10 tips til ansvarlige turister

Har du noen gang tenkt på at det som er så unikt for turismeindustrien sammenliknet med andre industrier er at dens forbrukere direkte møter de fleste produsentene av varen de har kjøpt/ kjøper (selve ferieturen og alle aktiviteter knyttet til den). Dette betyr at turister som forbrukere har en unik og enorm kraft til å bekjempe menneskelig og miljømessig utnyttelse. Dersom reisende tar noen enkle bevisste og ansvarlige valg, selv i en feriesituasjon hvor fokus i utgangspunktet er langt ifra ansvarsbasert, kan de bidra til en stor forskjell i andre menneskers liv.

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Vi opplevde dette i Goa, India da vi utviklet et vennskap med strandselgeren Lolita (som aldri ga seg) og som etterhvert daglig satte seg ned hos oss for en stadig lengre prat om livet, kjærligheten, business og drømmer.

Ikke minst; hvis mange flere reisende hadde reagert når de opplever noe de mener er helt på grensen hva angår åpenbart uetiske forhold, og med engasjement fortalt eventuelle turoperatører/ hotell om sine bekymringer, ja da kunne vi ha flyttet fjell. Helt seriøst. Og når jeg påstår det, tenker jeg spesielt på turisme til utviklingsland, hvor arbeidsmiljølov som oftest er et fremmedord, fattigdom og korrupsjon utbredt og de fleste lokalfolk selv aldri engang har muligheten til å ta seg en ferie.

At Verdens turismeorganisasjon UNWTO som den bastionen den er – hva angår lover og regler, reguleringer og prioriteringer innen globalt reiseliv, – endelig viste til å ta dette temaet på alvor for et år siden, var sannelig på tide! Turisme er nemlig en av verdens største (og raskest voksende) serviceindustrier, og ansatte omkring 235 millioner mennesker i verden i 2010; circa 8 prosent av den totale globale arbeidskraften. Tall som siden den gang har steget; bare tenk på at antall internasjonalt reisende fra 2011 til 2012 økte med 20 millioner (statistikk fra UNWTO).

Derfor, da rekordmange 1 milliard mennesker hadde reiste utenfor landegrensene sine 10. desember 2012, til tross for den meget usikre globale økonomien, valgte UNTWO å markere dette med å lansere en kampanje med navnet One Billion Tourists: One Billion Opportunities. Kampanjens mål er å oppfordre turister til å utgjøre en positiv forskjell som reisende. UNWTO peker hovedsakelig på at selv de minste handlinger som reisende kan ha gedigne påvirkninger på menneskers livssituasjon og destinasjoner, – hvis de multipliseres med en milliard.

Som del av kampanjen ble folk bedt om å stemme på et reisetips som vil tjene destinasjoner mest, og tipset som vant var “buy local”. Dette betyr at turister oppfordres til å kjøpe lokal mat og suvernirer, overnatte på lokale hotell og ansette lokale guider for å forsikre seg om at forbruket deres bidrar til å øke inntekten og jobber blant vertssamfunn (de vi besøker).

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Taleb Rifai

Handlingene dine teller, sa UNWTO generalsekretær, Taleb Rifai, under kampanjelanseringen. “Og det er vår beskjed til de en milliard reisende. Gjennom riktige handlinger og valg, kan hver turist representere en mulighet for en mer rettferdig, inkluderende og bærekraftig fremtid.”

Dog, sant skal sies at andre organisasjoner før dem lenge har forsøkt å inspirere folk til å tenke mer over sin rolle som reisende.

De nedenstående tipsene om å utgjøre en forskjell som reisende, er tatt fra organisasjonen Tourism Concern som i over to tiåar har jobbet for menneskerettighetsbeskyttelse innen turisme. Deres mål er at turisme alltid først og fremst skal tjene lokalsamfunn, som er helt i tråd med konseptet ansvarlig turisme som jeg skriver om titt og ofte (og klinte til og tok en mastergrad i). Ved å gjøre bare noen av tipsene om til handling på din neste reise, hevder Tourism Concern at du personlig er med på å bekjempe utnyttelse innen turisme.

Jeg har tatt meg friheten til å språkpynte litt på dem og ellers legge til et par punkter, i den tro at de alle (og spesielt totalt sett) bidrar til enda bedre reiseopplevelser!

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Som her hvor Arild og jeg kommer tett på de lokale på Gran Canaria.

1) Vær bevisst

Start å reflektere over og nyte reisen allerede før du reiser. Sett deg litt inn i destinasjonens historie, politikk og religion. Undersøk hva som er typisk for kulturen, for eksempel hva slags kleskoder som er passende både for menn og kvinner dit du skal. Hvis lokalfolk dekker til visse deler av kroppen, hvilke beskjeder sender du ut dersom du velger det motsatte?

2) Vær åpen

I ulike destinasjoner du besøker kan noe/mye virke uvant eller merkelig for deg, men det kan være helt normalt eller rett og slett bare måten ting gjøres på av lokale der.  Prøv å ikke anta at “den vestlige måten” å gjøre ting på er den riktige eller beste. Snakk med lokalfolk. Hva tenker de om din livsstil, klær og vaner? Finn ut om deres.

3) Våre ferieturer – deres hjem
Før du tar bilder av folk, barn og eiendelene deres spør alltid om lov. Respekt reaksjonene og ønskene deres.

4) Kjøp lokalt
Bidra til lokal økonomisk utvikling ved å handle fra lokale butikker, spise på lokale restauranter og overnatte på lokale familiehotell fremfor hos ulike internasjonale kjeder.

