Archive by Author - Renee Blodgett

TEDxBerkeley To Make Big Splash at Zellerbach Hall This Feb

by on January 26, 2016 at 8:59 am

From innovative surgery and extraterrestrial intelligence to reporting from war zones and Grammy-Award winning music, this year’s theme for TEDxBerkeley 2016 — Finding X, which will be held at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley CA on February 6, will look to solutions to our world’s imperfections. Sixteen riveting speakers will address how we identify these problems and make sense of them in the larger systems where they belong.

TEDxB Finding X

Whether it be voyaging into uncharted technological or scientific territory, reconciling our diverse perspectives of the human condition, or unearthing the parts of ourselves that give our lives direction and meaning, we all hope to make an impact on this world by Finding X.

Now in its 7th year, this prestigious TEDx event will bring together thought leaders, visionaries, innovators and 54 performers who will enlighten and inspire more than 2,000 attendees across core disciplines impacting the world, from medicine and education to technology and diversity.

TEDxBerkeley strives to curate an outstanding group of inventive and provocative speakers who can shift global conversations in a way that makes the world a better place, central and core to TED’s mission. The goal is to get us all to re-think conventional ideas and the status quo so that we can all make a positive difference in our own communities. Tickets for TEDxBerkeley 2016 are on sale through Friday, February 5 or until they sell out.

Attendees or those viewing via Live Stream at http://www.tedxberkeley.org starting at 10 am PST/1 pm EST, can also participate in the conversation on social media by using #TEDxBerkeley on Twitter, Facebook and other popular social networks.

This year’s line-up includes:

  • Christopher Ategeka: Award-Winning Social Entrepreneur & Nano-Technology Inventor that identifies early detection and monitoring of chronic diseases.
  • Celli@Berkeley: a cellist quartet made up of undergraduate and graduate students united by the passion to express the uniquely rich possibilities of the cello.

Cello

  • Kathy Calvin: As President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, Kathy works to connect people, ideas, and resources to the United Nations to help solve global problems.
  • Jacob Corn: Scientific Director of the Innovative Genomics Initiative & on faculty at UC Berkeley in the Molecular and Cell Biology Department, Jacob focuses on neurobiology, infectious disease, and oncology.
  • Stephanie Freid: An International Conflicts Journalist, TV correspondent for CCTV (China) and Turkish TV International networks, Stephanie reports from some of the world’s toughest conflict and war zones.
  • Rose Gelfand, Molly Gardner & Isa Ansari: this trio from Oakland School for the Arts Literary Arts Department, are performance artists who specialize in the spoken word and poetry on stage.
  • Rob Hotchkiss: Grammy Award-winning Musician for the Best Rock Song for five-time nominated “Drops of Jupiter”, and was the musical force behind hits such as Meet Virginia, Free, I Am and Get To Me.
  • Naveen Jain: An Entrepreneur & Philanthropist, Naveen is the founder of Moon Express, World Innovation Institute, inome, Talent Wise, Intelius, and InfoSpace.
  • Jeromy Johnson: An EMF Expert, Jeromy is dedicated to mitigating the negative impacts of Electromagnetic Field (EMF) exposure, helping to implement solutions that reduce and eliminate EMF pollution around the globe.
  • Reverend Deborah L. Johnson: Minister, Author & Diversity Expert, Deborah teaches practical applications of Universal Spiritual Principles and is founder of The Motivational Institute, which specializes in diversity.
  • Aran Khanna: As Computer Scientist & Security Researcher on personal privacy, he builds tools that empower users to discover the consequences of the digital footprint they’re leaving.
  • John Koenig: Creator & Author of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, which fills gaps in language with new terms for emotions, some of which (‘sonder’) have entered the language outright.
  • Ellen Leanse: As Apple’s first User Evangelist, she brought Apple online in 1985 and has since helped more than 40 companies and policy makers increase their innovation and impact.
  • Susan Lim: As Surgeon and Entrepreneur, Susan broke through the gender glass ceiling in transplantation surgery by becoming the first in Asia, and the second woman in the world to have performed a successful liver transplant.
  • OSA Chamber Choir: the largest audition-only high school Vocal ensemble at the Oakland School for the Arts, this ensemble has performed for Governor Jerry Brown’s inauguration, Obama’s campaign tour and many other notable events.
  • Sonia Rao: A BMI Spotlight artist, Sonia is a singer and songwriter whose latest album Meet Them At the Door is a collection of heart-felt pop songs that showcase her piano skills and soulful voice.
  • Amandine Roche: A Human Rights Expert, Amandine’s focus is on civic education, democratization, gender and youth empowerment.
  • Sriram Shamasunder: Sriram aims to deliver comprehensive healthcare in resource poor areas of the world through his work at UCSF and as co-founder of the HEAL initiative.
  • Andrew Siemon: Andrew is an Astrophysicist, Director of the UC Berkeley Center for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Research & lead scientist for the “Breakthrough Listen Initiative”, a $100 million effort that is conducting one of the most sensitive searches for advanced extraterrestrial life in history.
  • Joshua Toch: After being bullied because of Cerebral Palsy, Joshua founded Mind Before Mouth, which equips students to better deal with social aspects of life and get through times of hardship.
  • UC Berkeley Azaad: UCB Azaad is a competitive Hindi Film Dance team which motivates audiences to connect with Bollywood culture.

This year’s partners include Repertoire Productions, Vÿykn Water, Zola, Peet’s Coffee, Fast Imaging, 18 Rabbits, Larabar, Victor Hugo Winery and EthiCal.

I am proud to be a co-curator again this year, joining Chris Lew as TEDxBerkeley’s 2016 curator and co-curator R. Jennifer Barr together with an incredible team behind us, including Leilani Gutierrez-Palominos, Max Wolffe, Melody Jung, Aaron Chelliah, Mehdi Kazi, Sean Kelly, Krupa Modi, Aashna Patel, Andrew Veenstra, Alvin Wan and Joe West.

 

New York Times Travel Show Adds Wellness Focus This Year

by on January 26, 2016 at 8:54 am

This year’s New York Times Travel Show at the Jacob Javit’s Center in New York seemed to be busier than ever on opening day Saturday January 9. For the first time, The New York Times Travel Show created a Pavilion entirely devoted to Wellness Travel, with the assistance of wellness travel journalist and consultant Anne Dimon, CEO of Travel-to-Wellness.

I was thrilled that they dedicated an entire section of the conference to health and wellness since I’m a huge believer in holistic living, organic eating and exercise as a formula for being healthy and you can’t separate that approach to life when you’re on the road. Let’s take a look at some of the health and wellness gems I discovered at the show, some I had known for years and others, I hadn’t heard of before a month ago. If you’re not integrating wellness into your travel agendas, perhaps some of these retreats and experiences will encourage you to re-think how, why and where you travel.

Art of Living Retreat Center

The Art of Living Retreat Center is a unique wellness destination for travelers heading to America’s South Atlantic and lower Mid-Atlantic region. With a big focus on both spirituality and wellness, they offer a range of programs throughout the year that cater to guests who are looking for experiences of healing, personal transformation, inner peace, stillness and communion with nature, a favorite pastime of mine. They’re perched on a mountaintop in the Blue Ridge Mountains and are within driving distance of Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh and Washington DC. I’d also argue that it makes a great getaway retreat from Philly and New York City.

Part of the center is a Shankara Ayurveda Spa, a spa dedicated to the ancient healing traditions of Ayurveda. For those of you not familiar with Ayurveda, experience it — the results can be powerful! At Shankara, their main programs include weekend retreats and deep Ayurvedic cleanses, which gently cleanse, detox and revitalize the system with ancient combinations of therapies and diet. The cleanses last from 4-8 days and include personal consultations with an Ayurvedic Health Practitioner. There’s plenty of yoga classes on-site as well for the serious yogi’s among you.

In addition to on-site programs, yoga and spa facilities, they offer other unique retreats throughout the year. For example, coming up in February is a Sahaj Samadhi Meditation Retreat, where they offer an effortless meditation technique that infuses the mind with peace, clarity and creativity.  In March, they’re offering an Art of Living Happiness Program with Sudarshan Kriya where you can discover your unlimited power and freedom and a Yoga and Mindfulness Retreat, where you’ll experience yoga, Ayurveda and Living Yoga 4 Peace.  For the more advanced yoga practitioners among you, if you’ve ever thought of teaching, they offer a 30 day yoga teacher training and certification in April.

At the New York Times Travel event last weekend, they offered complimentary Ayurvedic assessments for guests who would like to know more about their personal constitution (called prakriti or dosha). Kim Rossi, the director of the spa, presented on “Increase Energy & Reduce Stress through the Ayurvedic Daily Routine” and “Natural Weight Balancing through the Ayurvedic Daily Routine.”

They have a unique offering called Taste of PK, which is deep Ayurveda Cleansing. It includes 3 nights and 4 days in a Spa room, daily meals, 5 Ayurveda Treatments customized to your needs, and daily Meditation and Yoga. Their Taste Of PK cleanses your system on the physical, emotional and even spiritual level through an ancient, time-tested regimen of healing time, therapeutic treatments, diet and Ayurvedic lifestyle education. This shortened version of the full Panchakarma offers an immersive experience in an Ayurveda lifestyle of health and wellness and a taste of PK with a more flexible schedule, which is great for people who don’t have enough time to dedicate to a longer program.

BodyHoliday in St. Lucia

BodyHoliday in St. Lucia is a unique combination of one of the world’s most beautiful islands, an all-inclusive resort that provides a truly luxurious and personal service, a Wellness Center that provides a range of treatments and a range of activities that could keep you busy from dawn until dusk.

This all inclusive resort’s Wellness Center has apparently been voted as one of the best spas in St Lucia and the BodyHoliday, one of the top all-inclusive resorts in the world. Renowned for their treatments, therapies and activities, they offer everything from archery to SCUBA, spinning to Pilates, and Ayurvedic treatments to Reiki. Twice a year, they also run a yoga retreat, two months dedicated to help yoga lovers improve their skills.

Set on a very private cove in the north west of the island, the BodyHoliday is very private and is centered around core pillars – relaxation, restorative beauty, exercise and good diet.   They currently run 6 specialized treatment courses that are designed around these key therapies and practices.  Dedicated to the pursuit of optimal wellness, BodyScience uses cutting edge technologies, such as DNA testing which is powerful. Combined with the preventative Eastern approach to well-being, the program takes a personalized health, fitness and nutrition programs to the next level.

A BodyScience program starts by the collection of a broad range of information about an individual’s physiology and biochemistry to identify imbalances in the body and mind that impact on wellness. BodyScience utilizes both Western science and Ayurvedic principles to gather all the data. Their programs are based on non-invasive diagnostics that are able to detect imbalances in key nutrient and hormone systems (including stress hormone assessment), heart and circulation health and stress reserve measurements. Correct “anti-inflammatory” diet, appropriate exercise, and appropriate food with natural and hormone supplements can make a huge difference.

By correcting sluggish metabolism people will tend to feel a sense of vitality and well-being that they did not feel before. One thing to add here is that given that I travel so much, I find that there are more foods in the states that encourage inflammation than ever before because of people’s reliance on fast food and processed food. A program like this could help you identify what you are eating that may be causing pain and other issues.

Some of their programs below:

The De-stress Health Program uses scientific lab tests to discover your body’s stress status at a physiological level. Based on the results, BodyScience provides a unique nutrition and lifestyle plan to help the body handle stress and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

The Fitness Program includes appropriate and reliable lab tests, which can give an insight into how your body is genetically pre-disposed to certain exercise regimes. It highlights any nutritional or functional deficiencies, so that you can address them, fuel your body appropriately and get the most out of your training. It is also possible from the tests to discover how the body recovers and repairs after training. The results can be further improved with the correct nutrients.

The Weight Management 360° Program uses scientific laboratory tests to evaluate hormones, genetic predisposition to weight gain, inflammation and food sensitivities all of which are important considerations when striving for optimal weight loss and maintenance. Based on laboratory test results, you receive your own personalised dietary and exercise plan, which addresses any biochemical imbalances and subsequently influences how you achieve and maintain your healthy weight.

The Healthy Aging Program identifies where your body needs extra support to slow down the aging process, and to function optimally. The results form the basis of a detailed bespoke health plan that is designed to restore more youthful function and support your body in ageing gracefully providing vitality whilst also looking great.

The Digestive Health Program investigates the cause of your symptoms and discomfort by using state of the art laboratory tests. Based on the results, you will be provided with a personal nutrition and lifestyle plan with the aim of restoring digestive health and comfort.

The Detox Health Program uses scientific lab tests to discover your body’s detoxification status. Based on the results, you receive a nutrition and lifestyle plan to help you optimize your detoxification.

They also do something called Ayurveda Ecstasy which is from South India. It is a two day program that focuses on your physical, mental and emotional levels using the best combination of four of the most popular Ayurveda therapies – Synchronized Abhyanga massage, Mukhalepam, Udvartana and Shirodhara.

Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

Canyon Ranch

I’ve always been a fan of Canyon Ranch’s mission and have heard nothing but positive things from friends who have spent time at one of their properties. For those not familiar with them, they’re among the top in wellness resorts and now, they have properties on land and at sea. At the New York Times Travel Show, they co-hosted a relaxation lounge in the Wellness Pavilion and offered complimentary hand treatments from some of their top Canyon Ranch in Lenox massage therapists.

They also boast a number of philanthropic and community partners which help them provide such extraordinary experiences at their resorts.  Although I haven’t been to one of their locations yet (it’s on the list), the experience goes beyond your traditional spa experience. Canyon Ranch Founder Mel Zuckerman dubbed this distinction the Special Personalized Adventure. Expert Program Advisors are on-site to help you create an agenda that is personalized for your needs, interests and issues.

The property I’ve known about for years, largely because I lived in Boston for so long, is Lenox Massachusetts, however they also have a resort in Las Vegas and the Sonoran Desert around Tucson Arizona (below). Outside the country, you can veg out in Kaplankaya, Turkey or on a cruise ship — it’s called SpaClub at Sea.

Above, morning yoga at their Arizona location — don’t discount the power that a natural and pure environment can have on your well-being.

2016 is set to be an exciting year for Canyon Ranch and they highlighted many of the projects and initiatives at the show, including The Residences at Bellefontaine, their first condo living community at the Canyon Ranch in Lenox and the launch of their first international property, Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort at Kaplankaya.

