Category: Increased awareness

Reising = selvrealisering

For noen år siden ble jeg i overkant opptatt av turismenæringens utvikling og hvordan reiseliv påvirker både oss mennesker som er så heldige å kunne reise, og de som ikke er like heldige, men som er i kontakt med oss reisende hele tiden.

Tidligere har jeg skrevet mye om temaet på engelsk (ta en titt hvis du vil), men etter å ha bodd i hjemlandet i over ett år nå, er det på høy tid å droddle om det på morsmålet også. Det er dessuten ganske vanskelig å oppdrive norske artikler som handler om reiselivnæringens utvikling og dens påvirkning på verden, ulike samfunn og mennesker. I det hele og det brede fokuseres det pinlig lite på viktigheten av ansvarlig/ etisk turisme i norske reisemagasiner, og på nettsidene til store turoperatører.

Før jeg kommer inn på dette med reiselivs påvirkning, og tilbake til hva konseptet ansvarlig reiseliv handler om, vil jeg i denne artikkelen presentere noen ideer om reising og selvrealisering, inkludert littom hvordan reiseliv har utviklet seg frem til i dag.

travel_wagon

Familien på bildet over, reiste i følge Pinterest, land og strand rundt i 1886 på søken etter et hjemsted i det store – den gang ganske så – ubebodde Amerika. Uten å ane hvordan historien endte for dem, kan jeg bare anta at de fant en flekk å bosette seg på, hvor de selvrealiserte seg etter datidens målestokk.

Hopp hundre år frem i tid, og reising betyr noe ganske annet for de fleste av oss. I Nord-Amerika som i store deler av Europa, var det å reise i 1986 forbundet med ferie og rekreasjon, gjerne til solfylte steder i mangelen på eget godt klima.

Hopp tredve år til frem i tid, til dagens Norge og nordlige Europa forøvrig, og vi forbinder reising med et velfortjent – og ganske selvsagt – gode. Det å ta fri fra livet vi vanligvis lever og reise vekk, er noe vi mener vi både fortjener og trenger, og noe mange av oss ser på som nødvendig for vår menneskelige utvikling og utfoldelse.

Med andre ord; reising = selvrealisering. Uten å gå videre inn på en høna og egget-tankerekke, la meg bare nevne at markedsaktørene selvfølgelig har blitt dyktige på å fortelle oss nettopp det.

21.investment-in-travel-is-an-investment-in-yourself

Det skal sies at vi nordmenn er havnet i en eksepsjonelt heldig situasjonen ved å ha retten på fem ferieuker (!) i året – samme hvilken sektor vi jobber i. Og enten vi snakker om ferieturer vi tar i løpet av de ukene, helgeturer til europeiske storbyer et par timers flytur unna, eller en lenge etterlengtet permisjon eller ryggsekktur vi har spart til i månedsvis,  så er poenget at mange i dagens Norge ser på reising som nødvendig for at vi skal kunne ha det bra i livet ellers.

En litt fiffig tanke er forøvrig at korte storbyturer ikke engang ses på som ferie lenger; de er bare turer vi tar på søken etter et avbrekk i en ellers hektisk hverdag. Og sånn har det nok vært en stund i land der folks privatøkonomi er god og markedet er tilrettelagt slik at vi kan reise ganske langt på veldig kort tid.

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Etter min oppfatning har altså det å se, oppleve og spise noe annet enn vi gjør her hjemme blitt like selvsagt som det er mulig for oss. Men hvordan kom vi hit?