5) Prute rettferdig
Bidra til lokal økonomisk utvikling ved å prute rettferdig. Hvis du er av de som pruter alle varer ned til den laveste mulige prisen, er det høyt sannsynlig at kuppet du ender opp med koster selgeren dyrt. Hvis du heller går med på å betale ti-tretti kroner ekstra, betyr det virkelig noe for din lommebok? Du kan være sikker på at de samme pengene betyr veldig mye mer for middagsbordet til selgerens familie.

5) Doner til prosjekter fremfor å gi til tiggere
Å gi til tiggende barn kan oppmuntre til mer tigging. En donasjon til et prosjekt, helsesenter eller skole er mer konstruktivt. Eventuelt slå av en prat og kjøp noe mat eller drikke til tiggere du møter.

6) Vær eventyrlysten
Bruk gjerne guideboka di eller hotellet som et startpunkt, men ikke som den eneste kilden til informasjon. Finn ut hva som skjer ved å snakke med lokale, og dra ut på egne eventyr.

7) Still spørsmål
Skriv et brev til turoperatøren din om deres engasjement i lokalsamfunn hvis gjestfrihet de tjener penger på. Altså, still spørsmål til de reiseselskaper du bruker om deres samfunnsansvar.

8) Tenk før du flyr
Bruk alternative former for transport når mulig.  Jo mer og lengre du flyr jo mer bidrar du til global oppvarming og miljøforringelse. Vurder å fly flere dirketeruter fremfor ruter med mellomlandinger, samt å bli på steder lenger når du først er der.

9) Spar på destinasjoners ressurser
Vann- og elektrisitetressurser er ikke uendelige bare fordi du er på ferie og ikke betaler strømregninger. I mange (spesielt tørre) destinasjoner er vannmangel for lokalfolk en tragisk følge av utviklet turisme da hotellkjeder har kjøpt opp rettighetene til vann. Sørg for at folk får sin rettferdige del av rent vann ved å være varsom med bruken, og gjerne stille kritiske spørsmål til hotell og reiseselskap dersom du observerer en stor ubalanse i vann- og strømtilgang.

10) Vær glad
Joda, mye rart kan skje når man er ute og reiser. Og spesielt i møte med fremmede kulturer hvor ting gjøres annerledes enn hjemme, og årsakssammenhenger mellom fattigdom og kriminalitet kan synes sterkere. Likevel, med en positiv, tålmodig og nysgjerrig innstilling står man veldig mye sterkere til å få max ut av de fleste situasjoner, enn man gjør med en bekymret mine og eurosentriske briller på. Altså, det urgamle uttrykket Smil til verden og verden smiler til deg, er aldri så treffende som når vi er ute og reiser.

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Som jeg fikk bekreftet da jeg danset meg gjennom natten med disse kidsa i Soweto, Johannesburg.

 

P.S. Det du nettopp leste er en justert variant av posten Utgjør en forskjell som reisende fra mars, 2013.

P. P. S. I 2013 økte turismenæringen med 5 prosent fra året før, til 1,087 milliard reisende!

You Gotta Go, To Know

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“You Gotta Go, To Know” says Aaron Feinberg, the photographer of these Playa Portraits from Burning Man (on FB) 2013.

Like so many other Burners said before him and will say after him.

Still, watching Playa personalities unfold via a screen gives yet another good impression of the mind-blowing journey of a people & nature spectacular Burning Man is. And of what to expect this year. For old Burners and Burners-to-be.

Amen.

Oh, forgot to say… I JUST GOT THE TICKETS FOR THIS YEAR TOO!!!

How Responsible is Township Tourism in South Africa?

Today I’ll share a piece with you that I wrote for the organisation Tourism Concern, about my township tourism research in Cape Town.

Feel free to contact me to discuss the findings or other relevant topics related to this.

During a holiday in Cape Town in 2009 I went on a township tour. Not knowing much about tourism to urban impoverished areas at the time, but concerned about how the communities would benefit from my visit, I looked for an ethical company I could trust. To my positive surprise I found out that not only tour companies, but also the government’s tourism body assure that tourism is beneficial to the township communities as well as very educational for the visitor. Any specific initiatives were not indicated, yet tours were promoted as a ‘must’ to learn about African culture. I decided to book a tour with a small local company and liked the experience as it was indeed eye-opening and the residents I met were welcoming. However, ever since I was unable to stop thinking about what is in it for local populations.

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Therefore, three years later, the choice of subject for my final research project during the Master’s program Responsible Tourism Management was easy. I went to Cape Town to investigate the scope of community beneficial initiatives within township tourism. During the 4 weeks of fieldwork in the townships Langa and Khayelitsha I explored six tour operators’ actions and opinions related to previously identified issues of concerns in the field of slum tourism, by interviewing them about their responsible practices and participating on their tours. I also interviewed forty inhabitants from the most visited areas about their perceptions of tourism impacts and four representatives from the local government about current work on responsible tourism in the field. I will here reveal some of the findings from my research.

While there is no doubt that the South African township tourism sector holds a large number of professional tour operators that mean well for the communities they visit, the evidences of their many positive impact claims are few. And although I experienced that both companies and guides conduct tours respectfully in terms of friendliness, photography policy and information giving that assist in combating stereotypes, I detected ambiguity regarding fair pay of involved hosts, as well as several untapped potentials for maximised positive impacts on the communities.

One example of such is tour companies’ avoidance of fairly compensating the most deprived households they involve in their tour. During the distinguishing ‘labour hostel visits’ tourists are taken into the shared bedroom (which also serves as their living room) of four families to see and learn about poor living conditions. Of the eight such interviewed households in my research half of them claimed to get more than five visits per day, and none stated to benefit economically, unless tourists occasionally left some money. Regrettably I was repeatedly told that donations occurred to a decreasing extent after more local guides had penetrated the market and the competition for the much wanted tourist money had grown.