They offer something they refer to as the Life Enhancement Program, which is designed for people who are looking for a first-hand experience in all-healthy living. This enlightening, engaging experience has helped thousands of people take positive, permanent steps toward reaching – and often surpassing – personal aspirations. The highly effective Life Enhancement Center preventive health program is currently being adapted by the Canyon Ranch Institute, for residents of one of the poorest neighborhoods in North America, in the South Bronx.

On-site, regardless of which location you choose, you can tap into a wealth of experts who help you improve your fitness, nutrition, stress, mood, sleep patterns and more. Their team draws on Western medicine as well as Eastern traditions, energy healing, spiritual awareness, lifestyle and proven alternative practices.  I’ve also know some people who head to Canyon Ranch to heal from sickness, surgery or an injury and they are known for this — people in my circles always return feeling renewed and transformed and since we’re all about Transformative Travel here at We Blog the World, we’re excited about the opportunity to take a look at one or two of their properties in more depth this and next year.

Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain

I love Ritz Carlton’s Dove Mountain property in Arizona although I may be a bit biased. Anthony and I had an incredible few day escape there last summer, where we relaxed in the desert, took in spa treatments and ate healthy dishes every morning and night. When you head off to a spa, whether it’s the luxury one at home you splurge on every month or when you’re on vacation, it needs to be more than just luxurious and pampering. Pampering goes without saying, but imagine a whole lotta pampering and service, but surrounded by remote desert tranquility where the environment itself supports your system in a nurturing and balanced way. Oh yeah, and the sunsets are incredible!

While we were at the Dove Mountain property, we were also surrounded by some of the rawest desert nature you’ll ever encounter in the United States and they offer evening and morning hikes out into some of the desert trails nearby by an expert guide. Because it’s dry heat, if you suffer from arthritis or achy joints and pains, your body will love the low humidity in this decadent southern Arizona resort.  See my resort write-up/review from this past summer, which includes some shots of our restorative hike.

I lived in Arizona for a stint of my life and have been to Phoenix and Sedona countless times over the years, but have never been so taken away by the size of the cactus that sprawls in all directions. I think that the nature which surrounds a spa (if not in a city center) is a critical part of your spa experience. The air, the sun or lack of it, the kinds of trees and soils…..all play into what kind of experience you’ll have at the spa, perhaps including what products they’re most inspired by.

The Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain property has both a dry sauna and a fairly large steam room. They also have a lovely inside relaxation room with lemon and rosemary infused water and herbal teas or two areas outside — the pool itself which has comfy outdoor beds and cabanas or a smaller same sex area where there’s a hot tub and access to both the steam room and sauna. The lovely thing about the resort is that while it attracts many families, it has an adult only outdoor pool behind the natural stone walls of its spa on the opposite side of the property. You’ll notice at the spa pool, you are surrounded by beautiful and pure nature in every direction — it reminded me a bit of Enchantment Resort and Spa in Sedona, which apparently sits on land that is part of a vortex, believed by many to be a very healing and transformative experience.

The other lovely thing about Dove Mountain’s spa pool is that it’s natural salt water, rather than chlorinated water. They also have a fabulous salt water jacuzzi at the spa pool, which has a cascading waterwall – oh so lovely for the sore muscles and joints. The other thing worth noting is that the resort has an extensive Fitness Center on-site, which is larger than most 5 star resort gyms. Equipment includes Cardiovascular & Strength Training which you can do in the gym itself or nearby studio, which they use for classes, including yoga.  There’s Elliptical trainers, Stationary bikes, Treadmills, Free weights, Weight training machines, and a Movement Studio.

Every day, they offer Yoga, Pilates, H.I.I.T., and Zumba. We had a private yoga class while we were there, largely because we wanted the individual treatment. We also opted for a full body assessment by one of their advanced trainers. It’s not a whole lotta fun learning what your optimal body fat percentage is, but it’s important to know what it is if you’re going to make any vital changes in your diet and exercise regiment.

The spa pool has a private entrance to it from the spa, making it a quiet escape from the larger outdoor pools on the property which tends to get traffic from a lot of families. You can choose to have your treatment in either an indoor or outdoor treatment room, and there’s an over-sized treatment suite for couples and small groups – complete with a private fireplace and courtyard. As noted, the luscious serenity pool terrace where guests are able to view ancient Native American carvings in nearby rocks.

We both had the HOT STONE MASSAGE, a treatment I’ve always been a fan of over the years, but not all spas offer it.  Here, they call it a Hohokam Stone Massage,  which is based on Native American traditions. Warm (I’d say closer to hot) mineral-rich basalt stones are used to give your body-earth energy.

Kurotel Longevity Medical Center and Spa 

This health center has been honored with a coveted Crystal Award for Best Wellness Travel Property in South and Central America, and a Country Award for Best in Brazil at the 2015 Wellness Travel Awards. Apparently, Kurotel also won a Category Award for:  Best for Beauty & Anti-Aging, Best for Fitness, Best for Going Solo, Best for Healthy Cuisine, Best for Medical Services, Best for Men, Best for Outdoor Adventure & Activities and Best Overall Healthy Living Program. Whoah Nelly, if that impressive list isn’t enough to bring you down to Brazil for a whole lotta rest and relaxation, then let’s learn a bit more about the people behind the center and the spa itself.

Photo credit: Spas of America

Longevity Medical Center and Spa medical director and co-owner, Mariela Silveira, MD, was invited to speak about the center’s innovative approach to Brain Health at this year’s New York Times Travel Show and although we were in touch prior to the show, I never managed to meet with her on-site, although I did visit their booth.

In addition to her talk, Kurotel hosted a table in the Wellness Discovery Path, where they answered questions about brain health with suggestions on how to keep the good health of one’s memory. The Center also ran a contest offering show attendees a chance to win a 5-night wellness retreat at the Center in Brazil.  And, they had a fun social media activity at the show, where you showed your support for Global Wellness Day by posting a photo with a “I Say Yes” sign and using hashtags to share the news on your favorite social media channels, which I did of course.

Founded by Dr Luis Carlos and Neusa Silveira, a husband and wife team, Kurotel has a 33 year history built on helping people live longer, healthier and meaningful lives. Inspired by the European Kur tradition, which focuses on preventative and rehabilitative medicine, the peaceful mountain sanctuary offers a scientific approach to health through optimistic lifestyle changes and balanced health. Combining wellness, longevity and medical services, the center offers treatments, assessments and healing therapies including everything from stress to sleep problems, addiction to smoking, cancer recovery, brain health, longevity and weight control.

Photo credit: www.tripadvisor.com.au

They have doctors and holistic practitioners at your disposal on site and a team who creates activities that combine different therapies to bring attendees into pure relaxation, beauty, wholeness and renewal. Services include facials, body treatments, relaxing or reducing therapies as well as something they refer to as the Water Circuit: a sequence of therapeutic baths which refers to European stations.

What I love about this place is that it appears to be broad in it’s activity and offering approach – in other words, because they are also close to nature, they offer outdoor recreational activities as well in a natural environment, which can be very healing in itself.  From hiking, special dinners, artistic performances and dance classes to forums, lectures, swimming, tennis and functional cooking classes, they go beyond traditional health, wellness and spa treatments. It appears to be all about balance and integrating a healthy approach to your life through that balance, from exercise, knowledge, food, supplements, healing therapies, body work and more.

They even have a Post-Cancer Program which this past year, received the international certification Cancer Aware by Wellness for Cancer, as a complete program for post-cancer treatment. There are exercise classes, guidance on how best to prepare healthy meals conducted in an experimental kitchen at their Spa Bistro and plenty of doctors, nutritionists, fitness trainers, physical therapists, dentists and psychologists on-site to guide you towards a healthier and more holistic lifestyle, guidance you can take home and implement into your daily lives.

Color Spa

Color Spa is a multi-product brand that marries the ancient modality of colored light with smart tech for a 21st century interactive experience that provides an instant energy tune-up. I’ve always been a fan of the use of color for adding creativity, energy and relaxation to whatever activity you’re doing. I find that people are often afraid of color and tend to stick to more muted and conservative colors on a regular basis — from keeping their walls white or off-white in their homes, to sticking to black and white clothing rather than a purple sweater with a colorful necklace instead. People often argue that it’s easier or safer, or that they simply don’t have the time or know how to get creative with color. “It takes effort,” said one woman I talked to at the New York Times Travel Show when we spoke of the dynamics of color.

And so, as someone who loves art and has had plenty of it plastered on walls over the years, and repaints rooms all the time, I’m a huge fan of the power that color can create in one’s life. The team behind Color Spa has published a book called Color Spa: Color Yourself In, that articulates the basics of co-founder Robyn Lee’s process. She says, “What light and color offer is communion with our primary energy. Just being in colored light instigates healing, brings equilibrium to body and soul and shows us that light is natural medicine.”

The above shot is of Robyn Lee, one of the main forces behind Color Spa doing a demonstration at the New York Times Travel Show in the Wellness Pavilion where I spent most of my afternoon on the last day. The photo may look a little “funky” but it’s because we were in an area sectioned off by curtains where she had beams of lights in different colors facing another set of beams of lights in different colors and the result was a soft muted color spread in all directions – kinda fun! The reason she created this environment, was to let people experience a type of “color therapy.”

Color Spa has several parts:

  • Mobile App which uses your smartphone for an instant energy tune-up. (pictured above)
  • Spas: for clients at destination spas or on a wellness cruise, instead of a mud bath, you can step into an immersive Color Spa treatment that cleanses and refreshes with colored light and sound.
  • Workshops: an in-depth session on the relationship between colored light and our seven chakras and an energy healing real-time. They offer this for groups, corporations, cruise ships and at wellness retreats.

There’s also two not-for-profit applications:

  • Custom Coach: a bus that is an interactive, mobile light show. It tours to schools, museums, hospitals, shopping malls – and gives the general public, (especially under-privileged kids in poorer neighborhoods) an experience.
  • Larger Lightshow/Workshop: like Oprah’s The Life You Want Tour, this is a full-scale show that combines Robyn Lee’s teachings, guests and a scaled experience, booked in large venues. A percentage of each performance is apparently donated to charity.

Color Spa is a unique experience as it opens a window to the people on a gently therapeutic level where consciousness is the currency, engagement the process and personal balance the result. Below is a shot taken at one of her workshops.

 Photo credit: Emily Hewitt

Wellness Travel is exploding as a category and it’s no surprise. I’ve been committed to it as a way of life (not simply a travel category on our site) for years. With processed food being an unfortunate “go to” in the western world and fast and “always-on” schedules encouraging more time on mobile devices and laptops, where we work longer hours per day than ever before, it’s no wonder that our bodies are breaking down and craving that necessary relaxation break. It’s no longer just about spa getaways in today’s hectic world; a massage or facial here and there isn’t enough to reset our stressed body from the months of tension and stress that regularly get thrown our way.

By experiencing creative, non-traditional therapies, learning about healthy diets you can incorporate into your life at home and when traveling, making time for exercise and nature, we stand a chance — a more successful chance — at living a holistic and healthy life where we can feel at peace with the world. This is part of travel or should be! Learning more about the negative impact of things in our environment like plastic, processed meals, chemicals in our food and beauty products, hormones that get pumped into the livestock we eat and the ill-effect of EMFs from our cell phones, is all key to living a better life.

Be sure to read my recent article on 15 Tips for Healthy Travel, a piece I wrote about the power of silence and nature during a recent Yoga and Wellness trip to Jamaica, and my detailed article that outlines what you need to know about EMF emissions and the health risks many are experiencing as a result of high EMF’s from things like smart meters, cell phones, powerful modems in homes and more.

Being aware is necessary in today’s toxic environment. Having that knowledge and experiencing it first hand, which you can do through some of the wellness companies above, is critical to your well-being and happiness in life, on and off the road.

Digital Health Summer Summit & Their Digital Health Playground

by on June 23, 2015 at 10:26 am

I’ve experienced some of Digital Health Summit’s energy, largely at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, where it has grown in size over the years and now represents some of the most innovative technologies happening in the health, wellness and medical arena.
Last week, they held their Digital Health Summer Summit in San Francisco, which consisted of a full day of panel discussions, keynotes and something they refer to as Digital Health Playground, which is an expo of companies showing off their latest products.

Photo credit: LearnersOnline.com
The reason I’ve been so interested in digital health lately is not just because of the marketing and communications work I’ve done for HAPILABS and Kolibree over the past few years, both of which announced the world’s first in their respective categories (connected fork and connected electric toothbrush).
This world obviously got me into deeper into the world of quantified self and devices that measure everything you do, from the quality of your breathe, to your sleep patterns and the steps you take every day. While I find quantified self interesting and in some cases, leaps ahead of our time, empowering individuals about their bodies in ways that was never possible before, I’m also concerned about over monitoring since doing so means that the EMFs emitted and other electrical energy that comes from these devices are close to our bodies if not on them 24/7.

I for one sleep more peacefully when I’m far away from anything that has bluetooth or wifi connectivity and when I’m not using my phone for texting or browsing, I turn it to Airplane Mode as a safety precaution. That said, the benefits of self monitoring for more serious medical conditions can be a godsend, particularly for kids and seniors, so that other family members can stay on top of their loved one’s health as well. It’s also useful for sending data back to your family when you’re traveling and they’re not with you.  

Photo credit: www.kpcb.com
The idea of digital health centers on the convergence of the digital and genetics with health, healthcare, medicine, living, and society.
The biggest benefits of digital health as noted above, include the empowerment of consumers to better track, manage, and improve their own and their family’s health. There are of course compliance issues, as well as hospital and corporate adoption curves that run alongside these revolutionary changes happening in the digital world today.
At the Summit, we heard from Chief Medical Officer for AFIA Rob Smythe MD and author of The Digital Doctor, Professor and Associate Chair for the Department of Medicine Robert W. Watchter MD, who addressed the need for digital health to better demonstrate its effectiveness, as well as the issues around privacy, security and regulatory challenges.
With the abundance of health tech accelerators and seed funders pushing out a wide array of digital health companies, we also heard tips on how to avoid the funding valley of death given the long time gap between institutional funding and ultimate launch. Reps from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Launchpad Digital Health, dRx Capital AG and DNAnexus took this subject on, which was soon followed by an interesting keynote from Michael Blum, MD and Associate Vice Chancellor for Informatics and Professor of Medicine and Cardiology/Chief Medical Information Office at UCSF.
Other panels discussed how partnering with strategic companies can better harness the power of talents and resources from both sides.
One of the more interesting dialogues was between moderator Karyn Skultety, Ph.D. and VP of Health Services at the Institute of Aging, and Commercial Lead at Big Health Dickson Waterfield and Co-Founder of Ginger.io Karan Singh. I like what they’re doing at Ginger.io, which uses smartphones to improve mental health care.
Their app uses sensor data collected through the phone and self-reported information to identify people who may need help. Providers can use this data to better deliver support to the right people at the right time, making care more timely, effective and engaging. Ginger.io’s Android and iPhone apps use data from your phone to safely and securely watch for days when your health may take a hit.

