The Waterbearers: Humanity in Action

​The Waterbearers was founded a few years ago by two women, Spryte Loriano and Jane Brinton who both share a deep passion for seeing everyone on the planet have access to clean water. ​I sat down with Ophelia, one of their impassioned volunteers, to learn more about the organization.

What is the mission of The Waterbearers?
Our mission statement is:  Inspiring women who have access to clean water​ - to get it to those who do not.

For many of us, clean water is as easy as walking to our sink and turning the faucet. This is so not the case with millions of people around the world. According to 2013 figures by the United Nations, 85% of the world's population live in the driest half of the planet. That means that 783 million people do not have access to clean, drinkable water. And those numbers are from 2013 so it's undoubtedly even greater now.

How do you go about accomplishing your goals?
​Our goal is to bring clean water to as many people as possible. Currently we are in a campaign to get clean water to 1 million people by March 22, 2017 which is World Water Day​. We accomplish this by raising funds to purchase water filters. Each filter costs $50 and will provide clean water for 100 people for up to 10 years!   

The Sawyer filters are certified for ABSOLUTE microns making it impossible for harmful bacteria, protozoa, or cysts like E. coli, Giardia, Vibrio cholerae and Salmonella typhi (which causes Cholera and Typhoid) to pass through. No pumping, no chemicals, no waiting, no worries! Incredible fast-flow rate, simple to use, and each filter can be backwashed to extend its life.
Each filter provides clean water for up to 100 people. Just $50 provides the distribution of one Micron Absolute Filter, Bucket Adapter, Bucket Hole Cutter, Filter Cleaner, Adapter Hose and Filter Hanger.
What is your biggest success story?
​We are so fortunate to have many success stories​. On our website you can see that in the short time since Spryte and Jane founded the organization, we have been able to take filters to Indians in the Amazon in Ecuador, Mayans in Mexico, two elementary schools, one in Tulum, Mexico and another in Reshikesh, India.  The Waterbearers were on the ground very soon after the earthquake in Ecuador. And in 2017, we will be going to Liberia, Africa in February, and later in the year to the Galapagos and Nicaragua.

Mayan woman drinking clean, filtered water.
In Tulum we were able to provide enough filters so that 3,000 people now have clean water to drink for a decade. In Ecuador after the earthquake, we were able to provide filters for almost 1,500 people. 

The Waterbearers in Tulum.
Every person to whom we can bring clean water is a success story!

What have been the most significant obstacles? 
​Well, as any non-profit knows, fundraising is ongoing. We have Waterbearers around the world and we have people who are ready to travel to deliver filters, but we need funds to purchase those filters. One hundred percent of all donated funds are used towards filters. We are largely a volunteer organization so fundraising is something we are always involved in. 

What do you hope for the future of the organization?
We plan to get access to clean water to as many people as possible!​

How can others get involved?
Go to our website and there you will find a Donate button. It's that easy to help get clean water to those who do not have it! We have Waterbearers around the world and four of us happen to live here in Boise!​ Here is our fundraising page.

Girl Around the World

When it comes to exploring the world, we want our children to get as much out of the experience as we do. It's not about taking vacations and dragging the kids along with us, it's about living and working in another culture, and learning about that culture as a family.

To that end, and drawing on her inquisitiveness and ability to engage with people, my daughter Emilia just launched her own website and podcast, Girl Around the World. She's nine, after all, so it's high time she did something with her life.

Helping Emilia create her podcast has been more than just a fun little venture. She now has ownership of something that showcases her strengths. It breeds confidence, which has unfortunately eluded her on the elementary school playground. Whether or not she garners listeners, the exercise has been hugely beneficial. It illustrates the potential that exists when we stop looking at our children's education as something that has to follow the traditional model. It opens up a world of possibilities, whether we're traveling or not.

To date she's interviewed people from locations around the globe - Alaska, Kenya, Germany, Australia, and Mexico to name a few. And she's adept at recording on the go, carrying her microphone with her and conducting interviews at campsites, in museums, and on ferry boats.

Episodes are posted at Girl Around the World and on iTunes. With the podcast up and running, we're now focused on finding the right project for her little sister. Nothing's been decided as of yet, but it's never too early to start fostering an entrepreneurial spirit.

