Summer Rayne Oakes Hits the Road: Mozambique, Madagascar, and More

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Summer Rayne Oakes, the model, activist and entrepreneur, usually looks quite professional when I see her, dressed in eco fashions and attending parties and speaking on panels. But there’s another side to the glamazon. Though she’s based in New York City, she spends tons of time on the road, flying to Mozambique regularly for a project there, and when she’s on the road, she’s just doing what we all do – try to keep comfy and travel light.

I met with Summer at Brooklyn’s Blackbird Cafe (her choice) and she appeared wearing a simple black dress and some insect-motif jewelry (Oakes unabashedly loves bugs!). But where does she love to go when she’s not channelling Brooklyn chic, and what does she wear?

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Summer as Tomb Raider!

Mozambique is a favorite destination and which, she laughs, is a “huge place”! She discusses Mozambique with such wonderment and detail, it’s as if she never left after her last trip. She loves the Inhambane, south of Mozambique, where both the Barra Reef and Tofu Beach are located. She told me that you can swim with white sharks and admire the “lazy beaches.” The towns are often empty, peopled by locals, and not tourists. She prefers that to resorts or “postcard” places, which Summer Rayne’s not a fan of, explaining, “They’re too neutered”. Just north is the Parque Nacional do Limpopo, where Summer has done work with Greg Car, and if one keeps going north to IIha de (Island of) Mozambique, this UNESCO’s World Heritage Site can be explored.

Travel for Summer isn’t just about a beach and sun, but about being immersed in nature and local culture. When she traveled to the Dominican Republic she hiked Pico Duarte (the highest point in the Caribbean), finding herself literally immersed in the clouds, surrounded by “… a mix of pink, orange, and sorbet [like] clouds.” I interrupt her here, not to stop this rather magnificent illustration, but to wonder aloud, how difficult it must be to see first hand the destruction and poverty in these places. Summer nods. “You see what needs to be protected and what you don’t want lost.”

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Some of Summer’s essential travel gear.

Summer likes the sense of visiting places consistently; she only wishes she knew more languages, which is her 2012 working resolution. She’s a low maintenance traveler, anti wristband. Unless attending events she travels with few things, stating, “Frugality comes with the type of travel I do.” Often she returns lighter than she left, giving away her shoes at the ends of trips. Her travel hairstyle is keeping her hair in a braid and smiling while she says it, tells me she doesn’t shower every day. “When I travel I like to feel like I’m creating and giving. I’m not on the phone, so I like the change of mode that traveling produces. I like doing something tangible, it feels potent.” Summer calls her frequent trips to places like Mozambique and Madagascar, (which she’ll travel to for the first time this October), “high impact trips.”
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Cuval: Chic, Classy, Ethical Travel Bags

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Cuval makes the most perfect, sweetest travel bags I’ve ever seen. Whether your trips involve jetting halfway around the world or just heading out of town for some toes-in-the-sand time, these totes are must-have. I don’t need to convince you – just take a look!

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The hip bag. Defintely not your mom’s fanny pack!

I’m obsessed with the belt bag and the backpack specifically – due to my travel- loving ways. All bags are made with a combination of 100 % natural Turkish leather and mill-end fabrics (which means that if they weren’t used here, they would end up in the landfill!). I had a chat with Ayse Ozgunes, the designer behind Cuval, about her lovely line.

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The perfect chic travel backpack? YES!

EC: Can you tell me how you got the idea to make the belt bag and what you use it for?
A: I am following trends and have a strong intuition about what models and colors are going to be hit for the season, I kind of knew that belt bag is going to be a great fit for FW2011. Also since I started designing bags, fanny packs, waist bags, belt bags were one of my favorite models to work on. They are very practical and perfect for a night out where you would like to set your body free from bags to dance like a queen!

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EC: Where would you wear the backpack and what would you pair it with?
A: I would wear the backpack during the day time, to work, to school, to travel as it would be the most convenient model to carry around especially if you have too much personal items to carry – like a laptop and/ or extra pair of shoes!

And it can be paired with many options, if you want to dress it down you can wear skinny jeans, a white t-shirt, with Bensimon/Converse sneakers and of course a nice brown leather jacket and if you want to dress it up you can wear brown/beige pants a jean shirt with your riding boots under your favorite trench coat. Oh! and you can also use this bag in versatile ways! On your shoulder, on your back or as a clutch when you take out the belt part!