The Dealmaking, Piloting and Scaling panel presented the question: You Have What It Takes? Travis Good, MD and CEO & Co-Founder of Catalyze, Molly Coye MD and Sense.ly CEO Adam Odessky took on the topic head on, sharing insights on how to sell, pilot and scale successfully within the healthcare system.
Questions addressed included what healthcare systems looking for when they evaluate new technology, are all hospitals different or are there unified approaches entrepreneurs can take when working with them, and do you have a product that hospitals can actually implement to scale, among others.

Although nature will always win if I had a choice between trees, mountains and lakes and gadgets, toys and devices, I am a bit of a tech nerd when it comes to nifty things that can improve the quality of my life or my productivity. I’d argue that more devices than not add hassle to my life and extra time trying to figure out how they work and their effectiveness than the benefit they may actually provide.
One of the more interesting products being shown in the Expo part of the show, a small area set up for companies to do demos and show off their greatest, was Breathometer. Their mission is to build the World’s First Portable Breath Analysis Platform to help people make smarter decisions, improve healthcare and to save lives.

You download the Breathometer mobile app on your smartphone, power on the Breeze product using the small button on the bottom of the product and the Breeze should automatically pair / connect with your smartphone.
Once connected, confirm it has been 20 minutes since your last drink, take a deep breath and blow into the mouth of Breeze for 5 seconds and Breathometer will give you your results. Beyond providing dependable blood alcohol concentration levels, the Breathometer app is designed to help you make informed, dependable decisions.

Another cool product at the event was Splitsecnd, emergency assistance the instant you need it. Splitsecnd is the only plug-in device that can provide live trip data, detect a crash, call for emergency help in less than 7 seconds and notify your emergency contact in an instant.
This is a great device when you’re traveling of course, but it’s also great for seniors and teenagers — parents can not only detect if and where there has been a crash instantly, but monitor the driving behavior as well. The device plugs into any vehicle’s 12V lighter outlet and uses airbag sensor technology to activate the emergency response system on impact, calling for help even when you can’t respond.
The GPS monitoring features allow you to keep up with family and loved ones on the road. Using build in location software, splitsecnd works with local 911 dispatchers to send emergency aid right away. The splitsecnd response team will call your emergency contact so your family knows within minutes you have been in a car crash.

You can also view the past 10 trips of anyone on your account — where and when they went and even the route they took. For android users only, it currently also tracks how often the driver texts while driving making it easy to see how often they are making safety a priority. Wow!
I also learned a lot about hearing loss — I had no idea it was such a huge problem in the states, how much hearing loss impacts one’s emotional state, how expensive hearing aids are and the fact that they’re not covered by insurance. Huh? When they’re priced in the $2-6K price range per hearing aid, imagine how many seniors go without, trying to live day to day without accurate hearing?
Apparently there are a significant and growing number of kids who suffer from hearing loss as well. I chatted to the Audicus team at the show, who focus on providing affordable hearing aids. Apparently traditional providers and manufacturers mark hearing aids up more than 10x to cover overhead and other miscellaneous costs whereas Audicus cuts out the middlemen by working with a top-tier, independent German manufacturer and delivering it straight to the consumer.
They believe that everyone deserves to “Live Loudly” so are focusing on dramatically bringing the cost of hearing aids down so it’s more affordable to the average American. They also sell accessories — two thumbs up!
Producer Jill Gilbert, Organizer and founder of Living in Digital Times Robin Raskin and their team put together an incredibly enriching event full of great ideas, people, products, services and platforms.
The event was co-hosted by CDHI – Center for Digital Health Innovation at UCSF — more information can be found at www.digitalhealthsummit.com. Be sure to watch for their developments, updates, future event dates and locations.

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

Fun New Travel Apps Tout Their Horns at Web Summit

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

At the fourth annual Web Summit event in Dublin from November 4-6, 2014, 22,000 people from around the world came to see new gadgets, get cool demos and hear the latest scoop on where technology is heading. Since we love travel, we decided to spend a little time learning about what some of the new travel start-ups were up to on the show floor.
While we mostly cover news and destinations for the luxury traveler, we threw in several apps into the mix that would be useful for hotels, airlines, property and guest house owners and even boat owners.

What I found fascinating was just how diverse the nationalities were across the board — there are some creative apps coming out of Portugal, Israel, Germany, Finland, Greece, the states, France, England, Ireland, Italy, Finland, Russia, Brazil, Austria, Holland, Belgium, Australia and even Monaco and Malta, among countless others. I put together a curation of some of the apps I came across during my scouting exercise across three days at this massive technology event.
Yonderbound is another B2B solution. Based in of all places Monaco, the female founder team (uncanny fact but they’re both named Barbara), is trying to help travelers get a kick back for sharing their knowledge and travel experiences. Millions of people share their travel knowledge on popular sites for free and Yonderbound thinks you should be rewarded for it — up to 70% of the net revenue you produce.

TripFlr is a new travel app from London-based co-founder Jerome Lapaire and team. The pitch? What else but “travel with flair.” Remembering the name of a bar or a shop is often a pain. City by city, you can now store your favorite spots and all the places you have yet to discover in your private Triplogs!

Georama is a real-time vicarious travel platform. They help people experience the world anytime, anywhere. Georama’s technology allows viewers to explore a destination in real-time by interacting with a guide who is live streaming their perspective.
They’re targeting tourism organizations, hotels, airlines and more to help them inspire and engage with prospective travelers around the world.
The Find Out App helps restaurants, nightclubs and bars interact with users on their key information to improve the experience they have on the ground. Based in Paris, they only started out about a month ago so are trying to add new venues as quickly as they can, and will expand to other cities as things progress. Guestvista is aimed at social travelers. Travelers can learn about useful hints and tips from others. The company is based in Ireland.

InLoco gives you an opportunity to travel with locals. This Brazilian-based company has been loading their content from Brazil and will be adding European users soon. The idea is to discover non-tourist sites, meet new people and find more interesting alternatives by traveling with a local resident.
Plan Chat lets you create a plan for anything with content from everywhere in a familiar centric manner. Hotel Booking say they are the best hotel search engine. It looks a bit like an Expedia but for hotel booking only.

Guest 2gether out of Austria, is a social network for hotels. They create a new vacation experience for each customer.
When you’re at your hotel, you can meet up with other people staying at the same hotel and meet up to do activities together or dine together based on common interests.
BookBedder say that they can make hotel booking even better. I chatted with Swiss-based co-founder Yannick Blondeau at the event. BookBedder is a collaborative hotel booking website where hotels and guests join forces to get reduced costs and better deals on hotels.
Quicket is a mobile travel service that combines existing flights, hotels, cars, fees and air services for independent travelers.
BookGreener gives travelers lists of authoritatively rated eco-friendly hotels from around the world. Based out of Indonesia, the ever so eco-conscious founder Alexandre Tsuk wants to change the way people think about hotels and make travelers more conscious about where they stay. What else is cool is that every time a traveler books a hotel, BookGreener plants a tree.

Social Airways has a great idea. The Cyprus-based founder and CEO Stylianos Lambrou wants to help flyers get more value from others on their flight, every time they fly.
It’s a social flights platform that connects people who are on the same flight, so they can share rides, information and anything else that might be useful. I love this and hope it sticks.

Conichi say that they plan to revolutionize the interaction between hotels & restaurants and their guests. Through the Conichi App, guests are automatically recognized and their visits are tracked in order to provide optimal customer service.

In addition to being able to greet guests personally, their preferences are stored so hotels and restaurants can grant them personalized recommendations and provide additional benefits that best suit their interests and preferences. 
Big-data, personalization and smart-analytics are combined to optimize the guest experience and explore new levels of guest loyalty.

Family Vacation is a cool app based in Bucharest and New York that helps families book travel. Think of it more like a marketplace where families can find, customize and book personalized vacations provided by locals from around the world.

Inn Style is a web based alternative to irksome spreadsheets and dusty diaries for all kinds of accommodations owners — they tout, that it will be the easiest way for you or your clients to start taking online bookings.
Hero & Creatives is run by a woman CEO based out of Portugal. I love this idea – essentially they match you up with guide photographers in your destination of choice. How cool to explore the world with a local photographer who can show you an entirely different perspective on a country or city.

Direct Hoteling is a database of hotels and other businesses providing accommodations so you can find the best offer out there.
Travel Myth is another hotel recommendation engine, but one which is based on your interests. Based in Greece, this company’s app could be really useful if it sticks – we need more granular ways to search, discover and book hotels based on our personal likes and dislikes, so I really like the idea.

Gloudio is a fun idea out of the UK. They are combining traditional pre-recorded geo-located audio guides for well visited sites like museums with crowd-based audio content for an enhanced user experience when they’re on the road.
Exploranza out of the Czech Republic hopes to help travelers discover hidden gems. There’s no doubt we need more sites who can curate experiences for travelers in a much more efficient and high quality way but I’m not sure they have quite nailed it yet.
That said, they don’t plan on charging tourists for this curated premium content and they hope the value will get better and better over time. Kymboo.com’s tagline is Tourism 4.0.
Based in Spain, they say they are the first professional booking system for hotels, resorts, cottages and property owners where they can share marketing of their products.
Boatsetter out of Florida, hopes to offer a safe and secure way for boat owners to charter out their vessels to selected clients. Each charter includes state-of-the-art insurance, on-water support provided by BoatUS and US Coast Guard licensed captains available to hire.
Nifty idea but probably pretty niche, at least initially. The idea is obviously that customers will see value-add immediately since they can subsidize the cost of ownership and have a better maintained boat over time.

Roaming Byme is based in France and their team hopes to solve the roaming cell phone issue. They tout themselves as the traveler’s mobile operator, where they hope to solve traveler’s roaming bill shock issues.
YapQ, based in Israel, has created a mobile app that tells you what’s around you. They curate destinations and activities you want to do frequently in a city or town, such as a well known museum. The other beautiful thing about their app for a traveler is that you can use it offline and get the same benefit.

Pimp Your Stay with a team out of Malta, has certainly found a memorable name that is suggestive but also fun. They provide hotels access to detailed guest data (with opt in permission from the guest of course), so the hotels can add extra value to their stay.
Now, with additional personalized information on a guest in advance, hotels can turn a standardized service into a truly personalized stay.

Naymit, out of Germany, makes places findable, allowing you to create a one word address so visitors can find your front door or any other location in an instant. Imagine in the future that you might be able to type your “Naymit” name into your car navigation system and it’ll just work.

Let’s Open Now is based in Holland and is trying to help travelers find what they’re looking for that is open when they need them. Outria out of Belgium, crowdsources events, information from members and social networks and they distribute that information to new members.

Green Hopping is all about green travel. Through their site greenhopping.eu, you can browse, discover and get inspired by green travel ideas and places.
Cyclister, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear, is based out of Copenhagen Denmark, a city of cyclists. You can list your bike on Cyclister, decide on the price you want to rent your bike for and make money off each rental, a bit like the services that allow people to rent out their cars when they’re not in use. This is certainly useful in cities where cycling is a preferred way to get around like Copenhagen for example and I could also see this working in Amsterdam and Montreal.

Next to Me, out of Italy, is creating an accurate submeter indoor navigation system that allows users to locate and access their services within their location.
Audio Trip, out of Poland, is a storytelling app that changes your smart phone into a personal local guide.
Cruise Me allows you to search, discover and connect, all within the cruise world. It’s still a bit hush hush as they haven’t officially launched yet, but apparently the app from this Florida-based startup is slated to go live sometime in January or February 2015.

Share My Taxi, based out of Munich Germany, is a blend of Uber and Lyft. They use professional drivers and there’s also a mobile app that makes traveling with taxis, Uber, Wundercar and others social and green by sharing a ride if its available. This is also more economical for travelers who want to get from A to B safely.

Cityist has started out with Paris-based content since that’s where they’re currently based. They tout themselves as the next Generation Of City Guides. They are a website, offline mobile app & marketplace that turns tourists into local experts.
Local Fixer’s Co-Founder Elliot Costello and team are based in Melbourne Australia. Finally, a fun travel app from the Aussies. It’s a bit like a LinkedIn for the travel sector, where you can include offers in your profile, ranging from offering your pad to rent for the week, or posts of other things you can offer travelers, such as bikes, your car to use, or things you’d like to sell which might be useful to them during their stay.

Deal Broker is a B2B solution that is targeting travel suppliers and help them find great tours and activities for travelers. They customize the content under the tour operators brand/logo that they can then send out to their travel prospects.

DealBroker can also send mobile notifications through social media, text or email. Deal Broker specializes in relevant offers around a specific destination, such as tours and activity offers. They are leveraging the trend that tour operators and activity suppliers want to cooperate and need easier ways to do so. It would be a great multi-touch solution for example, for rental car companies or airlines.

Tziip is based out of Finland and their pitch is a bit like like Lyft but more social. In other words – get a ride and/or share a ride.
Group Booked from Ireland, touts themselves as the AirBNB for groups, but for more than just accommodations. Another value-add they say is that while they book for groups, they’ll take individual payments, making it more flexible for groups of people to book.
Hudway is a mobile app that helps drivers follow directions in fog, snow, rain and at night via road windshield projections.

Tour Plus, based out of Malaysia helps you plan, enjoy and share your trip by creating an automatic itinerary for you. In other words, you put the places you want to see into their app and they’ll map out the best way to do it for you. You can also share that itinerary with others.
Travel Appeal from Italy, allows hotels to control, manage and improve their reputation.
BELOW SHOTS: On the Show Floor at Web Summit 2014 in Dublin  
 
Photos of apps from vendor websites, 1st Photo taken from Travelblat and photos from Web Summit Show Floor from Renee Blodgett.    

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

Surf Summit, Where Technology, Entrepreneurism & Surfing Meet

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

Imagine a conference that combines surfing, technology and entrepreneurship on Ireland’s magical wild coast. A subset if you will of Dublin’s Web Summit, the first ever held Surf Summit brought 200 attendees to the west coast of Ireland to join in discussions, surfing and other adventurous and cultural activities.