For more on how and why we travel as a family, check out 

10 Ways to Save Money While Traveling Long Term

We spent two nights at the Casarão Verde Hostel in Itacaré, Brazil. 

1. Peanut butter & jelly.

Some people would rather ham and cheese it, but I'll take pb&j any day. Add in an apple and you're all set. The point is, when you're on the road you shouldn't be buying $4 cups of coffee or eating at restaurants (at least not all the time). And goodness knows fast food joints aren't the answer. On a week-long road trip we kept a cooler in the back, sought out grocery stores when needed, and maintained a fairly decent diet without taking on a mountain of credit card debt.

2. Leverage your home.

Yes, I'm a huge fan of Home Exchange and I sing its praises whenever I get the chance. Because it's a life-changer. Because half of our trips would not have happened without it. We've also leveraged our home by renting it out while traveling, but after a handful of less-than-ideal renters, this is now an absolute last resort. Home Exchanges have always been wonderful experiences.

3. Leverage your car.

On a two-month exchange in Brazil, we also exchanged vehicles. This negated the need for a rental car and when we flew to other locations in Brazil, we took advantage of public transportation. Exchanging both a car and a home can take what would have been a $5,000 trip for a family of four and turn it into a $500 trip.

4. It's not a vacation.

Long-term travel isn't living it up. It's about living - in another country experiencing their culture. A walk around town, a chat with locals, and learning about their history are all free activities.

5. Keep Working.

Hopefully you love what you do, because you'll eliminate a substantial amount of stress if you keep up efforts to bring in a paycheck while away from your usual work routine. You can accomplish a fair amount by just brainstorming projects, solutions, and marketing campaigns (depending on your line of work) with a pen and paper. If you have technology, you can take it a step further and keep up to date with emails and conference calls. Just make sure you don't work so much that you lose sight of your surroundings and all they have to offer.

6. Say no to theme parks.

Okay, I admit we went to Australia Zoo in Beerwah, Queensland. But it was Steve Irwin Day and I couldn't resist the opportunity to pay tribute to the Crocodile Hunter and learn all about the zoo's conservation efforts.

On the whole, though, we avoid water parks, theme parks, and expensive tourist destinations. If you're really into those things, then you probably need to plan more of a vacation (limited length of time, set destination, budget for tourist activities) than a long-term, nomadic trip.

7. Street food.

I love street food and you can find it the world over. It's far less expensive than food from a restaurant and often more authentic. If you're intimidated by obtaining your food from a truck or cart, know that every time I've had food poisoning, it's been from a restaurant. Not once from street food.

Street drinks are always fun, too...

8. Souvenirs come last.

When you arrive somewhere, there's an urge to purchase souvenirs. Always save this until the end of the trip when you've seen more of what's available. You may find the same souvenir you initially fell in love with for a lot less money somewhere else, or you may decide that the seashells you picked up from the beach were all the souvenirs you needed.

9. Guidebooks lie, anyway.

They don't intentionally lie, but by the time you buy and read a guidebook, the off-the-beaten-path restaurant they recommend isn't off-the-beaten-path anymore. (Because it's since been featured in a guidebook). If you want recommendations, you can find more current information on the internet. Even better, ask a local. If you spend any money on books in preparation for travel, start with Rolf Pott's Vagabonding. This is the indispensable starting point for approaching the "Art of Long-Term World Travel." (Yes, if you're serious about travel, I am suggesting you buy this book before one of mine).

10. Give and take.

Not everyone gets to do everything they want to do on a given trip. That goes for the parents as well as the kids. Maintaining a happy and healthy family of four while keeping the bank account out of the red means we all have to sacrifice certain things when on the road. The good news is that while we have to give up a little in the way of indulgences, we reap far more in return in terms of invaluable cultural experiences.

Sitka, Alaska
Not sure where to go? Let the location choose you.

Open Call for Readers and Reviewers

Wanted: Readers and Reviewers!

Here's your opportunity to get the latest book from a New York Times bestselling author, for FREE, and before anyone else. 

On the heels of Vagabonding with Kids, comes the sequel Vagabonding with Kids: Australia. I'm looking for a handful of readers to receive a free copy in advance of publication. All that's needed in return is an honest review posted in the first week of December. Reviews can be posted on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iTunes, or in a blog or Facebook post.

What's It About?

