Category: Responsible Tourism

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:

On a mission in Tulum

Meet Shira, the oldest dog alive in Mexico. She lives in La Cigana, a cute little hostel in Tulum, where she spends most of the day sleeping in funny positions. Like in San Cristobal, one of the reasons I instantly liked this hostel when I found it was due to the way the staff treat their animals.

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After getting to know the dogs and people in La Cigana, I went on a mission to find a suitable accommodation on the beach for the next three days. Thing is Tulum is a small town in the middle of the jungle. Downtown Tulum is said to be cool, but beachside Tulum is said to be awesome. Staying there however is very pricy, hence I biked my way to the beach to discover it, in particular looking for the camping sites.

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Twenty minutes later I was there – a “there,” meaning “by the beach” because the Tulum beach isn’t like other beaches where you have a promenade alongside the coastline where you can bike or stroll down it enjoying the beautiful sea view while feeling the sea breeze. The Tulum beach is presented by a three kilometer long road in between gorgeous and lush gardens, which all are inhabited by gated resorts and restaurants.

This means you actually don’t see the sea from the road by the beach, but have to choose a place through where you enter in order to get to the actual beach. While biking down the road I couldn’t stop thinking about how this feels for local people in the area that would like to go for a day on the beach. I mean, although the resorts and restaurants aren’t closed to public per se, they definitely give the impression of more than anything welcoming money strong people who wants to enjoy a day at “this or that specific private piece” of the beach.

Far down the road I finally found Camping Chavez, one of the places I’ve been recommended to stay at as a budget traveler. Entering from the road it looks something like this.

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The atmosphere is friendly, the tents and posts about community spirit and recycling many. But it’s not that crazy cheap: Camping in a tent is rated at 90 pesos and for the less sandy alternatives you can get a simple beach hut for 400 pesos per night (which makes it a perfect option for a company of two or more).

You reach the beach by walking through the camp, and from the other side it looks like this:

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For a little while I was suddenly back to Burning man, and dreamed of continuing camping in the sand surrounded by free-spirited people. Also, a delightful difference is that at Camping Chavez you get the beautiful beach and sea straight on your door way.

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Yes! In the picture is Daniela, the nice girl I told about yesterday that invited me to hang out today. She brought an Australian friend that also has fallen in love with Tulum and moved here for good. Good times!

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After some time on the beach the Aussie took us to one of the hot spots in Tulum, what food and live music concerns. Puro Corazon. What’s funny is that the man in my hostel already had told me about the good vibes here.

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And good vibes I found. Two Happy-hour cocktails lead to four, a delicious Mexican fusion dinner during a brilliant folklore concert with three young artists, followed by a round of Mezcal at the bar together with the super chill chef, Balam.

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Naturally, I completely forgot about the initial mission of finding a place on the beach: Now, writing this I’ve actually just come home from a craaaaazy night out downtown with my new Mexican friends. The main road in Tulum is full of fun places, not to mention people and good music.

Quite strategical then living near by, so I may leave this place alone for now, though it looks wicked.

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Searching for a Shaman

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and the Gipsy Giraffe is one heck of an unforgettable experience richer!

Remember I told you that San Cristobal de las Casas has a special spirituality to it, and that the city is surrounded by mountains where people live more unconventional lives and hold workshops in meditation, yoga, human energies and so forth?

Well, now I’ve been there. And it was amazing. It was mind blowing in a way I don’t know if Ill be able to explain yet, so for now I’ll explain the journey it was searching for the Shaman.

First I was about to go up there alone, but then through talking to people I’ve met in town throughout this week, three new friends came along. The Australian couple from my hostel, and a young Mexican guy that just moved here searching for meaning. All three very friendly, open-minded and adorable people.

Before going we had tried to find some info about upcoming events, and could only trust a Facebook page that mentioned something called Instalaciones familiares. By the time we had reached the city center to grab a bus, it had started raining heavily. Suddenly we bumped into Gustavo on the main street downtown, an older gentleman (standing to the right in the below pic) I met the first night I was out on a Mezcal riot in a very popular bar called Revolucion.

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First Gustavo laughed at us wanting to go see Lauro (the main shaman of a spiritual community in the mountain) as he meant it all had become too commercial. Then he said Lauro has become an old man, besides that he supposedly is out of town.

Two of which statements I was already aware of through having talked to a guy in my hostel that had been to the mountain, and some random people on the streets (yes, Cristobal de las Casas is like that! Everybody speaks to everybody).

Furthermore he claimed that we should trust that we have all the spirituality we are seeking for within ourselves as opposed to finding it through a Shaman (yes, Gustavo is one of the interesting personalities whose beautiful saying I already told about here). I listened to him with polite interest, yet explained that we wanted to go there of various reasons and interests he might not have inside due to his specific life experiences and the fact that he is a resident. He seemed to grasp that.

The rain kept poring down and soon the soaking wet Aussies – that don’t speak Spanish – looked more and more inpatient while I tried my best to translate Gustavo’s well-meaning opinions. We thanked him and told him to meet us later to hear how our experience turned out. Arch, you can’t go walking in the mountain in this rain. Ill take you there. Vamonos! he said suddenly and pointed us towards the street where his car was parked.

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Out of the city we went. Through narrow streets with more and more worn out houses the further we got. We passed a lively fruit and clothes market with cages of live hens, and soon went up the hills towards the mountain of el Señor Lauro. All the way we sat listening to Gustavo singing to Joe Cocker from beneath a big cowboy hat, with his grey curly hair dancing to the tunes.

Gustavo left us in the mud outside of the famous Lauro’s retreat haven, where two women welcomed us and confirmed that Lauro unfortunately wasn’t present at the moment. They told us we had thirty minutes to discover the site or walk up the mountain before the Shaman would start his session Instalaciones familiares. Despite of the rain and one of the Aussies being barefoot, we decided to walk up to the mountain to check out its famous energy and see the city from there. Everyone we met on the way greeted us with a smile and Buenas tardes. One man told us where we would get the best view.

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Some houses and dogs later, we had to cross a hill on a tiny path covered with trees and huge cactus plants before we finally reached a good spot to see San Cristobal from another angle. A tiny cliff revealed itself in front of a huge rock and the four of us agreed this has to be the best offered view over the city. We lined up together and agreed without a word that the rather dangerous way up here was worth it. We stood there for a while in silence, yet in awe, and it seemed to me we had one wish in common: To stand here forever and let the pouring rain wash of our faces. It might have been placebo of course, but I´d argue one could feel something in the air up here. I felt as if I saw faces of this place´s ancestors painted on the mountains and got a weird sensation of all the destinies I don´t even know of whom exist in between the buildings on the ground. I got high on nature and high on a feeling of being united with a place I didn´t even know I needed to unite with.

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But we couldn’t stand forever. We were on a mission to meet a Shaman, and the lady had told us to be back in thirty minutes. On the way down to el Lauro, the Mexican guy told in our group me he has never met a Shaman either, but that he has dreamed about it since he arrived to the city. He´s the kind of guy that loves experimenting with anything spiritual and recreational, and told me about an epic journey on Cayote he recently did while we where on our way down. Oh, Mexico.

Down at Lauro’s place we walked around in silence in the beautiful garden, all soaked wet and rather cold. Then we were told the Shaman was ready to see us in a wooden house well hidden behind some enormous trees.

Get the story about what happened next.

Orphanage tourism – an issue of concern!

For a long time concerns have been raised in the tourism industry regarding orphanages attracting tourists as visitors and volunteers, and like I wrote about some months ago, the respected tour agency Responsibletravel.com pioneered when they took action and removed tour products that entailed orphanage visits among their holiday packages. The campaign got good media coverage, and it’s delightful to see the topic being on the agenda for important events like the World Travel Market.

While these are very good news and an important step for the fight against a complex issue, it’s also true that the number of orphanages in the developing world and volunteering projects for want-to-become volunteers is booming. Therefore, as one can see with other issues of concern, it takes a lot more awareness-raising campaigns and calls for action in order for travelers to get educated and the private sector and national governments to act.

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In that regard Tourism Concern just published a post, prior to an up-coming campaign against orphanage tourism, asking whether volunteers are fueling this unethical practice. In the article they point out that while nobody doubts the good intention of the donors, travellers, and volunteers who give time or money to orphanages, they still believe that orphanage tourism, and volunteerism are fuelling the demand for “orphans”, and so driving the unnecessary separation of children from their families.

Furthermore by stating that the number of orphans in Cambodia has halved – yet the number of orphanages has doubled – 75% of children in these institutions are not in fact orphans. In Ghana the figure is as high as 90% they tell the audience how important it is that they engage with this topic, even if that means just spreading information about the issue.

So please do, and while you’re on it, please also sign this petition to stop unethical practices within this field.

Why mass tourism is unsustainable

One of the tourism academics I admire the most is Anna Pollock, the founder of Conscious travel.

According to their website, Conscious Travel is a movement, a community and a learning program that enables places to attract and welcome guests in a manner that doesn’t cost the earth. They state that tourism is system of three elements: Places, Guests and Hosts.  And that as such; It’s all about PEOPLE, thus If people change their values and their perception of how the world works, then everything else changes.

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Conscious Travel refers to the Conscious Capitalism Institute for the philosophy of Conscious Capitalism (which has the same features as Responsible Capitalism). It is based on the belief that a more complex form of capitalism is emerging that holds the potential for enhancing corporate performance while simultaneously continuing to advance the quality of life for billions of people, and challenges business leaders to re-think why their organisations exist and to acknowledge their companies’ roles in the interdependent marketplace. Read more here.
I first heard about Anna Pullock (that has 40 years experience working as a strategist, analyst and change agent for travel destinations around the world) through Tourism Concern work as she has engaged with them throughout the decades.
Here you can read her recent article in The Guardian, presenting the six key reasons why the current tourism model is way past its prime and why more of us need to focus on creating alternatives.

(find Conscious Travel on facebook here).

This is America, the rest is a lie (part II)

I’ll tell you all about our wonderful time in Yosemite national park A S A P – but first Ill take you on a visual journey of the road trip getting there from Fresno.

Starting with a breakfast at a good old American diner.

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In places like these (I refer to the more remote, local diners) pancakes are pretty much the only veggie option (if you remember to tell them to skip the bacon).. And they are yummy! Our waiter (also from Mexico) even told us they’re healthy!?

Next on the bucket list before departure was to find a bike for Burning Man, thus we Googled markets in the area, and sure thing; Every weekend there are two separate (flee) markets in little Fresno. We only made it to one of them, which was enough as it was a huge Mexican market with dream bargains. We got ourselves a cowboy hat, zebra scarf, socks and a BIKE.

Walking around on the market was practically impossible due to the heath (35 degrees and no shade to hide in), but when I got to the – in my view surprisingly large – bird sale section I had to stop for some serious purchase considerations.

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Why not take some of these poor birds to Yosemite or even Burning Man, and free them free, I thought. After discussing whether they’re better of in these cages hoping for new kind owners, or in the Nevada dessert, we decided to trust the salesmen saying “They are happy birds.”

“So are we” I told myself  when we next hit the road for a three hour long journey towards Yosemite National park.

 

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Things we saw on the way:

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Oh, America, you little clown.

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The last picture is from Nevada, very close to the Black Rock desert where we soon will enter what everybody tells us will change our lives, the Burning Man festival.

Peace & Love

Not just another T R A V E L blog

When I now launch this as a T R A V E L blog (before the other things I write about), Id like to tell you why.

My passion is traveling and I’m 100 % aware of the extreme privileges that contains. Pointing at the opportunities and responsibilities coming with those privileges are often exactly what I like to spread with this blog.

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So what makes this (travel) blog different?

It focuses on personal travel experiences including feelings and lived contrasts I come across. It often entails the subjects of Responsible/ Ethical tourism, ethical consumption when traveling, Human Rights in tourism in addition to stuff about music-tourism, techno/dance-tourism (true story, such a term exists), with the overall aim of encouraging people to somehow make a difference when traveling…

Generally speaking its about sharing good ideas, stories and hopefully some surprising angles on how we can travel to change the world.

Peace & Love,

J.