Archive | April, 2012

Why all travel is local

and why Conscious Hosts Will be Indigenous

While I also subscribe to the importance of the journey and, where possible, would prefer to travel slowly and savour the transition from the familiar to the unknown, most times I have to fly.

the shoeless airport shuffle

Then I stop being a traveler and, instead, become a producer of air passenger miles and carbon; a unit of yield as far as the airline is concerned; and a human piece of baggage that doesn’t have the benefit of being placed on a conveyor belt!

Instead, I must negotiate kiosks, print boarding cards and baggage tags, have papers scrutinized, be required to undress and dress at various points and to varying degrees, avoid the bright lights and temptations of that garish place called “Duty Free” to traverse  more sterile corridors before reaching an anonymous staging area devoid of food or water. Next comes the delight of sitting in an aluminum tube, fretting over whether the movies will be sufficiently distracting, the food palatable and my neighbour of average weight and girth!

Room with a View – first night in Wellington

Most people survive this transition in their own version of coma. One is transported but sadly not in the rapturous and ecstatic sense our forbears imagined when they applied the term. The ordeal is not yet complete – shortly after the tube engages with the terminal’s tentacles, the weary shuffle commences down more anonymous corridors to be welcomed by personnel trained in the art of suspicion not hospitality.  Hopefully a re-union with one’s own baggage will soon occur.  Finally, the opaque doors slide open and we weary but expectant tourists are   “there” – the place that has been capturing our imaginations for weeks.

And now you can and must wake up – for now you are a stranger in a foreign land, a visitor, and ideally a welcomed guest.

The ground on which you now stand is unique – it took 13.5 billion years for this piece of geography to form and it expresses a unique relationship with our sun, the moon, the planets and our galaxy.

But does it feel different on being ejected from that sterile place called in transit? Might it have the capacity to affect a transformation of some kind? Are you aware of the essence or spirit of this place? Do you sense that you have arrived somewhere truly else?  For if you don’t, then was the toll on your body and the cost to the earth, really worth it?

The biggest tragedy of modern, mass industrial tourism is that it has completely missed the point – the essence of travel is about being changed by our experience of unique places – yet, in our earnest attempts to standardize, homogenize, and render efficient or convenient, we have sucked the life blood, the juice, and, worse still, the mystery out of places.

An indigenous person will tell you that the land on which you stand is sacred. Their individual identity is shaped by their relationship with all aspects of the place they call home; the relationship they treasure with their ancestors and, in turn, the relationship those ancestors had with the place. Their presence also changed the place because all beings – whether perceived as sentient or not – are in a dialogue, a dance of vibration. So your presence will also affect this place and, if you are awake, aware and alert, you will let it change you.

Hence my assertion: all travel is local. Despite the act of getting there, all travelers do eventually arrive at a locality and experience its uniqueness.

And if all travel is local, then ideally all hosts should be indigenous in the deepest sense of the word….

Welcome to the Marae in Te Papa, Wellington

So local travel is not a peripheral aspect of travel; a nice “add on” but central –  the core of travel.  Local travel isn’t just about meeting the locals – people who live in the locality – or even about buying handmade things from local people but about ensuring as, as guest, your every sense is buffetted by the rich mix of sounds, smells, sights, textures and tastes that convince you that you have arrived are somewhere different, unique, and, as a result, sacred. For inspiration just see the Flickr Group: Local is Beautiful. Ron Mader, thanks, I can taste those Flores de Frijolin con Guacamole from here.

Indigenous people know how to do this naturally – they don’t need a course in hospitality. It’s in their DNA, regardless of which tribe they associate with. They have been doing it for tens of thousands of years. They don’t need to be brought into the mainstream. We must sit at their feet by the campfires that have been burning for millennia and learn from the shadows on the cave wall or the stars that rise and fall on the velvety purple sky outside.

The only way we’ll rescue the future of tourism from the insanity and tyranny of its current model is to become indigenous in mind, heart and soul, given that indigenous means to “originate or occur naturally in a particular place.” To my mind, being indigenous doesn’t necessarily mean to have got there first but  to have developed and respected a profoundly moving and dynamic relationship with the spatial and temporal dimensions of a place.  To be indigenous or native is to have been shaped by the geography and history of a locality and to be able to express that shaping in language, cuisine, ritual, architecture, mythology, dance, agriculture, costume, poetry and, most of all, in stories.  It means to honour its manu, its essence, its spirit. But most importantly, to be indigenous is to know that as a human being you have a duty of custodianship for the sake of all sentient beings, for your tribe, your guests and the generations yet to be born let alone conceived.

Thus first task of every conscious host is to become an “indigene” …

We’ll explore what that means in Part 2 to follow.

LINKS
Indigenous Tourism Festival in Brazil today: http://gobrazil.about.com/od/brazilindiantribes/ss/National-Indigenous-Culture-Festival.htm 

Bookmark Link to Planeta’s Indigenous Tourism Conference in August
http://www.planeta.com/indigenous.html

A reason to be hopeful – Happy Easter!

We all know that Easter is a time in the calendar of the northern hemisphere when humans have celebrated the arrival of Spring and the commencement of a new growing season. Being English, daffodills and primroses are the signs that Easter is soon coming!

The significance of what has only recently become a religious festival or even more recently a commercial one, pre-dates Christianity by thousands of years. I write this in Sydney where the days are shortening as “winter” approaches but that is no less reason to be hopeful as winter is a great season for reflection and spending time with friends and family knowing Spring is not that far away.

I wanted to take a break from writing to sharing two videos that express why I do what little I can do to midwife the birth of a new era in our common story. Because I have worked for about 40 years in travel & tourism and because this phenomena connects and touches so many people’s lives, I do believe that it has the potential to be an effective agent of change but only if we become conscious of all aspects of its influence – the positive and the destructive. We must resist the tendency towards “wilful blindness” and pretend that tourism – as practiced – is just a force for good no matter how appealing that message might appear.

I have spoken at three conferences since December: PATA’s Responsible Travel’s Forum in Beijing; PATA’s Adventure and Responsible Tourism event in Bhutan and, most recently at the Pacific Asia Indigenous Tourism Conference in Darwin organised by ATEC & PATA where we witnessed the birth of the World Tourism Indigenous Tourism Alliance. Each presentation was unique (my slides are here) but conveyed the message expressed in the previous paragraph. What struck me was the enthusiastic and passionate response that was evoked and affirms that many people in tourism are indeed waking up, growing up, and stepping up and creating Places that uniquely Care!  It’s an exciting time to be alive and working in a field that encompasses and integrates the work of eco, geo, sustainable, responsible, fair trade, local, ethical travel and tourism.

The first video presents the thoughts of one of the greatest cosmologists of our time, Thomas Berry. More information on the work of Thomas Berry can be seen here: http://www.earth-community.org/

The second describes the process of change that is taking place right now using the well established metaphor of the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly to cast light on current events. This video is produced by a former geneticist, Dr Bruce Lipton,  who is now integrating much of  current thinking into an exposition of the crossroads facing humanity. His current book Spontaneous Evolution is my favourite book purchase in a very long time. I first heard the caterpillar story some 7 years ago and it’s even more inspiring when you see it paying out in reality.

Thank you subscribers, readers and commentators for all your support and encouragement. If you like these videos, please share…

Happy Easter!