Turner wants to cuddle with a wombat. She wants it bad. In the hilarious sequel to Vagabonding with Kids, the nomadic family of four continues their journey with a two-month trip Down Under. AK Turner indulges her fascination with prisons, with no understanding of why her husband would rather spend every day at the beach. Their daughters aren't motivated by either, and are instead enthralled with the wonders of public toilets. As the Turners wind their way through Australia, all eyes are on the lookout for adventure. And wombats. 
You see the appeal, right?

New York Times bestselling author AK Turner continues the Vagabonding with Kids series with tales of exploring Down Under in Vagabonding with Kids: Australia. With a keen eye and sharp wit, Turner juxtaposes the intrigue of Australia with stories from an unconventional life on the road. This raucous adventure will inspire digital nomads and armchair travelers alike, and leave readers hungry for the next installment in the series, Vagabonding with Kids: Brazil.

Sure! How Do I Sign Up?
Send an email to [email protected] Write "Australia" in the subject line. I will email you a link to download the book on your computer, phone, tablet, or other device. The book will be formatted to conform to whatever device you choose. 

BONUS: After publication I'll draw three readers names to receive autographed paperbacks of the series thus far. 

ARE YOU A WRITER? I welcome any and all questions on writing and publishing. I love connecting with other writers, sharing knowledge, and learning from them. Include your questions or discussion topics in the email and let's have a conversation. 

You can also connect with me here:

Home Exchange Like a Pro

My husband and I have used for a few years now. It's a platform where homeowners pay an annual membership to create a profile of their home and share it with likeminded homeowners around the world. It allows us to connect with people across the globe and arrange a home (and sometimes vehicle) exchange. Someone in Spain comes to our house in the United States while we cross the pond to hang out at their home in Basque country. It fosters worldwide travel while negating the prohibitive cost of long-term accommodations. It's wonderful! But we still encounter friends and relatives who can't fathom doing such a thing.

Letting strangers stay in your home? Crazy talk! 
What about your things? 
What if something goes missing?
I could NEVER do that!

At which point we relate the pros and cons of our experiences with home exchanges, as well as why we have no plans of stopping any time soon. Here are the top 5, pretty-basic-and-rooted-in-logic-when-you-stop-to-think-about-them, tips to approaching an exchange like a pro.

Be Calm

Your things are just things. And your home exchange partners are not going to care about your things, beyond needing them somewhat out of the way so that they have room for their things. That's right, they have things, too. Some things that they take with them and some which are left behind. You can bet your exchange partners have the same anxieties you do about their home and possessions. But you have to remember that you are not renting out your house (that's when you should be terrified and oh yes, there will be consequences), you are exchanging your house. It's a two-way street. And that's why home exchangers take extra care and show respect when staying in another's home. Stay calm. Everything is going to be okay.

It's okay. They're just things. 

Be Honest

Don't use as-the-crow-flies distances to describe the proximity of local attractions to your home. If it's two hours to the ski lift or the beach, then say it's two hours. If your home comfortably sleeps four, don't tout it as a perfect place to host family reunions. And a stainless steel appliance doesn't make your kitchen worthy of the descriptor gourmet. Be honest when representing your home and the surrounding area. It's what you expect from your exchange partners and what they deserve in return.

Yes, that's a lovely toaster. Still not a gourmet kitchen. 

Be Thorough gives you ample opportunity to describe yourself, your interests, preferences, and requirements. Don't skimp on the details. Enter as much (honest) information as possible. What are the nearby attractions? What are your favorite places in town? Are there annual festivals visitors might want to know about? Describe your home in detail and what type of exchange partners you think it would be perfect for. 

Nite Glow at the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic.

Be Realistic

Don't throw offers out that you can't follow through on and keep in mind that sometimes you have to let the location choose you. It's okay to change your mind (and plans change all the time,) but if you propose an exchange, you should do so with reasonable assurance that you'll be able to make it happen. Inquiring about six months in Paris because you daydream of doing such a thing, but without a clear plan of the logistics and circumstances needed to make such an exchange a reality is unfair to your home exchange peers. Make sure you're fully on board before you say you're on board. Is the duration of the exchange workable? Are you comfortable with the cost of living in your destination city? We once had a couple from the Netherlands arrange an exchange with us because they wanted to visit Boise in the summertime. And then they canceled because they learned that Boise in the summertime is, well, hot. Do your due diligence before committing to an exchange.

