Category: TRAVEL

Romania – a travel back in time

It’s been a while since I experienced it. The feeling of traveling back in time. It might sound like a cliché, but a short getaway to a destination full of – to me – unfamiliar traditional livelihoods, is just what I dreamt of. I found it in a region of Apuseni mountains in Romania.

We’re back from a short trek in the hills of the village Rosia, and stand admiring the view of endless green fields. The mountains in the horizon lay like a blurred pensile stroke separating the agriculture scenery from the blue sky. It’s a sunny day and the characteristic pointed hey stacks from this region, stand out on the fields. The sticks leaning against them for stability make them look like a bunch of huge friendly trolls with long arms.

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Suddenly a loud noise interrupts the peace. At first it’s hard to tell what it is, but our attention quickly goes to the road from where it’s approaching. A traveller in my group is already in the middle of the road far away from us. He stands waving with his camera, and then I see it: A couple on a horse with carriage is approaching. They’ve got a surprising speed and pass us in an instant, leaving a dusty cloud behind. From where I’m standing I only got a glimpse of the old wrinkly woman with a headscarf, and raise my arm in a response to her toothless smile. She looks over her shoulder and yells something to greet us, while the old man next to her is busy steering the horse. The stack of branches on their carriage trailer bounces behind them as they disappear behind the next curve. I awe at the scene I was just witnessing, and curse a little to myself for not getting a picture of it. Nonetheless, I feel butterflies in my stomach because this is where I’ll spend the next three days.

Rosia is a village in a region of the Apuseni mountains, named Pădurea Craiului. The latter is situated in the North-western part of Romania, and translates to The Prince´s forest. It’s famous for its pristine nature and flower fields, traditional agriculture and artisans, wide ranging mountains brilliant for hiking and biking, and charming villages and guesthouses perfect to kick back in. It is a less known part of Romania and a feeling of traveling back in time.

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Together with their local partner, the NGO Center for Protected Areas and Sustainable Development Bihor, the tour operator Ethical Travel Portal wants more people to enjoy this experience, and I was invited on a trip to explore Apuseni Mountains. Knowing Ethical Travel Portal and supporting their focus to take care of the environment and cultural heritage in destinations, while making sure local people benefit from tourism; a topic I’ve written about and supported for years through this blog, I was happy to embark this experience!

I’ve never been among the travellers who typically want a tour to be programmed prior to traveling… Call it unintentional, call it a personality thing. I just seldom get a trip organised before embarking on it. But after this experience, I realised I need to change my perception of organised trips as I’d never manage to do everything we did in only four days! Note to self.

After admiring the surroundings for a while in Rosia, Romania; we’re a bit more used to see old people in worn out clothes transporting hay, branches and cattle on the roads. Our guide Diana tells us it’s time to move on to the neighbouring village Dragoteni. The further we get away from Rosia, which I honestly thought was a small village, I learn that there are plenty of much smaller villages around, with equally less consistence in terms of architecture. Houses made of wood or concrete painted in a variety of colours like green, turquoise and orange, pass by. Their roofs are either flat or pointed, made of tin or occasionally covered up with random planks. Romania’s recent past as a rather closed and deprived country becomes more evident as we move on.

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Trees and flowers are taken very good care of, and some houses actually look more like they’re made of roses than anything else. Cats and dogs emerge from everywhere, and here too cats follow their universal rule by taking demand on the upper level territories. They sit or walk peacefully on window sills, walls and roof edges, while dogs stay closer to the people around. We start talking about the elder generation that occupy benches around every corner. What are they possibly gossiping about? I realise I love sitting like this in an object passing by strangers’ lives, yet I’d rather be on a bicycle on a beautiful day like this.

It looks like a drawing from a child’s book, although we don’t see that many children around. Men however, on some kind of a job duty, push trolleys or carry sacks of material on the streets, appear behind all sorts of steering wheels. I ask our guide Diana why there are so few young people around. She tells us that unemployment is high in Pădurea Craiului and that the most common jobs in farming and caving, are hard. Hence, most young people leave for the cities to look for work or get an education. Romania has modernised a lot over the last decade; rural life is still predominantly traditional in places like Pădurea Craiului making it less attractive to young people, because of lack of interesting work. Tourism is one contributor with the possibility to revert this trend.