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Labour hostels in Langa, Cape Town

 

Another example regards the creation of interaction, which ironically is one of the main promises on the many company websites. It may be a coincidence of course, but sadly I only experienced twice during ten tours that we as visitors were given the time and possibility to interact with the locals (even during the popular hostel visit as described above). The consequence of this is that the hosts (or any inhabitant present) turn into passive objects rather than active participants, hindering them to exploit the big potential for social and economic empowerment.

Regardless of these issues of concern, it became clear to me that township dwellers do welcome tourism because it represents the only industry through which many can enhance their living conditions and situations, in areas that are longtime forgotten by the government. Throughout my time in Langa and Khayelitsha I couldn’t stop thinking that it is on behalf of this very hope, in addition to the inhabitants’ tremendous hospitality, that the majority of the tour operators earn very good money. And personally, until I know better how that income is redistributed and put back into the community, and the government begins to take the sector seriously and regulate it, I have my doubts for its sustainability. Sadly those thoughts reflect previous research within not only township tourism in South Africa, but also about slum tourism globally.

Lastly though, let it be clear that there is no doubt that good initiatives exist in this field, and some township dwellers indeed have got their livelihood enriched due to tourism. Besides, whether people like it or not, there are reasons to believe this phenomenon is here to stay. Hence is it crucial that the way forward is to actively find ways to awareness rise about its issues and require that government acts, while highlighting and rewarding the many (hopefully) ethical initiatives in place.

FYI. The above article was first published here.

Hva er samfunnsbasert turisme?

Drømmer du om en annerledes ferie?

En ferie som ikke innebærer å bo på hotell og spise på restauranter overfylt med andre turister, men kanskje heller ved foten av et fjell sammen med lokafolk i en liten landsby? Eller ved en fiskelandsby i Tyrkia, eller kanskje på Zanzibar hvor du får innblikk i hverdagen til fiskere og kan hjelpe de med å legge garn og sløye fisk? Hva med en tur til villmarken i Laos hvor du hjelper lokalfolk med kartleggings- og konservajonsarbeid av ville dyr, eller en annerledes meditasjonsresort i India som drives av urfolk…

I det hele tatt: Drømmer du om en ferie hvor du lærer masse om livene til folk du før ikke visste fantes, folk som åpner hjemmet sitt for deg og lærer deg hvordan å overleve, lage mat og danse på deres måte? Isåfall er community based tourism noe for deg. Og du er ikke alene om å ønske deg mer av dette!

Det er etterhvert blitt en utbredt reisetrend at folk fra nord (vestlige eller utviklede land) vil reise annerledes og gjerne lengre vekk, eller i hvert fall til steder hvor hverdagen er en helt annen enn deres egen. Reisende i dag – enten de reiser alene, i par eller med barn – er stadig på jakt etter det autentiske ved andre kulturer, hvilket hovedsakelig innebærer et ønske om å komme tett på lokalbefolkningen ved en valgt destinasjon. Den voksende etterspørselen har resultert i at mange fattige lokalsamfunn ønsker turister velkommen da de ser at gjestene kan være en god inntektskilde. Innen turismenæringen ser de plutselig at ressursene deres ved bare å være seg selv og by på sin kultur og kunnskaper om overlevelse i deres habitat, er noe helt unikt for nysgjerrige og frittenkende tilreisende.

I beste fall representerer denne turismetrenden eksepsjonelle muligheter for økonomisk gevinst i fattige områder samt toleransefremming mellom folk fra nord og sør. Og for de som klarer å legge igjen de eurosentriske brillene sine hjemme før avreise blir reiseopplevelsene uforglemmelige. Men, turisme kan også ha mange negative ringvirkninger i et lokalsamfunn, og grunnene til dette er mange.

Saken jeg poster idag er ment til å oppklare hva community based tourism er og gir tips til reisende om hva å se etter og tenke på ved bestilling og ila oppholdet, for at alle parter skal komme godt ut av erfaringen.

La oss se på terminologien først: I mangel på et godt norsk uttrykk for det engelske Community based tourism, velger jeg å oversette til samfunnsbasert turisme i denne sakens forbindelse. På engelsk snakker man egentlig om en noe mindre gruppe enn et samfunn når man bruker terminologien community, og ofte viser man til lokalbefolkning på norsk når man hører det engelske ordet community. Men både society og community kan også oversettes til samfunn, litt ettersom hva konteksten er.

Uansett. Samfunnsbasert turisme (community based tourism), viser til en form for turisme som har som mål og inkludere og gagne lokale samfunn der turismen finnes. Og både akademia og turismenæringa viser spesielt til rurale områder eller landsbyer hvor urfolk og småbønder bor i Sør (med Sør menes hovedsakelig utviklingsland) når de tenker på samfunnsbasert turisme.

Ideelt sett er modellen at lokalfolk jobber på deltid eller heltid som vertskap for besøkende hvor de organiserer turismen og aktiviteter knyttet til den i blant seg, og deler inntektene. Det finnes mange typer samfunnsbaserte turismeprosjekter, men som oftest inkluderer de at besøkende bor tett oppå lokalbefolkningen og slik tar del i hverdagen deres. Dette betyr at gjester lager mat og spiser sammen med lokalfolk og ofte også deltar i arbeidsoppgaver. Altså en alternativ reiseform som er blitt enormt populær på bakgrunn av de unike opplevelsene som skapes, men også takket være internett de siste ti- femten årene.

Idag kan folk som planlegger en ferie oppdage spennende steder og kulturer de aldri før hadde drømt om at fantes ved et tasteklikk. Og på den andre siden kan lokalfolk som bor der som ingen skulle tru at nokkan kunne bu åpne opp for turismenæringen ved å promotere bostedet sitt som noe helt unikt ved hjelp av en enkel nettside og gode anmeldelser på for eks. Tripadvisor.

