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The Tranquilo Traveler

The Tranquilo Traveler is a celebration of voluntourism, slow travel, and other interesting ways to see the world. Travel writer and award- winning Moon Handbooks author Joshua Berman created The Tranquilo Travel as a resource for world trippers and international volunteers, a window to the author’s travels in Nicaragua, Belize, and beyond, and an update of his books and articles.

Round-up of summer travel programs for teens in Latin America

Username By Joshua | April 17th, 2014 | Comments No Comments »

In honor of April, National Volunteer Month, here is a guest post by my friend, Neshama Abraham, who just went through the process of signing up her teenage daughters for summer volunteer programs. Here’s what she learned:

PHOTO: courtesy Campfire Creative; Ben Lewis and Alex Alonso of San Jose, California, builds a retaining wall at the local school in Ollantaytambo, Peru during a two week service trip last summer.

Guest Post By Neshama Abraham

In March 2014, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke from China and emphasized the importance of youth traveling abroad to become global citizens:

“Immersion in another country’s culture does more than help a student’s job prospects,” she said. “It’s also about shaping the future of your countries and of the world we all share. Because, when it comes to the defining challenges of our time — whether it’s climate change or economic opportunity or the spread of nuclear weapons — these are shared challenges. And no one country can confront them alone. The only way forward is together.”

Indeed, participants describe a boost to their self-confidence, improved language skills, and a new world-view from their volunteering abroad. Read the rest of this entry »

Guide to Volunteering in Latin America Free in April for National Volunteer Month

Username By Joshua | April 4th, 2014 | Comments No Comments »

volunteer in latin america

Travel guide publisher Moon Handbooks is giving away free ebook copies of its newest niche guidebook, Volunteer Vacations in Latin America by Amy E. Robertson. (Download the entire book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo.) It’s all in celebration of In honor of April, National Volunteer Month.

As anyone who has ever volunteered abroad before knows, it is crucial to do your own research before you sign up. Robertson’s new book is a resource which makes that process easier - and more fun, since it is always fun to read guidebooks before you travel.

My travels in Latin America began in 1998 as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer, working with the Ministry of Education in Nicaragua for two years, and continued as a trip leader for American Jewish World Service, guiding groups of young volunteers throughout Central America. So  I was excited to see that Robertson had devoted an entire book to volunteer opportunities in the region. She covers Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile.

I asked Robertson a few questions about writing this book and about where my readers and I should go on our next volunteer vacation.

JOSHUA BERMAN: What is unique about volunteering in Latin America? Why did you choose to focus this book on this particular region/collection of countries?

AMY E. ROBERTSON: I love Latin America’s rich culture and heritage (Mayans! Incas! Aztecs!), the beauty of its natural environment (Beaches! Volcanoes! Galapagos Islands! Patagonia!), and the warmth of its people. Having lived in Latin America for eight years, it is a region that is very close to my heart. It is also close enough to North America - where Moon Handbooks and many of their readers are based - to easily embark on short-term volunteer adventures, which are the focus of the guide.  No jet-lag, and you can reach many of the destinations covered in the guide with just a few hours flight.

JB: What was the most interesting thing you learned while researching this book?

AR: While many of us are aware of the large US-based organizations that offer service trips, I was amazed to see how many small local initiatives are equipped and eager for international volunteers. In addition to the usual volunteer suspects of teaching English or protecting sea turtles, there is a wealth of truly unique volunteer opportunities out there: planting cardons to help provide food for the endangered chinchilla population in Chile; installing solar panels to provide electricity to rural communities in Nicaragua; monitoring the coral reef by scuba diving in Honduras; offering swimming and surf lessons along with environmental education to youth in Peru.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Joke! Humor researchers travel 91,000 miles for laughs, Humor Code book out today

Username By Joshua | April 1st, 2014 | Comments No Comments »


As a strong promoter of “travel with a purpose,” I can’t wait to read this book about Joel Warner’s and Peter McGraw’s five-continent  experiment to see how comedy travels through cultures. After three years of work, The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny hits bookstores today, April 1. I promise an actual review of the book when I get my hands on a copy, but for now, congratulations to Joel and Peter, and thank you for this free PDF sample of Chapter 1: “COLORADO,” courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Follow the Humor Code: or @thehumorcode

Category: Travel

Denver Post “Around Colorado” column: Maya Time Travel at Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Username By Joshua | March 17th, 2014 | Comments No Comments »
maya denver


I’m feeling very kid-in-a-candy-store as I push through the door into “Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed,” a massive exhibit in the new wing of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

—March 16, 2014

Category: Travel, Colorado

Denver Post “Around Colorado” column: Breakfast

Username By Joshua | February 27th, 2014 | Comments No Comments »


Sunrise comes quickly in Lucky’s Cafe, a cozy, east-facing eatery in north Boulder. In an instant, the day’s first butter-yellow rays blast through the windows, splashing color onto the sides of diners’ faces and their raised forkfuls of eggs. Read the rest in the Denver Post, Feb. 16, 2014.

Writing this column inspired me to create and curate a “Wanderlist” on the same subject in my Colorado guide, a work in progress, but here’s a greasy morsel for you: MILE-HIGH BACON TRAIL

Category: Travel, Colorado

Denver Post “Around Colorado” column: skiing at Eldora

Username By Joshua | January 20th, 2014 | Comments No Comments »

josh berman travel writer skiing eldora

Eldora Mountain Resort close to Denver, like a backyard ski area

It’s a balmy 57 degrees in Boulder Valley, but in 47 minutes flat, I am up the canyon and boot-clomping across the parking lot at Eldora Mountain Resort, suited up for cold and wind at over 9,000 feet.

