World Tourism Day

World Tourism Day - September 27

Sun, sea, beach, relaxation, hotels, airplanes, sightseeing… All things you think about when it comes to tourism, right? But this industry involves so much more than that.

Tourism is all about people -from all layers of society- destinations, experiences, environments and even governments. It has social, cultural, economic and political value. To emphasize the importance of this industry in all of the previous mentioned facets, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNTWO) introduced World Tourism Day in 1980.

The date, every year on 27th September, was chosen since it indicates the end of the high season in the northern hemisphere and the beginning of the season in the southern hemisphere. On this day, we celebrate tourism, and maybe even more importantly, we address the eight Millennium Development Goals set up by the United Nations:

  • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Global partnership for development

world tourism dayWe leave our footprints with everything we do. Tourism in general leaves an enormous footprint on planet Earth and can have drastic consequences. ‘Sustainability’ is a word often related to tourism, as we want “to develop tourism in the most sustainable way possible”. But what does the word ‘sustainability’ actually mean? It’s a vague concept, but simply put it means that tourism needs to take full account of the economic, political, cultural, social and environmental impacts it has. An almost undoable task, made harder even by people and government’s personal interests and corruption.

But I’m not here to only point out the negative aspects of the industry. Tourism is two-faced. World Tourism Day is also a day of celebration. The WTD blogger competition for example showcases some of the success stories of this incredible industry. From voluntourism to community development and from community based tourism to rewarding traveling experiences, it’s all there.

My life and tourism

Maaike in CambodiaI have a rather long history when it comes to the concept of ‘tourism.’ About 16 years ago, when I was six, I started playing ‘travel agency.’ What I did was getting all the travel brochures my parents had collected over the years and an old computer keyboard out and I got creative with crayons and paper.

My parents and friends had to browse through the travel brochures, I would ‘check’ availability for them and ‘book’ their hotel and flight ticket. I even gave them some extra information about the destination they were traveling too (all made up with that crazy imagination of mine) and print their flight tickets (writing down some random letters and numbers on a piece of paper).

Later on, I became really interested in meeting people from abroad and learning about other cultures. That’s why I started to look for pen pals online and joined the travel website Virtual Tourist (‘’Meeting the People Behind the Places’’).

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The moment after a loved one commits suicide

how to deal with the first moments after a family member commits suicide
Trigger warning: suicide

What happens at second 41?

If every 40 seconds one person takes their own life, who picks up the pieces at second 41? How to react the exact moment after this happens?

So here’s the thing. Sunday, the morning of August 31st 2014, I woke up with a lot of things on my mind.  First and foremost was the fact that it was my little sister Nicole’s birthday.  Six and a half years ago, on February 12th, 2008, she took her own life at just 23 years old. And there are so many things I could say.

  • She was too young
  • She had her whole life ahead of her
  • She didn’t know what she’d be missing
  • She had to have known how much everyone loved her
  • She surely knew how her family would feel if she was gone

The thing is… when Nicole decided to take her life, she wasn’t thinking about her age. She took her life because she felt she didn’t have her whole life ahead of her. She couldn’t picture the future long enough to realize that she was going to miss out on some of the most fun and best times ever. She had no idea how much she was truly loved. And most importantly, she wasn’t thinking about anyone but herself when she made the decision to end it all.

Suicide is NOT selfish

When I hear talk about suicide, one of the most common things people tend to discuss is strictly their personal opinions on how they feel about suicide. Too often, those affected by suicide aren’t in the right frame of mind to decide to get involved and take an active stance against it. This is where one of my many points comes into play.

Definition of selfish. Is suicide selfish?When you ask someone their opinion on suicide, I feel pretty comfortable saying that I bet they’ll tell you they think suicide is selfish. But is suicide actually selfish? Just look at the definition.

When you first start reading it, you might think “Yeah, actually it is.”  But then you keep going and you ask yourself “Personal profit?”  And then we have the words egocentric, egotistic, egomaniacal. Do any of those words sound like they describe someone who’s about to take their own life?  I honestly don’t think so.

