Cocoon U-shaped Air Core Neck Pillow

by Beth Whitman (January 21st, 2015)

Cocoon Neck PillowIt must be the air on an airplane but pretty much the moment I sit down in my seat, I start to get tired and I generally fall asleep before we even leave the runway.

I know. You hate me.

I always request a window seat to make my napping easier. It allows me to curl up, lean against the window and snooze. But I do need a little help and I get it by using a pillow.

Enter the inflatable Cocoon U-shaped Air Core Neck Pillow.

You’ve probably purchased a half dozen neck pillows yourself that spring a leak after the third or fourth use. Not so with Cocoon. These are sturdy, well-made pillows that will hold up for years (I’ve had my current one for almost five years!).

Their latest version is just slightly different than their previous model. It’s definitely just as comfortable but it appears to come together a bit more closely in the front and the sides are a bit wider.

There’s nothing worse than getting a stiff neck because you’re head isn’t supported properly while you’re napping sitting upright. On my test flights with this, I couldn’t tell any difference in its performance but it definitely kept my neck up so that I could sleep.

One side has a microfiber cloth while the other is a nylon material. I put the nylon side up (so it’s against my face) if I’m warm on my flight and the microfiber side up if I’m cool.

If history repeats itself, I’ll have this neck pillow for at least another five years.

Available on Amazon for about $25.

Be Bold,

Beth

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Disclosure: Cocoon provided this neck pillow to me for review. Regardless, everything I have said in the post reflects my honest opinions.

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Hill Tribes of Northern Thailand – Our Tour in Photos

by Beth Whitman (January 20th, 2015)

We ran our first ever Thailand and Laos tour in November. I’ve been so busy posting about the Snowman Trek, that I have not given this much exposure but I didn’t want to neglect such an amazing trip.

We had a full group of 16 women on that tour. We toured Bangkok and then traveled up to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in northern Thailand and then on to Luang Prabang, Laos for a few days.

Ahka Woman in Northern Thailand

Our focus was on the hill tribes of Northern Thailand and Laos.

Many of these hill tribes are refugees from neighboring countries such as Burma. Most of them are women and children and all of them are marginalized with little opportunity for education, healthcare or employment.

Ahka Woman in Northern Thailand

Simply put, they don’t lead an easy life.

We visited a few villages and communities where these hill tribe people live. Some communities were in better condition than others. In other words, some appeared to have more money and therefore had access to slightly nicer homes and amenities. But all lived in what we would consider poor conditions.

One community was set up for tourism as there were rows of vendors selling both handmade and imported goods. For me it was slightly uncomfortable. The vendors represented a couple of different tribes (the Akha and the Longneck) and sold many of the same items. So the women tried their best to get our attention and make a connection so we’d spend our money at their booth.

And we did. We left a lot of money at many of the booths. Despite the awkwardness, I was happy to help support them as this is the only way for them to earn money as refugees in Thailand.

Ahka Woman in Northern Thailand

Their story is quite sad–how they have fled to Thailand to escape the abuses by the Burmese government only to find themselves with no money, education or ability to own property in this new (to them) land. They’d like to return to their mother country, but they don’t trust the Burmese government enough to do so and there’s nothing there for them now anyway.

Longneck Woman in Northern Thailand

One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to WEAVE, Women’s Education for Advancement and Empowerment, in Chiang Mai. This is an organization that helps women get out of the cycle of poverty. While watching a video at the WEAVE offices about their work, there were few dry eyes in the room as we listened to these women’s history and current plight.

On all of our international tours, we give a donation to a local organization. In Thailand, it was to WEAVE. (Side note – I’m currently in the process of filing for non-profit status for the WanderWorld Foundation so that these donations will be tax deductible for our tour participants.)

Longneck Woman in Northern Thailand

It’s controversial whether one should take photos of the Longneck Karen tribes. Detractors say that this just encourages the cycle of women having to wear these rings around their necks and on their arms and legs. And I get that.

But I also believe that 1) it’s been part of their culture for a very long time and who are we to say what they should and shouldn’t do and 2) by sharing these photos and this post with you, I hope that you’ll learn something that you didn’t previously know and perhaps choose to learn more and/or visit the tribes and support WEAVE yourself.

We’ve yet to announce a future Thailand and Laos tour but if you’d like to be contacted when we we do, please contact me.

Be Bold,

Beth

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Eagle Creek travelLite Towel ~ WanderGear Wednesday

by Beth Whitman (January 14th, 2015)

Eagle Creek travellite towelI don’t usually travel with my own towel (at least I haven’t since my hosteling days) but I had to do so for the Snowman Trek. I knew that towels would not be supplied and even though our showers were few and far between, one would come in handy when I could actually wash up.

I brought along the Eagle Creek travelLite Towel for just such purposes. Travel towels have several properties that make them far more practical to carry along on a trip than traditional towels. A travel towel is:

  • Super lightweight
  • Packs down very small
  • Is more absorbent than a regular towel
  • Made of a quick drying fabric

The truth is that I, sadly, had far less use for the travelLite Towel on the trek (meaning, ahem, I didn’t get to wash up as much as I would have liked) than I had hoped, but when I did use it, it lived up to all features.

Probably most importantly is that it took up very little space in my duffel. It also weighed nearly nothing (well, four ounces) and did its job drying me off.

If you’ve ever used a travel towel before, you know the truth is that these just don’t feel as nice as the towels you’ve got in your linen closet. The flat-textured material doesn’t feel all soft and warm on your skin and it’s hard to tell that it’s actually absorbing. But it is.

As far as drying goes, I would loved to have seen it dry a bit quicker. But, sheesh, I was above 15,000 feet most of the time in either snow or rain, so in all fairness, it didn’t really have the ideal conditions to dry out properly.

The Eagle Creek travelLite Towel comes with a compressible mesh stuff sack so you can keep it wrapped up and away from the rest of your gear.

Available on Amazon for about $20.

Be Bold,

Beth

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Disclosure: Eagle Creek provided this duffel to me for review. Regardless, everything I have said in the post reflects my honest opinions.

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