ALL POSTS TAGGED "[haiti]"

Neil Brandvold

Photo by Daniel Cima

Freelance photojournalist and documentary filmmaker Neil Brandvold is comfortable on the front lines, most recently covering the Ebola epidemic in Liberia and Sierra Leone. His work, not unlike Travel Channel’s new series Breaking Borders, shines a light on the human toll — and resiliency — at the heart of disaster- and conflict-ridden areas. We caught up with him to find out about the dangers he faces on the job, the places he can’t get enough of, the people he’s met and the privilege of telling their stories.

You’ve covered the Arab Spring in Libya and Egypt and been embedded with M23 rebels in eastern Congo. What type of preparation goes into those trips? How do you stay safe?

The preparation really varies from trip to trip, but safety is always the most important thing to consider. Hostile environment training and battlefield medical training is an absolute necessity before working in war zones — and luckily, groups such as Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues and Pioneer Consulting, among others, are providing really top-notch training to journalists before entering conflict zones.

I spend a lot of time before each trip trying to get a good sense of the dangers on the ground and building up strong networks of trusted local fixers, drivers and translators, who are essential to be able to operate safely.

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The thought of fleeing anywhere warm right now is particularly appealing since the damn groundhog saw his shadow and we’re stuck with 6 more weeks of winter. Admit it: Whether you were let down by Snowmageddon, brushed off record-breaking snow like the Midwest, or got pummeled by storms (sorry, Boston), you’d rather be at the beach right now.

The fact that it is Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day weekend is not lost on us, but if you were a major slacker with your plans, spend the extra time with your honey — or meet a new one — on a beach somewhere. These flights were priced from Travel Channel headquarters in DC, but visit SkySkanner.com (or your preferred search engine) to find the cheapest last-minute flights for you.

Miami

Photo by iStockphoto.com/Nikolay Tzolov

Miami, $287
Sunny and 73 degrees, trapezing along Lincoln Road, and late-night Cuban sandwiches … need we go on? It also just happened to be named our Sexiest Beach for 2015 by Sports Illustrated model Nina Agdal. Sold.

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REUTERS/U.S. Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters

Could a sunken shipwreck off the coast of Haiti be the biggest discovery since 1492? Underwater explorer Barry Clifford claims he may have discovered one of the most significant ships in history, Christopher Columbus’ flagship Santa Maria.

The shipwreck was found in the exact area, off the north coast of Hispaniola, which is now Haiti, where Columbus said the Santa Maria ran aground on his first voyages to the Americas more than 500 years ago, Clifford reported to CNN. Stuck on a reef off Haiti’s northern coast, the wreck sits just 10 to 15 feet beneath the water’s surface.

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The mountain village of Furcy, Haiti. All photos by Kathleen Rellihan

“You’re going where?!” I got that reaction a lot when telling people I was going to Haiti. That, and a long silence … or a raised eyebrow. As someone who’s been known to plan last-minute trips, sometimes solo, I have been used to people doing double-takes. Usually, though, it’s just my dad who’s shocked, like the time I told him I was skipping Thanksgiving and heading to Iceland, alone, in the dead of winter.  But this time, it was pretty much everyone who was surprised. Did they think Haiti was too dangerous? Did they have mixed feelings about the voluntourism that I was about to embark on  … that, perhaps, it wasn’t sustainable and, at best, just a feel-good activity. Or maybe my friends and family were just shocked that once again I was skipping Thanksgiving, and this time for an even less likely location … Haiti. Haiti? READ MORE

Lover’s Island off Ile-la-Vache. Photography by Sebastian Lindstrom.

As an American living in Haiti, the topic of tourism as a way to boost the country’s struggling economy and image, comes up often. So it’s not surprising that NPR’s recent All Things Considered story on Haiti created a lot of attention in my world. Some found it humorously accurate, others, one-sided and misleading.

In the NPR story, Jason Beaubien mainly focuses on what Haiti would have to overcome to tap into the Caribbean tourism market. He highlights Labadee, the private Royal Caribbean hub, whose gated beach and attractions are worlds away from the poverty just outside. Overall, he paints this once-Club-Med country as dirty, dangerous and broken. Warning of elements that could “doom a family’s vacation before they even reach the hotel.”

Is he right? I think the problem here is demographics. Who says Haiti should focus on families in the first place? Is following in neighboring Dominican Republic’s resort-laden footsteps the only way to go?

In my opinion, the answer is backpackers. The same types who flood to Laos, Columbia, Ghana and beyond, searching for the next, untouched experience. These are travelers who crave culture over comfort. Stories over suntans. And who know that chaos often leads to cool.

Historic Jacmel. Photography by Josh Jakobitz.

Take Carnival, for example. In the piece, President Martelly says Haiti’s Carnival is the worst organized, but the most fun. Take it from me, he’s completely right. It’s one of the most amazing experiences, but it certainly isn’t kid-friendly with insane crowds, booty-grinding and general debauchery.

For road-less-traveled types, Haiti is incredible. Head out west to the beaches of Les Cayes. Explore historic Cap-Haitien and climb the steps of the Citadel. Take a rigorous, unmarked hike over the mountains to Jacmel, cutting through a pine forest along the way. Just don’t expect it to be easy. But then again, for true backpackers, easy is boring.

Volunteers play football with village youth. Photography by Josh Jakobitz.

Looking for an immersive experience in Haiti? Spend 6 weeks this summer understanding Haiti with Operation Groundswell (OG). OG is a non-profit that offers travel and community service experiences, which aim to create more socially and environmentally aware backpackers around the world. The 6-week summer trips include a month of service work and 2 weeks of independent travel time. The early summer trip to Haiti will focus on reforestation projects, the late summer trip focuses on education.

For quality Haitian-run tourism trip packages, check out Tour Haiti (use Google Translate).

About the Author:

Stephanie Price is a freelance copywriter who oversees fundraising and communications for English in Mind Institute, a free adult English school in Port-au-Prince. She loves Haiti and not-so-secretly hopes you will too.

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Travel Channel hosts in Haiti:

Watch a recap of Tony Bourdain’s time in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. And follow coffee hunter, Todd Carmichael, as he searches for a rare strain of coffee in Haiti.

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