Reising har naturligvis blitt regnet som viktig for menneskets velvære og selvrealisering i århundrer, men dens internasjonale utfoldelse var kun forbeholdt de rikeste i samfunnet frem til 1950-tallet. Da var oppfinnelsene av såkalte turbovifte-jetfly blitt en realitet; fly som bragte mange mennesker over landegrenser og hav på én og samme flyvning.

jetfly1

photo credit: http://www.hiwtc.com

På samme tid hadde arbeiderbevegelsens kamper i Nord begynt å gi frukter som bedre lønninger og ferieavløsninger for folk flest, og slik fikk stadig flere råd til å reise på romantiske byferier i Sør-Europa, for ikke å snakke om pakketurer til Syden. I løpet av 70- og 80-tallet fortsatte reisendes muligheter å eksplodere i omfang, og etterhvert dro de litt modigere til og med på lengre ryggsekkturer til mer eksotiske land som India og Thailand, til slektningers store forundring.

Tredve år etter er det heller uvanlig at ikke (nord)europeere har vært utenfor Europa minst én gang i livet. De fleste 25-åringer jeg kjenner – for ikke å nevne 45-åringer – har besøkt mer enn ett sted mormora mi aldri visste fantes. De aller fleste jeg kjenner har til og med tatt seg et halvår eller år fri fra jobb for å tråle Sørøst-Asia rundt på jakt etter slitne bungalower og ville strandfester.

I tillegg har mange jobbet frivillig både i Bolivia og Sri Lanka, forelsket seg minst én gang i en latinamerikaner, ridd kameler i Egypt, danset med Masaier i Kenya, paraglided i Nepal og sist men ikke minst: giftet seg utenlands.

photo credit: nomad.sleepout.com

photo credit: nomad.sleepout.com

Kort oppsummert har min generasjon av nordeuropeere (og mange nordamerikanere), vokst opp med den klokkeklare forestilling om at verden ligger for våre føtter. Og det er sant. For oss. Dagens selvutviklingsvaluta nummer én er reising, atter mer reising og én tur til. Til og med indre reiser bedriver vi stadig nå til dags, fordi vi hele tiden higer etter å utvikle oss som mennesker.

Hvorfor?

Fordi vi kan, og fordi vi blir fortalt at vi kan. I disse sosiale medier- tider har du kanskje lagt merke til at vi i det hele tatt ofte blir fortalt at vi reise…?

The-World-is-a-book

Personlig er jeg skyldig i å ha vokst opp, for ikke å si bygget videre på, den nevnte forestilling. Dette til tross for at de fleste i min familie – med unntak av moren min – ikke har reist stort lenger enn til europeiske destinasjoner, med kanskje én og annen tilbakelagt USA-tur en gang i tiden.

Interessant nok er forresten noen av de jeg kjenner som har reist minst, de som har sterkest meninger om hvordan verden henger sammen; et tema jeg tok opp for en stund siden. Hvorvidt folk som reiser ekstensivt egentlig lærer så veldig mye om verden, kan også i aller høyeste grad diskuteres; noe jeg skriver en tekst om etter mitt nylige møte med backpackere som flokker seg sammen hvor enn man beveger seg i Sørøst-Asia… Mer om det senere en annen dag, altså.

Men tilbake til de som reiser mye. Visste du for eksempel at nordmenn flyr mest i Europa? Jepp. Nordmenn har et særs heldig utgangspunkt samme hvor vi kommer fra i landet, og kanskje nettopp derfor har vi utviklet et spesielt verdensbilde hva økonomiske muligheter angår. Reising som gode – og spesielt med fly – anses nok derfor for mange av oss som kommet for å bli.

Like fullt er det viktig å minnes på at konseptet reising er en usannsynlig luksus for de aller fleste på kloden. Skal man tro organisasjonen Atmosfair, har kun 5% av klodens befolkning vært ombord på et fly, hvilket setter reiseluksusen vi tar helt for gitt i perspektiv.

Og det er her jeg beveger meg inn på temaet ansvarlig reiseliv. For som i andre gigaindustrier vi nyter godt av, bør vi forbrukere innse at vi har et ansvar i å passe på at det vi driver med/ kjøper/ forbruker, ikke ødelegger for verken kloden vår, eller mennesker på den.

Eller hva mener  du?

tourismcritic

Interessert i mer? Les her om hvordan jeg fikk øynene opp for ansvarlig reiseliv.

