Meet the Team – Intern Stilian

Stilian snow

Hello everyone! My name is Stilian, and I am the new Business Management intern at Dragonfly Expeditions. It has always been my dream to get out of Europe. Unfortunately, I never had the possibility to do so. But finally I made it.

– My destination: America
– More precisely: Miami, Florida

It all started in Kiev, Ukraine in 2012 when some friends and I opened a hostel for backpackers. As always it was a total coincidence that I met this guy from US there. His name was Brian and he enjoyed the time in Kiev and our hostel so much, that he invited me to visit Miami one day, to thank me for the good time.

Maybe it was just a joke he made, but I took him for serious and started to look for an internship in Miami, because I would have to do one anyways, no matter where. I thought Miami would be unbelievable and probably the best and at the same time the craziest thing I would ever do. Continue reading

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Meetings + Incentive Travel Magazine features Charles J. Kropke

In August the Canadian Meetings + Incentive Travel Magazine mentioned Dragonfly Expeditions in a Miami feature in its print edition as well as on Meetingscanada.com. This article resulted from a visit by editor Lori Smith in May of 2013. At the request of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau Charles J. Kropke took Lori around the city to immerse her into Miami’s hidden places. Based on the commentary in the article, we think Charles succeeded in convincing the writer that Miami really is more than beach. Continue reading

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New DVD Captures the Story of South Beach

South Beach DVDWe are proud to announce that following a successful sell-out of the first edition and the publication of the second edition of his landmark book “South Beach – Stories of a Renaissance”, Charles J. Kropke is now releasing a companion DVD with the same name.  It is tracing South Beach from its earliest pioneer days to today’s high-energy global resort, bringing the remarkable comeback story of this historic district to life.  With historical photos as well as on-location scenes, the DVD “South Beach: Stories of a Renaissance” is being published by Tropic Moon Media and provides a unique look at one of the world’s most popular travel destination.

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Call for Guides to Lead Historical, Ecological, and Cultural Tours

Contemno, et orno: mente, manu - “I divide and order with mind and hand”Dragonfly Expeditions is putting out its yearly call for guides and speakers.  Due to the growth of our company, we are continuously adding knowledgeable guides to our core staff to interpret the history, ecology and culture of South Florida.  We are looking for articulate leaders who are passionate, excellent interpreters, have a flexible work schedule and are willing to learn.

Dragonfly Expeditions has been on the forefront of sustainable tourism in South Florida since 1992.  Our day journeys are designed to create a sense-of-place for our visitors while focusing attention on many of Florida’s most unique and endangered places. Continue reading

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Meet the Team – Intern Mareike

MareikeMy name is Mareike. I am the new intern at Dragonfly Expeditions and will be in Miami until February 2014. I grew up in Aachen, which is the westernmost city of Germany, located at the point where the country borders on Belgium and the Netherlands. The city has a long history and is known as the place where the German kings were crowned. There you also find one of the top universities in Germany, the RWTH Aachen University, where I am currently studying business administration. Before I started with my studies, I completed an apprenticeship in International Office Management, which combined the learning of business basics with extensive language training in English, French and Spanish. Continue reading

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Meet Our Partner – The Loxahatchee River Historical Society

Jupiter Inlet LighthouseAn important part of Dragonfly Expeditions’ mission and approach to sustainable tourism is the support of local not-for-profit organizations that are instrumental to the preservation of Florida’s ecological, historical and cultural resources.  Most people are not aware that for many of our tours, a percentage of revenue benefits a particular charity thematically related to the tour. From the very beginning of the company, a built-in donation for each sold tour was an integral part of our business practice. It still holds true that there is no such thing as “free;” even if Dragonfly Expeditions as a commercial entity in many cases doesn’t have to pay an entrance fee to visit and see natural areas or historic buildings freely accessible to the public, that doesn’t mean that dedicated people and organizations haven’t committed time and money to preserve those things. Without their effort, there would be nothing for us to show. This post featuring the Loxahatchee River Historical Society begins a series that will highlight the various not-for-profit organizations we support (you can see all our not-for-profit partners listed in the side column of our monthly newsletter).
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Travel Writer Susan Morrell Shares her Impression of the Magic City

Miami Nice “Miami isn’t just about the beach – it’s also a place where cultures collide to spectacular effect,” says travel writer Susan Morrell in an article published in the Irish Sunday Business Post in April 2013. Her impression of the Magic City is not so different from the sense of place Dragonfly Expeditions strives to express during our Miami tours. Morrell joined us on a Miami Magic City – Bus and Walking Tour back in January. Her article is a personal account of her visit to Miami; she describes everything from how out-of-place yet welcomed she felt in Little Havana to the type of dessert she had in South Beach. Morrell calls Miami a “unique cultural mosaic” and elaborates on every neighborhood she was able to visit during her trip. Keep reading (or click on the image and zoom in) for “Miami Nice” by Susan Morrell. Continue reading

