Here and there we hear the word sustainability, but do we really know what it stands for or have you stopped to think about how sustainability applies to your daily life or your favorite activities like traveling?
Besides planning a trip, packing the suitcase and using a mode of transport to take us to that place that we have dreamt about, the truth behind the tourism industry is that there has been a whole study of the natural and cultural attractions in the area, that through advertisement it has come to our eyes, conquered our hearts and activated the wish to visit them.
But a place is not only a sightseeing point, some colorful letters or a museum, a place is a combination of people, traditions, monuments, nature, activities, landscape, gastronomy, services, fauna, architecture, flora, information and more elements that can be divided into three key areas of a destination: Visitor, community and surroundings.
Customer is always right
Have you ever heard this phrase? I would hear it all the time that I worked in hospitality and every time I wondered if there were any limits or parameters to know if “always right means always right or it depends”. For a long time, we have believed that “the one who pays” has the right to do wherever they want because “having money equals having power”. Therefore, we have overpopulated towns and cities, damaged natural areas, polluted pristine spaces, been arrogant with local people and strengthened a travel culture where benefits are exclusive to travelers and owners of the hotel chain and services we have hired, but the question emerges: Is there a different way of traveling?
Bidirectional relationships: Visitor, community, surroundings
Beyond well-known advice about consuming local, traveling with our own cutlery or avoiding (as much as possible) the use of airplanes due to carbon footprint, I would like to invite you to reflect on the existing relationships in every destination and how we form our consciousness and behavior can contribute in building richer and more solid destinations where benefits are for everybody.
My teacher, Alejandra Zorilla, used to say: Imagine you invite someone to your house. Would you like that person to wander around, enter your room, cut your plants, use your things and sleep in your bed without your permission? I imagine not. When we travel we should apply the same logic, we as visitors are guests to the local community, they are the ones that show us and share their house (surroundings) with us. They also tell us what is permitted and what’s not, then, we follow those petitions to promote social harmony and enrich the travel experience.
Community – visitor
- Let’s arrive with body, mind and heart open to exchange experiences and knowledge.
- Let’s practice active listening, listening to know and understand.
- Let’s talk with respect and encourage an intercultural dialogue between our host and ourselves.
- Let’s respect the seasons and the local rhythms of life.
- Let’s be curious, warm and genuine with our hosts.
- Let’s value what our hosts offer: Their words, their lessons, their landscapes, their customs.
Surroundings – visitor
- Let’s be visitors in love with the destinations we are knowing.
- Let’s practice presence, awaken our senses, practice appreciation and learn to recognize the worth of what we have and where we are.
- Let’s connect beyond what we see and act respectfully towards the whole society and nature. Trees are not only trees, it is a complete system that is holding us.
- Let’s be responsible and conscious of our actions and their impact.
Community – Surroundings
Taking into account that we are also hosts (community) in our homes, our cities and our countries:
- Let’s connect with our destinations. Do we really know them?
- Let’s be respectful and reciprocal. What have I done today for my community?
- Let’s value our natural and cultural heritage. What is unique? What makes my city special? What can I discover today?
- Let’s be ambassadors of good practices.
- Let’s share our love and admiration for our destination.
- Let’s be warm, inclusive and responsible.
Remember that we all are part of a dynamic system that moves with our actions. Let’s start thinking about how what we do affects another part of it. Let’s be empathic with others and observe their points of view.
And you, what do you think about these relationships? Have you experienced them?
|Suggested read: Why Sustainable Traveling is More Important than Ever|