February and March have been two months of reduced adventures. I’ve been focusing on other things (my friendships, reading more, establishing healthy habits). But, as you can tell, I’ve been thinking about how we can find more sustainable ways to travel. How can I continue to travel the same way, when I find it so problematic so often?
So like a good blogger, I did the only thing possible. I turned to Instagram with a question.
What’s your reason to travel?
And I agree. Whether you are happy with the tag of tourist or casually boast that you’re a #travellernottourist, the best trips are those where you feel you’ve learned something.
Sometime last year I came across Leti’s Instagram account. Originally from Galicia, although living near London, she records all her adventures in the form of gorgeously curated and uplifting Stories. The reason her approach is so refreshing is her curiosity. I sent her a DM with a very basic question – why do you travel? – and a million audio recordings later I was ready to sit down to have coffee with her. Leti’s true passion is travelling, and she has the eye of those explorers we only see on magazines. She loves to learn and see, and she brings the world into our smalls screens, defying media portrayals of different countries (she recently was in Iran).
P.S.: If you don’t understand Spanish, then at least you can enjoy her pics!
A world without cultural exchange is bland. Humans have strayed away from their own communities to find others from time immemorial, and I firmly believe we should continue to do this. The exchange of ideas and cultural values is crucial to achieving a diverse global community founded on mutual respect and compassion, both understanding what makes us equal and challenging deep-rooted traditions (sexism, anyone?).
We travel to learn, then. To make the world smaller. Now, don’t jump at me with arguments on white privilege and colonialism. Going on holiday or business travel are unique privileges available only to some. I know.
What can we do?
Holidays, vacations, and unnecessary trips are huge pollutants and have the potential of doing more damage to the world than good to it. Both on an environmental and socio-cultural/economic level.
Accept it. When you make the decision to travel next, take it into account and ask yourself the question.
Why am I doing this?
Whenever I decide to go somewhere, I consider my options. I want to be sure that the investment I’m about to make will be worth my while and that my hard earned savings will help the community I visit. To this end, I’ve started going through a mental checklist:
- Is this available at home? (Whether this means your place of residence or your place of birth is up to you)
- Can I spend my time in this place avoiding international tourism corporations? (AKA, will your money go to the local community?)
- Is there a specific reason I want to attend? (A festival, a monument, a national park, a physical challenge)
- Is it safe for me and the community to be there? (Will you risk somebody else’s safety by insisting on having the most “authentic” experience?)
If you answer “Yes” to the first question or “No” to any of the other three, reconsider. Travelling is no longer about having the most stamps on your passport but making sure that the ones you do matter.