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Meet the Team – Guide Sally

SallyWhat do the following vocations have in common: sailing instructor in Rhode Island (“fun!”), office manager for a large financial firm (“terrible”), theater director, art teacher, owner of a gift and gourmet food company (“lots of fun”), and artist? They all appear on our guide Sally Willits’ colorful resume. Her residences have been just as varied as her jobs: Sally was born in NYC and spent her early years on the north shore of Long Island – “Pretty much where The Great Gatsby took place; but post-war, NOT 1920’s jazz age,” she jokes. She has also spent time in Greenwich (RI), Philadelphia (PA), Wyomissing (PA), Annapolis (MD), Peachblossom Creek on the Eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay between Oxford and Easton (MD), and Wilmington (DE). Continue reading

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Margaritaville Travel Adventures Announces Next Three Departures

MTA 1The inaugural Lost Shaker of Salt Adventure offered by Margaritaville Travel Adventures in October 2012 was so wildly popular that we are offering three trips during the 2013-2014 season. Margaritaville Travel Adventures, one of Dragonfly Expeditions’ sister companies, is the travel arm of singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Holdings and allows fans, for the first time ever, to enter the world of Jimmy Buffett through travel. Continue reading

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Thoughts on Developing a Tour – Wandering Through Wynwood: An Artistic Revival

P1010450When Wynwood started to rise as an emerging neighborhood several years ago – well before its current headline-grabbing hipness – we developed a tour that explored some of the area’s remarkable studios and galleries. But the ongoing transformation of this formerly downtrodden collection of industrial warehouses has warranted a new approach of how we like to show and interpret this district. We therefore decided to launch our new tour “Walking Through Wynwood – An Artistic Revival.” Continue reading

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Brazilian Magazine Features the Everglades

Brazilian journalist Christine Engelberg joined us on our famous Everglades Backwater Tour in the fall of 2012. The article she wrote about her experience was published in the March issue of TOP Magazine; click on the photo below and zoom in to read “Miami through Clyde Butcher’s Lenses.” For all non-Portuguese speakers, here is a little summary: As she asks in her article, “How about getting to know Miami from a different perspective than do most of the tourists who visit the city?” Engelberg agrees with Condé Nast Traveler and National Geographic when they recommend the Everglades Backwater Tour as one of the most interesting eco tours available. She considers it an excellent option if you want to learn about the biodiversity of this wild ecosystem. The cypress trees and wild birds made Engelberg feel in touch with nature while trekking through the swamp. Impressed by the beauty of Clyde Butcher’s photography, which she viewed in the Big Cypress Gallery as part of the tour, she chose one of his images to illustrate the article.

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Exploring Florida’s Waterways – the Ocklawaha River

What do alligators, bacon-wrapped Oreos, and hillbillies have in common? They were all part of my weekend canoe trip down the Ocklawaha River near Ocala, FL. Exploring Florida’s waterways is part of my continuing discovery of the Sunshine State. I encountered my first alligator while kayaking on the “wild and scenic” Loxahatchee River, I helped locals clear trash from the mangroves in Biscayne Bay, I celebrated my first Florida Fourth of July by swimming in the Atlantic, and I experienced the Gulf by catamaran. Last month I had the opportunity to canoe an 18-mile portion of the Ocklawaha River.

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The Travel Channel Features Dragonfly Expeditions

The Travel Channel recently aired a special about the Everglades called “Park Secrets” in which they featured our popular Miccosukee Indian Heritage Airboat Tour. Appearing in the short clip is John Tigertail, a long time friend and partner of Dragonfly Expeditions. His family of the Miccosukee’s Panther Clan takes our guests via airboat to a hunting camp and a family camp. Participants explore the two tree islands, learn about the Miccosukee way of life, and have a chance to see and interact with the various animals (like alligators and turtles) kept on the islands for release. Charles Kropke, also speaking in this segment, brings up the little-known fact that the Everglades is not actually a swamp, but an immense, slow-flowing river. Click the image above to watch the Travel Channel clip!