We park our car in the destination for the evening: the village Dragoteni in Romania. Traditional clothing and egg decoration is on the agenda, before we’ll have dinner at an old guesthouse. Both activities are part of ways visitors can learn more about cultural heritage through tourism in the region. Even before entering her house ten minutes go by watching ancient tractors pass by; timeworn women sit chatting outside of their houses; huge Canada geese walk freely around; old farmers take their cows home for the night. We greet them all and walk over to the egg-artisan.

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She’s a middle-aged woman with a warm smile and her front garden is full of wine grapes and roses. She’s wearing a flowery blouse and sparkling earrings, and blends in perfectly in her own workshop that’s full of colourful pillows, blankets and scarfs. Our guide translates as the artisan exhibits some embroidered pieces of clothing and tells us about their symbolism in old dowry customs in the area; a tradition that’s vanishing today due to various – and logical – reasons.

Decorating eggs is one of the vanishing traditions. As an old Christian tradition, it’s something I’m familiar with even in my secular home country Norway. There, it’s about kids painting eggs for fun before Easter, but as far as I can remember they end up looking quite different than the eggs in the basket on the picture above. Reasonably of course, as the woman in charge has mastered this art for decades. Apparently, passing the skill onto younger generations so that the tradition doesn’t die out, is one of her motivations in life. I realise it’s a beautiful thing that some people have a drive to protect old customs, yet we also chat about the evident reasons to why traditions too change with time.

The artist gathers some empty eggs from a closet and sits down on a children sized chair in front of a tiny table. Given her grownup size, it doesn’t look very comfortable but she claims to like it. A candle placed beneath a box of wax is lit, and the artist dips a pencil with a metal tip in the soft wax and starts drawing lines with it on an egg. In approximately 1 minute all the lines that create the basis of a pattern to be filled with colours, are drawn out. As an amateur artist, I get drawn towards the act and the lady encourages me to give it a try. I’ll spare you for the details about the demanding pencil use technique, but let’s just say that I managed to draw some lines on my little egg. Also, it feels quite meditative.

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The egglady’s own artwork

After an hour visit and the sun is soon setting and reminds us that there’s a world outside of the historic workshop. We’re all quite hungry and ready for the next stop… (next blog of the adventure will come soon)

This story was first posted on Ethical Travel Portal’s own webpage: http://ethicaltravelportal.com/romania-a-travel-back-in-time/

Da reiseluksusen ga meg nye perspektiver

Vi som kommer fra et moderne land som Norge, ser på det å reise som et viktig og ganske selvsagt gode. Dette har jeg skrevet en del om tidligere, blant annet ved å minne om at reising for de fleste av oss handler om noe mer enn ferie og rekreasjon, at det handler om selvrealisering, utfoldelse og utvikling. Å være i en slik situasjon bør i det hele tatt anses som luksuriøs, og som jeg skal fortelle mer om i denne artikkelen: Den luksusen kommer med et ansvar.

I know. Kjedelig ord det der. Ansvar. I mangelen på et bedre begrep for det engelske konseptet Responsible Tourism, må vi nesten ta til takke med ansvarlig turisme/reiseliv. Eventuelt etisk turisme/reiseliv. Slik også Ethical Travel beskriver det samme på engelsk. Britene har i det hele tatt skjønt poenget med ansvarlig reiseliv lenge før oss nordmenn; som her bekreftet av TV-stjerna Simon Reeve.

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La det være sagt først som sist: Selv har jeg (og kanskje noen av de menneskene jeg var inne på i tidligere nevnt artikkel), kommet ut av tellinga hva angår utenlands ferieturer og lengre opphold i utlandet. Flyturene har rett og slett blitt pinlig mange i løpet av mitt voksne liv, og selv om jeg vet at det å fly er skadelig for naturen, har jeg ikke hittil gjort så fryktelig mye for å korte ned på dem. Hvorfor? Fordi jeg bare oppleve det verden har å by på! Jovisst. Det er en selvmotsigelse i dette “å ta ansvar for klodens vel og ve selv når man reiser” og samtidig innrømme at man har flydd/flyr pinlig mye, og hvis du har lyst til å lese mer om mine tanker om det, henviser jeg til denne selvransakende posten fra en stund tilbake om min rolle som miljø(aktivist)svin.

I denne posten derimot, vil jeg ta opp hvordan jeg selv fikk øynene opp for dette med ansvarlig reiseliv gjennom egne reiser. Jeg har mange synspunkter om at selve industrien bør ta mer ansvar den også, for at reiseliv skal bidra til mer bærekraftig utvikling enn det gjør i dag – da spesielt i fattige land. Noen av disse poengene ble publisert i Dagsavisen for litt siden.

