Austin Lehman Adventures includes Arenal region in tour.

The view of Arenal volcano, Costa Rica, from a guest room at the Arenal Observatory Lodge.

 For an update on ash, lava, steam and smoke, visit a volcano. These five destinations provide a multifaceted opportunity to get outside and learn more about planet Earth.

1 Arenal Observatory Lodge, Costa Rica.

Wake to a chorus of tropical wildlife on this volcanic wonder. The majestic centerpiece of a rich rainforest setting can be observed from most guest rooms, the dining room and an expansive deck. Horseback riding, biking and hiking trails wind through old lava fields and soft jungle trails where howling monkeys, slithering snakes, butterflies and colorful birds beckon visitors. The last major eruption of Arenal took place in 1968. Austin Lehman Adventures offers a range of family-focussed and other tours to the region.


2 Mount St. Helens, Washington.

On March 20, 1980, an earthquake of 4.2 magnitude reawakened this volcano, leading to the May 18 collapse and eruption. Today, families visiting the National Volcanic Monument can learn more about the geologic and biologic history of the area though interpretive talks, walks and theater presentations. Hiking, biking and helicopter tours also provide an expansive view of the region’s recovery. Ask about the Music on the Mountain series scheduled for this summer at the Johnson Ridge Observatory.

Contact: sthelens/home?cid=stelprdb 5160336

3 Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Accessible only by float plane or boat, this remote park is located on the Alaskan Peninsula near Kodiak Island. Spanning nearly 5 million acres, the protected region is the site of the Novarupta volcano’s 1912 eruption, considered to be the 20th century’s most powerful and heard as far away as Juneau. Today, visitors come to observe the dense population of brown bears and to fish for trophy rainbow trout, salmon and Dolly Varden trout that run in Katmai’s streams and rivers. During the summer months, meals and lodging are available at Brooks Lodge, a popular spot for bear viewing. The National Park Service also staffs a visitor center and offers interpretive programs.


4 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii.

The historic Volcano House reopens this summer after a recent renovation, offering families the opportunity to wake to a magnificent sunrise over one of the world’s most active volcanoes. The only lodging option within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island, the hotel rests on the rim of Kilauea caldera with a view toward Halemaumau crater. Learn about active volcanism, the region’s biological diversity and Hawaiian culture through driving and walking tours as well as the Junior Ranger program. Ask about helicopter and boat tours.

Contact: 1-866-536-7972;

5 Yellowstone National Park.

The landscape that became America’s first national park in 1872 experienced the first of three volcanic eruptions 2.1 million years ago. More than 640,000 years have passed since the most recent blowup. Although not currently erupting, the molten rock beneath the surface of the park is active. Visit this wonderland to learn more about what bubbles below and to see the herds of bison, elk, grizzly bears and wolves that make this park so popular.

Contact:; 1-866-439-7375



Single parent travel

Do you know what single parents are looking for when planning family travel?  Minimal stress and maximum time together. Here are five possibilities:

Consider a farm vacation.

Slow down for a stay at a Feather Down Farm, one of three working farms in the US and 50 in Europe that welcome families interested in learning about sustainable farm practices, healthy eating and life with a chickens, goats and lambs.  A parent might head out for a hike or settle in with a book, while the kids learn to churn butter or collect eggs for breakfast. Visit the Honesty Shop where family members can peruse local produce and other delectable, sign for what looks interesting, and perhaps craft a dinner from their purchases.  Spacious tents, furnished with authentic detail, offer a private room for adults as well as a cozy “cupboard bed” where kids can tuck away for the night.

Contact:  716-226-6323;

International adventure.

Single mom Michelle Kingsley O’Neill and her 13-year-old triplet sons spent a month exploring Ecuador and brushing up on their Spanish skills. With a rental home on the beach in the coastal town of Olon as their home base, the family of four took language classes, enjoyed side trips to Cuenca and other sites of interest, learned to surf, zip-line and sample local cuisine.  The result?   With high school on the horizon, O’Neill agreed to the boys’ request for homeschooling this year so they could fit more travel time into their education plan.

Contact:;  Intrepid

An all-inclusive deals.

Single parents checking into the all-inclusive AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Resorts in Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit will have the single supplement fee waived when traveling with their
children. In addition, one child will stay at a 50% discount. Expect welcome amenities, a state of the art kids’ club, airport transfers, as well as day and evening beach, eco, and sporting activities that will engage adults and children throughout their seaside vacation.

Contact: 1-888-323-4294;

Ride the rails.