 

The exploited Long-neck women (II)

In the recent post The exploited Long-neck women in SE Asia (I), I told about my long time interest in the women of the Kayan tribe from Burma. In particular I forwarded concerns from the field of Responsible/ Ethical tourism and Human Rights about the Kayan tribes’ involvement in the tourism industry due to their special tradition of decorating their necks with metal rings. I mentioned that I’m finally going to South East Asia, and that one of the purposes with the trip is to investigate this subject further.

Before embarking on such a trip, I’ve done some research online in order to get a better picture of the situation. Yet, I’ve not fully understood how big this tour product really is, how the tours are conducted, what guides communicate or how involved the Thai government is – despite of human rights organisations’ campaigns against it for years. However, as with other similar issues of concern in the tourism industry; I can only imagine that whatever impression I get through published articles, blogs and Tripadvisor reviews, the situation is a lot more complex than I’ll ever understand.

Still, as mentioned in the previous post; what´s clear is that there exists lots of information about the history of the Kayan people, including their origin, myths about their decoration custom, historical western fascination with them and key to my initial interest: Debates about the exploitation of them as tourist attractions in Thailand.

If the latter isn’t true, the question arises: What’s in it for them? Which clearly is the main reason why human rights organisations like Tourism Concern work on subjects like these.

Before discussing the ethics, lets go through some history.

longneckwomen-police

Kayan girls visiting London in the 1930s

The origin of the long-neck women is quite known even through tourism nowadays. The so called long-neck women are members of a tribe called Karen (by themselves pronounced as Kayan), out of which many fled from Burma to Thailand in the 1980s after having been one of many harshly oppressed ethnic minorities in the country. Soon after, there were built specific villages in the Chiang Mai region in Northern Thailand for – amongst other fleeing tribes– the Kayan people.

As most of the Kayan women stuck to the old custom of coiling rings around their necks, Thai authorities soon realised their value as tourist attractions, and built separate villages for them to where visitors could pay to come and see them with their own eyes and learn about their tradition.

According to a huge variety of sources the mythical stories and beliefs about why the women coil their necks with heavy metal rings then, seem to be presented and believed in numerous forms, but the three most common mythologies explain that:

  • It’s done to prevent tigers from biting them
  • It was originally done to make the women unattractive so they are less likely to be captured by slave traders.

and the opposite of the latter:

  • That an extra-long neck is considered a sign of great beauty and wealth and that it will attract a better husband. Adultery therefore, is said to be punished by removal of the rings.

As tempted as I am to rabble on about the ways so called “culture tours/ tourism” can develop, and why it often represents an issue of concern within the field of Responsible Tourism – it be visits to tribe people in African countries or the Inuits of Canada or the Samis up North in Norway – I’ll keep to four sentences:

  1. Culture tours/ tourism is B I G business, and it’s increasing in popularity every year as today’s travelers are increasingly keen to discover whatever they see as authentic in a destination.
  2. The very people of interest (when it comes to this tourism form) often represent historically marginalised groups of people due to their status as indigenous/ ethnic minorities.
  3. Due to the longtime oppression of the latter, they often struggle with poverty, stigmatisation and language barriers which make them easy to exploit in industries like tourism.
  4. Additionally and unfortunately, currently existing tribe people often live in areas with poor standards of human rights’ protection.

Back to the Kayan tribe, it’s important to have in mind that the international knowledge about its people – and especially its women’s customs – didn’t actually start with tourism in recent times. The truth is that the long-neck women first got internationally known through Western adventurers and anthropologists that “discovered them” and brought pictures back to Europe from Burma during the Colonial times.

Here’s an example I found when … yeah, googling.

Image

According to content I find on the world wide web about their modern history (meaning from 1900), Kayan women were even taken to England in the 1930s for cultural-educational purposes, which reminds me of what I learned in school about a black man who was displayed in Oslo 150 years ago, and in University about miss Sarah Baartman, that was exhibited in London during the same era.