When I told people I was going to an event where they planned to surf in Ireland’s coastal waters in the middle of November, they looked at me as if I was a bit mad, unless of course they happened to be Canadian or from a Nordic or Celtic country.
You see, the Scots, the Welsh, the English, the Scandinavians and the Canadians thought this sounded perfectly normal, for when you come from a country where it is cold and rainy, you need to have a “can-do” attitude regardless of the climate or you simply won’t experience anything at all. I learned this from living in England many moons ago and it has made me a lot more resilient because of it.

Iceland is another great example of where their personal and cultural life infiltrates into their business life in a positive way and adds to the entrepreneurial spirit, rather than detracts from it. I was born into water — in other words, I grew up on lakes, was thrown into one before I could walk and was waterskiing by 5.
None of that quite prepares you for the cold waters of the Atlantic, however the enthusiasm of the entrepreneurs at the Summit made it easier to embrace it all. Below is a beginner lesson on the shores of Keel Beach on Achill Island which is part of West Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
 

Achill Island is the largest island off the coast of West Ireland. The island is a magical place where the light seems to bless the Irish coast regardless of whether its foggy, cloudy, raining or clear blue skies and sunny, a rarity, especially in November. That said, we had our moments.

Other adventurous activities took place as well such as zorbing, rope climbing, zip lining, and archery thanks to the guys at Wild Atlantic Way Adventure Tours.

I had oddly never heard of zorbing and when they told me it involved getting thrown into a massive inflatable ball and being thrown vigorously down a hill, I was thankful I was on the archery team. That said, when I walked past the ball on my way to Archery, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized, so much so that I looked at Jenni, the Finnish girl I was hanging with at the time and said, “let’s do this.”
Next thing you know, we were inside a massive inflatable ball, strapped in on all sides and yes, thrown down the hill. Needless to say, it was a blast and our screams surpassed all the others we were told.

I decided to go ziplining as well, since I’ve always loved the sport. While it may not have been as invigorating as the times I flew through the jungles of Costa Rica, Ecuador or Hawaii, it was fun nevertheless.

Below, people threw themselves towards a target hanging from a tree, with both themselves and the target connected to ropes.
 

Archery wasn’t quite like I had learned it as a child at summer camp in the Adirondacks of upstate New York.

Instead, there were two teams and rather than shoot an arrow into a target (speaking of targets, check out my most recent encounter with guns in Kentucky), you shot rubber objects into the opposing team.
I felt as if I had signed up for a history lesson on what it was like for the Scots to win a war before there was ammunition. Only in a Celtic Land I was thinking to myself throughout the entire process, but with a smile on my face.

Speaking of Celtic Lands, it wouldn’t be a conference in Ireland if it didn’t have plenty of beer and pub culture.
On the main drag of Westport lies a few renowned pubs my old friend Peter told me about, which is worth having a pint or two if you make it to Westport.
Enter McGings on High Street and Matt Malloys on Bridge Street, both popular favorites among locals. Matt Malloys is known for its live traditional Irish music and Matt has purposely kept the pub small, so that they can congregate – as they do, from all 32 counties – to enjoy a pint and a tune.

At the evening sessions of the event, they served Guinness on tap which is always a treat, since regardless of whether you only like Guinness or love it (I’m in the last category), it always tastes better in Ireland.
Ask anyone who has been to Ireland and is a regular Guinness drinker and they’d have to agree. In the midst of all of these physical activities which we never seem to incorporate into our more stationary tech events in the states, was a series of talks over meals.
We heard from John Huikku who has done everything from lighting and compositing, to 3D matte painting, environments and look development. He spent 15 years working at Disney and worked on Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in New Zealand of all places. Edgars Rozenthals talked about drones, Airdog and Kickstarter, Andrew Cotton talked about surfing but also big ideas and equating his daredevil life riding the waves (such as him tackling the surf created by the St. Jude’s  Storm in Portugal recently), to taking risks and chances in business and life in general.
While you may only think risk behavior on waves that could kill if you hit them wrong may only be a male choice, think again! Anastasia Ashley, who was drawn to the ocean as early as she can remember, was body boarding by age 4 and surfing by age 6. 
She has since become a prodigy and has won over 200 amateur events, including the NSSA National championships at age 16, before she turned professional full time.

She loves the immediacy of digital media for reaching fans. She says, “I could be shooting something for a brand or a magazine and it can be up within a few days” which is a great way to deepen the engagement.
She adds, “when you’re in the media, you read everything about yourself,” but has learned to love it all — the good interactions and the bad.

When you’re a celeb female surfer and do a twerking video, you shouldn’t be surprised when it suddenly goes viral and gets 7 million views.
While there are lots of positive sides to what she has accomplished, she acknowledged that “females in any sport get the short end of the stick,” referring to men who still tell her she doesn’t deserve her fame and notoriety.” Jimmy Gopperth and Jonny Golding talked about what you can take from rugby and apply to business, of which trust and teamwork were his top two.
Decision making was another biggie, particularly making decisions under pressure, which happens as much on the field as it does in and out of the board room. Niall Harbison encouraged people to take risks. Being a true entrepreneur says Niall, means that you can’t be afraid to fail. 
Other tips to entrepreneurs included banging the door down no matter how hard it seems, not taking no for an answer, having incredible focus on your main goal, instilling amazing culture into your business and thinking globally beyond your own geographic borders.
He has high ambitions for both PR Slides, which recently raised €500,000 in funding, and Lovin’ Dublin. The latter sells Dublin as a hipster paradise somewhere between London, New York and Berlin, but it has been accused of loving Dublin and not Dubliners.  
He said that he learned a lot going through this process, including that even if you hear people on the street using words like ‘knacker’ and ‘junkie’, it doesn’t mean you should write it. Below, the film panel…

We also heard from Ireland’s prime minister Edna Kenny who talked about a very proud Mayo county.

He stuck around for awhile to chat with entrepreneurs, take photos and share what he does well – storytelling with a dry and charming sense of humor.

Below is a snippet from his talk.

And, of course, there was traditional Irish music wherever we turned — from the classic pubs in downtown Westport and nearby villages to our evening sessions at the Hotel Westport, which is known for hosting conferences and events.

Below is a snippet from their playing.

What was so unique and special about Surf Summit was its intimacy and its location, which almost has spiritual qualities.  The nature, the air, the skies, the rainbows, the breeze, the sand, the long dry grass – all of it was magical!

Combine that with a couple of days of fascinating conversations about start-ups and entrepreneurship with founders from nearly every continent, and apps and products that cross a myriad of industries, from gaming, drones, digital entertainment and mobile social apps, to luxury, lifestyle, healthcare, travel, transportation and insurance, it was all there.
Ultimately, smaller and carefully targeted and curated events are going to win as we see a proliferation of tech events in the same on-stage session formats with crowds too large to make sense anymore.
I think choosing an out of the way location is also a great idea, since it shows commitment on those who sign up — and its not easy to leave, encouraging intimate talks and connections during the days and evenings.
And, in this case, I got to see a little bit of West Ireland, which was as beautiful and special as I thought it would be. Bravo Achill Island, Wesport, Wild Atlantic Way and Mayo County!
All photo credits: Renee Blodgett, except for Malloy’s pub, which is from their website.
Both video credits: Renee Blodgett. OTHER GREAT RELATED POSTS TO READ: See our other posts on Ireland, Food & Wine in Ireland (including Dublin restaurant reviews), Web Summit 2014, the Top Travel Apps from Web Summit this year and Ireland tech events and top Ireland festivals.

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

Fun New Travel Apps Tout Their Horns at Web Summit

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

At the fourth annual Web Summit event in Dublin from November 4-6, 2014, 22,000 people from around the world came to see new gadgets, get cool demos and hear the latest scoop on where technology is heading. Since we love travel, we decided to spend a little time learning about what some of the new travel start-ups were up to on the show floor.
While we mostly cover news and destinations for the luxury traveler, we threw in several apps into the mix that would be useful for hotels, airlines, property and guest house owners and even boat owners.

What I found fascinating was just how diverse the nationalities were across the board — there are some creative apps coming out of Portugal, Israel, Germany, Finland, Greece, the states, France, England, Ireland, Italy, Finland, Russia, Brazil, Austria, Holland, Belgium, Australia and even Monaco and Malta, among countless others. I put together a curation of some of the apps I came across during my scouting exercise across three days at this massive technology event.
Yonderbound is another B2B solution. Based in of all places Monaco, the female founder team (uncanny fact but they’re both named Barbara), is trying to help travelers get a kick back for sharing their knowledge and travel experiences. Millions of people share their travel knowledge on popular sites for free and Yonderbound thinks you should be rewarded for it — up to 70% of the net revenue you produce.

TripFlr is a new travel app from London-based co-founder Jerome Lapaire and team. The pitch? What else but “travel with flair.” Remembering the name of a bar or a shop is often a pain. City by city, you can now store your favorite spots and all the places you have yet to discover in your private Triplogs!

Georama is a real-time vicarious travel platform. They help people experience the world anytime, anywhere. Georama’s technology allows viewers to explore a destination in real-time by interacting with a guide who is live streaming their perspective.
They’re targeting tourism organizations, hotels, airlines and more to help them inspire and engage with prospective travelers around the world.
The Find Out App helps restaurants, nightclubs and bars interact with users on their key information to improve the experience they have on the ground. Based in Paris, they only started out about a month ago so are trying to add new venues as quickly as they can, and will expand to other cities as things progress. Guestvista is aimed at social travelers. Travelers can learn about useful hints and tips from others. The company is based in Ireland.

InLoco gives you an opportunity to travel with locals. This Brazilian-based company has been loading their content from Brazil and will be adding European users soon. The idea is to discover non-tourist sites, meet new people and find more interesting alternatives by traveling with a local resident.
Plan Chat lets you create a plan for anything with content from everywhere in a familiar centric manner. Hotel Booking say they are the best hotel search engine. It looks a bit like an Expedia but for hotel booking only.

Guest 2gether out of Austria, is a social network for hotels. They create a new vacation experience for each customer.
When you’re at your hotel, you can meet up with other people staying at the same hotel and meet up to do activities together or dine together based on common interests.
BookBedder say that they can make hotel booking even better. I chatted with Swiss-based co-founder Yannick Blondeau at the event. BookBedder is a collaborative hotel booking website where hotels and guests join forces to get reduced costs and better deals on hotels.
Quicket is a mobile travel service that combines existing flights, hotels, cars, fees and air services for independent travelers.
BookGreener gives travelers lists of authoritatively rated eco-friendly hotels from around the world. Based out of Indonesia, the ever so eco-conscious founder Alexandre Tsuk wants to change the way people think about hotels and make travelers more conscious about where they stay. What else is cool is that every time a traveler books a hotel, BookGreener plants a tree.

Social Airways has a great idea. The Cyprus-based founder and CEO Stylianos Lambrou wants to help flyers get more value from others on their flight, every time they fly.
It’s a social flights platform that connects people who are on the same flight, so they can share rides, information and anything else that might be useful. I love this and hope it sticks.

Conichi say that they plan to revolutionize the interaction between hotels & restaurants and their guests. Through the Conichi App, guests are automatically recognized and their visits are tracked in order to provide optimal customer service.

In addition to being able to greet guests personally, their preferences are stored so hotels and restaurants can grant them personalized recommendations and provide additional benefits that best suit their interests and preferences. 
Big-data, personalization and smart-analytics are combined to optimize the guest experience and explore new levels of guest loyalty.

Family Vacation is a cool app based in Bucharest and New York that helps families book travel. Think of it more like a marketplace where families can find, customize and book personalized vacations provided by locals from around the world.

Inn Style is a web based alternative to irksome spreadsheets and dusty diaries for all kinds of accommodations owners — they tout, that it will be the easiest way for you or your clients to start taking online bookings.
Hero & Creatives is run by a woman CEO based out of Portugal. I love this idea – essentially they match you up with guide photographers in your destination of choice. How cool to explore the world with a local photographer who can show you an entirely different perspective on a country or city.

Direct Hoteling is a database of hotels and other businesses providing accommodations so you can find the best offer out there.
Travel Myth is another hotel recommendation engine, but one which is based on your interests. Based in Greece, this company’s app could be really useful if it sticks – we need more granular ways to search, discover and book hotels based on our personal likes and dislikes, so I really like the idea.

Gloudio is a fun idea out of the UK. They are combining traditional pre-recorded geo-located audio guides for well visited sites like museums with crowd-based audio content for an enhanced user experience when they’re on the road.
Exploranza out of the Czech Republic hopes to help travelers discover hidden gems. There’s no doubt we need more sites who can curate experiences for travelers in a much more efficient and high quality way but I’m not sure they have quite nailed it yet.
That said, they don’t plan on charging tourists for this curated premium content and they hope the value will get better and better over time. Kymboo.com’s tagline is Tourism 4.0.
Based in Spain, they say they are the first professional booking system for hotels, resorts, cottages and property owners where they can share marketing of their products.
Boatsetter out of Florida, hopes to offer a safe and secure way for boat owners to charter out their vessels to selected clients. Each charter includes state-of-the-art insurance, on-water support provided by BoatUS and US Coast Guard licensed captains available to hire.
Nifty idea but probably pretty niche, at least initially. The idea is obviously that customers will see value-add immediately since they can subsidize the cost of ownership and have a better maintained boat over time.

Roaming Byme is based in France and their team hopes to solve the roaming cell phone issue. They tout themselves as the traveler’s mobile operator, where they hope to solve traveler’s roaming bill shock issues.
YapQ, based in Israel, has created a mobile app that tells you what’s around you. They curate destinations and activities you want to do frequently in a city or town, such as a well known museum. The other beautiful thing about their app for a traveler is that you can use it offline and get the same benefit.

Pimp Your Stay with a team out of Malta, has certainly found a memorable name that is suggestive but also fun. They provide hotels access to detailed guest data (with opt in permission from the guest of course), so the hotels can add extra value to their stay.
Now, with additional personalized information on a guest in advance, hotels can turn a standardized service into a truly personalized stay.

Naymit, out of Germany, makes places findable, allowing you to create a one word address so visitors can find your front door or any other location in an instant. Imagine in the future that you might be able to type your “Naymit” name into your car navigation system and it’ll just work.

Let’s Open Now is based in Holland and is trying to help travelers find what they’re looking for that is open when they need them. Outria out of Belgium, crowdsources events, information from members and social networks and they distribute that information to new members.