Så. Vi nordmenn er altså blant folk som flyr aller mest i hele verden. Det er rett og slett få av oss som ikke har flydd. Og det er fryktelig få som har flydd færre enn ti ganger ila lviet (!). Ser man dét opp mot det faktumet at cirka 80% av klodens befolkning aldri har satt sine bein i et fly, er det gode grunner til å forsøke å se reisingen sin i perspektiv. Personlig, har i alle fall slike tall i tillegg til utallige reiseinntrykk i det globale sør, og studier om fattigdom, gjort meg ydmyk ovenfor reiseluksusen jeg så ofte har tatt for gitt.

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Cuba, 2004

Jeg husker veldig godt når det sistnevnte skjedde meg for første gang, og jeg begynte å bli bevisst på hvor heldig jeg er. Det var etter et to måneder langt opphold i Kariben, som i tråd med det jeg skrev i artikkelen Reising = selvrealisering , naturligvis var en vanvittif lærerik og eventyrlig opplevelse. For meg i alle fall. Og skulle man tro reisemarkedsføring er jo det det viktigste. 😉 Neida.

Men jo. Når sant skal sies fikk tiden på Cuba meg til å stille noen høyst nødvendige spørsmål om verden jeg lever i, og min plass i den. På ganske kort tid ble jeg klar over at jeg nærmest tok for gitt de mulighetene jeg hadde til å realisere det som var en drømmelivsstil for min egen del. I de utallige unge såkalte vertinnene jeg møtte (hvor i blant mange av dem kjapt viste seg å være prostituerte), så jeg etter hvert meg selv – om også jeg hadde vært født der. Etter å ha blitt ranet på åpen gate to ganger, skjønte jeg fort hva jeg ville bedrevet tiden med om jeg var i deres situasjon.

I møtet med meg selv som enda en – for dem– utenkelig velstående turist som trålte Havana gatelangs daglig, skjønte jeg at det overhodet ikke var min rett å overse de som ropte og løp etter meg i håp om å selge meg frukt eller suvenirer. I møtet med utallige flotte kubanere – som etterhvert som vi ble bedre kjent – fortalte meg om problemene sine og ba meg vennligst huske på dem når jeg dro, skjønte jeg hvor arrogant, bortskjemt og heldig jeg var.

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Det “hjalp” kanskje også på perspektivene at dama jeg reiste til Cuba med kjente folk der fra før av. Som Pedro her. Ila turen vår tilbragte vi en del tid sammen med ham.

I løpet av oppholdet på Cuba, og senere andre fattige land, fikk jeg mange nye perspektiver på så mangt. I tillegg til plutselig å se meg selv som turist/ reisende gjennom øynene på lokalfolk, begynte jeg å se på turisme som et fenomen med store konsekvenser på lokalsamfunn. Jeg observerte andre turisters fremtredner og studerte lokalfolks oppførsel ovenfor turister. Jeg innså stadig mer av hva turisme kan by på av lærdommer for reisende, og hva den kan gjøre med et samfunn og folkene som bor der. På godt og vondt. Jeg gikk gjennom et tankeskifte fra å mene mye om en fremmed kultur, hvor eurosentrisk nok det meste til da var, og kom hjem med et løfte om å aldri noengang klage på noe som helst i Norge.

Eller, jeg kunne kanskje klage, men i såfall ville det være over de som klager på og irriterer seg over alt av idiotiske og trivielle i-landsproblemer. Temaer relatert til den slags, og problemfikseringen enkelte alltid skal fremme, fikk jeg rett og slett lite til overs for. Og slik har jeg det heldigvis enda, mange år etterpå.

Skjønt, jeg må selvsagt i blant minne meg selv på det såkalte løftet, og det er greit. Det vidunderlige på veien hit har uansett vært å kunne selvrealisere meg gjennom reising – både faglig, kreativt og medmenneskelig. Ved å bli bevisst min priviligerte status som globetrotter i en ellers ekstremt urettferdig verden, fant jeg ny mening og videreutviklet en nysgjerrighet ovenfor alt fremmed. Opptatt av å bevege meg utenfor min egen komfortsone, bega jeg meg også tidlig ut på soloreiser. Det jeg kjapt oppdaget var at det å reise alene oppleves mye dypere og sterkere enn en gruppereise noengang kan. Du får tid til å tenke mye mer, du åpner sansene i enda større grad, du må ordne opp i det meste selv og du må våge å stole på folk på en annen måte, slik jeg skrev om det etter min første ordentlige soloreise.

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Men altså. For oss heldige fra nord er reising selvrealiserende, og mange tar det hele for gitt. Utifra historien vår og utviklingen i Nord-Europa å dømme, er det ganske forståelig. Vi velger jo som kjent ikke hvor vi blir født, og samme hvor vi vokser opp blir vi derfor et slags produkt av hvordan det samfunnet vi er del av, tillater oss å leve.

Men vårt forhold til kloden, og eget liv på den – hvor enn vi befinner oss – kommer med et ansvar. Både for at det skal smake bedre for vår egen del (et typisk mantra blant folk i i-land), men også for å gjøre det beste ut av det for andre, er det derfor nødvendig, ikke minst for klodens fremtid, at vi tar dette innover oss. For igjen: Vi velger jo ikke hvor vi blir født, og er du blant dem som forstår det jeg skriver her og nå, så er du bare en av klodens latterlig heldige. Det er ikke din “skyld”, på noen som helst måte, men det er veldig greit for ens eget liv og andres, at vi er flere som tar innover oss hva som ligger i dette. Kanskje svir det til og med litt å erkjenne det, siden vi vet at måten vi lever på i verdens mektigere land, går på bekostning av andres lykke. Det får så være, og det finnes mange gode øvelser en kan praktisere når motstanden til å ta slikt innover seg vokser i en. De handler i hovedsak om å vende blikket utover.

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Som her da jeg besøkte en township i Sør Afrika for første gang, og ideen om masterforskningen min begynte å ta form.

Personlig synes jeg det gir mening ikke bare å gjøre mitt beste, men også å sette meg inn i de forhold i verden som jeg er med på å påvirke, samt hvorfor jeg i det hele tatt lever og reiser som jeg gjør. Hva jeg tenker omkring dét, oss som folk med våre vaner og “ta-for-gitt-holdninger” og andres likens vaner og verdier, utifra deres kontekst.

Igjen kan jeg bare snakke for min egen del, selv om jeg er veldig interessert i andre menneskers syn på saken, og for meg har det å studere meg selv som reisende, samt reiselivs påvirkning fått meg til å innse hvor viktig konseptet ansvarlig turisme er. På lik linje som etisk produksjon er viktig innen tekstilindustrien, kjøtt- og landbruksindustrien. Som forbrukere handler det derfor om å sette seg inn i hvordan bli en mer ansvarlig forbruker og å stemme på de politikerne og støtte de organisasjonene som fremmer verdiene vi tror er best for en mest mulig bærekraftig utvikling her på jorda. Når vi først tar aktive standpunkt til slikt og lærer mer om hvordan ting henger sammen, er min opplevelse at det oppstår en enorm selvrealisering i dét også.

En ekstra dimensjon av forbrukerlykke om du vil.  😉

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…et av mine slike standpunkt handler om kun å kjøpe varer lokalt som reisende. Som her i en av de utallige kokosnøttkioskene i Mexico. 🙂

Pst! Apropos ansvar innen turisme, og til konkrete forslag til hvordan du kan påvirke mer positivt som reisende. Sjekk ut denne!

Apropos de mer dystre sidene av næringen (kvitre, kvitre): Visste du at den faktisk er ansvarlig for tvangsflytting av lokalbefolkning, elendige arbeidsforhold, utnyttelsen av kvinner og barm, vannmangel og miljødegradering? Lær mer om organisasjonen Tourism Concern som jobber for å bekjempe slikt innen turisme her.

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.

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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?

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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.

10 tips til ansvarlige turister

Har du noen gang tenkt på at i ferie- og reisesammenheng, så produseres omtrent alt det du betaler for, mens du er på tur?

Enten om du er på chartertur med svigerfamilien i Tyrkia, eller på en helt fri ryggsekktur i India, så “lages” reisen din hver time og hver dag av (lokale) arbeidere i området du besøker. Og stort sett, i alle fall på de mer impulsive turene, vil du direkte kunne møte nesten alle de arbeiderne som påvirker reisen din til å bli det den blir.

Dette betyr at vi forbrukere av reiser hele tiden kan ta valg som påvirker arbeidsdagene til de som er med og produsererer reisene våre. Jeg vet ikke med deg, men jeg ELSKER den tanken!

Det er nemlig nettopp dette som gjør turismeindustrien så unik, sammenliknet med andre industrier. Det at dens forbrukere direkte møter de som lager/ serverer oss varen de har kjøpt/ kjøper.  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 fokuset 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.

Jovisst handler ferie for de aller fleste om å slappe av og kose seg, oppdage/ se/ føle noe nytt. Eventuelt handler det om å glemme for en liten stund hvor man kommer fra i det hele tatt. Eller kanskje blir man påminnet nettopp det, alt ettersom hvordan du ser på det…
Uansett. Å ta ansvar som reisende kolliderer overhodet ikke med noe av det. Man kan få en fantastisk ferieopplevelse OG underveis sette seg litt inn i situasjonen til de lokale man møter på sin vei. Det hjelper for eksempel å huske på at mange  lokalfolk man møter har det å yte tjenester for rike reisende, som sitt levebrød. Min erfaring er faktisk at reisene og ferieturene blir langt finere og mye mer interessante jo mer jeg tenker/ opptrer slik. Både for meg selv og de jeg møter på hvorenn jeg ferdes.
Så. Over til tipsene som kan hjelpe deg å bli mer ansvarlig som reisende. De er tatt fra organisasjonen Tourism Concern som i over to tiåar har jobbet for menneskerettighetsbeskyttelse innen turisme, og som snakker mye om det å utgjøre en forskjell som reisende. 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 tok en mastergrad i (!).

Jeg har tatt meg friheten til å språkpynte litt på tipsene 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.

Please ikke heng deg opp i at tipsene er mange, for bare ved å gjøre noen av dem om til handling på din neste reise, hevder Tourism Concern at du personlig er med på å bekjempe utnyttelse innen turisme.

Here we go:

1) VÆR BEVISST. Start å reflektere over og nyte reisen allerede før du reiser. Les om destinasjonen, sett deg litt inn i dens historie, politikk og religion. Undersøk hva som er typisk for kulturen, hva som ses på som høflig og ikke. Finn for eksempel ut hvilke 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 folk 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 ditt verdensbilde, din livsstil, klær og vaner? Finn ut av 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. Tenk over at pengene du bruker i destinasjonen, helst skal forbli i destinasjonen.

5) PRUTE RETTFERDIG. Bidra til lokal økonomisk utvikling ved å prute rettferdig. Hvis du pruter alle varer ned til den laveste mulige prisen, kan kuppene du ender opp med koste 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 selgerens familiebudsjett.

6) IKKE GI PENGER TIL TIGGENDE BARN. I know, dette er et komplekst tema, som mange mener mye om. Hovedargumentet for å ikke gi dog, går ut på dette: Å gi til tiggende barn kan oppmuntre til mer tigging. En donasjon til et prosjekt, helsesenter eller skole er langt mer konstruktivt. Uansett, hvis du besøker et sted hvor du treffer på mange tiggende barn, slå for all del av en prat med de, og kjøpt evt. noe mat til dem om de er sultne.

7) 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 evt. å bli litt lenger i destinasjonene du besøker.

8) 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. Reising bør inkludere opplevelser utenfor komfortsonen sin. 🙂

9) SPAR PÅ DESTINASJONERS RESSURSER. Vann- og elektrisitets-ressurser 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 still kritiske spørsmål til hotell og reiseselskap dersom du observerer en stor ubalanse i vann- og strømtilgang.

10) SPØR SELSKAPER OM SAMFUNNSANSVAR. Dersom du kjøper en pakkereise for hele familien, eller booker det meste av eskursjoner via et selskap før avreise, er signaleffekten stor om du spør turoperatøren din om deres engasjement i lokalsamfunn – hvis gjestfrihet de drar nytte av. Bare tenk hvor mye bedre selskaper hadde oppført seg, om alle forbrukere hadde gjort dette hele tiden! Det holder dessverre ikke lenger å bare lese det som står på selskapers nettside om samfunnsansvar. Still gjerne også spørsmål til hotellet – og andre turismerelaterte næringer i destinasjonen– om deres engasjement. Dette er spesielt viktig i fattige land.

Og helt til slutt; mitt eget lille mantra: VÆR GLAD & UREDD. 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 mye sterkere til å få maksimalt 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 fortsettelse på 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.

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Outside of a kiosk in Langa (before starting my own research there) I discovered a random flag…

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 on Tourism Concern´s webpage.

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.

Champaneria

 

 

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!