As for the Kayan women, they were invited to join theater plays (!).

giraffeneck-circus

And invited to drink tea the Brittish way.

Giraffe-necked-tea-in-England

Kayan people in a London tea house Photo creds: Google images

Those were the Oh mighty colonial days, you may be thinking…

Today however, we tend to think that in terms of human values we’ve come much longer since the colonial racist 1930s… It would be seen as completely unacceptable to exhibit people less powerful in a Western country today, right? Besides, think about it: Today we’ve seen it all. One way or another, we know about all kinds of people and ethnic groups that live on the planet. It’s not like it used to be back then when traveling was seen as an extreme luxury even for most Westerners.

Instead, in the increasingly globalised world and with our increasing travel opportunities we are constantly given the chance to learn about real people with other traditions than ours – in their very own habitat. Wherever it is, we just travel there! Where there is a demand  there will be a supply as it works strikingly well in an overly market oriented world. And it’s in this very reality that sightseeing the villages of the long-neck women has become a popular experience for travelers to tick of their lists.

One can start wondering when seeing the above pictures, whether that early display and fascination – and the fact that we even had pictures of them in school books in European countries throughout the 20th century – has fueled the whole concept of the Kayan women as tourist attractions in modern Thailand today? And others alike.

Truth is that for a long time, rather bizarre tour products in which indigenous people are the main attraction, have popped up around the globe replying to the demand among authenticity- seeking tourists. Not seldom are they marketed as beneficial to the attractions themselves, but honestly I’ve yet to see such a concept – developed in a bottom-up, trustworthy and sustainable manner – with my own eyes.

One crucial question however, is whether the Kayan women were more oppressed in Burma before fleeing to Thailand, as opposed to what they are currently putting up with as tourist attractions? Because according to various spokesmen and organisations the treatment and exhibition of the Kayan tribe women is a perfect example of systematic oppression of indigenous people going on around the world. And that oppression grows especially strong in the tourism industry.

Wrapping this up therefore, Ill attempt to give some advices for travelers to be, so to assure they don’t take part in the vicious circle of exploitation of indigenous people, but rather find ways to support initiatives that work for a fairer treatment of them, as well as a fairer tourism industry. That is to say: The problem with organised tourism to marginalised areas we count as interesting, is that we as travelers often don’t know – and we’re certainly not told – in what way the people we visit benefit from, or feel about it. We don’t know how much power the hosting local people actually have themselves over the situation. Thus is it very clever to investigate such matters before visiting places that might be reasonable assuming didn’t plan tourism development in their backyard themselves.

Or simply avoid them, just in case.

The exploited Long-neck women (I)

For over three and a half years now, I’ve been working voluntarily for the UK-based charity Tourism Concern, that through campaigning- and lobbying try to fight exploitation in tourism. The organisation’s vision is that tourism always benefit local people and their work often concerns awareness raising of the sector’s different stakeholders about serious issues in the industry.

If this is the first time you’ve ever heard of such a concept, let me quickly inform you that the tourism industry (part from being a force for good in terms of increasing mutual understanding between people and cultures and a facilitator of peoples’ possibility to enjoy a holiday), also is – like many other industries – notorious when it comes to facilitating powerful actors’ means to earn money in a dirty way.

Feel free to browse Tourism Concern’s webpage, and get to learn more about for example why all-inclusive holidays hardly benefit local communities, and cruise tourism is highly unsustainable.

Personally I’ve given good reasons for why the work for a more ethical/ responsible tourism is so crucial. I’ve written about orphanage tourism, and suggested what it takes of responsibility policies among tour companies and governments to hinder that slum dwellers exist as pure tourist attractions, and I’ve mentioned why I’m so interested in the topic myself.

Today I’ll write about something that’s been on my radar for long, since I first started studying issues within the field of exploitation in tourism.

