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.

solsikker

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. 🙂

14 musts in Barcelona

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

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

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

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

Starting off with the obvious temptations:

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

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

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The official flag of Catalunya

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

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

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

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El born, close to Barceloneta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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La Champañeria

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have fun!

How can the tourism industry reduce its water consumption?

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

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

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

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

When your grandmother dies and you’re miles away

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

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

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Needless to say, I was far away in all senses from even thinking about Norway where autumn was turning into its last colorful shedding. I’ve probably not said it out this public by now, but after an amazing trip to the US since the end of summer (of which Ive shared some stories already), I was for good reasons – yet now suddenly unexplainable to me – very dedicated to go through with a solo trip to Mexico. I’d been living through a difficult emotional time as my man and I had decided to separate from each other after the US trip, and thus my mind was completely set up on the journey to Mexico. I felt happy and free in a beautiful and frightening way while I took off.

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

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

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

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

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

The coming flight was obviously the longest of my life. I spent the hours both thinking and trying not to think too much, until I found a way to focus on my gratitude for having had a grandma like the one I had. I watched childhood pictures on my Mac and reflected over how much she actually had meant to my life. To my personality. This isn’t a new thought to me in any way, but under such circumstances they feel quite different.

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Cancun from above the day I went

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

My grandmother was perhaps like any other grandmother in many senses; at times a little narrow minded and old fashioned, out of tune with what youth is up to, and worrying too much about what if this and what if that. To me in my life though, she has been my dad, my second mum and the funny sister all in one. For some reason we’ve had this special connection since I was born and I can recall years of making a lot of silly jokes of one another.

I knew it would happen, and now I can confirm it: I’ll miss her as deeply as I’m ever grateful for everything she has given me of love and caring.

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

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

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

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

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How Ill remember her. RIP Else Evelyn.

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

I look forward to going back to Mexico one day. With peace of mind and plenty of desire to explore again. But as for now, the only place I want to be is home, close to my beloved ones. After all, that’s one of the best side effects traveling comes with.

Autumn bliss in Oslo

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

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

How music travels

Just like people, music also travels.

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

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

Click on images to make them larger.

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

Check the map out in action out here !

Fashion without pollution, please

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I’m thrilled to see the fashion industry trying to take more responsibility for their impacts on the world we live in. The reveals about poor working conditions in textile fabrics in Asia have been going viral, huge corporations have signed codes of conducts for improved practices and high-profiled fashionistas and bloggers are writing about brands that seem to take some extra steps.

Good!

Now Greenpeace are running a campaign too, and I just saw they had posted this:

Around the world a growing movement of people are using their creativity, design skills and purchasing power to demand fashion without pollution. United by a shared belief that the clothes we wear should carry a story we can be proud of, activists, bloggers, designers, scientists and models have been able to convince big brands including Zara, Mango, Valentino, UNIQLO and H&M to commit to toxic-free fashion. There is still a long way to go, but our successes so far prove that when we work together, big brands are forced to stand up and deliver.

Here is the video to the campaign:

 

You love fashion too? And consider yourself a concerned consumer? Then please engage and help spread the message!

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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