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EC: Why are you interested in designing with ethical materials?
A: To be honest I am not trying to stress the ethical value of materials only but the ethical idea behind the brand. I use my local force in terms of sourcing, manufacturing, and producing. Of course I always double check where the material has been made, who will benefit from my purchase and who will benefit from their purchase if they buy one of my bags. I respect earth, people and workforce.

Check out their full Fall/Winter 2011 collection here. So much more goodness!

Harvest Time! 36 Hours in Stowe, Vermont for Waterhole Swimming, Hiking and Farmer’s Marketing

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Along with the ‘big city’ of Burlington, Stowe is the epitome of Vermont’s many facets; conscious, cosmopolitan and cozy. I love visiting the Green Mountain state any time of year (well, except mud season!) but there’s no time like August, September and October for a trip to what I think of as “The Promised Land” (because every time I go, I get to do all the things I promise myself I will do! How often does that happen?).

When I visit Vermont, I’m lucky enough to have excellent tourguides in my friends who have moved there over the last few years from New York and Connecticut. Holistic health expert Cara Joy, a good friend I met in 9th grade honors English class, drove me around, pointed out the best places to eat, and took me on a waterhole tour of mega proportions. Read on….

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Our first stop was Moss Glen Falls, which, as you can see are a huge waterfall that you can swim at the bottom of, or climb into. After a 5-hour drive from my house in Connecticut, the mountain-cold refreshment was intense! And delicious, not to mention instantly calming many of my worries away. Among alternative health practitioners, it is noted that the negative ions surrounding places of water movement are excellent for stress-relief.

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These almost perfectly circular potholes were caused by hundreds of years (or more!) of water action on the rock that has now moved and left these behind. This tiny one held an ecosystem within its depths.

Our second water-hole stop was Bingham Falls, where we did more wading than swimming as it was getting late in the day and the sun had already retreated from the deep, narrow gorge the falls and stream flowed in. But such a place of simple beauty, and because we were nestled in the Earth, it felt miles away from anywhere.

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Such beautiful rock formations are like works of sculpture.

There was plenty to see at Bingham Falls – besides the main waterfall area, it’s easy (a bit steep) to go check out the rest of the stream as it meanders, crashes, swishes and plunks down through natural flumes, into small and large pools, and in and around smoothly-worn rock.

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I know I’m not the only one, but I am so attracted to waterfalls! And never get sick of watching them flow….

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Starre Vartan contemplating a crossing….

We were getting hungry after our swimming and hiking around, so we headed into town to enjoy margaritas and a giant bowl of guacamole at Frida’s, which had a fun Frida Kahlo theme (unibrows and festive Mexican decor!). An antique car show had closed off the main street and so we wandered and checked out the cars and watched the old folks and little kids dance to the live music while enjoying wild blueberry ice cream.

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Early to bed did NOT mean early to rise! I slept incredibly well in the quiet farmhouse my friend lives in, clocking almost 10 hours of shut-eye. Delicious! And time to get moving. Cara and I headed to the bottom of Pinnacle peak for a hike to the top, about 1.6 miles, all uphill. But we knew it would be worth it! (Neither of us had made it all the way, but in the winter we had snowshoed the same route and remembered it well).

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“Adventures in Om” in September Whole Living magazine

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Check out the September, 2011 issue of Whole Living magazine (on newsstands now!), wherein I’ve put together a few great destinations that combine yoga and fun adventures like horseback riding, rock climbing and surfing. I researched a number of cool retreats and getaways that combine some of our fave adventure activities with yoga programs specifically designed to accompany them. And check out that fantastic picture of the woman on the horse!

Bantu Bikini-Wearing Model Caroline Trentini Supports African Beach Culture

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I loved this shiny-happy shot of Caroline Trentini in Vogue wearing a Bantu bikini. Bantu’s founder, Yodit Eklund, grew up in Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and Kenya as the daughter of an American refugee coordinator, and told Vogue, “I was tired of seeing t-shirts that benefitted Africa but were manufactured in China.”

After finishing her degree in environmental economics at UC Berkeley, Eklund created her swimwear company, which features traditional wax-cloth prints that are designed, cut and sewn in Africa, providing a fair wage to the people who make them.

Mission: To introduce the world to African beach culture
by creating a hot line of beach and resort wear, accessories, and skincare products using indigenous prints, labor, and materials. All 100% made in Africa.

Check out the whole collection of fun, colorfully printed bikinis and maillots here, and the informative Bantu blog here.

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