I still remember the picture in the brochure; of three ladies with Asian features sitting on a bench in traditional colorful clothes and metal rings around their long necks. In front of them was standing a corps of tourists shooting pictures with their massive cameras. The women with the metal rings were of the Kayan tribe, living in Northern Thailand, and the photographing charade was categorised in the brochure as a ‘human zoo’.

In tourism they go under the name “long-neck women” and occasionally also giraffe women, although they refuse to adapt the latter themselves.

giraffewoman1

Since working with Tourism Concern I’ve learned that they’ve – together with other human rights organisations – flagged their concerns about the exploitation of various tribe people in tourism. With regards to the Kayans, Tourism Concern has campaigned against tourism that involves them, and pushed tour operators to stop offering trips to their villages.

From what I’ve understood there are also several organisations that have pushed for governmental actions. But as with other similar stories of exploitation in tourism, it’s very complex. Poverty and means of oppression are complex. So is tourism.

Back in 2011, one of the first in-depth articles I posted on my blog concerned the exploitation of the Kayan people. I called the post the trapped giraffe women, unaware of the Kayan’s own opposition to the Giraffe- reference, so my apologies for that. I also referred to the women and their tribe as both the Kayan and Padaung in that post, but recently learned that Padaung isn’t really what they like to call themselves either. According to new sources I came across Padaung is a Thai-implemented categorisation of the Kayan tribe. Lets thus stick to calling them the Kayan (people).

In the mentioned post, I shared my frustration over not finding more than a few articles online about the Kayan people despite quite a lot of research. I was looking for content concerning the exploitation of them and their current situation, and most of the articles and blog posts I found were typically based on people´s tour experience in a tribe village. Commonly, (uncritical) travel writers seem to retell stories that guides have told them, and write about the situation in supportive manners. This isn’t new at all in tourism of course, nor very illogical, yet it can be dangerous if what people are told isn’t not true at all.

Since the last time I wrote about the long-necks, Ive not investigated much about the topic, but as I’ve just made a dream come true and booked my tickets to South East Asia for 2015, I recently went back to it.

For now my plan is to travel in three countries (Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia) for approximately three months, and I’m of course going to the region where the 1 day sightseeings of the long-neck women’s villages are taking place. I want to find a way to not only see it with my own eyes, but also talk to people involved in the sector and understand more about what is actually going on. How tour companies are marketing it, what the guides say, what tourists think about it and especially what the ladies themselves feel.

The latter is the most difficult part though; also considering I’m not going as a long time researcher with the access to a neutral translator. Nevertheless, Ill do my best in getting a local translator, and who knows: My previous research experiences make me believe Ill be lucky this time too, and that things will fall into place.

So, preparing for my trip, I’ve done some new secondary research in order to renovate my knowledge about the matter, and found out that not only has the subject been flagged again since late 2011 and throughout 2012 and 2013, but the history of Westerners’ fascination of the women that coil their necks with big brass rings is much crazier and longer than I knew of!

Just take a look at this picture! What does it look like to you?

Giraffe-necked-tea-in-England

To keep posts in suitable lengths for reading, I’ve made a new post about the matter. Go here to learn about Westerners longtime facination with the long-neck women from Burma and to get some additional information regarding the reasons behind tourists’ interest in visiting them. I’ll also present some reasons for travelers to think twice about supporting the concept of so called culture tours, as they often include complex issues of exploitation.

Ny reisetrend: 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!

Meeting a Shaman

What you’re about to read is the last bit of the story about when I met a shaman in San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico, and the first part of it is to be found here. It took me more than a month to get this down on paper, as this first experience with a session of Instalaciones Familiares in a so-called spiritual retreat center was absolutely mind-blowing to me. Besides, in between of experiencing it a lot of things have happened, as I traveled throughout Mexico for another week after my time in Chiapas, and if you’ve been reading my post – ended up loosing my grandmother while on my way home in October.

However, despite of feeling far away from Mexico now, being back in Norway where the winter is around the corner, I’ve had this constant memory of my first meeting with a Shaman on my mind, and wanted to share it with you. So here it is. Please bare with me as I’ve written all of this in my second language.