As always, there’s no line at the main lift — not even on this sunny day during a holiday! — and the Challenge triple chairlift scoops me up less than an hour after I left my home. The view of the Indian Peaks Wilderness is stunning, reminding me once again that, yes, I live in the Rocky Mountains…. (read the rest)
—Denver Post, January 19, 2104

Read the rest of my Denver Post columns.

Category: Travel, Colorado

8 Ways to be an Informed Giver: Q&A with Nonprofit Director Rodney McDonald

Username By Joshua | December 23rd, 2013 | Comments No Comments »

How do you know—without a doubt—that your donation is going to the right cause? How do you know that your money will be well spent and effective? “The answer begins with doing a little research”, says Rodney McDonald, Director of Emergency Response Services for Latin America (ERSLA:, a non-profit organization based in Estelí, Nicaragua.

Photo by Henrietta Still. Rodney McDonald unloading a shipment of fire hose to firefighters in Nicaragua.

McDonald has been on the dirty front lines of development work for a decade, based in Nicaragua since his service in the Peace Corps there from 2002 to 2004. McDonald founded ERSLA in 2006; to date,he has helped deliver several tons of much needed firefighting equipment to Nicaragua and has worked on water purification projects that have provided over 1800 families with safe drinking water. He has worked with many other good people and organizations, and some not-so-effective ones. I asked him what people should know who are thinking about making a year-end (or any time of year) donation. Following were his eight top tips.

ersla2.jpg1. Do your homework: All registered non-profits in the United States are required to file a form 990 with the IRS. This is to insure that they aren’t working for profit, but are at least attempting to perform the task they are registered to accomplish. Like most information submitted to the IRS, this form is very complicated but does contain valuable information for the donor. This form is also required by the IRS as part of the non-profit status to be available to the public. This information can be found in many locations, including the following sites: Give Well, Guide Star and Great Non-profits Read the rest of this entry »

Tranquilo Travel Gear: 9 Items for the Slopes in 2014

Username By Joshua | December 19th, 2013 | Comments No Comments »

goggle selfie joshua berman
Photo: Joshua Berman. Selfie in ski instructor’s goggles.

“The weather can get a little rough at times,” understates Craig Simson, Ski Patrol Director at Keystone Resort, Colorado, who begins each workday with a seven o’clock briefing at the summit of Dercum Mountain. “At our elevation—9,280 to 13,000 feet above sea level—temperatures go well below zero degrees through February.”

Being prepared, says Simson, is a matter of proper layering and efficient, lightweight gear. But it can be a challenge to keep up with new technology and styles. Since few people on the planet are better prepared for harsh winter elements than Simson and his colleagues, I asked a few outdoor winter professionals what they’ll be wearing on the slopes in 2014.

1. Insulation

As anyone who has ever played outside in the mountains knows, even though conditions change rapidly, there is no such thing as bad weather—only improperly layered clothing. I’m a big fan of natural underlayers like wool and/or silk. Nau makes an insulating merino wool–blend M2 Hoody, in which I plan to live this winter. When checking the forecast for the day’s adventure, Simson stresses the ability to add or shed appropriate layers, and the importance of wearing material with dimpled air pockets.

“Air equals insulation,” he says, before telling me about Patagonia’s R1–R4 four-level layering system—R1 “core warmth” through R4 windproof. “On really cold days, I’ll wear an R4 with the Helly Hansen H2 Flow jacket under my uniform,” he says. Read the rest of this entry »

Contest to win Cigar Safari trip for two to Nicaragua!

Username By Joshua | December 11th, 2013 | Comments No Comments »


My friends at Drew Estate Cigars, one of the largest producers of high-quality, hand-crafted cigars in Nicaragua, are offering an all-inclusive trip for two to their factory in Nicaragua. The factory is located just outside the city of Estelí, in the beautiful, green, northern highlands of Nicaragua, the region where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer many moons ago. Their facilities include a handful of rooms, swimming pool, and private bar, for hosting small groups of cigar lovers from around the world. I stayed there once and made this short travel video, the setting is stunning.

The contest—which runs through December 23, 2013 (they’ll announce the winner on Christmas Day)—is sponsored by Richard Crawford, “a luxury lifestyle expert who provides content for the marketing of luxury brands,” according to his bio. Crawford is announcing the launch of his company, Richard Crawford Luxury, by giving away two tickets to join him in Nicaragua in March 2014 where he’ll be shooting a video on cigars.

The Richard Crawford Luxury Cigar Safari giveaway includes flight, meals, transportation in Nicaragua, accommodations, cigars, and cigar classes. To enter:

cigars-joshuaberman-202.jpg Read the rest of this entry »

Category: Travel, Nicaragua

Statue at DIA reminder of travel’s surprises: My column in the Denver Post

Username By Joshua | December 11th, 2013 | Comments No Comments »


My children are small and innocent. Until they’re a few years older, my wife and I are trying to shelter them from all things evil. Seeing a big blue horse is enough of a novelty for them. They don’t need to know that the beast’s nicknames include “Blucifer,” “DIAblo” and “Satan’s Steed.”


Category: Travel, Colorado
About the Author
Joshua BermanJoshua Berman is an award-winning author for Avalon Travel Publishing's Moon series. He is a writer, editor, and trip leader, based in Central America and Boulder, Colorado. Learn more about Joshua or contact him here.
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