Green Hopping is all about green travel. Through their site greenhopping.eu, you can browse, discover and get inspired by green travel ideas and places.
Cyclister, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear, is based out of Copenhagen Denmark, a city of cyclists. You can list your bike on Cyclister, decide on the price you want to rent your bike for and make money off each rental, a bit like the services that allow people to rent out their cars when they’re not in use. This is certainly useful in cities where cycling is a preferred way to get around like Copenhagen for example and I could also see this working in Amsterdam and Montreal.

Next to Me, out of Italy, is creating an accurate submeter indoor navigation system that allows users to locate and access their services within their location.
Audio Trip, out of Poland, is a storytelling app that changes your smart phone into a personal local guide.
Cruise Me allows you to search, discover and connect, all within the cruise world. It’s still a bit hush hush as they haven’t officially launched yet, but apparently the app from this Florida-based startup is slated to go live sometime in January or February 2015.

Share My Taxi, based out of Munich Germany, is a blend of Uber and Lyft. They use professional drivers and there’s also a mobile app that makes traveling with taxis, Uber, Wundercar and others social and green by sharing a ride if its available. This is also more economical for travelers who want to get from A to B safely.

Cityist has started out with Paris-based content since that’s where they’re currently based. They tout themselves as the next Generation Of City Guides. They are a website, offline mobile app & marketplace that turns tourists into local experts.
Local Fixer’s Co-Founder Elliot Costello and team are based in Melbourne Australia. Finally, a fun travel app from the Aussies. It’s a bit like a LinkedIn for the travel sector, where you can include offers in your profile, ranging from offering your pad to rent for the week, or posts of other things you can offer travelers, such as bikes, your car to use, or things you’d like to sell which might be useful to them during their stay.

Deal Broker is a B2B solution that is targeting travel suppliers and help them find great tours and activities for travelers. They customize the content under the tour operators brand/logo that they can then send out to their travel prospects.

DealBroker can also send mobile notifications through social media, text or email. Deal Broker specializes in relevant offers around a specific destination, such as tours and activity offers. They are leveraging the trend that tour operators and activity suppliers want to cooperate and need easier ways to do so. It would be a great multi-touch solution for example, for rental car companies or airlines.

Tziip is based out of Finland and their pitch is a bit like like Lyft but more social. In other words – get a ride and/or share a ride.
Group Booked from Ireland, touts themselves as the AirBNB for groups, but for more than just accommodations. Another value-add they say is that while they book for groups, they’ll take individual payments, making it more flexible for groups of people to book.
Hudway is a mobile app that helps drivers follow directions in fog, snow, rain and at night via road windshield projections.

Tour Plus, based out of Malaysia helps you plan, enjoy and share your trip by creating an automatic itinerary for you. In other words, you put the places you want to see into their app and they’ll map out the best way to do it for you. You can also share that itinerary with others.
Travel Appeal from Italy, allows hotels to control, manage and improve their reputation.
BELOW SHOTS: On the Show Floor at Web Summit 2014 in Dublin  
 
Photos of apps from vendor websites, 1st Photo taken from Travelblat and photos from Web Summit Show Floor from Renee Blodgett.    

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

Surf Summit, Where Technology, Entrepreneurism & Surfing Meet

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

Imagine a conference that combines surfing, technology and entrepreneurship on Ireland’s magical wild coast. A subset if you will of Dublin’s Web Summit, the first ever held Surf Summit brought 200 attendees to the west coast of Ireland to join in discussions, surfing and other adventurous and cultural activities.

When I told people I was going to an event where they planned to surf in Ireland’s coastal waters in the middle of November, they looked at me as if I was a bit mad, unless of course they happened to be Canadian or from a Nordic or Celtic country.
You see, the Scots, the Welsh, the English, the Scandinavians and the Canadians thought this sounded perfectly normal, for when you come from a country where it is cold and rainy, you need to have a “can-do” attitude regardless of the climate or you simply won’t experience anything at all. I learned this from living in England many moons ago and it has made me a lot more resilient because of it.

Iceland is another great example of where their personal and cultural life infiltrates into their business life in a positive way and adds to the entrepreneurial spirit, rather than detracts from it. I was born into water — in other words, I grew up on lakes, was thrown into one before I could walk and was waterskiing by 5.
None of that quite prepares you for the cold waters of the Atlantic, however the enthusiasm of the entrepreneurs at the Summit made it easier to embrace it all. Below is a beginner lesson on the shores of Keel Beach on Achill Island which is part of West Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
 

Achill Island is the largest island off the coast of West Ireland. The island is a magical place where the light seems to bless the Irish coast regardless of whether its foggy, cloudy, raining or clear blue skies and sunny, a rarity, especially in November. That said, we had our moments.

Other adventurous activities took place as well such as zorbing, rope climbing, zip lining, and archery thanks to the guys at Wild Atlantic Way Adventure Tours.

I had oddly never heard of zorbing and when they told me it involved getting thrown into a massive inflatable ball and being thrown vigorously down a hill, I was thankful I was on the archery team. That said, when I walked past the ball on my way to Archery, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized, so much so that I looked at Jenni, the Finnish girl I was hanging with at the time and said, “let’s do this.”
Next thing you know, we were inside a massive inflatable ball, strapped in on all sides and yes, thrown down the hill. Needless to say, it was a blast and our screams surpassed all the others we were told.

I decided to go ziplining as well, since I’ve always loved the sport. While it may not have been as invigorating as the times I flew through the jungles of Costa Rica, Ecuador or Hawaii, it was fun nevertheless.

Below, people threw themselves towards a target hanging from a tree, with both themselves and the target connected to ropes.
 

Archery wasn’t quite like I had learned it as a child at summer camp in the Adirondacks of upstate New York.

Instead, there were two teams and rather than shoot an arrow into a target (speaking of targets, check out my most recent encounter with guns in Kentucky), you shot rubber objects into the opposing team.
I felt as if I had signed up for a history lesson on what it was like for the Scots to win a war before there was ammunition. Only in a Celtic Land I was thinking to myself throughout the entire process, but with a smile on my face.

Speaking of Celtic Lands, it wouldn’t be a conference in Ireland if it didn’t have plenty of beer and pub culture.
On the main drag of Westport lies a few renowned pubs my old friend Peter told me about, which is worth having a pint or two if you make it to Westport.
Enter McGings on High Street and Matt Malloys on Bridge Street, both popular favorites among locals. Matt Malloys is known for its live traditional Irish music and Matt has purposely kept the pub small, so that they can congregate – as they do, from all 32 counties – to enjoy a pint and a tune.

At the evening sessions of the event, they served Guinness on tap which is always a treat, since regardless of whether you only like Guinness or love it (I’m in the last category), it always tastes better in Ireland.
Ask anyone who has been to Ireland and is a regular Guinness drinker and they’d have to agree. In the midst of all of these physical activities which we never seem to incorporate into our more stationary tech events in the states, was a series of talks over meals.
We heard from John Huikku who has done everything from lighting and compositing, to 3D matte painting, environments and look development. He spent 15 years working at Disney and worked on Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in New Zealand of all places. Edgars Rozenthals talked about drones, Airdog and Kickstarter, Andrew Cotton talked about surfing but also big ideas and equating his daredevil life riding the waves (such as him tackling the surf created by the St. Jude’s  Storm in Portugal recently), to taking risks and chances in business and life in general.
While you may only think risk behavior on waves that could kill if you hit them wrong may only be a male choice, think again! Anastasia Ashley, who was drawn to the ocean as early as she can remember, was body boarding by age 4 and surfing by age 6. 
She has since become a prodigy and has won over 200 amateur events, including the NSSA National championships at age 16, before she turned professional full time.

She loves the immediacy of digital media for reaching fans. She says, “I could be shooting something for a brand or a magazine and it can be up within a few days” which is a great way to deepen the engagement.
She adds, “when you’re in the media, you read everything about yourself,” but has learned to love it all — the good interactions and the bad.

When you’re a celeb female surfer and do a twerking video, you shouldn’t be surprised when it suddenly goes viral and gets 7 million views.
While there are lots of positive sides to what she has accomplished, she acknowledged that “females in any sport get the short end of the stick,” referring to men who still tell her she doesn’t deserve her fame and notoriety.” Jimmy Gopperth and Jonny Golding talked about what you can take from rugby and apply to business, of which trust and teamwork were his top two.
Decision making was another biggie, particularly making decisions under pressure, which happens as much on the field as it does in and out of the board room. Niall Harbison encouraged people to take risks. Being a true entrepreneur says Niall, means that you can’t be afraid to fail. 
Other tips to entrepreneurs included banging the door down no matter how hard it seems, not taking no for an answer, having incredible focus on your main goal, instilling amazing culture into your business and thinking globally beyond your own geographic borders.
He has high ambitions for both PR Slides, which recently raised €500,000 in funding, and Lovin’ Dublin. The latter sells Dublin as a hipster paradise somewhere between London, New York and Berlin, but it has been accused of loving Dublin and not Dubliners.  
He said that he learned a lot going through this process, including that even if you hear people on the street using words like ‘knacker’ and ‘junkie’, it doesn’t mean you should write it. Below, the film panel…

We also heard from Ireland’s prime minister Edna Kenny who talked about a very proud Mayo county.

He stuck around for awhile to chat with entrepreneurs, take photos and share what he does well – storytelling with a dry and charming sense of humor.

Below is a snippet from his talk.

And, of course, there was traditional Irish music wherever we turned — from the classic pubs in downtown Westport and nearby villages to our evening sessions at the Hotel Westport, which is known for hosting conferences and events.

Below is a snippet from their playing.

What was so unique and special about Surf Summit was its intimacy and its location, which almost has spiritual qualities.  The nature, the air, the skies, the rainbows, the breeze, the sand, the long dry grass – all of it was magical!

Combine that with a couple of days of fascinating conversations about start-ups and entrepreneurship with founders from nearly every continent, and apps and products that cross a myriad of industries, from gaming, drones, digital entertainment and mobile social apps, to luxury, lifestyle, healthcare, travel, transportation and insurance, it was all there.
Ultimately, smaller and carefully targeted and curated events are going to win as we see a proliferation of tech events in the same on-stage session formats with crowds too large to make sense anymore.
I think choosing an out of the way location is also a great idea, since it shows commitment on those who sign up — and its not easy to leave, encouraging intimate talks and connections during the days and evenings.
And, in this case, I got to see a little bit of West Ireland, which was as beautiful and special as I thought it would be. Bravo Achill Island, Wesport, Wild Atlantic Way and Mayo County!
All photo credits: Renee Blodgett, except for Malloy’s pub, which is from their website.
Both video credits: Renee Blodgett. OTHER GREAT RELATED POSTS TO READ: See our other posts on Ireland, Food & Wine in Ireland (including Dublin restaurant reviews), Web Summit 2014, the Top Travel Apps from Web Summit this year and Ireland tech events and top Ireland festivals.

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

Idea Festival 2014, Where Creativity & Innovation Converge

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

Imagine an eclectic conference in the heart of bourbon country that brings together thought leaders, big thinkers, educators, scientists, politicians, urban planners, technologists, authors, artists, students and musicians under one roof? And…that is not by all means an exhaustive list.
Idea Festival is the one event that I’ve jumped on an airplane for every year, bound for Louisville Kentucky to make the time for a four day discussion on creativity and innovation.
Last year’s event coverage will give you a taste of who they attract and while the focus may change slightly depending on who’s on the main stage, the mission remains the same: to Stay Curious.

Hear from founder and the force behind Idea Festival Kris Kimel; a snippet from a video I shot a couple of years ago will demonstrate his passion for the event and why he started it.  
Think of it as an intellectual playground in one of America’s most interesting southern cities where people celebrate ideas, creativity and transformational learning across multiple disciplines, including science, technology, design, education, philosophy, business and the arts.
While not in any of these categories, Walgreen’s Chief Diversity Officer Steve Pemberton received a standing ovation for his talk that not just touched on diversity but what it means to be human.  His childhood was far from stellar, yet he managed to rise above inequality and obstacles thrown in his path to where he sits today.

Truth be told, his talk makes you care about kindness, rethink adversity and if you’re a business, understand the importance of diversity.
 Overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, Pemberton has gone from being a forgotten ward of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to becoming a trailblazing Divisional Vice President at Walgreens and the first Chief Diversity Officer for the 113 year old company.
Prior to that, he made history as the first Chief Diversity Officer and Vice-President of Diversity and Inclusion for an Internet start-up while at Monster.com. His memoir, A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home, chronicles his difficult path through foster care and his determined search for his family.
It is an inspirational story that crosses generations and cultures, but specifically whispers to those who have had the odds stacked against them. Pemberton’s relentless journey to overcome his setbacks, find his biological family and right the wrongs of his parents’ past is a model for all families to follow. It is a true testament of faith, fortitude and forgiveness and his talk brought his personal story to life in a heartfelt and very human way. As an audience, we wanted to cry and laugh with him at the same time. Pemberton believes that who we are, our triumphs over adversity, and our successes begin and end with family.
His rivoting talk was an exceptionally powerful sentiment from a man who fought to find his way and who in the end believes that you can choose your family after all. Hear hear. CEO of Virgin Produced Jason Felts was also very inspirational, earmarking all the reasons why your status in life isn’t the main indicator of whether you’ll be successful in life or not.
As one of the youngest CEO’s within the Virgin Group of companies, he oversees the group’s expansion into the film, television and new media content business. While he may not have had to overcome adversity in the same way as Pemberton did early on in life, Felts isn’t an ivy league college graduate either.
He comes to the business without the external accolades and degrees that a large brand might look for, yet he is now spearheading the Virgin Produced business, successfully bringing it to the next level. Richard Branson saw a gem when he met one and since 2010, Felts has been combining the strength of his raw wisdom, his film experience, his authentic charm and down-to-earth approach to running a business to the Virgin Group.