When we finally found the twelve-cornered concrete house where the session was going to take place, we’d been walking outside in the rain for a couple of hours. Even my underwear was wet, and all I dreamed of at this point was that it was warm inside of the house.

As we approached it, the music from within got louder. Although it wasn’t exactly warm inside, we all forgot about ourselves as soon as we met the Shaman.

There he stood; a tall, handsome and young man with kind eyes, in a pair of bleached jeans and large loose hanging green sweater on. He welcomed us with a warm smile and a gesture of open arms. I couldn’t help laughing to myself having imagined all Shamans are old with long grey beard and worn out fabrics hanging from around their shoulders.

After we had left our shoes, wet bags and clothes by the entrance (without ending up naked that is), the Shaman signalized with his hand that he wanted us to sit in a circle on the floor facing each other. Candles were lid up and placed in two corners of the room, and two ladies in their thirties were already sitting in the middle of it. One older man and a younger woman came in behind us. When everyone were sitting down, the Shaman presented himself while looking at each and one of us before he lighted some incenses and started walking around us while humming to the background music.

Soon he sat down himself and introduced the session. His wish was that we´d contribute to the session with whatever topic that we wanted to talk about. It could be something we consider a problem, although we were not using such a word here he said, as problems don’t exist – only problematic attitudes towards them. Thus we should refer to whatever problematic topic we want to talk about as a topic (tema in Spanish).

I already liked him.

The lady to my right started sharing her story. I understood she has been coming here for a while as her story seemed known to the Shaman. She told about her extreme fear that something dreadful had happened to her kidnapped husband (yes, kidnappings/ disappearances are more common in Mexico than many other places); a topic she felt she had dealt with better the last month (he was kidnapped three months ago). Now, the topic had started haunting her again, especially at night shaped as awful nightmares, which affected her ability to be a good mother to her two sons.

She couldn’t stop crying while sharing her story and it was clear that she felt completely out of control over the situation. The nightmares, part from being uncomfortable, had also given her new hope that her husband is alive as she meant they represented his desire to communicate with her while at sleep. Note: I won’t go into too many details as it’d be disrespectful towards her, but with the mentioned you’ve got a picture. What’s most important from the session isn’t the topics people brought to the table anyway, but the solutions the Shaman came up with, and the things he made us do for one and another.

Everybody listened in silence to the crying lady’s topic. The Aussies where listening too with big eyes although they don’t understand much Spanish. The Shaman kept handing the lady tissues, and when she was done talking, he looked straight over to the younger woman sitting at his right side, and invited her with a small gesture to tell us about her topic.

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The woman, perhaps in her late twenties, had shiny long black hair, big green earrings and beautiful black eyes. She looked at the Shaman while explaining how she couldn’t stop being angry at her husband after his event of cheating on her seven months ago. While she had accepted his mistake, she couldn’t stop thinking about it and wanted help to let go of the pain. She was so angry at her self for not allowing love to win over the hate she felt. The only thing she wanted was to truly forgive her husband as he had shown regret, and start all over.

The old man by her side said he wanted to treat some fear issues, but didn’t want to explain further at this stage. When at the Aussies, the Shaman asked them in perfect English to tell about their worries, and so they did. The Mexican next to me, a cheerful young man that I actually got to know the first night I was out in San Cristobal, revealed struggling with huge doubts for his future in terms of not knowing what path to choose. Then it was my turn.

Surprisingly – considering I was sitting next to a bunch of people I didn’t know – the words just came out of my mouth on their own. In fact, I hadn’t thought about it soon being my turn to speak, but when it was, I felt like talking openly about my difficult feelings over the person I for long thought was The One, but that I’ve lately come to realise I need to let go. I expressed my awareness of having to trust my own feelings of not being happy with the situation, yet that I need to manage to free myself from the attachment to the relationship as it’s an illusion rather than reality. As emotional as I already was sitting in this special circle with so many open human beings around me, tears were falling down my cheeks only a few seconds after I began sharing my topic.

