So I recently blogged about the negative aspects of travel and tourism in the third world, but I don’t want that post to be the pessimistic be all and end all to my fellow globetrotters. For those interested in responsible travel, you should know that it is attainable, and it’s up to us to pave the future path for tourism in the Global South. I’ve found that a good start is to think of travel in the context of exploration and gaining experiences rather than seeking extravagant packages and possessions.
Sunbathing on a beach does not constitute an authentic attempt of “gaining a new experience” or “seeing something new”. Yes indeed, the sun may be hotter, the beaches cleaner, and the men more attractive, but if these are the only characteristics we look for when traveling, we will lose the richness this world has to offer us because we were too busy fawning over superficial exoticism. Therefore let us be more diligent in distinguishing authentic travel from inauthentic travel.
I define authentic travel as an experience where you connect with the people, the landscape, the culture, the food and the environment. Anything less than this won’t make the cut. The question a lot of you are asking, “why plan out a responsible trip when the $600 all-inclusive package is one click away?”
For a number of reasons, friends:
- It helps the local community: Tourism can either exploit local people and cultures or assist communities to preserve important traditions. The choices you make as a traveller can affect this.
- New culture, new perspectives: You will gain an adequate understanding of the culture you visit; and you will help support their preservation.
- It’s fair trade: Some countries, like Cambodia, have community based tourism networks that help identify ventures that protect the culture and livelihoods of rural people.
- You’re saving the environment: You can fly less and stay longer, giving you more time to understand the local culture and emit less carbon. Also, you can use public transport to land hop! You will be supporting the economy, engaging with people and reducing your carbon footprint!
Believe it or not, you can travel authentically without the help of Expedia.com. There are tons of eco-tourism and responsible travel sites to assist your next adventure! If you want to do your own research on the matter, the resources are endless. For those interested, I suggest you start with the “Tourism Concern’s Ethical Travel Guide”… It’s a great place start. Safe & responsible travels, friends!