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IT—Inside Traveler
By Jessie Johnston and Emily King

November 14, 2006:

Sleep Easy: Introducing the DreamSack

IT contributor Anne Marie Johnson is an avid traveler who struggles with a compulsion to be clean. Beyond always carrying Purell in her purse, she has one product she simply can't travel without:

"Amongst other things, traveling is a departure from familiarity. This leap into the unknown is usually rewarding: the crunchy feel of salt from the Dead Sea, the taste of Burgundy in Burgundy, the vision of a sunset over the savanna. Yes, these are memories that remain visceral long after the end of a voyage. However, on the way to these magic moments of wanderlust, one can also be confronted with some less-than-savory realities. For this germophobe, a night or longer in a sketchy hostel, ratty roadside motel, or bedraggled B&B can take the lust right out of wandering.

"Happily, there is a solution in the aptly named DreamSack. The original DreamSack is a portable silk sack, sewn on three sides, ensuring that you will never spend another sleepless night stiff with panic trying to avoid contact with a set of yellowed, less-than-hygienic sheets. It can also be used as a sleeping bag liner to add warmth on a cold night. The DreamSack is 34 inches (86 cm) wide, weighs less than a pound, and folds to fit into its six-by-three-and-a-half-inch (15 by nine cm) stuff-bag. Although made of silk, it's machine washable. The good people at DreamSack have also started to make pillow cases, because if the sheets don't seem clean…well, you get the idea. A DreamSack costs $62, which will probably end up saving you money; just think of all those $2-a-night hostels you can stay in—lice-free."

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IT Voluntours

The combination of travel and service work, or voluntourism, is hitting the mainstream—catching the attention of college students, professionals, and, get ready for it…Travelocity. The online travel agency has recently launched Travel for Good, partnering with several nonprofit organizations to make it easier for travelers to access volunteer opportunities around the world.

Travelocity is a newby, though, in a field already populated by established nonprofits like Globe Aware, which offers volunteer vacations in Peru, Costa Rica, Thailand, Cuba, Nepal, Brazil, and other locations. The one-week trips have been called a "mini Peace Corps" and cost around $1,000. Closer to home, Take Pride in America is a clearinghouse of volunteer opportunities throughout the U.S. The site doesn't explicitly link volunteering to travel, but you can easily plan a trip around one or more of their service activities.

Writer Joshua Berman's blog The Tranquilo Traveler offers a personal perspective on this burgeoning travel trend as he details his 16-month-long honeymoon volunteering in Northern India, Sri Lanka, and Africa, with the American Jewish World Service Volunteer Corp. Berman, who volunteered with the Peace Corps in Nicaragua from 1998 to 2000 and has authored several travel guides, describes voluntouring as "the best way to get beneath the skin of a culture that a tourist normally sees. When you have a role within the community it opens up all kinds of doors. It gives you a deeper experience than traveling for recreation. And you learn and make lifelong friends."

For more detailed information on how to take a volunteer vacation, check out National Geographic Traveler's article on family service trips, VolunTourism International's website, and the volunteer travel listings provided by Transitions Abroad. World Volunteers lists humanitarian, conservation, and archaeology volunteer opportunities in their books (and online for book owners).

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E-mail your feedback and tips to InsideTraveler@ngs.org.

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Emily King, Traveler's assistant to the editor, wants to visit the pyramids of Giza before they're just a suburb of Cairo. Researcher Jessie Johnston hopes to see Machu Picchu before it becomes an Angkor-style jungle gym.



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