  • Desperation
  • Despair
  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Fear

I could go on and on, but those are a handful of words that I would associate with the act of suicide. Having been through the things I’ve been through, I doubt “selfish” is a word I will ever associate with it. I used the word in my video, but in relation to those of us who are trying to prevent it.

It hurts

I remember that night Nicole called me. I couldn’t understand a thing she was saying. All I was getting was screaming and crying, and words here and there that sounded like “it hurts” and “want to die” and more screaming and crying.

She had tried to cut her wrist open. When we took her to the hospital, there’s only one distinct conversation I remember having with her. They were stitching up her wrist and while I held her other hand we had a little talk. I told her I loved her, that I was there for her.

Jenn and Nicole. SistersI held her hand while she cried and told me how much it hurt. But she wasn’t talking about her wrist. She was talking about her heart. And her mind. She was telling me how much it hurt to be alive. In that brief moment, I made a decision that some days, I find myself questioning and regretting.  I said: “It’s a selfish thing to ask… but please don’t go.  It’s selfish of me to want you to stay. But please stay”. But then I said: “It’s okay. If the pain is too much and you can’t hold on… it’s okay if you have to go. I love you. I would miss you. But I will never be selfish enough to ask you to stay in a place where you feel like you don’t belong.”

My therapist told me that I did an amazing thing, because I gave her the freedom to choose, and that it took courage to do it. Some days, I question my decision, and in the end it doesn’t make suicide okay.

So what do you do at second 41?

Just as it goes with any death. With any loss. The number one feeling is grief. But with suicide, the rolling wave of emotions a survivor feels is endless.

It’s different for every single person. There are those who feel like they failed the person who took their own life. And then there are those who feel like failures.

You find yourself constantly lost in thought and the number one thing on everyone’s mind is “What did I miss? What could I have done differently?”

The truth of the matter is that there’s nothing you can do differently. There’s nothing more you can do except to let them know how much you care. How much they mean to you. How much the entire world will lose, if they’re gone.

Sometimes, no matter what you do, you can’t convince them they have a reason to stay.

It’s not because they aren’t strong enough.
It’s not because they’re selfish.
It’s simply because the pain is too great.

At second 41, all you can feel is confusion. Second 42… panic. Second 43… denial. Second 44… pain.

And every second that ticks by, a new emotion will take you over, right down to your soul.  But when it’s all said and done and the realization sets in, try to remember what the person would want you to do.

They’ll want you to pick up the pieces and try to understand they didn’t mean to hurt you. They just didn’t know how else to make their own pain go away. So, you see? Suicide isn’t about being selfish. It’s not about hurting others or thinking about one’s self. It’s about freedom of choice and the need to make the pain go away.

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. If you think someone you know/love is considering suicide, let them know they have choices. Let them know they are free to choose. But also make sure (VERY sure) you let them know they will never be alone. Let them know how much you care. You CAN save a life. Let them know you’re there for them and how much they matter.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to stand on the side of second 41.

- Jenn
(Ugly Ducklings Inc team member, and author of this Ugly Duckling Story)

She Misses Her Sister, And Wants You To Know Something

“There’s so many things, that my little sister has missed. So many things that she’s not been a part of…”

It’s September 7th, and although we kinda hate that there even is a week for suicide prevention, we are here to make our part in telling all those who still don’t see how serious this topic is, that it is happening. It is happening so often that it is scary. I didn’t really know this until I saw the video.

This is Jenn. She lost her little sister seven years ago after she decided to take her own life. Their relationship was truly special, and now that September 10th is upon us, she wants you to know something.

40 seconds were never so relevant, until now…

PS: Don’t ever hesitate to reach others if you need to. Ugly Ducklings Inc is a community of people who can offer support and encouragement. We are not professionals, but you can check our resources page to contact helplines. Try to find counsellors near you, or close friends and family who care. There will always be someone out there for you. 

Ugly Ducklings from Netherlands, Switzerland, and Argentina together

Ugly Ducklings Inc members get together

There are people who are very skeptical when it comes to cyber friends and meeting people you’ve only talked to via a computer screen.