What I loved about Felts when I first met him was his presence. How rare is it to find someone operating at that level who actually not just has presence on stage, but is truly present with you “in the moment” regardless of what value you can give him.
I have met and worked with my fair share of CEOs and celebrities in my life and more often than not, the charm is accelerated only when they realize you can give them something they need.
Not the case with Felts. Like Branson, he hates the status quo, and word has it that “he’ll cut off your tie if you wear one into his office.”  His background is primarily in film and TV production, so it’s ever so fitting that he’s such an instrumental force behind the entertainment side of Virgin’s business.
Says Jason on the Idea Festival stage, “Create content that inspires. Trust comes first, competency second and then creativity.” He notes that at Virgin Produced, that the culture is a combination of down-to-earth and creative. “People don’t operate from a place of ego,” he says.
“We talk issues out like a family.” He sees Richard Branson as a tremendous mentor, a personality which is hard not to love. As a man who who has always led with adventure, he has never let obstacles get in the way of business or life. Branson chooses his partners, not the other way around Felts learned when he came on in 2010. It was a leap of faith on both sides and it appears to have paid off.
The word trust came up a few times, which is a great way to lead your business. Jason says, “Everything else follows trust! If you surround yourself with people you trust, the rest comes. Revenue follows trust!”

The Virgin brand for him exudes a combination of innovation, creativity and value for the money. He says, “with Virgin movies, we want people to leave thinking there’s a sense of fun, adventure and thrill to the Virgin brand as well as a sense of wish fulfillment and social responsibility. We follow our gut and we’ve been winning so far.”
He feels that the traditional trailer is dead….and deceiving. “There’s way too much content out there and it’s a little misleading,” he says.  Content overload is certainly not a new problem but it has now expanded into all areas of digital content including movie trailers.
He says that their movies are not going to appeal to everyone, but if it touches a certain demographic, then it’s a check box for them since they lead with quality, not revenue.
Felts thinks we need to start tailoring things to the individual and become more personalized. Later in his talk, I learned that it wasn’t Branson who passed on the heartfelt authenticity and warmth that Felts so naturally exudes; it was his mom.
He shared one of his mom’s sayings: “Love the ones you’re with” and it’s something that Felts practices. I met him at the beginning of the conference and every engagement I had with him throughout the event albeit brief, was genuine. Imagine if all leaders and CEO’s could be that present who they could further inspire, motivate and ignite? He ended with a comment that touches on the infiltration of technology in our lives, something he also practices by not using his cell phone when he’s with his family.
His parting comment: “I think it’s up to forward thinking people to keep us together as a community rather than breaking us apart.” Thanks for being so damn refreshing Jason Felts. I loved your energy, your talk and your very fun suggestion to bring the audience up on the stage with you at the end of your talk for a true-blue selfie!

Wired Magazine and New York Times writer Clive Thompson amused us with his tantilizing talk about technology, social media and the changing landscape; how technology is fundamentally changing the way we think….often in ways we don’t fully understand.
He cites an example from a Clarke college professor who said this of her students: they were often content to get a bad grade from me than have the Wikipedia community tell them their research is sloppy.
There’s no doubt that thinking about knowledge, education and the perception of both has changed dramatically over the years.
We still gravitate to what we know and feel comfortable with just as we did 100 years ago and today, our peers are doing very different things and communicating in ways that the last generation doesn’t quite understand.
Texting, sexting, facebook pokes, tweets and Instagram shares have become commonplace, not just once a day but regularly throughout the day, whether or not school or work is part of that day. While like continues to find like, multiples exist more than ever in the past. You know — that big idea you’ve got? Well a couple dozen other people around the world also have it and unlike 50 years ago, they can share that idea instantaneously on the web, whether or not they’ve created a patent for it or plan to.

He has learned through his observations over the years, that as social media has exploded, the way we learn and think has changed. Thompson says, “we try harder, think more deeply and analyze more clearly when someone is watching.”
Citing another piece of research from “Mimi in Tokyo,” he shares that young lovers in Tokyo in the 1990’s found that texting makes them feel closer than even a phone call.” It makes sense in some ways since texting not only provides the immediacy of a response but its lasting and you can scroll back and look at those whimsical and romantic messages hours later.
For those who don’t understand Twitter, he tries to explain its value in this context: a few ambient signals mean nothing on their own but months of them starts to have meaning which ultimately becomes ambient awareness — kind of like what happens when we have ESP and can sense people’s thoughts.” As a regular Twitter user, I see this all the time and over time, learn more about people I’ve known for over ten years by observing their tweets over a couple of months.
It’s astonishing and eye opening, however those who are new to social media or simply don’t want to invest the time, still can’t get their head around it.
Other interesting observations from online behavior found that weak ties in our lives (i.e., people we see once a year perhaps) can be more powerful in some cases than strong ties (people we see every day and are close to). Quite often, the most new and valuable information comes to us from people we don’t know very well.
The notion is that people in our closer circles are too similar to us so we don’t necessarily learn something new from them. The other trend is data gathering and data crunching.
Suddenly people are becoming accustomed to monitoring not just any data trend, but their own personal data, on a regular basis. Fitbit and other digital health connected devices such as the Kolibree connected toothbrush are prime examples.
You can have data about your behavior in real time on your smart phone, data that you can share with your loved ones, doctor or dentist. Is this trend turning everyone into data scientists? And, if so, what will the impact of that be on medicine, healthcare as we know it and general wellness and being?

What about once all of that data becomes connected? AND, what about when our minds can become “connected?” What is the powerful explosion that we could see in the future when we start collaborating on things that collectively and individually fascinate us? 
How do we effectively tap into collaborative thinking? People are already doing it in multiple ways, ranging from individual data collection around a regional environmental disaster to solving a medical research problems.
One of the things we talk about a lot in Silicon Valley is the power of collective data and thinking.  
Crowd-sourcing, crowd-thinking and crowd-creating are topics that are sprouting up as TED talks, at salons in people’s private homes and in my own tech circles.
If gamers can tackle a ten year old protein folding mystery in HIV research, then what else could we solve from human collective intelligence?
I think about the empowerment this approach can have with children. Coming from an era where children were around to be seen, not heard, I know countless people from my generation who have confidence issues as a result of that mantra and way of thinking. I’d love to meet the next generation of students where the power of human collective intelligence is applied in schools and at home.
Thompson points out that private thinking is of course still vital and that we need “metacognition” aka to think about our thinking. Which problems are better to solve in public collectively and which ones to solve privately in solitude?
I agree with this, however the problem with the growing interest in an always on world where everything is open and digitized is that people sometimes forget that some things truly remain private and should. It takes discipline and a little reflection (which I feel that we rarely get in an “always on” world) to know where to turn and when. Philosopher Stephen Cave discussed how the relentless quest to live forever…physically, spiritually or perhaps through a legacy, has influenced and shaped civilization since the dawn of humankind.
He points out that its not just our lives here, but eternity, which is what makes every ‘holy war.’ He notes that we think the world is dependent upon our perceiving ourselves within the world, but in fact, its just an illusion in our brains.
 Every creature is trying to pass on their genes in order to reproduce and survive, so this is part of our desire and fascination with living forever, at least through legacy. If our time is in fact limited and not eternal however, then the way we spend that time matters.

He humorously says, “imagine that you go to an upload enter every week and upload your mind for a new upgrade or app. You could essentially save your brain to this upload center and then if you were to get killed in a car accident, you would simply re-upload your brain into another body and have a replicate of you. But…it’s still a copy.”
In his book, he tackles all the things that compel humans to “keep on keeping on,” including some mind-bending thought experiments you could do yourself. 
He teases out the implications of each immortality gambit, asking, for example, how long a person would live if they did manage to acquire a perfectly disease-free body.  Or what would happen if a super-being tried to round up the atomic constituents of all who have died in order to resurrect them?  Or what our loved ones would really be doing in heaven if it does exist?  Or what part of us actually lives in a work of art, and how long that work of art can survive?
He makes you think about immortality in a very different way and as a result, focus on things that do matter in the process — at least, that’s what his talk did for me. If we could only be present on the hear and now more often, we’d have less fear, uncertainty, doubt and chaos in our lives.

Coming over from London, Claudia Hammond took on the topic of Time, making us think differently about how we perceive time. She talked about how and when time appears to be distorted, such as when we’re not feeling well, are sick and have a temperature, are depressed, or not feeling as confident about ourselves.  
She has been so fascinated by this topic that she has gathered research and examples of people’s interaction with time itself. You could try your own exercise by counting a series of “how am I feeling now?” and Now? And Now? Count up all of these emotional moments and see how you perceive time throughout the process.

What fascinates her about time, is that there have been years, decades and centuries that have passed by before our lives, yet we always have a different idea of the length of time as we get older. Apparently 1 in 5 people visualize time laid out before them.
They might see the year laid out in front of them in space and time for example. This is you if you can see in your mind’s eye what you are doing in February of a particular year.
There are 2 different kinds of time metaphors she notes. The Time Moving Metaphor, where you stay still and time comes towards you and the Ego Moving Metaphor, where you see yourself running and going towards time. Perceptions of time in our personal life are around 3 months.
If you think you saw friends 3 months ago, it might actually be 4 or 5 months. For other types of events, it’s a few years. When you think something happened 3 or 4 years ago, it might be a third longer or in some cases, even longer than that, such as 9/11 or a political event.
People don’t report that days go really fast, but do report that weeks and months fly by. If you ask someone when they’re older, what song they love, they’re more likely to pick a song they loved between the age of 15 and 25. Memories seem to be stronger during that period of time.
Try this exercise out on a few friends and see it this applies. She suggests that if you want to make a weekend seem long, do lots of new things you haven’t done before. For example, do something new you’ve never done before in the morning and something entirely different in the afternoon. Doing so in this pattern will create new memories for you. Creating new memories makes you think less about time because you’re too busy having a good time as you create new and fresh memories, not ones that make you feel stagnant and still.
 If time is going slowly, it may mean you don’t have a lot going on in your life. Then there’s the perception of time in the future. “There’s been less research on how we perceive time in the future and more on how we perceive time in the past,”says Hammond. “We can actually go back in the past and recall our first day at primary school, but if asked to imagine that you’re going to a friend’s wedding in the Caribbean, you can build visuals of what you think it will be like and how the weekend will go, but it’s a entirely different memory and idea of time.”

The general concensus is that we’re bad about making predictions about time and tend to underestimate how long something will take us.
To improve memory and our perception and improvement of time, she suggests picturing yourself doing an activity you need to do over and over again. Fascinating talk. I also loved her energy and it was fabulous to hear a British accent on stage!
I’ve known Virginia Postrel for quite possibly 20 years or so. I have always loved her work as far back as I can remember when she was more focused on politics than style.  Today, and for many years now, she has been focused on style and the power of glamour although her work spans a broad range of topics, from social science to fashion, concentrating on the intersection of culture and commerce.
Writing in Vanity Fair, Sam Tanenhaus described her as “a master D.J. who sequences the latest riffs from the hard sciences, the social sciences, business, and technology, to name only a few sources.”
She has written a few fascinating books worth mentioning. including her most recent one — The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion, as well as The Substance of Style and The Future and Its Enemies.

Her talk focused on the Power of Glamour and how it impacts us in our daily lives, from politics and sports to health and fashion.
She so beautifully separates glamour from glitz, revealing what qualities make a person, an object, a setting, or an experience glamorous. What is it that creates that pleasurable pang of desire—the feeling of “if only”? If only I could wear those clothes, belong to that group, drive that car, live in that house, be (or be with) that person?
Postrel identifies the three essential elements in all forms of glamour and explains how they work to create a distinctive sensation of projection and yearning. She delves deep into what glamour really is—not just style or a personal quality but a phenomenon that reveals our inner lives and shapes our decisions, large and small.
By embodying the promise of a different and better self in different and better circumstances, glamour stokes ambition and nurtures hope, even as it fosters sometimes-dangerous illusions. From vacation brochures to military recruiting ads, from the Chrysler Building to the iPad, from political utopias to action heroines, Postrel argues that glamour is a seductive cultural force.
Its magic stretches beyond the stereotypical spheres of fashion or film, influencing our decisions about what to buy, where to live, which careers to pursue, where to invest, and how to vote.
I saw Peter Van Buren on the Idea Festival two years ago after he launched his book We Meant Well and we all thought he was a brave soul then. His story is a complex one and definitely not short. As a former United States Foreign Service employee, he went through a struggle with the Department of State after writing his first book.
 In detail, Van Buren gives an eyewitness account of the civilian side of the surge—that surreal and bollixed attempt to defeat terrorism and win over Iraqis by reconstructing the world the U.S. had just destroyed.  Van Buren shared his year-long encounter with pointless projects, bureaucratic fumbling, overwhelmed soldiers, and oblivious administrators secluded in the world’s largest embassy.
Since then he has been giving talks about his story but now has a new heartfelt mission. His latest book Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent documents the changes happening in America that are negatively impacting the 99% and helping to make the top 1% earners flourish more than ever.