Når det er sagt er det viktig å nevne at de fleste samfunnsbaserte turismeprosjekter ofte er i tett kontakt med kommersielle reiseselskaper. Sistnevnte representerer en trygg kommunikasjonskanal og gjerne en tolk mellom turist og lokalbefolkningen, og er stort sett til god hjelp for begge. Men de kan også ofte være til hodebry med tanke på hvem som egentlig tjener penger på denne turismetrenden…

Historisk sett er nemlig community based tourism (CBT) et utspring fra teori og praksis innen community based development (CBD), hvor man har tenkt seg at dersom lokalfolk selv styrer økonomien de er del av, og inntektene deles rettferdig dem i mellom utenom private aktørers innspill, kan dette bidra til bærekraftig utvikling. Men i en nyliberal verdensøkonomi er det mange som mener at slike modeller ikke er mulig å etterfølge.

Dette betyr ikke at samfunnbasert turisme ikke kan bidra til utvikling for lokalbefolkningen, men dessverre finnes ganske få eksempler på ordentlig gode bærekraftige samfunnsbaserte turismeprosjekter. En av grunnene til dette kan være at det oppstår situasjoner hvor fattige (og stort sett uutdannede) lokalfolk utnyttes økonomisk og betales for lite for sine tjenester som verter og guider. Dette skjer ofte på grunn av at private aktører oftest sitter på makta i den forstand at de først har tilgang til turister som bestiller reiseproduktet gjennom de (pga. språkkunnskaper og tilgang til teknologi og markedet), og kan presse prisene ned blant et folk som allerede lever i fattigdom (i enkelte tilfeller i dyp fattigdom).

En annen grunn kan være at uenigheter om hva som er rettferdig fordeling av inntektene mellom private selskaper og lokalbefolkninger oppstår og at lokalfolk etterhvert ikke vil ta imot turister. Ellers kan det nevnes at det har vist seg kostbart for private aktører å sette igang turismeinitiativ på landsbygda da det kreves både opplæring om servicearbeid, språk, guiding og vertskap for at et sted karakteriseres som kvalifisert til å ta imot reisende. Det er ikke alltid turismeinitiativet viser seg mulig å opprettholde bærekraftig når inntektene skal fordeles på X antall ansatte, familier, oppgraderings- og bygningsprosjekter osv.

Debattene i akademia om samfunnsbasert turisme kan virke overveldende og uenighetene er mange om hvordan samfunnsbaserte turismeprosjekter kan lykkes. Uansett finne det en enighet blant de fleste – og da spesielt blant de som tror på og arbeider for ansvarlig og etisk turisme – om at dersom en skal oppnå bærekraftig utvikling som en følge av samfunnsbasert turisme, lokalfolk selv få en rettferdig del av turismeinntektene. Videre menes det at de også må ha en finger med i bestemmelsene om hvordan turisme utvikles og ledes der de bor. Det burde ikke være så vanskelig altså..?

hva skal man se etter som reisende, lurer mange på.

Dersom du er fristet til å kjøpe et produkt som hevder å være samfunnsbasert turisme, eller er på vei til å reise et sted hvor det snakkes om at dette er utbredt, finnes det noen anbefalte regler å forholde seg til. Disse kan hjelpe deg til å luke ut de mest troverdige prosjektene hvor du får inntrykk av at pengene dine kommer i rette hender. De kan være nyttige å se på og spørre etter både i løpet av undersøkingsprosessen før reisen din, og ved destinasjonen i møte med både lokalfolk og private aktører. Reglene går som følger:

Samfunnsbasert turisme bør…

  • Være organisert med godkjenningen og engasjementet til lokalfolk/samfunnet. Lokalfolk bør delta i planleggingen og i ledelsen av ulike turer og aktiviteter. Let etter info om dette og spør gjerne om bevis fra evt. selskap før bestilling.
  • Gi en rettferdig del av profittene tilbake til lokalsamfunnet. Ideelt vil dette inkludere samfunnsprosjekter, helse, skole osv. Spør evt. selskap om bevis på dette, og følg det opp ved destinasjonen.
  • Involvere samfunn/ lokalbefokninger heller enn enkeltindivider. Når utenforstående private aktører jobber med enkeltindivider fremfor flere familier/husholdninger kan det være ødeleggende for sosiale strukturer i et samfunn. Be om informasjon på hvem som er involvert dit du vil reise, og hvorfor.
  • Respektere tradisjonelle kulturelle og sosiale strukturer. Det er altfor mange turismeprosjekter der ute som driver med såkalt cultural commodification ved at lokalfolk nærmest presses til å delta ved (for dem) gammeldagse seremonier, eller opptrer tradisjonelt på oppfordring fra turister eller private aktører fordi dette anses som autentisk for tilreisende. Forsøk å sett deg inn i hva som er tradisjonelt for de du reiser til, og styr unna selskap som understreker i overkant all den kulturelle lærdommen du får ved å treffe en lokalbefolkning.  Husk at innlagt vann, elektrisitet og olabukser er noe de fleste mennesker vil ha. Kulturer og tradisjoner er i stadig utvikling, og selv om folk ikke er så autentiske som reisebrosjyrene lovte deg, er det menneskene, stedet, og møtet dere i mellom du reiser for å oppleve!
  • Holde besøksgrupper små for å minimere negative kulturelle og miljømessige påvirkninger. Be om informasjon om hvor mange som besøker et sted samtidig vs. hvor mange som bor der.
  • Inneha mekanismer til å hjelpe lokalfolk med å takle påvirkningen av vestlige turister på besøk i deres samfunn. Let etter ansvarlig kommunikasjon fra selskapers side på dette. Be om informasjon på infrastruktur i området og om evt. tilreisende tilbys dusj og vannklosett mens lokalfolk ikke har fått oppgradert sin standard.
  • Briefe turister før reisen om passende oppførsel. Se etter ansvarlig kommunikasjon på nettsider osv. som gir deg følelsen av at lokalfolket først og fremst er de som skal respekteres!
  • Være miljøvennlig og miljømessig bærekraftig. Lokalfolk må være involvert dersom konserveringsprosjekter skal lykkes. Be om informasjon på tiltak som er satt igang for å takle økt turisme dit du reiser. Turismen skal ikke påvirke miljøet negativt, men positivt!