The Shaman nodded his head gently while constantly keeping my eye contact, and gave the impression as if he understood everything. The weird thing looking back at it now, is that while hearing my own voice in the room in front of these people I’ve never seen before, I realised I felt completely safe. I sincerely wanted to share with them, as I had enjoyed the way they recently had shared very personal things with me.

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After another person had shared his story, the Shaman told the lady with the cheating husband to start the session, and welcomed her on to the floor. She was told to pick a person to represent herself and a person to represent her system; the latter representing all her emotions and reactions to the cheating. She picked me as her self and the Aussie girl as her system. Without none of us (the Aussie and I) knowing how a session like this actually turns out, we were quickly into it due to reasons I still can’t understand very well. The Shaman stood next to us and only communicated with the lady.  At the same time he wanted her (me) to look at the system and allow all my (her) bad feelings to float.

So there I was, in front of the Aussie girl looking at her, considering her my system. Perhaps it makes little sense reading this, but I’ll try my best to explain how the whole session made a lot of sense to me, the Aussie and the others in that room. Interestingly I honestly started feeling as if angry at my system (the poor Aussie), and horribly let down – all on behalf of the lady I’d only known for fifteen minutes (but whose story seemed so familiar). So when I looked at the Aussie, I didn’t see the Aussie I knew from the hostel any longer, but someone who’s part of me. It felt for a moment like she was me, which probably was the whole point as she was supposed to be my emotional system, and I felt so tired of her hurting me with her constant negative thinking. I started thinking she had to leave me alone and let me forget the past. All this happened without anyone saying anything in the room.

The Aussie kept looking back at me, with her mouth trembling a little bit, and after a while I had to reject her with my eyes. I felt like I had to protect myself from her as she was killing me with her negativity. It might sound bizarre but at this time new tears came running down my cheeks, without me being able to stop them. The Aussie didn’t let go of my eye contact, but her trembling turned into shaking and one could see that she felt extremely uncomfortable and struggled not to cry. Then the Shaman – who had been moving slowly around us observing us in front of each other – asked the Aussie how she felt. She said it was indescribable, and mentioned ‘very empty’ and ‘sad’, ‘as if dragged down’ etc, while constantly attempting to keep my eye contact. On one (rational) side I did feel a bit sorry for her, but I also knew that she was aware that it wasn’t actually me, Jeanett, standing here in front of her right now, but instead the lady who had told us her topic. Somehow therefore, I suddenly came with all the energy that the lady was feeling in her life, as if this above force were controlling us…

We stood like this for a while until the Shaman started telling me what to tell my system. I had to repeat stuff like “I don’t need you, this doesn’t make any of us happy. I can control you to think otherwise. You are my friend, not my enemy” etc. Not surprisingly the energy changed dramatically after I had said those words.

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Then the Shaman told the lady to talk to her self (me). She was supposed to face me as if I was her soul’s mirror and she was told to repeat the Shaman. I won’t go into details, but he said a vast amount of serious stuff about loving yourself and particularly that she is sorry for forgetting to love herself and that she will never again let herself down like this. It lasted for at least five minutes, and from the first moment the lady started speaking she cried so strongly – yet it only struck me as extremely beautiful – that I kept wondering whether I should embrace her or not. By looking into her eyes and having her this close to me, I could seriously feel her pain in my whole body, and got the feeling that my chest could explode.

It may sound crazy but I honestly felt that I loved her and really needed her, so when she told me all the beautiful things (which was her talking to her self), I started wishing the most beautiful things for her. Bff, I guess I can’t really express it all in words, it was so powerful. In a way, I felt like I was traveling through my own life, through my own heart and feelings of loss, but more than anything I felt for this woman and only wanted her to know that it’s going to be alright. I was like: It’s alright, just look at me, I’m here. I’m you and I love you.

