Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Half Truth about Adventure Travel

Credit: Steve Gillick
Exuberant Kids at a monastery festival in Tibet

The oft-repeated expression when it comes to AdventureTravel is "Take nothing but photographs…leave nothing but footprints” but there is so much more you can get out of travel.

The oft-repeated expression when it comes to Adventure Travel is "Take nothing but photographs…leave nothing but footprints”. Whether the journey is to Kitimat or Kathmandu, Montreal or Machu Picchu, Truro or Tibet, there is so much more you can get out of travel.

It is a truism that in general, in life, you get ‘out’ what you put ‘in’. The eco-sustainable-nature-tourism mantra about taking nothing and leaving nothing sounds so deliciously motherhoody, and as a primer for litterbugs, exotic souvenir seekers, and people who like to bring their inconsiderate attitude toward nature with them wherever they go, this is good, sound advice.

The other half of the truth that is missing, relates to all the other things you can leave behind and take with you when you travel. The list of ideas—that follows—are ways to add value to your Adventure travel experience in a world that yearns for the cooperation and understanding of travellers in order to sustain it for future generations. As well, these ideas will enhance your own travel experiences and convert them from being ‘just a memory of an excursion’, to being a truly meaningful partnership with people and the environment.

The first part of the ecotourism montra cautions you to "leave nothing behind"--but you can still….

1) Take a photo—and when your local subject asks for a copy in the mail, actually do it! This may be the only photo they have of themselves.

2) Have a conversation—share ideas, thoughts, and mutual struggles with the language—you with theirs and they with yours. Learn how people think in another country, and what is important to them. When asking a young porter on a trip to Nepal years ago, what his dream in life would be, he said, “To eat Dahl Bat (which is lentils on rice), everyday and to lead tours in the mountains.” A headman in a village in northern Thailand related that his dream was to be able to cultivate all three fields every year, instead of having to leave one bare to regenerate the soil". Take an interest in the people you meet.

3) Smile. Crosby, Stills Nash and Young sang, in the song Wooden Ships, “You smile at me and I will understand…cuz that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language”. Remember this and promote your happiness. You will inevitably receive a return smile.

4) Leave a T-shirt or postcard of your home town, province or country.

5) Give a toy to a child. I give out finger puppets. A friend gives out Zorro masks—another, bubbles. Don't give toys with small pieces that can cause a child to choke, if swallowed. Do not give out coins or candy as it encourages begging and contributes to dental problems. Treat a kid, like a kid and it's ok to be a kid yourself, no matter what your age or status in life.

6) Exchange a song. When in Mongolia, sometimes you are only allowed to enter a Yurt (a round tent used by nomads, also known as a Ger) until after you have sung a song. Row, Row, Row Your Boat, sung in rounds, is a popular selection, as is Frère Jacques, the Inky-Dinky Spider, Do Wah Diddy, Born this Way-- and even O Canada!

7) Be polite—wait your turn—be patient-have realistic expectations—leave a good impression of your culture, of your country and of you.

8) Find out how you can benefit the local culture—adopt a foster child when you return home…plant a treet…contribute to an educational foundation.

9) Leave a donation when visiting cultural heritage sites: temples, artist studios, musicians. Help the locals to maintain the attraction that you have just enjoyed.

10) Bargain in good faith. The 50 cents you save may give you pride because you “beat down” the salesperson, but you may have also robbed that person of extra food or prevented his or her children from purchasing school books or a mandatory school uniform..

The second part of the eco- montra is to "take nothing with you", but you can still take…

1) Excitement, enthusiasm and a sense of wonderment by visiting a new destination.

2) Understanding and tolerance of different traditions, customs and ways of thinking.

3) Knowledge of culture, history and local dress, plus festivals, music and food.

4) More smiles in your photographs and in your memory.

5) The flavour of the country—smells and tastes, indigenous to that society.

6) A new friend. All of a sudden the country is not a place-name somewhere on the other side of the globe—it is a friend you once visited. This is what makes the world 'smaller' and creates the vision of a global community.

7) A unique experience: Ponder that when you see something, whether it is sunrise on a mountain top, or a butterfly in a jungle or forest, or a child’s smile, or the profound thought that out of the 6 billion people on the earth—only YOU were there to experience this one event in your own unique way.

8) Another country. For those country-counters out there, you know that every country has its own unique characteristics. It is not just another number… or another country on a particular continent. It is not a faceless destination but it is actually someone’s home. Travel is a declaration against generalizing and stereotyping and should always be a celebration of the diversity of the planet.

9) What you take with you is a feeling that even if it is your first-ever country visited, you have made a positive step toward being a global citizen.

10) What you take with you? A sense that while our planet may be lonely in the context of being the only one that supports life (that we know of) in our galaxy, the planet is anything but, a sad, disconsolate place. It is a thriving, boisterous cacophony of life—and it is there for you to fulfill your dream of discovery

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