Det siste punktet er vanskelig å gjøre noe med før du først ankommer, men evt kan du prøve å lese deg opp om andre reisendes meninger om stedet for å avdekke skrekkeksempler..

  • La samfunn være i fred dersom de ikke ønsker turister på besøk. Folk må ha retten til å si nei til turisme. Det finnes turismeinitiativer som ikke er ønsket av lokalfolk, men som har blitt presset på dem av provate aktører da stedet eller kulturen deres viser seg å være populær. Dersom du ankommer et sted og forstår at lokalbefolkningen ikke er fornøyde med besøk, ta farvel og kontakte reiseselskap/ turoperatører umiddelbart.

(Kilde: Tourism Concern, ICRT og Jeanett A. Søderstrøm).

Dersom de fleste av disse reglene overholdes kan samfunnsbasert turisme uten tvil gir både reisende og vertskapet uforglemmelige opplevelser og følelsen av å få masse igjen for samspillet. I mange tilfeller utvikles også nye vennskap, hvor folk og familier gledelig reiser tilbake til et sted som satt skikkelig inntrykk, nettopp fordi den samfunnsbaserte turismen fungerte så bra.

God reise!

The ironies of eating meat

Some year ago I started to become interested in the veggie and vegan movements. However, I’ve not staid completely meat free since. I do have my periods and I follow some sort of a diet, but I don’t see the need to be completely restricted to say I’ll never eat meat again, or I’ll never do this and that. To that, I’ve lived too much – not to say traveled – and found out that to me, personally it’s a greater challenge than I like to always would have to reject meals that contains meat, or other products I know have been produced in unethical ways.

However, I have a lot of opinions on eating (too much) meat and on how human beings are consuming increasing amounts of many things we feel like we need overall. Thus I try to keep my consumption level humble and enjoy to stay and get aware about what’s behind various productions of the goods I enjoy.

When I today came across the below picture on an Instagram account, I had a moment to myself thinking. In fact, I’ve actually never thought about meat eating the way Mike Anderson puts it.

So, read it and take a moment and see what you think.

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What do you think? Did you see some ironies?

I’d love your opinions of course. :)

14 musts in Barcelona

Did you ever reflect over how some cities in the world seem to be loved by everybody? Like, when you’re having a conversation and the name Barcelona comes up, haven’t you noticed how everyone always goes: Oh, Barcelona! Yes, I freaking love that city, man. It’s so cool, it has everything! I really need to go back there. And if someone in that conversation reveals they haven’t been they’ll probably be told: What, you haven’t been? It’s such a must. Trust me, it’s the best! If the person himself didn’t already interrupt: I know, I know, Barcelona is definitely one of the places I have to visit asap. Everybody always tells me that. It’s on my bucket list this year.

No wonder you’ve been in a similar conversation, because sure thing; Barcelona is one of those cities you just fall in love with. In almost all rankings of Best Cities, Barcelona is among the top 3. The other highly ranked cities are almost always New York, Berlin, London, San Francisco, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, Copenhagen, Buenos Aires and Tokyo… Why is that so?

Personally I’ve been a devoted urban traveler for a long time and consider myself a bit over the top interested in trends within the travel industry. Although there obviously are several factors – e.g. geographical, historical and political – that count for a place to become a popular destination among many people (from many different countries), I personally think a city is amazing when it has a mix of great geography (sea, mountain, forest, rivers), friendly locals, vibrant city life (including a variety of food, art, night life & fashion), and a somewhat characteristic architecture. And that’s why I think Barcelona scores so high. It has all of that!

Since my first visit in 2003 and a six months stay in 2005 Barcelona has been one of my favorite cities – thus a city I make sure to visit every year (though I still haven’t visited half of the cities I’d like to). Out of my love for Barcelona I’ve decided to repost a popular city guide from my blog called 14 musts in Barcelona.

Starting off with the obvious temptations:

1. Gaudi, of course. The extraordinary architecture by the highly admired architect Antoni Gaudi (1852- 1926) is known for having made Barcelona into such a uniquely looking city. There is no place in the world you will see anything like the buildings he constructed over hundred years ago. Sagrada Familia, Casa Gaudi, The Guel park (see point 6), Casa Mila and Casa Batllo and much more. At the tourist information in the airport, or downtown (or at your hotel) you’ll get maps over where to find the marvelous constructions. There is also a Gaudi museum in Barcelona that can be good to start a full-on Gaudi day with. My recommendation however is to divide the Gaudi tours into two days according to where the spectaculars are and mix the go-see with other interesting things in each part of the city.

2. Understand the Spanish VS Catalan issue. The sooner you learn some about this, the better. It can in fact affect even a short stay in Barcelona, if the (wrong) person confronts you with this and feel you’re ignorant to the topic. Respect the locals’ feelings about this topic. Advice: Learn to say good day and thanks in Catalan – they’ll love you for it. “Bon dia” & “Merci” (NOT “Buenos dias” & “Gracias” – that’s Spanish!).