Does any of this make any sense of all? Because what I just told you is really the essence of the whole point with instalaciones familiares. What the Shaman made us do was actually to transport ourselves into being pure emotions and portray pure love, for one another, through being close to one another and allowing the energies to flow between us. And the fact that we don’t know each other is also the point, I think. It was one of the craziest experiences I’ve ever had in my life, and everything the Shaman made anyone do in that room – through different sessions – really makes sense when in the middle of it. In a way it was the closest I’ve got to acting, yet I can’t really say if this is how it feels for actors. But looking back at it, it makes me think so.

For instance, with no words at all, I went from feeling very sad to very strong on the lady’s behalf and by listening to what she told me (herself), I truly felt it in me as well. That I’ve forgotten about myself. And now I understood all it takes is something like this, to look myself into the eyes and tell me how much “I love me” and that I’ll take care of me. After the lady had promised herself to never let her down again, but to love and trust herself, take care of herself and always hold herself close, the Shaman told me to look at the system again. And so I did, and there she was, the Aussie, not looking scary at all. I saw through her, so vulnerable and loving, and understood her with a new strong awareness that she can’t let me down, that I’m in power here. That she’s nobody without me and I have to only love her and nurture her.

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Throughout the next hour other people were invited to the floor, and picked their selves in other people present, and whatever other topic to be represented by a second or even third part. Most of the sessions were as strong as the one described. The last one however, was unique in its form, and made me sure I’ll never ever forget the power of human energies.

The Shaman waited with the lady whose husband is missing till the end, and I can see why. She had been crying most of the time throughout the session, while everyone else went through their topics. Outside it was now pitch dark, and still raining heavily, and the Shaman asked the lady if she wanted a session. She nodded, mumbled something and stood up. He handed her an incense and placed her in the middle of the circle in which we were sitting. He laid his hands on her shoulders, and she instantly burst into tears again, and leaned her head backwards onto his shoulder. I thought for a moment that the sound of her sobbing was dancing with the sound of the rain on the roof.

While watching them, I remember feeling like crying – again – but something else happened: As I looked around me, the presence of everyone sitting in the circle felt intensified to a completely new level. Everyone had their eyes on the lady and Shaman standing in the middle, and their were as filled with love as their faces were totally open. Then the Shaman went over to the CD player and put on one of the most beautiful songs I know of: Todo cambia, by Mercedes Sousa. On repeat.

With the music came a weird strong sense of hope and love and filled the room. It had been a while since I had heard that song, I thought, and awed to myself over the perfect selection and felt goose bumps popping up over my body. The Shaman handed each of us an incense while we were sitting down, and smiled to us without saying a thing. Automatically we all knew what to do. With the incense in our hand and without any indications, all of us got up and took a step towards the lady, as if embracing her with our bodies. The Shaman kept moving slowly around the lady and marked several areas around her head with the burning incense as if he was embracing her with it. Soon, the lady who was still crying, looked up and around her, caught eye contact with some of us, and smiled. I can only speak for myself of course, but the feeling of collective love towards her in that moment was out of another world.

I remember looking at the others, smiling, feeling them, loving them, and looking at the woman and moving in a circle around her. The Shaman took our arms and put them on her head, her shoulders and back. Then he went over to the CD player and turned up the volume, and the woman started swinging from one side to the other. Her face opened up, almost as if her heart came through it, and she started laughing through her tears. We stood like this for a few minutes; swaying slowly together, looking at her and each other, smiling, someone holding hands, while others held their arms around the lady. No words were said; but everyone still seemed to communicate pure love and compassion to the lady. To each other.

Since we ended the session, got our shoes and clothes on and left the place, I’ve been thinking about the weird fact that none of us actually talked to each other about what we had just shared, before going home. As if it wasn’t necessary. Still, I’m confident everyone felt the same way about the Shaman’s brilliant way of dealing with this poor lady’s topic. What she was going through was of another level than the rest of us, and one should be forgiven for thinking no words could make her feel better anyway.

Part from the ones that came out of the speakers: Todo cambia.

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. 🙂

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: