Starre Vartan is Eco Chick Escapes Founder and Editor. She’s pictured here with her father, Geri Vartan, in front of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
My Journey, So Far….
I’ve always loved to travel and grew up a bit peripatetically; I was born in Sydney, Australia and when I was a baby and toddler, I travelled throughout Asia and the Pacific with my parents. I remember bits and pieces from these trips, like my first taste of truly hot spices (loved it, still do!) and crawling behind some leaves to find a crumbling grey stone idol, which scared me a bit at first, and then delighted me.
After a sojourn in London, I came to the United States and ended up living with my grandmother in New York’s gorgeous Hudson Valley by the time I was 4. I was lucky enough to grow up in the hamlet of Garrison, on a dirt road in the middle of the woods, and was given the freedom and independence to roam my surroundings solo at a young age. I was never taught to be afraid, but instructed instead in how to be careful, self-sufficient, and how to use maps as, ironically, I have a terrible sense of direction! It was the best way to grow up I can imagine.
Even though I come from the smallest of communities (about 4,000 people), New York City, where my great-grandmother immigrated from Lebanon and my great-grandfather, an immigrant from Scotland met, and my grandmother and father were raised, was just a short train ride away, and I’ve always considered it not only the greatest city in the world, but a spiritual home too. Yes, NYC is challenging, huge, and impatient, but it is also full of creative energy, fantastic history and contains the most passionate people per square foot than anyplace I’ve ever spent time.
My grandmother raised me and I call her a woman ahead of her time without bombast. She had gotten her pilot’s license in the 50’s (when few women were working outside the home, let alone flying planes) while raising my father and uncle on her own and maintaining an place in New York City and also upstate New York. Needless to say, she also had very itchy feet, and not only did we make half a dozen trips back and forth to Australia in ten years, but she also took me to the Panama Canal, throughout the Caribbean, and explored Florida’s Everglades (and Disney World!), much of Southern California, Hawaii and Tahiti. As soon as I turned 16, I was flying on my own.
I’ve always had a passion for the environment; who wouldn’t after growing up in a place where the forest is one’s after-school playground? So after a short-lived attempt at being a professional environmental scientist after graduating from Syracuse University (I studied abroad in Madrid!) with a BS in Geology and a minor in Biology (and a BA in English, just for ‘fun’ or so I thought!), I turned to writing. I’ve been blogging for almost a decade, and founded the popular and well-known Eco-Chick.com in October of 2005. It was the first women’s green blog, though now it has lots of great company online. During that time, I also returned to Australia several times, explored Costa Rica for the first (but not the last!) time, spent a lot more time in California, toured Egypt and Morocco with my father and stepmother, hung out often in London, where my best friend lives, and visited the far-flung Bahamian island of Andros.
I also wrote – a lot – and held a few jobs, including working with an animal advocacy organization (I’m almost two decades into my vegetarianism!), researching and doing some co-writing of screenplays for CBS and HBO which were bought, and I wrote a food column for a local alternative weekly, green living articles (including my first couple of travel pieces).
After completing my coursework for a nonfiction master of fine arts from Columbia University, I took a year off to complete my thesis and travel, spending a month driving across the USA and spending time in the Bay Area with friends, and then several months living in a yurt, off-grid on the Big Island of Hawaii, then visiting family in Melbourne, Townsville, Sydney (where my mother’s family is from), and Brisbane.
It was during this last trip (actually when I was out trail running in the woods near the lava fields I stayed in Hawaii), that the idea for launching an eco travel site came to me. Combining my love of travel with my environmental sensibilities (and all the amazing resources I’ve come across/seeked out). When I returned home and started telling my travel stories, so many women said to me that they hadn’t even taken a vacation that year, that they were ‘waiting to find a boyfriend’ or ‘waiting until I have enough money’. When someone told me they hadn’t used their vacation days (days you get PAID to not work people!) because they didn’t know where to go, I have to admit I nearly freaked out on her.
But speaking with all these amazing, dedicated, interesting women who didn’t travel got me to thinking that maybe a little inspiration and a little guidance might help get more women out there to see what the world can show them. And so I present Eco Chick Escapes. You can read more on what the site is all about here.