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The official flag of Catalunya

3. The beach! When cultural and vibrant cities have a coastline, they often get considered much more beautiful. This fact certainly concerns Barcelona with its not too polluted beaches, despite of occasionally being pretty over-crowded. The beach is long and I always make sure to spend one day strolling from one end to the other along the well-kept promenade. There is a good chance you’ll find whatever you consider is “the perfect beach slot” for you – it be more family-friendly, party-like, high-endish, or hippie-ish. There are small beach bars every 100 meter and good restaurants along the promenade. Make sure to choose local places over major chains like KFC.

4. The different barrios. In my opinion you don’t actually get to know a city before you get to know the features of its different neighbourhoods. Some cities may not have too defined neighbourhoods (something I quickly find boring), but luckily Barcelona does. You can say Ciutat Vella is what makes up the “city center” and within this area you’ll find the gorgeous and well-kept old towns Born & Barrigotic (see the Gothic Quarter!) on one side of the (extremely touristy) avenue La Rambla, and the vibrant (and very popular) immigrant area Raval on the other. And yes; all the barrios are brilliant for people watching, drinking, eating and shopping.

Then you got the area La Barceloneta & La vila Olimpica by the harbour. Here you can look at the boats, eat in a fine restaurant, stroll down the beach promenade and if you’re interested in such visit the Aquarium. If you got plenty of time, and/or are not interested in walking where all the other tourists are, consider visiting the surrounding Le Corts (a little west-endish), Gracia and Glories (though the most famous tourist attraction in Spain (La Sagrada Familia) is situated in between the two latter so you do indeed meet foreigners here too).

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El born, close to Barceloneta

5. The plazas. Because Spanish people love getting together for chats and drinks (and are privileged with a climate that allows it pretty much all year), small and big squares packed with restaurants, bars and fountains are characteristic in South European cities. In Barcelona they are everywhere, however not always that easy to find on a map. Plaza Real (at La Rambla) is one of the bigger and very touristy, Passeig del Borne (Born) is more of a street than a plaza but cool (young, hipstery) people hang here, Plaza del Sol (Gracia) is small, young and hippie-ish, the huge Plaza outside of MACBA in Raval is chilled and full of skaters and tourists, Plaza triangular (Barrigotic) is tiny and quite local, Plaza de Sant Jaume connects two barrios and this and that plaza, oh I could go on forever… Just sit down for a beer or a cold Clara (Spanish for shandy), some tapas and enjoy.

6.The parks. Barcelona has many small parks hidden between streets and buildings, but Ill highlight the bigger parks where you can spend a day relaxing and enjoying a taste of nature within the hectic city. (All the parks are perfect for people traveling with children). Parc de la Ciutadella is ground of both the Catalan Parliament building and Barcelona Zoo and part of its charm lies in its ornamental waterfall and artificial lake. You can take a boat out onto the lake, play table tennis, or enjoy any of the seasonal activities and events the park hosts every week.

Parc de la Ciutadella im Frühling, Barcelona, Katalonien, Spanien

Montjuïc park got world known during the 1992 Olympic Games and currently offers a green oasis for culture, sports and entertainment in Barcelona. It’s located on the mountain Montjuïc with a spectacular view of the city and offers theaters and museums, fountains and gardens, sports facilities and fairground pavilions.

The park Guell, built by Gaudi between 1900 and 1924 was originally going to host around sixty houses and a chapel, but was never finished. As a result, it became the property of the city of Barcelona in 1922 and is today one of the main tourist attractions in the city. The view from here is stunning and Gaudi’s particular style is clearly noticeable in the uncommon architectural forms and bright colors.

And for even more stunning views (and potentially some hiking) you go to Tibidabo, which happens to not only be Barcelona’s highest mountain but also represents an old amusement park. The place is well known from the movie Vicky Christina Barcelona and for yet another precious cathedral.

7. Tapas! Though some Nationalistic Catalans (they’re plenty) would disagree, Barcelona is in Spain, and the Spaniards love their tapas. Get used to eating your lunch and dinner like them – and remember tapas is to be shared between people. The classic ones: aceitunas (olives), pan con tomate (bread with tomato), aioli (thick white sauce made of garlic and olive oil, to eat on bread and with seafood), patatas bravas (thick fried potato chunks with a special spicy tomato sauce), tortilla (thick egg omelet with potatoes) and albondigas (meat balls with a touch) and gambas a la plancha (grilled shrimps, or shrimps cooked in a dry-fryish way on a pan).

For the seafood lovers there are plenty of options – especially for the valiant. Grilled pulpo (octupus) and calamar (squid) is very common and delicious! Chipirones en su tinta (mini squids served in their ink!!) as well, and trust me- it’s yummy! Grilled or dry-fried boquerones (anchovies) you eat whole, and various bacalao (cod in sauce) dishes are served many places. And don’t forget your sangria, it’s just a myth that Spanish people don’t drink it themselves.

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8. La Champañeria. Actually I was unsure whether to post about this, or not, as it’s one of these places you love just the way it is. But I hate it when others keep those secrets away from me, so here it goes. La Champañeria is a gem of an authentic Spanish cava & tapas bar. It’s located at the bottom of Born, in the small street Carrer de la Reina Cristina 7 (close to the harbour). You find it by noticing the crowd of people outside, especially around midday (lunch time for locals). In my opinion it’s the perfect place to go as a couple or with a small group before or after a day on the beach. The bar is tiny but takes surprisingly many people that don’t mind squeezing together..

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La Champañeria

Beware! You go to La Champañeria to get some local, historic vibes and taste their Cava and tapas (both simple, but delicious). Here you’ll kick your way through used carton plates and tissues, and order at the bar with jams hanging over your head. The old sweaty waiters are in a hurry and don’t speak much English, so be patient and speak clearly as it’s normally crowded and noisy. One bottle is served with three plates of tapas.

