Trading Places: 7 Questions for Peta & Ben of Green Global Trek

Peta Kaplan and Ben Sandzer-Bell in Koh Lipe Thailand Dec 2018

Trading Places is all about experiencing how people live around the world. Through travel, learning, and discovering traditions, cultures, and the beauty of our diverse planet — we try to walk in another person’s shoes for a bit, to step into their lives however briefly — so that we can connect with others, and let that inspire our own lives and bring more joy into our worlds.

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When I travel, a large part of the time I stay in other people’s homes — usually through home exchange, but also by house sitting, Airbnb, independent rentals, etc. One of the things I love about traveling this way is that I’m not discovering a new place so much through the eyes of a visitor from some generic chain hotel — I’m actually trading places with them, getting a little taste of what their daily life and home town is all about. It allows me to really experience a place more like a local, and I love both the interesting people I meet this way, and the”insiders’ look” into a place that I get.

If you’re interested in learning more about how I do this, and how it enables me to travel for freecheck out my e-course on it! And if you use the code TRADINGPLACES when you enroll, you’ll get a 20% discount!

A few years ago, my partner Keith and I did a home exchange in Granada, Nicaragua and stayed in the lovely, eco-friendly bamboo home of artist Peta Kaplan and her husband, strategist Ben Sandzer-Bell. Because this was the second home of Peta and Ben — and they lived right down the street — we actually got to meet them, got to know each other, hang out with them some and go to dinner together, etc. It was a great way to discover both Granada and these incredibly interesting people, who we’ve stayed friends with in the intervening years. Peta and Ben also have their own incredible travel blog, Green Global Trek — check it out!

Peta Kaplan and Ben Sandzer-Bell
Peta Kaplan and Ben Sandzer-Bell

Peta and Ben have since moved to Sri Lanka, and I took the chance to catch up with them to ask them 7 questions to let the Trading Places Village get to know them, too! So let me introduce you into Peta’s and Ben’s world: Peta is an artist who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, while Ben was born in Paris and grew up between Paris and Los Angeles.

Trading Places: What is a “typical day” like for you?

Peta and Ben: We are woken up by the chorus of bird calls early in the morning, as our little house is in  a rural area that used to be jungle, and still has some portions of wildness in addition to rice paddies which attract all sorts of birds. We then motor scooter to a morning yoga class near the beach, about a ten minute ride away. After yoga we chill at one of our favorite cafes where we catch up on emails and work accompanied by coffee and breakfast.

Ben is involved in a project to help the Sri Lankan government acquire planes for humanitarian missions for UN peacekeeping operations. Peta has the job of finding us home exchanges for upcoming travel adventures. On our way home we stop at any one of the fruit stalls alongside the street where we buy a two day supply of tropical fruits. At home we continue with work or house related activities, keeping a home in the jungle requires a lot of maintenance. Late afternoon we love to head out to the beach with our snorkels for a swim with the fish and turtles in the Indian ocean. By 6 pm the sun has set and we are usually back home settling in for a quiet night of movies and/ or blog writing.

One of Peta and Ben's favorite local fruit stalls at home in Sri Lanka
One of Peta and Ben’s favorite local fruit stalls at home in Sri Lanka

Trading Places: What are a few of your favorite places to eat in your home city?

Peta and Ben: We love to eat at POONIES in Fort Galle for its fresh and creative salads and café vibe; BEDSPACE in Unawatuna beach for its grilled meats, fresh fish and curries; and SHACK BEACH which offers a range of delicious breakfast options right on the sand in a secluded beach near Galle.

But frankly, the best food in town is in our own home as our housekeeper, Nilu, loves to cook traditional Sri Lankan curries and never tires of offering us new varieties to try.

Trading Places: What is your favorite thing about your home, and why?

Peta and Ben: Favorite thing about our home is how nestled in nature it is. At night the forest comes to life and we hear all sorts of frogs and crickets but rarely any sounds from other humans. We can watch monkeys swing from tree to tree from our bedroom, and sometimes we see them from our bathtub in our garden bathroom. Nothing beats that! And if that’s not enough, a 2-minute walk to the rice fields always delivers beautiful bird sightings.

Trading Places: What do you do to recharge or practice self-care?

Peta and Ben: We have been practicing yoga together since 2000, and always incorporate yoga in our day to day lives. In fact, I (Peta) fell in love with a particular yoga shala with its magnificent views over the jungle, and decided right there and then to find a place to live within walking distance (just as when we lived in Granada, Nicaragua, and lived directly across from a yoga studio). Ben “did his thing” and within hours I had several candidate homes to look at. We’ve lived within walking distance of this yoga shala ever since.

One of the benefits of living in Asia is that massage is both so widely available and so inexpensive. While massage is marketed in the west as a hedonistic endeavor, Asia has considered massage, the movement of chi, an integral part of health maintenance. That is one health lessons that we try to put into practice as often as possible, ideally weekly.

But our true “recharging” power plant, is the sea. Its energy is palpable and every visit to the beach reminds us how  grateful we are to live so close to an energy force, always available, always free, always a health improving experience.

Peta Kaplan in Bagan, Myanmar
Peta in Bagan, Myanmar

Trading Places: What is one of your favorite places you’ve ever travelled to, and why?

Peta: Bagan, Myanmar, spending meditative time in the ancient valley of Bagan which has a plethora of small Buddhist temples scattered in one large golden, quiet valley.

Ben: Hoi An, Vietnam primarily for the street food  (but also the gorgeous architecture, infinite possibilities for scenic scooter rides and people’s infinite sense of humor ….)  We rarely eat in restaurants when we are there. We go from one street vendor to another, discovering the amazing range of culinary delights that comprise Vietnamese cuisine.

Trading Places: Tell us one fact about you that might be surprising, fun, or quirky.

Peta and Ben: We are both animal lovers and no matter where we go we befriend them. Be it a calf that Ben snuggled with for an hour in a field in Central Vietnam, to a dog that Peta rescued on the streets in Dominican Republic. We always take the time to connect with animals and where we can, improve their lives. For example, in Northern Sri Lanka we visited a city where there are groups of large wild donkeys roaming the streets looking for food. We bought pounds of carrots and went around on our motor scooter giving hungry donkeys a treat.

Ben and his favorite calf in Vietnam
Ben and his favorite calf in Vietnam

Keep up with Peta and Ben on their blog, Green Global Trek, or on Instagram: @greenglobaltrek and @greenglobalbites

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