Well, The Ugly Ducklings are an exception…

This past summer, Maaike, Maressa, and Marie had the incredible opportunity to meet each other, defying long distances (in the case of Argentina, especially), and other tiny obstacles. Below you’ll read the three diaries of these three duckies who got this great chance to meet.

Maaike story, summer with ugly ducklings

Having some of my best friends living abroad is a unique experience to say the least. Everything feels exactly the same as with friends living close to you, except for the *bloody* concept of distance (who came up with that anyway?).

You cannot just ring your friends on the other side of the world to ask if they feel like going out or to meet up. Conversations are only possible via text messaging applications or social media, and face to face contact is limited to online video chats. It’s weird feeling so close somehow, but so far away at the same time.

But sometimes… sometimes luck is at your side.

That moment when all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, and you can actually be together with friends you love so very much. It happened to me this summer when I was the most fortunate girl in the world to be able to spend some time with my dear friends Maressa and Marie (a.k.a. Sisters from other Misters).

Last summer, Maressa and I were on a road trip for a week in her home country Switzerland (and we also shared our experience with The Ugly Ducklings here!)

Right away we agreed that we would meet up again next summer too, regardless of where that would be. Well, since Maressa never visited my home country, the Netherlands, we agreed that she would visit me this summer. We planned some day trips and even visited my second home, London, where I used to live in 2012. It was once again an amazing experience that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss for the world.

meeting ugly ducklings from other places

With our Ugly Ducklings t-shirts!

Then there’s this other peculiar case of faith I need to tell you about. Our dear Colombian friend living in Argentina (still following?), Marie, happened to attend a wedding in Rome in July… at the exact time Maressa was in the Netherlands. Everyone can do the math, right?

Exactly! Marie also took a flight to the Netherlands. I’ll spare you the details, but the journey to Europe entailed a lot of work and stress for her. But finally, she made it and the three of us were reunited.

I really have to say, it felt so natural to have these girls with me. So perfectly normal. Like we’re not living 450 and 7107 miles (!) apart, but just next door to each other. I was then also extremely sad to see them leave.

I had an amazing time with my Sisters and loved to show them my homeland. Also looking through their eyes at my own country and its culture taught me so much. It’s good to reflect upon these things from time to time and to open your eyes to your own country’s beauty and its unique aspects.

Friends enrich your life and having friends living so far away makes you appreciate that fact even more.

Maressa and Marie, I felt extremely privileged to be able to show you my country and to have you around me. Het was gezellig! Love you girls to the moon and back!

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Rest in Peace Robin Williams

Robin Williams was the voice of the Genie. Try to fight depression

Don’t you feel like you just lost a long-life friend?

Someone who taught you how to laugh, how to cry? How to laugh and cry at the same time?

Robin Williams passed away yesterday, August 11th, and according to media reports, he had been fighting some depression demons for a long time.

You think that people who are always doing funny things and making people laugh are just showing the rest of the world what they are experiencing inside… well, sometimes it’s just their own way to cope with the problems and aches they have inside.

Don’t ever hesitate to reach out if you feel depressed

“I’m sad”. We all go through moments when we cannot deal with our inner feelings and we look for ways to escape. Perhaps we can’t seem to see an exit door. Here, at Ugly Ducklings Inc, we have been fortunate enough to create a supportive community, where people in need might come to us and ask for advice. At the same time, we have some amazing group of people who are willing to say some words of encouragement at the moment they most need it.

After the sad news of Robin Williams’ passing, and how everyone has felt touched by his leaving us, it is very important that we reinstate, and encourage you to look for someone who can help you, as there will always be someone willing to be there for you. As Sky Williams said in his video “A message to the Depressed”, always try to look for someone who is near you, a friend, a therapist, a relative. If not, you can try the different hotlines available.

We have a list of resources that you can turn to if you need to. Just click here.

And to all those who have been in close contact with depression, either because of a friend, a relative, or because you yourself are suffering, this message is for you…

“I’d like to live in a world where happiness is as easy as buying a soda in a vending machine. But it’s harder than that.”

Special thanks to The Telegraph and MindFullUK for sharing this beautiful video.

