The recent rise in ethical, responsible and environmentally-conscious travel has led to a very crucial question being asked of the tourism industry: we know that travel has changed the world (for better or worse depending on where you go and whom you ask) but given what we now know of travel’s ability to bring about change…can we actually travel to change the world consciously and for the better?
Travel has the ability to change the world whether or not you consciously choose to be a part of the process so imagine how beneficial your travels can be when you actively choose to change the world, through your travels, in a positive way?
Travel not only changes you but also has the potential to change the places you visit, the nature you encounter and the people you meet.
And here’s why:
Travel promotes an optimistic view of the world
Spend your time following mainstream media and you’ll be forgiven for thinking the world is bursting at the seams with despicable people wanting to do us harm or that the planet is, essentially, just one heap of radioactive waste. Travel the world instead, however, and your view of the world and every aspect of it can be infinitely more optimistic. Travel the world and you’ll soon realize that people are, in actual fact, warm and hospitable no matter where you go and that crime, in general, is grossly overstated and – more pertinently – often taken out of context. One tourist robbed in Rio de Janeiro will make headline news the world over yet 1 million holidaymakers who enjoy a hassle and trouble-free vacation will not. Did you know, for example, that the world is safer than ever? Likewise, for environmental concerns. Our beloved planet – despite our worst efforts – still boasts unspoilt wilderness and thriving wildlife and you need only visit the Galapagos Islands that nature still thrives resplendent, despite all the damning reports which may certainly be true but are also overwhelmingly pessimistic. Scientists recently discovered a whole new ocean zone and accompanying 100 species, they never knew existed. Why did that not hit the mainstream news?
Travel promotes a much more realistic and optimistic view of the world. How can that possibly change it? Well, because an optimistic mind will always look for solutions to problems whilst the pessimist will tend to only concentrate on the problem. You know who these people are in your life because you notice their social media newsfeed: pessimists will post depressing videos of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, for example, whilst the optimistic traveller will post articles on efforts underway to try and clean that up.
Most importantly, an optimist knows his/her choices – be it to refuse single-use plastic or offset their carbon footprint when they travel or make responsible travel choices – can actually make a difference. A pessimist, who thinks all is lost and hopeless, won’t be nearly as inclined to be proactive in making changes. Optimism drives technological, medical and environmental advances and that is what will change the world.
Travel destroys bigotry and racism
Fear and ignorance are the breeding grounds for racism and bigotry and what better way to avoid them all than by travelling, discovering new cultures and realising, with one’s own eyes, just how wonderful and fascinating the world really is? Travel the world and you too will conclude that people are all the same. All we ever want is a peaceful and joyful existence, free of war and oppression and to have the chance to work an honest job and feed our family. Travellers are usually much more tolerant of foreign cultures, different religions and anything that isn’t mainstream in their home countries. Travellers are also usually more welcoming and have far fewer reservations based on gender, race, religion, skin colour and even clothing choices and that’s because travel highlights our similarities over and above anything else. It doesn’t work on every traveller, of course, but statistically, it has this effect on most. A clear correlation has been drawn between those who do not travel and those who are averse to change, multiculturalism and greater social acceptance as they are literally trapped in a non-diverse social and cultural bubble. An interesting study has even shown that simply moving to an ethnically-diverse neighbourhood has the potential to increase people’s tolerance…so imagine what travelling the world can do? There’s no denying that wars and conflicts are mostly based on economic incentives, as far as governments are concerned, but our collective public outcry if we all truly believe in not causing harm to others with whom we feel connected, has the ability to dramatically curb worldwide conflict.
Tourism can improve living conditions for impoverished communities
The tourism industry has taken a serious beating over the last year or so with new reports highlighting the negative impacts tourist have had on overly-promoted destinations. Yet what so many fail to report is how beneficial tourism has been in most parts of the world, especially in destinations that are underdeveloped and under-resourced. Done right, with firm restrictions and regulations in place, travel has the potential to literally save the day.
Travel offers a much-needed income boost to remote communities and can highlight a particular culture’s plight, bringing it to a worldwide audience and incentivising local governments to act in a more responsible manner to protect it and preserve it. In Latin America alone, tourism has increased awareness of the plight of many Amazonian tribes who face eviction and oppression, has provided an active income in remote communities and has helped invigorate a trade of arts, crafts and cuisines of endangered ethnic groups. Tourism has been proven to drive prosperity in some of the poorest countries on earth and directly alleviates poverty where help is needed most.
Travel can contribute to environmental protection
Tourism has been shown to highlight the environmental threat on Antarctica, one of the world’s most pristine destinations, actively changing traveller’s environmental habits and catapulting the continent onto the worldwide environmental-concern stage. Why? Because we protect what we love and we love what we have personally experienced.
Travel the world and don’t be surprised if you feel an overwhelming desire to protect it all. Moreover, the incentive of the tourist dollar drives local governments to protect their natural treasures, creating protected reserves and national parks which in turn attract more tourists. Park fees and access fees (like those charged to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru or to enter the Galapagos Islands Marine Park) directly contribute to their preservation. The positive environmental consequences of travel are well documented and highlight the fact that tourism can literally change our world for the better.
Pay extra to have the privilege of visiting some of the most outstanding places on earth?
A sensitive balance between interference and assistance and certainly a most glorious way to broaden one’s horizons and minds: we can indeed travel to change the world in a positive and most rewarding way as long as we do so consciously and responsibly. This is when a little awareness can really take us far.
At Chimu Adventures, we are committed to travelling to change the world. We are drivers of the Travel Revolution and truly believe that we CAN have it all: experience the wonders of this world and its incredible cultures AND bring about beneficial change when and where it is needed most.
So why won’t you join us?
Author: Laura Pattara
“Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 15 years. She’s tour-guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and has completed a 6-year motorbike trip from Europe to Australia. What ticks her fancy most? Animal encounters in remote wilderness, authentic experiences off the beaten trail and spectacular Autumn colours in Patagonia.”