Wanderlust with Cynthia Rosenfeld: Christmas list with a difference

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Rather than checking who is naughty or nice when it comes to making my Christmas gift list, I flip through my passport to remember what life-changing merchandise I’ve encountered in my 2015 global gallivanting. 

This year, everyone on my list will receive a Lucky Iron Fish (luckyironfish.com), the palm sized, minimalist chic sculpture that can provide an entire Cambodian family with up to 75 percent of their daily iron intake for up to five years. “All you have to do is cook with it,” declares its informative website, which allows anyone to order one of these cute stocking stuffers for $194. This covers the cost of donating a second fish in Cambodia where six million people, or half the population, suffer from iron deficiency.

Friends living in colder climates will appreciate the Norlha (norlha.cn) yak wool scarves and hats I selected during my summertime journey to the roof of the world. Ostensibly there to advise a group of Tibetan nomads at Norden Camp in China’s remote Gansu province, I admit that several hours were spent considering my purchases among the sustainable brand’s supplier of cashmere accessories. Anyone not headed to Tibet for their holiday shopping can click their way around Dara Artisans (daraartisans.com), a purveyor of luxury goods with philanthropic pedigree from around the world.

In my long-time quest for the perfect white T-shirt, I purchased several for a four-month-long round the world adventure from an unlikely source. Krochet Kids (krochetkids.org), an NGO founded in Uganda, first came to my attention when I stumbled upon a scrumptiously soft crocheted winter hat at a boutique in southern California. A handwritten note inside identified the African woman whose talented hands created this snug wonder that has kept my head warm ever since on many a chilly airplane flight. On its website, I discovered the social enterprise also works in Peru – a country well-known for its exceptional quality cotton – to empower people to rise above poverty. My perfect tees each cost a mere $155 and did double duty on that Miami to Los Angeles adventure via France, Spain, Portugal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Thailand and Cambodia by keeping me chic and simultaneously bettering lives in the Southern Hemisphere. Now they will accomplish a third mission as Christmas presents for my most stylish friends. 

When it comes to wrapping these holiday goodies, an inspired solution came to my attention following my last Bangkok stopover. I stayed a few nights by the Chao Praya River at the swanky Siam Hotel (thesiamhotel.com). In between my Sodashi facial and muay Thai boxing lesson, I fell hard for a pair of sterling silver bracelets in the hotel’s boutique, designed to resemble the real elephant hair bracelets worn by Thai mahouts. While these proved too pricey to purchase for myself, I noted down the brand, The Elephant Story (the-elephant-story.com), then read up on its mission to promote Asian elephant conservation by increasing awareness about the plight of this endangered species. Profits from the 100 percent linen elephant trunk-shaped Christmas stockings I purchased, at $155 each, will be donated to protecting these precious creatures. As for what I hope Santa gives me, he will find those four-knot silver bracelets on the website too.

Follow Cynthia on Instagram and Twitter: @CynthiaRoams

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