Up all night at Carnaval in São Paulo.

Be Kind

The ability to travel, to stay in someone else's home, to experience another culture, is a gift. Treat it as such. Treat your exchange partners as such. We've arrived at homes to find bottles of wine waiting for us. At our own home we've left wrapped gifts for the children of our exchange families. It only takes a few small gestures to convey a kindness that will be felt during the duration of your exchange. Be an ambassador for your home country and a gracious guest in your host country. You have an opportunity to spread kindness in the world. Don't take it lightly. 

Making friends in the Amazon.
Want more like this? Check out: 

Reviews & Giveaways (Because Free = Awesome)

Throw your name in the hat and enter to win a free copy of Vagabonding with Kids. The link to the giveaway is below.

Want to hear what Publishers Weekly has to say? Here's their full review of Vagabonding with Kids...
Armchair travel and parenting guides find unusual symbiosis in this work from Turner (Hair of the Corn Dog), in which the mother of two uses her own lively experiences traveling abroad with children to persuade readers that “long-term, nomadic travel” with little ones “fosters compassion, adaptability, perspective, gratitude, and a sense of wonder.” Parents will be easily swayed by the prospect of exposing their young brood to life abroad, as Turner recounts her tales of trips to Australia and Brazil for months at a time. The real challenge is convincing little Ivy that fried piranha is a viable snack or helping Emilia leave all her books at home. Turner also advises intrepid parents to remember the Imodium and think carefully about traveling by camper in a foreign country. Awkward diaper changes aside, Turner argues firmly in favor of the benefits extended travel had for her children. Turner’s charming tales evoke an odd mix of envy and schadenfreude; readers may simply want to stay home and keep reading.
Enter the Goodreads Book Giveaway here...

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Vagabonding with Kids by A.K. Turner

Vagabonding with Kids

by A.K. Turner

Giveaway ends October 15, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

10 Ways to Move Your Body at Eagle Island State Park

I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me more than a decade and the esteemed title of Writer-in-Residence for Idaho State Parks to get me to Eagle Island. So lame. But at least now I know what I've been missing and I can make use of it in the future. I was shocked to see what this hidden gem has to offer, from gigantic shelters and barbecues for family reunions to snow cones of obscene proportions. Of course, it's always nice to move around in between the burgers and sugary syrups, and Eagle Island has plenty of options. Here are ten ways you can work off the gluttony while you're there.

1. Paddle Boarding - Try it, it's awesome! Don't have a paddleboard? You can rent one from the park's visitor center. And Eagle Island has plenty of calm waterways for you to paddle around and see if it's the sport for you. No crazy yoga moves required.

2. Horseback Riding - Okay, so I don't have horses. But if I did, this is where I'd take them. Eagle Island is one of twelve state parks in Idaho with trails designed for horseback riding.

3. Ziplines - Adrenaline rush or pure terror? If you're not into sailing through the sky while tethered to a line, you can paddle out into the water and watch the zipliners flying above you. Just hope no one freaks out and wets their pants while you're staring up at them.

4. Waterslide - Who doesn't love a water slide? Okay, maybe cats. Everyone else will have a blast.

5. Disc Golf - Yes, this really is a thing. It involves fairways and baskets and tee pads. I'm pretty sure there's also a lot of throwing and walking and, depending on with whom you're playing, beer drinking. Eagle Island State Park has an eighteen-hole disc golf course.

6. Volleyball - That's right. Get the Top Gun soundtrack playing and choose your teammates wisely. Talk to me, Goose!

7. Horseshoes - When you've pulled a muscle trying to be Maverick on the volleyball court and are ready to face the realities of your own limitations, you can slow it down a notch with horseshoes.

8. Hiking - There are more than five miles of trails to explore throughout the 545 acres that make up the park. The area was developed as an honor farm in 1930 for a few dozen state prison inmates. When you're out hiking, you might see some of the original structures, like the prison dorm or the warden's house. If you're disproportionately fascinated by prisons like me and want to make sure you see these, here's a map.

9. Swimming - The north and south channels of the Boise River border the park. Swimming areas are roped off from the open waterways for non-motorized boats, so you can get a good workout without getting clobbered by a wayward canoe.