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Meet the Team – Guide Jhon

If I had to describe Jhon Garcia in one word, that word would be “worldly.” Jhon is Colombian and grew up in the Andes Mountains, thousands of feet above sea level and far from any ocean. But instead of on ancient sediments, his current home now sits on the sandy soil of South Florida. After living in Bogotá, Columbia where he worked in the ecotourism industry, Jhon originally moved to Florida to study anthropology, a science that allows him to combine his many passions, at FIU. He also studied art and music in a local conservatory, the New World School of the Arts. Jhon plays two Andean instruments, a type of flute called a quena and a small guitar made from an armadillo shell called a charango. In 2011 he produced his own album with a few local musicians. After living in the US for many years, Jhon feels that most artistic forms of the western hemisphere resonate within him.

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Sailing to Andros

This past March, just on the front side of the insanely-busy portion of our corporate tour season, I was presented with an opportunity to help out a friend and her adorable family and to disconnect from the stress of phone calls, texts, and emails. She was looking for someone to help them sail their CSY 44′ sailboat from Islamorada in the Florida Keys to Fresh Creek on Andros Island in the Bahamas. The biggest challenge facing us was not only to cross the Gulf Stream – but to do it with two children under two years old on board!  My official title was “First Mate/Nanny.” The family was familiar with the environment because they live on the boat, but it would be the first time crossing the Gulf Stream for the kids and for me. Especially during the winter months, strong northern winds can make it difficult to cross the south-to-north-flowing Gulf Stream. Continue reading

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Journalist Paul De Windt Explains why Miami is a Bridge Connecting the Americas

As those of us who live in the Miami-Dade area are well aware, each and every one of the neighborhoods that make up Miami has its own special flavor. Quaint Coral Gables could not be more different than saucy Little Havana, laid-back Coconut Grove, or sexy South Beach. Dragonfly Expeditions’ city tour, Miami Magic City Bus and Walking Tour, introduces guests to several of Miami’s communities and shares the stories behind each neighborhood’s drastically different development. Paul De Windt, publisher of a newspaper called The Daily Herald, joined us on a city tour last September. The Daily Herald, which is distributed in several places throughout the Dutch Caribbean, featured De Windt’s article in the “Business, Culture, & Leisure” section. De Windt’s work provides a snapshot of each area to which he was exposed during his visit to Miami. In addition, his closing sentence evinces the fact that our tour clearly imparts a true sense of place to a visitor, which is one of Dragonfly Expeditions’ most sought-after goals. Keep reading to see De Windt’s article.

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Learning to Love the Mud

At the beginning of this year I came across an article in the Miami Herald describing a “Hike to the Big Trees” in the Big Cypress National Preserve.  This ranger-guided trip is offered by the National Park Service only a few times a year, so Charles and I rushed to get a spot on the last available trek in early March.  Neither one of us had been on the southernmost section of the Florida Trail before, where the hike took place. This aspect and the possibility of seeing some of the remaining giant cypress trees that had escaped the logging period of the 1920s to the 1950s were highly intriguing to us. We gathered with 15 fellow hikers at the Oasis Visitor Center and the weather conditions turned to be out ideal for this venture. The sky remained overcast and I didn’t sweat a single drop the entire day – a rare occasion in the Florida wilderness! Contrary to the temperature, the state of the trail was much more challenging. Continue reading

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The Nature Conservancy’s Everglades Sweepstakes

On the right-hand side of our monthly newsletter is a list of organizations we are proud to call partners. These companies and organizations are either Dragonfly Expeditions’ sister companies or local not-for-profit organizations that we support financially, with our time, and in other ways. One of these is The Nature Conservancy (TNC), an incredibly successful environmental organization that is dedicated to protecting endangered landscapes around the globe. We donated one of our most popular activities – the Everglades Backwater Tour – to The Nature Conservancy of Florida as the prize in their 2013 sweepstakes. Continue reading

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Thoughts on Developing a Tour – Three Little Towns by the Sea

I guess being born on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, I have always loved the sea.  Many years ago while volunteering to cut down Casuarina (Australian Pine) trees in The Nature Conservancy’s Blowing Rocks Preserve, I fell in love with an extraordinary environmental vision.  The Nature Conservancy (TNC) of Florida was embarking on a plan to turn back the hands of time on a little stretch of coast on Jupiter Island.  TNC planned to re-contour the land and replant the coastline to look the way it did when the first Europeans set foot here.  This simple goal fired my imagination because it showed that beautiful things that we have lost can still be recovered, a theme that runs through my entire business and personal philosophy. Continue reading

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Happy 500th Birthday to Florida!