Josh Dallas NAHS charity fundraiser

Hello Ugly Ducklings. 

Today’s post is dedicated to our great friends, partners, and favorite people from the Charming Angels community and the fans and admirers of actor Josh Dallas from the tv show Once Upon a Time.

Last year we united forces for our first charity competition, where we had the support of these wonderful people. With their help, we raised $600 for Mental Fitness Inc!

Now, we want to help them spread the word on their new campaign in favor of Josh Dallas’ high school’s theater department.

They’ll do a series of raffles starting on June 9th and you only need to donate a small amount of money to participate and get a chance to win one of these!!!

Josh Dallas Charity Drive

Item from Lot 1 – Novel signed by Josh

Josh Dallas Charity Drive

Item from Lot 2. Complete Season 1 DVD signed twice by Josh

Make sure you read all the instructions over at their website: Josh Dallas NAHS Theater Dept. Charity Drive.

If you can’t donate money, then there’s something that’s free and super easy to do: tell others about this, so more people can help and support this great cause.

Stay awesome Ugly Ducklings. And thank you!

Swan Out,
- Marie

30 days of hope project

JUNE is HERE! That means that #30DaysOfHope begins now!

Ugly Ducklings, we know that through this community we have helped, support and encourage lots of people, and both our lives as well as theirs have been touched by the positivity and the advice that we post here.

Two of our dear friends from when we got this movement going, Zachery, and Amy  -who are part of the Once Upon a Fan website- came to us to get this thing going. What better way to bring each other up than with #30DaysOfHope? 

So come! Don’t miss this for the world! Remember to follow us on Twitter, @UDucklingsInc, as well as @TheZachVan, and @Amylia403

30 Days of Hope

How telling her Ugly Duckling Story changed her life

Beautifully made
We are still in awe with this beautiful post by Emily, whose Ugly Duckling Story we shared a couple of months ago. Here’s part 1 of Beautifully Made. Make sure you leave comments for her below!

Ever since I shared my story with Ugly Ducklings Inc, my perception on events have changed and many of them I saw mirrored in my daily life.

The idea of Beautifully Made came up about a year ago, but I really had no basis for it when I was still battling within myself. However, I decided to re-launch this cause recently because the timing was finally right.

After I finally got my story out there it has been easier to smile and I want others to be able to feel that joy as well. Recently I revisited my old church where many teenage girls were talking about their life problems and that is when I realized that maybe the deep scars only brought by those closest to you are not that uncommon.

There were a massive amount that were abandoned by their fathers or were abused and each of them seemed to be taking it out on themselves. Whether with cutting, an eating disorder, or drugs, they were experiencing shame and pain beyond measure because of what someone else had done to them.

What Beautifully Made was created for is a safe haven for these young ladies to share their stories and gradually come to the point of acceptance. Teaching them that what may have happened was never their fault and to try and teach them to love every part of themselves.

When someone has hurt you to the point of destroying a large part of you, there is a space of darkness that eats you alive.

Only when you accept what happened, forgive whoever had done it, and release that pain can you really go forward.

That is the objective that I am trying to accomplish with this growing group. No story is too deep and damaged that you cannot recover from it.

The core of what we stand for is within Psalm 139, it is a very good projection of what we will all try to understand about ourselves and the world around us.

Psalm 139

We are starting as a small group meeting at a friend’s house and a Facebook page, but I am hoping that we can make the idea spread.

This is not just a problem in the small state of North Carolina, it is worldwide. Even giving just the smallest bit of hope to those going down similar paths that we have previously walked through can mean all the difference.

Even if you are still recovering from old wounds you can help influence others for the better.

I guess I’m just trying to say that whatever you have been through or are going through, every piece of you is beautiful.

- Emily

Emily is 20 years old, and lives in North Carolina. For years she struggled with depression, an eating disorder, and self-harm.  About five years down the line she decided to share her story in the hopes of helping others with similar struggles.  After the idea came about, the rest is history.

I am an introverted person, and it’s okay

Introversion. A strength, not a weakness

In honor of May being Self-Discovery month, I wanted to share a recent discovery that I made about myself.

I’ve never been a very social person. Most of you might not know this, but I am a very quiet person. I’ve been this way my entire life, and it’s not that I’m shy or depressed or antisocial, I just prefer not to talk. I’m more of a listen-and-observe kind of girl.

Growing up I was always made fun of for being quiet. From 5th grade all through high school, I was labeled as “quiet girl”.

About introverted peopleI was always looked at differently just because I didn’t like talking. I lost the majority of my friends, because they thought it was un-cool to hang out with someone who didn’t talk or initiate conversation.

Everyone that I knew, including my family made it seem like being quiet was a bad thing. Not once in my life, including today, has a person told me that it was okay to be quiet, that it was okay to be me.

I started believing what everyone said. I thought for the longest time that something was wrong with me, that not being talkative was bad, I thought that maybe I would just snap out of it one day, but it never came.

Then, a few weeks ago, I made one of the most empowering discoveries about myself that I’ve ever made.

I was on Pinterest, I was looking at a bunch of inspirational quotes when I noticed one that really hit me hard. The quote was talking about Introverts.

Fact about an introvert person

I was completely moved, yet confused when I read this. How was being quiet an art? I always thought that being quiet was a bad thing. I wanted to know more, so I began researching and looking up more quotes.

I started with looking up the definition.

What are introvert people like?

Introverts (for those who don’t know) are people, who are very quiet and reserved. They are more interested in self-knowledge or self-understanding. Instead of going to a big social gathering they would prefer to stay at home and read a good book.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading, I felt like I had a disease my entire life and I was finally finding out what it was. This one sentence had described my entire life.

This glimmer of hope began to build in me, at realizing that I was not alone.

Famous people who are introverts

I also discovered that many of the world’s most famous and greatest people were introverts.

  • Albert Einstein
  • Steve Jobs
  • Emma Watson
  • Audrey Hepburn
  • Warren Buffett
  • Rosa Parks
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Ingrid Bergman

Here are some more famous people who are introverts.

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National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week – Ellie’s journey

Leading a great life with anxiety

It is Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week in the United States, and we got this beautiful post by Ellie. Check out what her advice is to all those who need to live with it every day and lead a happy life. Make sure you leave a comment below in case you have questions for her.

I was diagnosed with anxiety three years ago and have been living with it every day since.

Before I was diagnosed, I wasn’t really sure what was wrong with me. I had been struggling with going to college and talking to anyone but I thought it was because I just got out of my first relationship.

But it was much more than that.

Living with anxiety daily is definitely a struggle, but despite what people may think, there are days where you don’t notice it and you can be genuinely happy.

But there are days when you get so low and sometimes there’s not even an actual reason for you to feel that way.

Other times there can be a trigger, whether it be something small like seeing an advert or something big like an argument with someone.

For me personally, I get very anxious at night and find it hard to sleep. Other people suffer more during the day or throughout the day.

But despite the struggles that I face, there’s a lot I have learnt from having anxiety.

  • I’ve learnt that putting on a brave face is sometimes not always the best thing to do because talking to people about what you’re going through is very important. Even if they don’t quite understand, it can be very therapeutic.
  • Although, if you feel as though no one in your family or friendship group will understand, then talking to a professional is very important.

My counsellors helped me so much and taught me meditation routines:

  • Breathing in through your nose for seven seconds then breathing out of your mouth for eleven seconds.
  • If you practice these at a time such as when you wake up (or whenever you’re not feeling anxious/as anxious) then these will help for when you do get anxious and feel yourself panicking.

Surrounding yourself with negative people has an effect on your mental health, so toxic relationships/friendships can make your anxiety flare up.

But whatever the case, if you feel as though you do have anxiety, then please see a doctor. It is my advice to you.

I hope this can shed some light one what this issue really 

- Ellie

Ellie is one of the Original 10 of Ugly Ducklings Inc, and is our guest blogger for National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week. She lives in the UK, and is currently studying college. If you think you suffer from anxiety or depression, and need to talk to a professional, check our Resources page to contact someone that can help you.