Open from 9am – 10.30pm, closed on Sundays.

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9. La Boqueria. Originally called Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, this market is one of the oldest in town, dating back to 1217 (!). It’s easy to find on a map and by walking up La Rambla (with entrance from La Rambla). A perfect place to suck in some history and watch how a typical old Spanish market works, and to buy fresh bread, cheese, fruits, fish and meet (if you’re keen on a picnic in a park or live in an apartment and want to cook).

10. Get inspired! Absorb quirky art and fabulous street performance. Regarding street performance, many seem to think that the street artists in La Rambla are of the best in the world! Regarding contemporary art, visit MACBA in Raval, follow this and google where to find different galleries. Between Barrio Gotic and Born you have two streets full of photo shops and posters and quirky art that I love to visit. For graffiti-interested, the whole city is a gallery actually (just read this). You’ll also find plenty of inspirational stuff by googling the topic.

 

11. Bars! Oh yes: BARcelona! First of all; the nicest bars are obviously not the ones you find in the middle of La Rambla. Then again some of the most historical bars (and also frequently visited by locals) are very close by. Just google and mark them on a map and start your round. The level of cocktail making skills is high! In Raval you have Rabipelao, Ambar and Lobo bar: all stylish, yet odd, chilled & fun. Close by are the two old and unique bars Bar Marsella (be careful with the absinthe, they’re not joking), and Le Pastis (Raval). However Boadas in Barrigotic claims to be the oldest in Barcelona and you should definitely go here if you want a peak into the 1940′s. Sugar bar, Pipa club and Le Petit Jet lag are also all in Gotic, tiny and innovative. In Born around Passeig del Borne and its side streets (mentioned above) you have many more! Not to mention in Gracia.

12. Nightlife! My favorite club when I lived in Barcelona was Sala Apolo; An old small theatre situated in Raval (metro stop Paralel). It still exists and hopefully will forever, has amazing bookings and loads of experimental electronica and hip hop. Razzmatazz is also great, a huge venue with 5 rooms and good concerts from time to time (but check their events online first). La Paloma is a historical gem but be sure to check if it’s open. It constantly has neighbour trouble as it’s in the middle of a resident area in Raval. La Terraza is beautiful and located up in the hills of the city (perfect for warm summer night), though it’s not my kind of vibe (quite high-endish). City Hall (on Placa Catalunya) also had some good concepts going on, but I’m afraid you have to find out of these things yourself when first deciding to go somewhere. It really depends on your music and style, amigo, hence I’d check ResidentAdvisor.com and Timeout.com to find recommendations for the style/music I’d fancy.

El Row 14 is apparently a mad club where they play with inflammable toys and dress out. It typically offers electronic music and is probably for the more party valiant as it’s situated a bit outside town and in the Spanish clubbing-way open til early morning (I’ve heard many people start their daytime party here around 10am). Very good bookings of national and international DJs. (EDIT: This place is closest as of 2014)

13. Festivals. Sure thing, the Spaniards embrace their festivos (“holy days”) and find any excuse to throw a party or celebrate something with a festival. Ill mention the most known events for now. Late March: Sitges (gay) carnival has become a wild tourist attraction. Late May: Primavera sound. Mid June: Sitges gay parade. Mid June: Sonar: Barcelona’s biggest festival – and one of my all time favorites (thus promoted several times before). It offers electronic music but also all kinds of experimental stuff including old school hip hop etc. June 24: San Juan (celebration of a saint (generally speaking: a massive beach party). Mid September: Merce. A massive traditional carnival alike party in which locals, families and tourists gather to celebrate Catalan traditions, watch endless parades and intense street fireworks (!).

14. Avoid getting pick-pocketed or mugged! With mass tourism Barcelona – that unfortunately holds a large number of poor inhabitants – has become a Mecca for pickpockets. Like in any other place in the world you have to take precautions, and the typical advices are: Don’t watch street performers in crowded areas/ stand on crowded metros/ walk in crowded streets without having control of you valuables. It’s also common that poor kids wander around tourists’ tables asking for money, cigarettes or directions, but with an attempt to steal. I’ve been to many places considered more ‘dangerous’ than Barcelona (and it may of course be a coincidence) but I’ve honestly never heard of/ seen (and even stopped) as many robberies as here.

General points: Barcelona is perfect for a lot of walking so wear good shoes. To travel further you depend on taxis and public transport. The latter is more environmentally friendly and a cheaper and fun way to see the city. Also, Barcelona is very children- and gay friendly.

Have fun!

How can the tourism industry reduce its water consumption?

The United Nations have declared 2013 the International Year of Water Cooperation, arguing that water resource management is crucial as it impacts on almost all aspects of our lives, especially health, food production, water supply and sanitation.

This year’s WTM Responsible Tourism at the World Travel Market wanted to address the questions around the travel and tourism industry’s contribution to the problem and its solution and invited to a debate on whether the tourism industry is doing enough to reduce its water consumption, chaired by professor Harold Goodwin. Mark Watson from Tourism Concern took part in the debate.

The key question was whether the participants (and the audience) believe that the tourism industry will do enough to achieve appropriate reductions in water usage without regulation by national governments.

The debate turned out very educational and several people from the audience had in fact changed their answer to the key question when it was over. Watch it here:

When your grandmother dies and you’re miles away

The reason for the sudden silence during my adventure in Mexico is that the trip took a brutal turn when I got the message from Norway that my grandmother had fell ill. And this time they said, she didn’t seem to be willing to recover.

I was in Tulum at the time, soaking in the cliche looking Caribbean landcape, chugging coconut milk and petting stray dogs, biking around, swimming in the turquoise sea and drinking mezcal with random locals I met on my way.