On this day – April 2nd – 500 years ago, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon for the first time laid eyes on Florida’s east coast. Despite the fact that native tribes had been living here for thousands of years, Ponce de Leon is credited with the “discovery” of the Sunshine State. According to various accounts, he landed just north of present-day St. Augustine and, amazed with the countless species of exotic vegetation he had never before seen, he decided to name the place “La Florida” which means “Land of Flowers.” Continue reading

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German Daily Newspaper Features Dragonfly Expeditions’ Everglades Backwater Tour

German journalist Johanna Rüdiger joined a group on our popular Everglades Backwater Tour in the fall of 2012. Expert guide Bob Nesmith led an adventurous troop through waist deep water, immersing everyone in the plant and animal species as they snapped photos and tried to keep their cameras dry. In the article below, Johanna recommends that – out of all the things to do in and around Miami – visitors should make sure to visit the Everglades. Her article reflects how she was captivated by the natural beauty and wild virginity of this one-of-a-kind ecosystem and her gratitude that Dragonfly Expeditions was able to introduce her to the Big Cypress swamp. Johanna considers her experience a real adventure full of discovery; much better than a simple airboat ride during which she would have only seen the most commonly-visited areas of the Everglades.

The article was published in Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, the local daily newspaper of the city of Cologne, Germany in January. If you understand German, click on the image below and zoom in to read!

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Save the Rain Tree

On the south side of the New River, across from Fort Lauderdale’s historic district, towers a stunningly large tree. The tree is an Albizia Saman – more commonly known as a “rain tree” because its leaves curl up during precipitation. One of our guides, Chris Brennan, recently brought to our attention that this nationally-treasured tree is in danger. This species of tree might look familiar to you because an even larger rain tree in Tobago served as the site where castaways built an elaborate tree house in the movie Swiss Family Robinson.

In 1982, the Fort Lauderdale rain tree was declared the largest of its species in the state of Florida. And since Florida is the only state in the US where rain trees grow, it is probably the largest in the country. In 1987, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission added this six-story-high tree to a list of 36 protected trees to ensure that it would not be damaged or removed. However, developer and property owner Asi Cymbal has plans to build an enormous condominium in the same location. If this rain tree is destroyed, only 11 protected trees will remain standing in the city. Continue reading

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South Beach: Stories of a Renaissance – The Second Edition

Photo by Michelle Yan

Michelle, one of our guides-in-training, was cycling through South Beach one day and saw a peculiar sight: a skateboarder carrying a copy of a very familiar book. After chasing him down and becoming a traffic hazard in the process, she found out that the young man had just purchased South Beach: Stories of a Renaissance and was going to send it to his girlfriend in Korea as a gift.

As I’m sure most of you are aware, our resident author Charles J. Kropke co-published the first edition of this book with Eleanor Goldstein in February 2011. The book has been a great success and continues to sell strongly; I have seen its bright blue cover through the window in locations such as the Villa Vizcaya Gift Shop and Books & Books stores. We are very proud to announce that the first edition of this book is completely sold out and that the second edition is currently being printed! Continue reading

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Meet the Team – Intern Rodrigo

Hello everyone! I am proud to present myself as the new intern with Dragonfly Expeditions. My name is Rodrigo Carmona Lopez and I will work at Dragonfly Expeditions until the middle of August. Just like the conquerors of Florida, I am Spanish and live officially in Madrid. When I was a child, my two sisters would make fun of me by saying that I didn’t belong to the family because I was German and the rest of my family was Spanish … That was because I was born in Germany while my father was working in Düsseldorf as an economic & trade attaché. I spent the first four years of my life in Germany and then my family moved to Madrid. In Spain, my sisters and I studied at a German school to continue learning the language. Continue reading

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Kick off Women’s History Month on March 1 with the Miami-Dade Women’s History Coalition

Did you know that March is National Women’s History Month? And did you know that Miami is the only major US city to boast a woman founder? The Women’s History Coalition of Miami-Dade County  is sponsoring a public event to kick off Women’s History Month and to honor Julia Tuttle, the “mother of Miami.” The event will take place in the Miami City Cemetery at Tuttle’s gravesite (1800 NE 2nd Avenue) at noon on March 1. Penny Lambeth, Chair of the Cemetery Restoration Committee, will be giving a presentation dressed as Julia Tuttle. Continue reading for more information about the Coalition and this event. Continue reading

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Thoughts on Developing a Tour: Five Centuries in the Making – A Walking Tour of Downtown Miami

