of the Roman empire (by excess and indulgence), to the growth of world population through food industrialization. Now, I just picked up Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, equally fascinating and insightful. Reading about human history helps me understand the present and identify ways we can tackle human-caused impact.


Tell us about a place you are eager to visit. 
I have had the privilege of traveling far and wide, and my career has focused on supporting the most iconic and aspirational destinations of the world. I have trekked through the deep jungles of the Amazon, snorkeled with iguanas in the Galápagos, cycled through the majestic Angkor Wat complex, dove with Fijian reef sharks, swam in the colorful Caño Cristales river, danced with the Garifuna people, and so much more. I have made incredible memories and connections in all of these places, and would certainly go back to them, too. However, after living in Barcelona, Spain, for over 15 years, I have been yearning to explore more locally, and my current bucket list still includes visiting the Andalusian gem of Granada and visiting the Alhambra. I have always been fascinated by the Moorish heritage of Spain and particularly this architectural gem. So before the end of the year, I've made a promise to myself to staycation and head south to immerse myself in the exuberant culture.

Do you have a travel happy place?
My happy place is called Playa Bonita. It is located in the Peninsula de Samana of the Dominican Republic. For me, a “white Christmas” means a white sandy beach and crystal clear waters. Every year I pilgrimage to the Dominican Republic, the land where my parents and ancestors were born. And every New Year's day I walk and admire the natural beauty of Playa Bonita, grateful for the opportunity to start a new year.

What Fathom stories are resonating with you at the moment?
I couldn’t help but get caught up reading this story about all of the new hotels. After being stuck at home, it’s so fun to dream about escaping to one of these swoon-worthy destinations. I also enjoyed the different take on this year’s “Where to Go This Year” feature. As travel bounces back, I can only hope that more people focus on HOW to be a better traveler.


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