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Needless to say I was far away in all senses from thinking about Norway where autumn was turning into its last colorful shedding. After the amazing trip to the US since the end of summer (of which Ive shared some stories already), I was for good reasons – yet now suddenly unexplainable to me – very dedicated to go through with a solo trip to Mexico. Living through a difficult emotional time as my man and I had decided to separate from each other after the US trip (as we couldn’t find a way to agree on how to continue this lifestyle of ours anymore), my mind was completely set up on the journey to Mexico, and I felt happy and free in a beautiful and frightening way while I took off.

To be honest, I didn’t think much about others than myself while in Mexico, and on how to make sure to explore as much as possible about both myself and this – to me – new country.

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When my mum told me three days before granny passed away that it looked serious, none of us actually understood what was about to happen. Or perhaps we were in a state of denial? It wasn’t until Friday October 18th, after a phone call from my mum and a text message stating the situation had gone a lot worse over night, that I finally understood I had to get my ass out of Mexico.

Despite of being in a state of panic and hard self-judgement, I managed to get dressed while throwing my things into my backpack and order a taxi to the airport with good help from the hostel manager. While waiting for the taxi I was on the phone with Delta airlines that after only twenty minutes could confirm they had found a flight for me leaving Cancun within 2,5 hours. It meant I would be home in another 16 hours.

As we hugged farewell the hostel manager kept telling me everything would be alright, one way or another. I left the hostel crying and sat in the taxi on the way to the airport crying. The taxi ride took about 45 minutes and what I remember the most is holding a neatly packed sandwich in my hand that the hostel keeper had prepared for me before leaving. I spent the trip looking down at it, thanking the beautiful soul of its maker, while occasionally looking outside the windows at the numerous hotel chains along side the highway in Playa del Carmen.

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Now and then I begged to all major forces I could come up with that I’d reach all the way to keep my grandma company the last moment of her life. I knew she was ready to leave us now, and I hoped she weren’t suffering. Still, in my selfishness I wanted her to live some more hours so that I could be there with her and hold her wrinkled hand.

The coming flight was obviously the longest of my life. I spent the hours thinking, trying not to think, and deciding to just bring it on. I watched childhood pictures on my Mac and reflected over how much grandma actually had meant to my life. To my personality. This isn’t a new thought to me in any way, but under such circumstances they feel quite different.

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Cancun from above the day I went

When I arrived to Amsterdam for my connecting flight and hadn’t got any answer back from my mum to my text message sent ten hours earlier, I understood it. Grandma was dead. I figured my mum would have told me in a message if she still lived, but not if she had died. By realising Ill never talk to my grandmother again – a moment I’ve feared since I was a teenager, I felt like a part of me died. I had never felt anything like it, not even when my grandpa died.

My grandmother was perhaps like any other grandmother in many senses; at times a little narrow minded and old fashioned, out of tune with what youth is up to, and worrying too much about what if this and what if that. To me in my life though, she has been my dad, my second mum and the funny sister all in one. For some reason we’ve had this special connection since I was born and I can recall years of making a lot of silly jokes of one another. I knew it would happen, and now I can confirm it: I’ll miss her as deeply as I’m ever grateful for everything she has given me of love and caring.

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When I arrived to Norway my phone didn’t work as I had left my sim card in Mexico DF where I was supposed to go back after four more weeks of traveling. I asked a random lady to borrow her phone, and she had to stand there watching me getting the message from my mum that I was eight hours late to sit by granny’s side. The lady wept as I finished the phone call and gave me the warmest hug before I ran off to find my mum outside on the parking lot. I will never forget that lady and her hug.

By realising that my longtime fear that my grandmother would die while I was on one of my many travels turned into reality, I began on a new journey: the exhausting journey of a guilt trip. Yes, I know: There is nothing I can do about it! And I know I had the right to live the way I wanted, to travel and to say goodbye to her time and time again. I also know my grandma knew that I loved her deeply and that she loved me regardless of my gipsy lifestyle.

Still, it will take me some time to reconcile the fact that I wasn’t there with her.

Fortunately she had a close person with her until she took her last breath: Thanks to my wonderful and caring mum, granny was in safe hands until her very last breath. And as for the things I wanted to repeat to her and thank her for, it was delivered by my mum instead. I can’t express how happy it makes me to know that she finally could relax and let go to the sound of my humming and story telling mother, without fearing to meet death on her own.

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How Ill remember her. RIP Else Evelyn.

It’s only been three weeks since she passed away. I’ve tried to look back at where I came from prior to this time, but find it all so strange. What is weird when a far away trip ends tragically like this is that your mindset about the whole journey instantly changes to something very blurry. Meaning that the place you left behind – full of so many inspiring and joyful memories –suddenly feels further away than ever before.

I hope to one day go back to Mexico with peace of mind, in order to explore it again and even more. But as for now, the only place I want to be is home.

Autumn bliss in Oslo

It’s been a while now Oslo, and I must say you look better than I can remember. You really make October and November shine this year.

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I can’t remember the last time the crisp air and orange, red and yellow dress you put on looked this beautiful. And I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about staying here for a longer period. My body and soul really needs it. And the memory of my grandmother needs it.

How music travels

Just like people, music also travels.

I bumped into this wicked interactive map on today, surprisingly made by Thompson.

With a stylish design it shows in a very simple way how music genres evolved and spread over time from Africa to the Caribbean, the US and so on and so forth.

Click on images to make them larger.

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As you can see from the above screenshots it ends with an interesting proof on the massive global development of various electronic music genres of the world today. Oh, internet haven’t you just been the best that could happen to us?

Check the map out in action out here !