10. Playground - Kids are, of course, great exercise. Chase them around the playground for awhile. You'll feel better about later treating yourself to a snow cone of obscene proportions.

Like to get out and about with the kids? 
Here's more Summer Fun in Idaho.

Vagabonding with Kids in Alaska

We're halfway through our summer trip and find ourselves living on a tiny island off of Sitka. I revel in moments like this one, when during a boat ride from town to our rented home, I say to Mike again and again, "Wait, take a picture now," because each moment of altered light seems more beautiful than the last.

We wound up through northern Idaho, into Canada where we saw deer, elk, and a lone black bear, and made the breathtaking drive from Banff to Jasper. From Prince Rupert we boarded the ferry, on which we spent a day and a half and I reprimanded an unruly and unsupervised team of young boys.

Most of the time here in Sitka it feels like living in a cloud, but occasionally we get views from our deck like this one...

We've fished, hiked, watched eagles, collected sea stars, spied sea lions, picked berries, and on rainy days played hours of board games before giving our children their first showing of The Goonies. Still to come: a production of Guys and Dolls, a visit to Fortress of the Bear, more fishing, rain, and torturing of sea stars. On August 4th I'll read and sign from my forthcoming book at Old Harbor Books.

What's that? Why, yes. Yes, it IS available for pre-order

Then we'll have two days of my husband's high school reunion before the return trip to Idaho. When the kids are back in school (PRAISE BE TO ALL THAT IS SACRED ON THIS EARTH!!!!!), I'll begin my own studies in Spanish for upcoming trips. 

The halfway point of any trip is a mix of emotions: gratitude that we haven't had occasion to use the bear spray, balanced with fear that we might yet have occasion to use the bear spray. We'll only be home a day or two before planning the next adventure (which won't require bear spray, but rattlesnake antivenin would be nice). There will be aspects of island life that I'll surely miss, but I also know that we're tied to Alaska for life. And we'll be back. 

Want impractical tips on traveling with kids? 

Want practical tips on traveling with kids?

Summer Fun in Idaho: Farragut State Park

If you’re not thrilled about the idea of tent camping (Ouch, my back!), but you can’t fathom an actual RV (Ouch, my wallet!), there is a middle ground that might be right for you. Behold, the cabin.

We spent two nights in this little gem in Farragut State Park. The cabin itself is charming. That’s not just a kindly way of saying it’s tiny; it possesses genuine charm, first evidenced by the discovery of the porch swing.

It’s not roomy inside, but clean. It has comfortable beds (sleeps five, bring your own bedding), electricity, and air conditioning. Already you can tell that we’re taking “camping” to another level. The site has the usual amenities of fire pit, picnic table, and water spigot. The neighbors aren’t too close, the facilities aren’t too far, and our particular cabin (“Kestrel”) bordered a large open meadow, perfect for throwing a Frisbee and kicking around a soccer ball, as long as you remain conscious of the ground squirrel burrows, which threaten to twist an ankle if you stumble upon one unaware.

Yes, we play soccer in mismatched and/or ill-fitting pajamas. And dress shoes. 
Farragut has over 45 miles of maintained trails, disc golf courses, and plenty of opportunities for water play on Lake Pend Oreille. We chose Beaver Bay Beach for paddle boarding.

Because we went early in the morning, we had the pristine, shallow waters largely to ourselves. This was a perfect spot for small children, with an incredible backdrop of the mountains of the Coeur D’Alene National Forest.

If you want to add an educational component to your trip, there are plenty of resources within the park to learn about the area history on mining, the Naval Training Station, aquifers, steam ships, and the introduction of mountain goats in the 1960s. Ivy and I perused some of this information in the Visitor Center while Emilia conducted an interview for her upcoming podcast Girl Around the World. She’s nine, after all, so it’s high time she has her own podcast. Kim, on duty at the Visitor Center at the time, was exceedingly kind and indulgent.

Farragut is ideally situated if you want to explore Northern Idaho, halfway between Coeur D’Alene and Sandpoint, and we checked out both during our stay. I wouldn’t hesitate to visit Farragut again, though I’m also keen to check out the cabins available at other Idaho State Parks. It’s an easy means of camping, a delightful way of escaping screens and experiencing nature, and when it comes to your wallet, back, or anything else, it won’t hurt a bit.