Train excursions provides one parent traveling with kids a relaxed and stress free opportunity to enjoy each other’s company without road traffic or the strictures of a fast-paced tour to provide distraction.  On board VIA Rail, Canada’s premier passenger rail service, kids will love visiting the panoramic dome in the Skyline or Park car for a unique vista. They also have the option to join other junior explorers for movies and games. Choose from cross-country adventures or itineraries that offer some of the finest leaf peeping on the planet.

Contact: 1 888-842-7245;

Ranch relaxation. Adventuresome parents eager to share their passion with the next generation will welcome a stay at this secluded guest ranch in central Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains.  Choose from activities that include fishing in the Salmon River, an overnight pack trip, swimming in a pool fed by hot springs, cycling and river floats. Evening children’s programs enable Mom or Dad to carve out their own quiet time or join in weekly barbecues, while the kids enjoy their own new friendships. Open mid-June through mid-September.

Contact: 208-774-3544;

Find more ranch vacation ideas here….and here.

Are you a single parent? Share your ideas with us!


Top Western tunes.

If you are a lover of all things western, you’ll want to wander through this list of  great tunes as curated by The Western Writers of America.

The list is a mix of  traditional, old timey, country and melodies from the movies.

Is your favorite here?

1. Ghost Riders in the Sky
2. El Paso
3. Cool Water
4. Streets of Laredo/Cowboy’s Lament
5. Back in the Saddle Again
6. High Noon/Do Not Forsake Me
7. Oh Shenandoah/Across the Wide Missouri
8. Tumbling Tumbleweeds
9. Home on the Range
10. Red River Valley
11. Big Iron
12. Don’t Fence Me In
13. Bury Me Not in the Lone Prairie
14. Desperado
15. Wildfire
16. Cattle Call
17. Pancho and Lefty
18. Little Joe, the Wrangler
19. They Call the Wind Mariah
20. Coyote
21. Along the Navaho Trail
22. Happy Trails
23. Rawhide
24. Yellow Rose of Texas
25. Mamas, Don’t let your Babies Grow up to Be Cowboys
26. Ballad of Davy Crockett
27. Wayward Wind
28. Strawberry Roan
29. When the Works All Done This Fall
30. Empty Saddles in the Old Corral
31. Ballad of the Alamo
32. Mule Train
33. My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys
34. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
35. Amarillo by Morning
36. Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
37. Last Comanche Moon
38. Oh My Darling, Clementine
39. The Rebel (Johnny Yuma)
40. Ballad of Ira Hayes
41. North to Alaska
42. My Rifle, My Pony and Me
43. Don’t Take Your Guns to Town
44. South of the Border
45. Desperadoes Waiting for a Train
46. Get Along, Little Dogies
47. Buffalo Gals
48. I’m an Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande
49. New San Antonio Rose
50. Gunfight at the OK Corral
51. Wild Montana Skies
52. Last Cowboy Song

Ted Hayes and friends summit Cotapaxi in South America.

Ted Hayes and friends summit Cotapaxi in South America.

I took the last six months off of school to live in Ecuador with an American family on sabbatical. Here are 52 tips and bits I learned along the way.  A good traveler shares when he can, so here you go:

  1. I brought double the clothes I needed.
  2. I brought half the money I needed.
  3. Miami International Airport is insane. It is incredibly diverse and it was a little discouraging not being able to understand half the people there. And I hadn’t even left my own country.
  4. If you are a poor college student (or poor anyone these days) and an airline is offering you a couple hundred dollars cash to stay a night in a city you have never been to, TAKE IT!
  5. Arriving in a new country where you don’t speak the language is overwhelming.
  6. But everything works out.
  7. If you are not sure whether or not you can drink the water in a country you can check here or just buy bottled water.
  8. If you don’t speak the language well (4 semesters of college and 3 years in high school and I still fell into this category) make sure you have explicit directions to your hotel/hostel/family’s house.
  9. Don’t overpay and then tip the cab driver. You’ll feel stupid later.
  10. ALWAYS agree on a price beforehand.
  11. If you speak only English and need help, hostel attendants usually speak English and can point you in the right direction.
  12. If the name of the restaurant is in English, the prices double. If you have a date, they triple.
  13. Salsa dancing isn’t for everyone. But it’s for everyone that likes dancing.
  14. Hola Feliz = Happy Hour
  15. It’s important to try the local food. Even if it is Guinea Pig (CUY!).
  16. It’s important to find out what makes the country you are in unique.
  17. It’s important to realize that if you can’t afford to go to the Galapagos, there are plenty of other fun things to do.
  18. There are about 30 million species of insects in the jungle.
  19. One of them is the mosquito. Try this. Or this. Good luck.
  20. You can pan for gold. And ACTUALLY find some. (It worked out to about $12/hr if you are good. So if you work long enough, you can pay for the back surgery.)
  21. Hiking to 19,347 ft. is hard.
  22. But if I can do it, so can you.
  23. If you are interested in studying the language, it’s important to find the school that is right for you, your schedule, and your level.
  24. The Internet is basically everywhere. So it’s very easy to stay in touch if you are near a city.
  25. It’s easy to be frustrated when your showers aren’t always hot, the Internet is slow, the store is randomly closed but don’t let it get to you.  You’re not in Kansas anymore. And for now, that’s a good thing.
  26. Music is good everywhere.
  27. So is ice cream.
  28. Your guidebooks or your mothers may advise you not to eat meat on a stick (from street vendors) but I thought it was one of my favorite meals while I was there.
  29. I left the house everyday with wearing sunglasses and a rain jacket.
  30. Cabs are cheap and easy.
  31. So are busses.
  32. Souvenirs are great. But if you’re going to buy clothes, make sure you’ll wear them at home. No need to waste closet/luggage space.
  33. Just because you are in a foreign country does not mean the food is good.
  34. But there are probably good ingredients to make good food. Hit the markets and cook.
  35. Learning a second language is hard.
  36. But if you try, people will help (unless you are learning French).
  37.  You will never fully blend in but there is no need to try to stand out (That said, if it’s sunny, I wanted to wear flip-flops. No one got hurt.)
  38. Pay attention.
  39. In my view, most of South America is safe for people with common sense.
  40. And dangerous for people without it.
  41. They don’t take credit cards.
  42. Bring cash.
  43. They don’t take credit cards.
  44. If you’re feeling a little self-conscious about speaking Spanish in a conversation, have a beer.
  45. Meeting other gringos is great but you’ll inevitably have the same conversation a million times and speak too much English.
  46. Seek natives. In addition to being good practice for Spanish, they make good tour guides and, usually, friends.
  47. The long distance busses play awful movies awfully loud. Bring earplugs or be content blasting your iPod (unless you love everything Steve Austin).
  48. Make time to study Spanish.
  49. Then take time to study Spanish.
  50. And take lots of pictures!
  51. Remember it’s always great to come home.
  52. Because then you can plan your next adventure!

Ted Hayes returned from South American, graduated and currently lives in Portland, Oregon.

Fish where the fish are

Why do anglers always take a picture of themselves holding their catch?

The answer is that, long ago,  people started doubting their fish tales. The same goes for businesses and their marketing, where customers are often dubious of the claims brands make about themselves.

However, businesses have a validation tool more powerful than an angler’s snapshot: third party publicity.

As well as spreading the word, publicity provides third-party validation of your business, showing you as reputable and and backing up your claims. Like angling though, you have to tempt journalists and bloggers to bite if you want to successfully promote your business.

Here are easy ways to do it.

1. Create content
Content creation—blogging, tweeting, video publishing—is key to establishing yourself and your company as a “thought leader” and source for journalists. Consistently (it doesn’t have to be every day) update your website, blog, and other social channels with relevant and timely expert information. Over time, journalists will learn to consider your company a reliable source for information.

2. Engage and add value
Work to maintain relationships with members of the media even when you don’t have news to share. Do this by commenting on articles directly and sharing those pieces on social networks. Once you begin to build personal relationships with journalists, you can even send them information relevant to their beat, even if it’s not a direct pitch for your company. By acting as a reliable source for information, you can become a trusted member of a journalist’s or blogger’s Rolodex.

3. Do some research, then show it
To become a trusted media source, do research to determine which outlets and journalists will be interested in what you have to say. Look up their most recent articles to find what they cover and how they cover it. Who are the local reporters that would cover your business? Don’t be afraid to reach out and introduce yourself and your company. Showing that you’ve done your research by identifying the most appropriate journalists for your company is the first step in positioning your business as a credible source of information.

4. Share your news

When your company has big 
news to share, prepare a 
news release and distribute it 
through an online distribution service like PRWeb. In addition to
more news mentions, using an online
distribution service increases your online visibility. Use the keywords you’ve identified for your business in your release and link them back to your website. You can also increase news mentions by building a list of relevant publications, blogs, and journalists to email when you have news. Do your research and communicate clearly why you think they should be interested.

5. Use trends to publish and pitch

Keep your eyes open for news stories and trends related to what your company does. This allows you to publish searchable content (or pitch journalists) offering an expert opinion on the story and showcasing your business in the process.

BONUS TIP: Let journalists come to you
Thousands of journalists and bloggers use free Vocus service HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to find sources from the business community. HARO delivers current media queries directly to you, allowing you to respond to relevant inquiries with a quick pitch. If you’re not using it yet, you should be.

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