As documented on the web, Ghosts of Tom Joad is a reimagining of Steinbeck’s classic The Grapes of Wrath, brought into our own era.
The book traces the dilution of our middle class, their replacement with the working poor, and examines the effects of this not just on our economy, but on our society, our nation, our America. Like Grapes of Wrath, Ghosts is a factual look at ourselves is wrapped in fiction, in this case, a single Ohio family touched by the changes in America from the 1950s through today.
The book is a story about growth, failure, and redemption, tracing the rise of the working poor and the don’t-have-to-work-rich as it follows the fortunes of the protagonist Earl. A product of the post–Korean War era, Earl witnesses his parents’ kitchen table arguments over money—echoed in thousands of other Rust Belt towns—experiences bullying, relishes first kisses, and comes of age and matures as a man before the economic hardships of the 1980’s and 1990’s wear on his spirit.
On the Idea Festival stage this year, Van Buren brought up fact after fact supporting some of the core changes happening in corporate America, particularly the top American employers and the impact on the 99%.
While costs are skyrocketing, wages are not keeping up with inflation and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the now 99% who are struggling to survive in today’s increasingly competitive world. As he did two years ago, he brought this knowledge to life in a very human and compelling way, so rivoting and passionate that you feel as if you want to help in some small way. And as you think about helping in some small way, you realize that you too are being impacted by these economic changes in more profound ways than you may have first realized.
The theme here is the obvious growing divide between the working class and that 1% – in other words, what has happened to the middle class as we knew it? He threw out some stats. 10% of wealth holders own 70% of everything and the U.S. is ranked 85 on the economic inequality scale.
Did you know that Bill Gates could buy Boston and have a billion left over? And, did you know that 1 out of 3 retail workers get food subsidies because they can’t earn enough not to? Poverty is a $14b business he cites. He gave advice to the students in the room – “don’t buy into the myth,” he told them. “The U.S. is in the 20% of nations that doesn’t offer some kind of nationalized healthcare. We have convinced people that if you don’t work, you won’t get healthcare. We’ve convinced ourselves that if we raise the minimum wage that we’ll have less jobs out there. Don’t be afraid. There needs to be more interplay between us and those who control everything.
The people who have the most to gain from the system have created the system. We saw the greatest redistribution of wealth in the 2008 recession. The pattern continues. Stand up and have the conversation so that this pattern doesn’t continue any longer.”
He is working on a new book Post Constitutional America, which will cover what we’ve lost as a nation since 9/11, including our privacy. Insightful, sad and disheartening, yet with knowledge and awareness comes empowerment and power.
Other powerful talks came from Jason Padgett and Joshua Greene (both pictured below). Jason was a former furniture salesman who was violently assaulted, which resulted in a serious head injury.
The result was a brain who thinks differently, so differently that he now sees things in complex mathematical structures and patterns. He shared his remarkable journey with us and whether you’re passionate about math or not, you couldn’t leave the auditorium without feeling intensely moved by his story and more keen than ever to understand the hidden capabilities of the mind, learning and the nature of reality itself…

Joshua Greene is a Harvard professor who connects neuroscience, psychology and philosophy to illuminate the root causes of modern conflict in the world, along with the moral, political and ideological fault line that divides us. His talk was entitled Us and Them.
The real question at the end of the talk to ourselves was are we the “us” or are we the “them?” and how many of us have been both over the course of our lives? His talk was based on his book Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason and the Gap Between Us and Them.
Essentially the notion behind the book comes from the thinking that our brains were designed for tribal life, for getting along with a select group of others (Us) and for fighting off everyone else (Them).
But modern times have forced the world’s tribes into a shared space, resulting in epic clashes of values along with unprecedented opportunities. As the world shrinks, the moral lines that divide us become more salient and more puzzling. We fight over everything from tax codes to gay marriage to global warming, and we wonder where, if at all, we can find our common ground.
Through his research, he reveals the underlying causes of modern conflict and lights the way forward. Greene compares the human brain to a dual-mode camera, with point-and-shoot automatic settings (“portrait,” “landscape”) as well as a manual mode.
Our point-and-shoot settings are our emotions—efficient, automated programs honed by evolution, culture, and personal experience. The brain’s manual mode is its capacity for deliberate reasoning, which makes our thinking flexible. Point-and-shoot emotions make us social animals, turning Me into Us. But they also make us tribal animals, turning Us against Them. His work is important as was his talk.

Geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan talked about the rapidly changing global scene and its potential impact on international business, finance and the U.S., Lee Billings took us into a world of five billion years of solitude, Wynton Marsalis discussed the dynamics and irreplaceable role of art and creativity in America and Julia Whitehead led a conversation on the life, ideas and enduring influence of Kurt Vonnegut. Andrea Nicholas and Sarah Eichhorn explored how math and science can help ensure our survival in a zombie apocalypse (no typo here and yes, it was a fascinating talk), Sam Van Aken incorporated art and ideation in a way that can transform and confuse the common sense of practices; the established order of things, Ben Malphrus and Roger McNeil took on the subatomic world of quantum weirdness and black holes, Debbie Millman focused on overcoming rejection and failure and how its presence can be a necessary part to your path to success, and Tyler Cowen explained why being satisfied by “pretty good” in today’s innovation-driven, hyper competitive world may in fact be just a fast track to irrelevance.
An annual presentation at Idea Festival for many years now, Creative Capital shows up with a handful of creative artists. Creative Capital has awarded $30 million to 530 groundbreaking artists nationwide through funding, counsel and career development services.
This year, Ruby Lerner once again brought their latest artists on stage to show off their creative ideas and projects in a session entitled “Art on the Edge.”

Each year as part of Idea Festival, attendees flock to the annual Taste of Innovation event. This year’s Taste of Innovation had an interesting twist to it – it was a Taste of Innovation + Bourbon, so fitting for a Kentucky based food event.
This food lover’s event is always held at Churchill Down’s Millionaire’s Row, also fitting given that it’s the same venue as the infamous Kentucky Derby where people flock to from around to sip some of the finest bourbon in the country, wear exquisite hats that would make the Epsom Downs attendees jealous and watch horses win races that bring in millions.
Below, some of the locals who showed me a night out on the town and introduced me to some of the more interesting bourbon creators and makers.

The Rise Group exuded energy on the main stage, demonstrating all the ways we can operate at a higher level.
Their methods are grounded in everyday language of how we present ourselves and how we think, using tactics and tools to enable us to become more creative and innovative in our daily lives. Their presentation was fun, thought provoking and energetic and these principles can be used in corporate America, at a start-up or in our personal lives.

While every year they have bourbon vendors on-site, this year let bourbon led the way with taste and education. Top bourbon experts were on site to answer questions and give pours, with Chef Dean Borbett acting as the Master of Ceremonies.
With the help of the Kentucky Distiller’s Association and Kentucky Bourbon Trail, tastings were available from major distillers as you also walked through the history of bourbon and bourbon cocktails. Bourbon was also woven into some of the dishes, the best of which was the bourbon braised short ribs prepared Manhattan style by Churchill Downs.

Be sure to see my extensive write up on this year’s Taste of Innovation 2014 event. I loved every taste we had, but another one of our top picks this year was Marketplace who served Italian pork meatballs with a tasso ham sauce, polenta, feta cheese and granulated sumac.
Everyone was talking about their perfectly made polenta all night and in fact I heard a few say, they’d return just to eat the polenta alone it was so delicious. Hats off to Chef Dallas McGarity and his team.

See my write up on last year’s Taste of Innovation, from 2012 Taste of Innovation and 2011. Check out our Kentucky Events section, which will include coverage of Idea Festival from last year (Idea Festival 2013), Idea Festival 2011 and Idea Festival 2012 and also our Kentucky Food & Wine section where you’ll find plenty of recommendations and visual treats on the top Louisville Restaurants.
Louisville restaurants we’ve written about over the years include Proof on Main at the well renowned 21c Museum Hotel, where I stayed this year, Seviche Restaurant (loved their seafood bisque – hats off to chef Anthony Lamas, Lilly’s (I love Kathy’s approach to cooking, her sweet potato gnocchi with country ham, kale and bourbon mustard cream sauce from a previous year was to die for as was this year’s portobello mushroom soup, although we have yet to review Lilly’s), Milkwood, Decca, Game (for every kind of game imaginable), La Coop Bistro, Mayan Cafe, Harvest, Jack Frys and The Blind Pig in Butchertown which is no longer open.
This year’s delicious picks include Basa Restaurant for Vietnamese Fusion style dishes and Rye on Market. Also be sure to read our Kentucky Food section for more details. (Top Kentucky Restaurants / Best Food in Kentucky / Best Food in Louisville).
Photo credits: top photo credit from blogs.uoregon.edu, Digital Overload photo www.principals. com.au. All other photos Renee Blodgett.
Note: I was a media partner of the Idea Festival and have been since the very beginning – I’m a huge fan of the event and think it is under recognized for its talent, work and mission. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

The Paris That I Never Seem to Tire Of…

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

I’m in a taxi whizzing down Boulevard de Magenta, one of those wider than normal Parisian streets. There are cheap shops where you can buy mobile phones, bags and wedding dresses in the windows on both sides and you wonder what surprise will come around the next corner.
We pass a sign for a Bach concert at one of the music halls, somewhere around Place de Clichy. My driver hangs a right on Rue de Rocroy and the street gets narrower. Small shops, a coiffure Mixte, a few not so stellar looking 2 star hotels, a cafe brasserie and tabac on every corner, a nail salon and a few optique stores for glasses. In my rear view mirror, I see travel agent and pharmacy signs as we weave in and out of even more narrow alleys and roads.

The meter is escalating and I can’t help but think of the sign that had prefix prices for certain districts of the city. He is miserable and not worth the fight despite his fabulous taste in classical music which he has blaring from some device in the front seat I can’t see. Salt and pepper, a sharp nose, no smile. He refuses to smile in fact and he hates that I am paying by credit card.
It was the first Sunday of the month and the sky was hazy but the day was warm, a rarity on Paris visits. I originally had plans to get out of Paris for the day with a friend, take in some gardens and have a picnic in a park however after the plans fell through, I changed course and decided after a taxi towards a more remote spot on the Seine, I would begin to walk and keep walking until the sun set.
One of my favorite things to do is meander through Paris without a clear purpose and just see what shows up. I had started my morning in a funky part of the Marais, where art and graffiti were plastered across walls before jumping into the cab. As the desire to see more nature and less people increased, it was time to move towards the water. And so….I asked the driver to stop on the Seine where there were very few people.

The Seine
A couple of hours go by and I’m swept with gratitude as I sat along the Seine on that warm afternoon. I received a message at 5 am that same morning from an acquaintance who had just finished a ten day meditation retreat and I couldn’t help but wonder during those reflective hours if I could do something like that knowing how hard it is to shut my mind down. He had asked me how often I meditated and I began to reflect on what meditation meant to me.
A meditative state for me isn’t necessarily a specific place and time I dedicate to silence and breath but more of a state of being, one which I find hard to do in Silicon Valley, yet can so easily be brought into the moment I leave.
With a SIM card in my phone that gives me the ability to text or call, I purposely put it away deep into the bottom of my purse. Instead of the rings, beeps and web page loading distracting me, I listen to the sounds of Paris amidst the haze of the sky.
Most shops are closed, yet locals and tourists alike buzz past me on roller blades and bikes while boats zip past them making their way under each bridge that crosses the Seine as far as my eye can see.
From there, I figured I would pop into the Pont Neuf metro stop on the 7 line and keep going until some visual or sound suggested I get off – I love days like that when you don’t have to be anywhere else other than towards what moves you in a given moment.
Despite my miles of walking, it still felt like a blissfully lazy day. Paris has a way of making even the most unconscious present, for her sounds, textures, smells and historical colors have a way of weaving you into her storyboard, inviting you to share her glory with everyone you encounter after you leave her soil. While her spell is cast on you, you become conscious of all of ‘her’ grandeur, including the most intricate details. A family rides by on bikes, a bright yellow balloon fixated to the boy’s handlebars, an elderly couple walks their Jack Russell, a blue-eyed blonde blades past me alone followed by a dark handsome 30 something year old with Caribbean features.

A gray haired man in his sixties with a professor-like beard sets up shop nearby and pulls out a mahogany hard bound leather book and while I can’t make out the text, my guess is that he’s reading some Eastern European dialect. My gut says he’s Hungarian.
Yanks walk past me with day packs, a baggy t-shirt hangs loosely over the older man’s overweight middle. A brunette with a fabulous brown leather sachet strolls by ever so pensively.
She stops and then…pauses. As she looks out over the river, she pulls out a notebook and writes something down. Then, she raises her face, glances over at me and gives me a smile before tucking her notebook in a side pocket and moving along on her journey to who knows where. I wonder where for quite awhile until that thought was interrupted by a falling chestnut which landed near my right leg. The fallen chestnut dangled off the lengthy stone stair I had been sitting up against for hours.
As I continue to watch a very eclectic world drift by, an out of breath man and his daughter get off their scooters and begin to walk them along the main path that runs along the river.
A Chinese couple and their children speed by on bikes, the nearly bald teenage son’s hands are off the handlebars, as if a symbol of his new profound freedom half way across the world while on holiday with his obviously wealthy family. A well dressed Italian couple give me a warm smile as they walk up the stairs next to me; the man’s face turns to curiosity as he sees me writing with such purpose and speed.
Of course I’m writing about you I wanted to say with the same curious look and warm smile he gave me, but instead I redirect my attention to the sounds of the scooters and motorbikes in the distance, the taxi cab horns and the oh so familiar sounds that rollerblade wheels make, especially when the bearings are loose. I spot my first graffiti — Buble But glares back at me from across the river, plastered in red on the back of a metal book stall, one of the many set up along the Seine to entice tourists to buy.
Then, I see two lovers embrace and I can tell from their energy that they both chose to be here and that it wasn’t one edging the other on for some redeemable lifetime romantic moment of sorts.
Romantic it was however and they brought me into their world for just a moment. Accents told me that he was European and she was an Aussie and I couldn’t help but wonder if Paris was a meeting place to ignite these two lovers to the next level or if they had been together for years.
I decide to walk to Notre Dame since it is almost in my view. I have been to this remarkable church at least a dozen times and yet I always get a slight skip in my walk when I see her beauty emerge as I make my way around the corner and she stands sprawled before me. All the cafes that line up along the edge of her have become tourist haunts — crepes and coffees are twice the price and it’s more crowded than any of the surrounding streets. Yet, I’m called into sit down at one regardless.

I choose the one on the corner at the very end of the road, mainly because the man making the crepes is so obviously French, which isn’t as common as you’d think in Paris anymore.
So many crepes from local stands are now crispy from being cooked for too long. While I typically go for a savory crepe (mushrooms, ham and onions is my favorite), I opted for an apple sauce and coconut crepe and the 40 something year old charming local who made it for me, nailed it – Yum!!
I left the cafe happily with my decaf cappuccino and my perfectly cooked crepe and proceeded to the bridge where I sat along its edge watching a street performer, three massage therapists taking clients on in small chairs in the middle of the street and a not so funny clown who was attempting to get kids to laugh by holding a bicycle upside down while circus music played in the background. Before I left this crowded part of Paris I know so well, I contributed to the lock bridge, which is always a favorite stop of mine….the romantic in me I guess.

Montreuil Market Heading to Montreuil Market was somewhat depressing after the peace and serenity of Paris’ magical river, the same one that artists have painted to and been inspired by for centuries. I remember visiting the market over a decade ago and then again a decade before that and from my hazy recollection, it’s changed significantly. I seem to remember more antiques, paintings and jewelry, knick knacks and appliances.

Now it appears to be more of an old fashioned flea market, the kind you might find in America’s midwest where trucks come for the day and try to sell cheap clothes and shoes for the widest margin they can get. There were aisles with tires, oil, toothpaste, soap detergent, tea kettles and even Middle Eastern traditional shawls, but for the most part, it was a collection of clothes heaped in piles for those with enough patience to sift through for hours on end.

