Monday, January 26, 2009

trippin' around bolivia

Call me biased, but Bolivia is one amazing country! Its diverse ecosystems, rich history, beautiful landscapes, distinct cultures, and friendly people (to name just a few) make way for fascinating travels and memorable experiences.

The magnificent Yungas--pictures really don't do them justice.

Yes, it's true, Bolivia is generally touted as a country for thrill seekers. A recent NY Times article, in fact, wrote that Bolivia is a great travel destination for "the young and daring who are willing to exchange safety, comfort and convenience for thrills on the cheap." But frankly, I think the press (and those of us who live here) often exaggerate Bolivia's dangerousness for dramatic appeal. Seriously, who doesn't like bragging rights!?

A half hour outside of La Paz, alpacas roam the barren foreground and snow covers the distant mountains.

In truth, there are many very safe and comfortable ways to experience the magic and wonder of Bolivia...without having to add the word "extreme" to your vocabulary (just ask my mother!!). This week, for example, I'm traveling with a relatively "high maintenance" gringo pal to Bolivia's world-famous Madidi National Park. Wanting a bonafide adventure without having to compromise safety or comfort, I've found a way for the both of us to satisfy all of our trip-to-the-rain forest expectations.

All to say that it's definitely possible to visit Bolivia without eyebrows raising or hearts pulsing. This April, for example, Carmen Pampa Fund and Augsburg College's Center for Global Education are sponsoring an all-inclusive, educational trip to my Bolivian backyard.

The trip, Working for the Common Good: Education and Development in Bolivia, will explore the indigenous Aymaran's concept of ayni--the mutual responsibility and sharing and protecting of resources on behalf of the common good. Of course, it will consider this concept and how, specifically, it relates to the mission and vision of the UAC-CP. It will be a way for the less-adventuresome to experience Bolivia outside the realm of peligro. People interested in learning more about this travel opportunity can contact me or Carmen Pampa Fund.

As with travel to anywhere, I have reminded my amigo del norte that despite our comfortably scheduled itinerary, he should definitely leave room in his suitcase for patience and a good sense of humor. Because, in the end, it wouldn't be a trip to the Bolivia I know and love without at least one flat tire!

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