If you could step back in time and visit Miami 100; 50; or even 20 years ago, you would find a very different place than you would today. Perhaps because Miami is a place constantly in flux, its past is often forgotten or simply masked by the city’s loud and flashy reputation.  Downtown Miami is a great symbol of that ongoing transformation.  One of our most popular tours – the Miami Magic City Bus and Walking Tour – introduces guests to Miami’s various neighborhoods, including a brief stop in downtown.  The past several years have seen the development of four tours that explore each Miami neighborhood in depth: Coral Gables – The City Beautiful, A Path through Old Cocoanut Grove, Cuban Heritage Tour, and Tropical Deco in a Fabled Playground. But something was missing – we didn’t have a tour for that fifth Miami neighborhood: downtown. For a long time, we had dreamt of creating a product that focused on the downtown area and would educate Miami’s visitors on how the history of downtown Miami and its dynamic present are linked. Last year, our intern Janine helped make that dream a reality and we can now share with visitors what the tens of thousands of the new downtown high-rise condo residents have already discovered.
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Peter Morrell Shares his Eye-Opening South Florida Experience

South Florida has had a bad reputation as a cultural wasteland for a long time. Part of Dragonfly Expeditions’ mission is to change that perception and to show our guests the different aspects of South Florida culture. Therefore we were happy to see a different kind of message on The Cultural Voyager. This is a website that strives to bring to its readers the latest news about world travel and maintains the belief that cultural exploration should be the focus of any vacation. If you pull up the website, you will be greeted by an assortment of brilliant images accompanying articles about topics such as the world’s most famous mummy, an artist in Cornwall, and a cultural celebration in Amsterdam. But the image at the top of the page looks familiar; that’s because it’s a shot of Miami Beach.

Peter Morrell, editor of the website, visited Miami in December 2012 and participated in one of our most popular activities: the Cuban Heritage Tour. Morrell’s stay in Miami prompted him to write “A Cultural Odyssey in Florida,” an article that was recently published on The Cultural Voyager. It is the first of a series of articles he is writing about Florida culture. Morrell’s piece was also published on About My Generation, a website that aims to inspire, inform, and motivate readers over age 50. The caption at the top of Morrell’s article resonates with Dragonfly Expeditions’ idea of Florida: “Peter Morrell finds that there is a lot more to the Sunshine State than beaches and theme parks…”

Click here to read Morrell’s article about his visit to the Magic City and keep in mind that Dragonfly Expeditions offers several experiences that focus on Florida’s diverse culture and art.

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The Other Dragonflies

With its prehistoric appearance, extraordinarily flying abilities, and intriguing name, the dragonfly has forever been a popular symbol in art and culture that has represented everything from courage, happiness, and summer (in Japanese culture) to swiftness and water (in Native American culture). In Europe’s Middle Ages, this dazzling insect was called the “devil’s darning needle” not only because of its long, slender shape but also because it was believed to be a servant of the devil. In Portugal, folks call it the “eye-snatcher” and in Wales, the “adder’s servant.” With its endless associations and meanings, it’s not surprising that many companies have included the word “dragonfly” in their titles or have used the creature as a mascot. In Dragonfly Expeditions’ younger days, we received occasional phone calls asking if we were related to or a part of similarly-named companies in Puerto Rico or South Africa. Although Dragonfly Expeditions does have several sister companies – for example, Green Heron Gifts and Windjammer Sailing Adventures – none of them have the word dragonfly in their title.  The confused callers piqued our interest, so we did our homework on these other Dragonfly companies. And since I have been working with Dragonfly Expeditions, I have noticed even more dragonflies flitting about. Click below to unravel the mystery of the other dragonflies! Continue reading

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What’s it Like to Have an Office Inside the Biltmore Hotel?

“What’s it like to work in an office inside the Biltmore Hotel?” is a question we are almost always asked by first-time visitors to our office. The Biltmore Hotel is a truly unique place to work. After all, the building appears on the National Register of Historic Places, boasts a spiraling Moorish Giralda tower, houses a pool that was unrivaled in size for many years, and is rumored to be haunted. Walking into the main lobby, visitors are greeted by amicable bell boys, two small aviaries, and soaring, barrel-vaulted ceilings complete with hand-painted frescos. The interior also features travertine floors, marble columns, elaborate leaded glass fixtures, and carved mahogany furnishings. As a company that believes strongly in preserving important Miami landmarks, it seems only fitting that Dragonfly Expeditions’ office should be located inside one of them. Below are some examples of what we and some of our neighbors think about walking into the Biltmore Hotel each morning for work.

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Annie’s Organic Buying Club

With the beginning of each new year, we often set our minds on how to make this year better than the last. Maybe we promise ourselves to exercise more, spend more time with our family, give up a bad habit or create a new and healthier habit.  This post presents a surefire way to satisfy a number of these resolutions!  Some of you may wonder what this has to do with the tours we provide…nothing!  But it is a perfect example of the sustainability we strive for in our day-to-day lives. Read on to find out how you can turn your 2013 resolution into a reality. Continue reading

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