If you haven’t been however, I suppose its worth stopping by for the mishmash experience. Hours are 7 am to 7:30 pm at night and the market is open two days a week on Sundays and Monday’s. The official address is Avenue du Professeur André Lemierre 75020 Paris. Télephone: 01 48 85 93 30.
The best way to get there is on the Metro Line 9 and the stop is Porte de Montreuil. The market is a short walk up the main drag from the exit to the station.
Latin Quarter
I come across fun jewelry with semi precious stones that an adorable Peruvian is selling. He is standing across from La Boulangerie de Papa, a quaint cute blue salon that also has an outside creperie stand on the corner. It’s a mere block away from the Greek eaterie I had so much fun in four or five years ago on a cold winter’s night. Gyros by the dozen….Moroccans nearby calling me to eat at their restaurant, offering deals and sweet nothings I can’t make sense of.

Onion soup or fish soup, egg, salad and beef, chicken or fish followed by chocolate mousse, ice cream, cheese or fruit for E12 to 17 a head all inclusive and every variation in between although they all sound like the same offer after awhile.
Restaurant after restaurant on Rue de la Huchette, one of the main drags, I find that there are too many offerings to choose one, something I often feel when I’m walking through the Latin Quarter. Then, Le Lac de L’ouest for Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese food across from the creperie but I’m not in the mood for Asian food, so I keep walking through her narrow streets.
A sweet creperie stands calls out to me with far too many sugar rich toppings to say yes to, such as chestnut, caramel, chocolate, strawberry, lemon, sugar, butter, honey, Nutella, apricot, banana and coconut, all ranging from 3.50 to around 8 euros.
Then a warm smile outside a restaurant on Rue de Huchette stops me in my tracks and so I indulge. Aperitifs start with Kir Cassis ou Peche, Kir Breton, martinis, tequila, cognac, Calvados, Cointreau, Grand Marnier and Rum. I have a small Kir Cassis although he tops up my glass before I can say no thanks to another. For E9.90, you can get Provencale or Cocagne or Complete or Bistrot or Basquaise or Kermaria AND a sweet crepe (various choices) with either cider, coke or apple juice.

Boulevard St. Germaine to Boulevard Des Italiens via Avenue de L’Opera Food stalls outside on the street on Boulevard St. Germaine sprawl in both directions. Viva Espana Bodaga grabs my attention with scrumptious looking Spanish food cooking away in large pots.
I sample some ham and then more Spanish food at Monceau Gardens.

I walk into Neo Cafe on 126 Boulevard St. Germaine to make sure my directions are in sync as I begin to realize I’m much further away from my hotel than I had thought.
Florian directs me in a deep dark and sexy voice, one that suggests there’s a wink along with it even when there’s not. Within a block or so from this quaint little cafe, I stumble upon another one called Tennessee Cafe, which isn’t quite as quaint and it seems like it caters to yanks with its burgers and English menus. What is adjacent to Tennessee Cafe however grabs my eye.
There’s a little passage called Passage de St. Andre, which is a narrow pedestrian cobblestone street that runs alongside the cafe. It looks historical and authentic in every way but it’s hard to tell in Paris where everything is ten times older than even the oldest American city.
Cafes, bars and restaurants are strung along the left as you make your way down the cute pedestrian passage. I decide to have a drink at one of the cafes but need to move around a homeless person on his cell phone in the glass entryway to Thomas Travel to do so.
There’s another homeless person along Boulevard Des Italiens who has a giant stuffed tan colored Snoopy sitting near him as he lay tucked up in his sleeping bag. I spot the elderly man perched up against a giant iron box on the same boulevard.
He had set up a fishing pole that dangled a cup from some fast food chain and while it slowly moved to the wind, he occasionally yelped into the dark streets. Then the giant life-sized chocolate lion in one of the windows along Boulevard St. Germaine and a giant pink elephant.

Then, a cafe calls my name. Here I stop and have a cappuccino while I watch people waltz by for the next hour or so.
The Canals
In the spring, summer and fall, a great place to hang out is on the banks of Canal Saint-Martin. People lounge here, picnic here, play music here and hold hands. On Sundays, two streets running parallel to the canal, Quai de Valmy and Quai de Jemmapes, are reserved for pedestrians and cyclists.
The Canal Saint-Martin neighborhood is nestled between Gare du Nord and Republique in Northeastern Paris, in the 10th arrondissement. The main streets around the canal include Quai de Valmy, Quai de Jemmapes, Rue Beaurepaire and Rue Bichat and I’d recommend walking down all of them. It’s a charming part of Paris not to be missed.

Other areas I love to wander through and try to each and every trip I make to Paris, include the Marais near St. Paul, Bastille and Luxembourg Gardens.
Be sure to check out our Paris section for great shopping tips, restaurant finds, and other reflective pieces like this one. There’s also lodging & top hotels in France, and top hotels in Paris as well as general content on France. (travel to France).    

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

Fun New Travel Apps Tout Their Horns at Web Summit

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

At the fourth annual Web Summit event in Dublin from November 4-6, 2014, 22,000 people from around the world came to see new gadgets, get cool demos and hear the latest scoop on where technology is heading. Since we love travel, we decided to spend a little time learning about what some of the new travel start-ups were up to on the show floor.
While we mostly cover news and destinations for the luxury traveler, we threw in several apps into the mix that would be useful for hotels, airlines, property and guest house owners and even boat owners.

What I found fascinating was just how diverse the nationalities were across the board — there are some creative apps coming out of Portugal, Israel, Germany, Finland, Greece, the states, France, England, Ireland, Italy, Finland, Russia, Brazil, Austria, Holland, Belgium, Australia and even Monaco and Malta, among countless others. I put together a curation of some of the apps I came across during my scouting exercise across three days at this massive technology event.
Yonderbound is another B2B solution. Based in of all places Monaco, the female founder team (uncanny fact but they’re both named Barbara), is trying to help travelers get a kick back for sharing their knowledge and travel experiences. Millions of people share their travel knowledge on popular sites for free and Yonderbound thinks you should be rewarded for it — up to 70% of the net revenue you produce.

TripFlr is a new travel app from London-based co-founder Jerome Lapaire and team. The pitch? What else but “travel with flair.” Remembering the name of a bar or a shop is often a pain. City by city, you can now store your favorite spots and all the places you have yet to discover in your private Triplogs!

Georama is a real-time vicarious travel platform. They help people experience the world anytime, anywhere. Georama’s technology allows viewers to explore a destination in real-time by interacting with a guide who is live streaming their perspective.
They’re targeting tourism organizations, hotels, airlines and more to help them inspire and engage with prospective travelers around the world.
The Find Out App helps restaurants, nightclubs and bars interact with users on their key information to improve the experience they have on the ground. Based in Paris, they only started out about a month ago so are trying to add new venues as quickly as they can, and will expand to other cities as things progress. Guestvista is aimed at social travelers. Travelers can learn about useful hints and tips from others. The company is based in Ireland.

InLoco gives you an opportunity to travel with locals. This Brazilian-based company has been loading their content from Brazil and will be adding European users soon. The idea is to discover non-tourist sites, meet new people and find more interesting alternatives by traveling with a local resident.
Plan Chat lets you create a plan for anything with content from everywhere in a familiar centric manner. Hotel Booking say they are the best hotel search engine. It looks a bit like an Expedia but for hotel booking only.

Guest 2gether out of Austria, is a social network for hotels. They create a new vacation experience for each customer.
When you’re at your hotel, you can meet up with other people staying at the same hotel and meet up to do activities together or dine together based on common interests.
BookBedder say that they can make hotel booking even better. I chatted with Swiss-based co-founder Yannick Blondeau at the event. BookBedder is a collaborative hotel booking website where hotels and guests join forces to get reduced costs and better deals on hotels.
Quicket is a mobile travel service that combines existing flights, hotels, cars, fees and air services for independent travelers.
BookGreener gives travelers lists of authoritatively rated eco-friendly hotels from around the world. Based out of Indonesia, the ever so eco-conscious founder Alexandre Tsuk wants to change the way people think about hotels and make travelers more conscious about where they stay. What else is cool is that every time a traveler books a hotel, BookGreener plants a tree.

Social Airways has a great idea. The Cyprus-based founder and CEO Stylianos Lambrou wants to help flyers get more value from others on their flight, every time they fly.
It’s a social flights platform that connects people who are on the same flight, so they can share rides, information and anything else that might be useful. I love this and hope it sticks.

Conichi say that they plan to revolutionize the interaction between hotels & restaurants and their guests. Through the Conichi App, guests are automatically recognized and their visits are tracked in order to provide optimal customer service.

In addition to being able to greet guests personally, their preferences are stored so hotels and restaurants can grant them personalized recommendations and provide additional benefits that best suit their interests and preferences. 
Big-data, personalization and smart-analytics are combined to optimize the guest experience and explore new levels of guest loyalty.

Family Vacation is a cool app based in Bucharest and New York that helps families book travel. Think of it more like a marketplace where families can find, customize and book personalized vacations provided by locals from around the world.

Inn Style is a web based alternative to irksome spreadsheets and dusty diaries for all kinds of accommodations owners — they tout, that it will be the easiest way for you or your clients to start taking online bookings.
Hero & Creatives is run by a woman CEO based out of Portugal. I love this idea – essentially they match you up with guide photographers in your destination of choice. How cool to explore the world with a local photographer who can show you an entirely different perspective on a country or city.

Direct Hoteling is a database of hotels and other businesses providing accommodations so you can find the best offer out there.
Travel Myth is another hotel recommendation engine, but one which is based on your interests. Based in Greece, this company’s app could be really useful if it sticks – we need more granular ways to search, discover and book hotels based on our personal likes and dislikes, so I really like the idea.

Gloudio is a fun idea out of the UK. They are combining traditional pre-recorded geo-located audio guides for well visited sites like museums with crowd-based audio content for an enhanced user experience when they’re on the road.
Exploranza out of the Czech Republic hopes to help travelers discover hidden gems. There’s no doubt we need more sites who can curate experiences for travelers in a much more efficient and high quality way but I’m not sure they have quite nailed it yet.
That said, they don’t plan on charging tourists for this curated premium content and they hope the value will get better and better over time. Kymboo.com’s tagline is Tourism 4.0.
Based in Spain, they say they are the first professional booking system for hotels, resorts, cottages and property owners where they can share marketing of their products.
Boatsetter out of Florida, hopes to offer a safe and secure way for boat owners to charter out their vessels to selected clients. Each charter includes state-of-the-art insurance, on-water support provided by BoatUS and US Coast Guard licensed captains available to hire.
Nifty idea but probably pretty niche, at least initially. The idea is obviously that customers will see value-add immediately since they can subsidize the cost of ownership and have a better maintained boat over time.

Roaming Byme is based in France and their team hopes to solve the roaming cell phone issue. They tout themselves as the traveler’s mobile operator, where they hope to solve traveler’s roaming bill shock issues.
YapQ, based in Israel, has created a mobile app that tells you what’s around you. They curate destinations and activities you want to do frequently in a city or town, such as a well known museum. The other beautiful thing about their app for a traveler is that you can use it offline and get the same benefit.

Pimp Your Stay with a team out of Malta, has certainly found a memorable name that is suggestive but also fun. They provide hotels access to detailed guest data (with opt in permission from the guest of course), so the hotels can add extra value to their stay.
Now, with additional personalized information on a guest in advance, hotels can turn a standardized service into a truly personalized stay.

Naymit, out of Germany, makes places findable, allowing you to create a one word address so visitors can find your front door or any other location in an instant. Imagine in the future that you might be able to type your “Naymit” name into your car navigation system and it’ll just work.

Let’s Open Now is based in Holland and is trying to help travelers find what they’re looking for that is open when they need them. Outria out of Belgium, crowdsources events, information from members and social networks and they distribute that information to new members.

Green Hopping is all about green travel. Through their site greenhopping.eu, you can browse, discover and get inspired by green travel ideas and places.
Cyclister, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear, is based out of Copenhagen Denmark, a city of cyclists. You can list your bike on Cyclister, decide on the price you want to rent your bike for and make money off each rental, a bit like the services that allow people to rent out their cars when they’re not in use. This is certainly useful in cities where cycling is a preferred way to get around like Copenhagen for example and I could also see this working in Amsterdam and Montreal.

Next to Me, out of Italy, is creating an accurate submeter indoor navigation system that allows users to locate and access their services within their location.
Audio Trip, out of Poland, is a storytelling app that changes your smart phone into a personal local guide.
Cruise Me allows you to search, discover and connect, all within the cruise world. It’s still a bit hush hush as they haven’t officially launched yet, but apparently the app from this Florida-based startup is slated to go live sometime in January or February 2015.

Share My Taxi, based out of Munich Germany, is a blend of Uber and Lyft. They use professional drivers and there’s also a mobile app that makes traveling with taxis, Uber, Wundercar and others social and green by sharing a ride if its available. This is also more economical for travelers who want to get from A to B safely.

Cityist has started out with Paris-based content since that’s where they’re currently based. They tout themselves as the next Generation Of City Guides. They are a website, offline mobile app & marketplace that turns tourists into local experts.
Local Fixer’s Co-Founder Elliot Costello and team are based in Melbourne Australia. Finally, a fun travel app from the Aussies. It’s a bit like a LinkedIn for the travel sector, where you can include offers in your profile, ranging from offering your pad to rent for the week, or posts of other things you can offer travelers, such as bikes, your car to use, or things you’d like to sell which might be useful to them during their stay.

Deal Broker is a B2B solution that is targeting travel suppliers and help them find great tours and activities for travelers. They customize the content under the tour operators brand/logo that they can then send out to their travel prospects.

DealBroker can also send mobile notifications through social media, text or email. Deal Broker specializes in relevant offers around a specific destination, such as tours and activity offers. They are leveraging the trend that tour operators and activity suppliers want to cooperate and need easier ways to do so. It would be a great multi-touch solution for example, for rental car companies or airlines.

Tziip is based out of Finland and their pitch is a bit like like Lyft but more social. In other words – get a ride and/or share a ride.
Group Booked from Ireland, touts themselves as the AirBNB for groups, but for more than just accommodations. Another value-add they say is that while they book for groups, they’ll take individual payments, making it more flexible for groups of people to book.
Hudway is a mobile app that helps drivers follow directions in fog, snow, rain and at night via road windshield projections.

Tour Plus, based out of Malaysia helps you plan, enjoy and share your trip by creating an automatic itinerary for you. In other words, you put the places you want to see into their app and they’ll map out the best way to do it for you. You can also share that itinerary with others.
Travel Appeal from Italy, allows hotels to control, manage and improve their reputation.
BELOW SHOTS: On the Show Floor at Web Summit 2014 in Dublin  
 
Photos of apps from vendor websites, 1st Photo taken from Travelblat and photos from Web Summit Show Floor from Renee Blodgett.    

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

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