Archive | November, 2013

On Being, Seeing, Then Doing – time to join up!

leading the way titleI recently spoke at the Adventure Travel World Summit 2013 in Namibia urging the members to respond to the acknowledgment made by the Secretary General of the UNWTO, Taleb Rifai, a year prior, that adventure travel was the future of tourism. I suggested that the adventure travel community faced the opportunity to lead all of tourism into a better future. I had 30 minutes to explain why mainstream, mass tourism, as currently practiced, was failing and how the adventure travel community could, through closer links with the indigenous tourism community, bring their clients closer to Nature and regenerate rather then harm local cultures and ecosystems. The last third of the talk was heart-felt and emotional and the audience responded enthusiastically. (The complete, annotated transcript for Leading the Way: The Adventure of Travel is here and slides here).

In response to the comment – “inspiring talk but short on practical solutions, ” I shall now try to explain how Conscious Travel differs from the multiplicity of complementary & supportive initiatives that already exist, that I applaud, that I don’t wish to duplicate or compete with and that are generating practical suggestions (carbon reduction, fair trade, sustainable building, culinary, tour practices etc.) based on expert knowledge.

(Ironically, after I had written this post but not yet published it, Jo Confino, editor of the Guardian Sustainable Business Section suggested that the sustainability movement was failing not for a lack for things to do but for the lack of a  compelling Story or vision: I recommend you check out the article and readers’  comments. )

The Motivation to ACT
Whether we’re motivated to change from fear of the negative consequences of inaction or by a positive desire to create something better, humans are conditioned to believe that we must “do something” and do it either quicker or faster than a perceived competitor. It’s the flight or fight response and since we can’t jump off the planet, the only action of choice is to “fight” the perceived problem and declare war on it. Panic is one state of being that seems to produce the greatest activity with often the least effect. Many of us are feeling a rising sense of panic.

In such a context, being given action plans, goals, and checklists is always attractive and reassuring. Posts and articles titled 10 top ways to ….get rich, get a date, find a great job, or get promoted etc. attract the most traffic.  They give us a sense of being in control and dull the pain associated with anxiety, confusion and a rising sense of inadequacy during a period of radical change.  That’s why we want our experts to sound confident. It’s scary when they say the present & future is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) and are honest enough to say they don’t know exactly what is going to happen next.

Nevertheless,  dishing out prescriptions was neither my intent nor focus at this time and here’s why:

  1. Humanity has all the resources (money, technology and innovative capacity) to address the environmental and social issues of our time but is failing to deploy. We’ve known what needs to be done for a quarter century.  The more important question is – why aren’t we getting on with doing? The tourism sector as a whole (with many great local exceptions of course) has been more resistant to structural and systemic change than most.
  2. Often what we’ve done in the past has often aggravated if not caused our present problems – especially when we’ve declared war on a problem. Or put another way “if you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  Even if we were to throw all the resources at our disposal to the problem, it’s very possible we’ll just create more complications from unanticipated consequences simply because we haven’t understood the root cause of our predicament. Until we do, history will continue to repeat itself. That’s why we need to “wake up.”
  3. In short there’s no point wasting precious time and resources developing the right answers to the wrong questions. The challenge we face as a species is framing the questions that matter – questions that “busyness,” political correctness, laziness and, sometimes, willful blindness, enable and encourage us to avoid.

bf quoteConscious Travel is not about blaming and shaming in an attempt to accelerate the demise of an operating model that no longer serves life on this planet. It doesn’t need to waste time pointing the finger as the old model is obsolete and in decay.

“This narrative of normal is crumbling on a systemic level too. We live today at a moment of transition between worlds. The institutions that have borne us through the centuries have lost their vitality; only with increasing self-delusion can we pretend they are sustainable. Our systems of money, politics, energy, medicine, education, and more are no longer delivering the benefits they once did (or seemed to). Their Utopian promise, so inspiring a century ago, recedes further every year. Millions of us know this; more and more, we hardly bother to pretend otherwise. Yet we seem helpless to change, helpless even to stop participating in industrial civilization’s rush over the cliff.” Charles Eisenstein (see

Nor is Conscious Travel  about more band aids, techno fixes, euphemistic yet deceitful phrases like “sustainable growth ” that are deployed to maintain business as usual.

active role quoteConscious Travel IS about encouraging and enabling participants in the visitor economy (the biggest economy on the planet to connect people face to face), to wake up and play an active role in the greatest drama of our time – namely the transition from an Old to new Story.

By “Story” we mean the amalgam of deeply embedded assumptions and beliefs that any culture uses to make sense of its world, frame its identity and shape its behavour.  Our Stories – sometimes called our worldview, paradigm, consciousness, and mindset – shape our relationships; how we spend our resources of time and money; and what we pay attention to.

For many years in a stable society, these stories were invisible, rarely analysed, dissected, described or questioned as a whole simply because they worked for most people and therefore, enjoyed majority participation and assent. Considered to be obvious and widely held, they needed no discussion. The Story and its subplots constituted the threads that held society together, the glue that bound individual to family to community; and both the lingua franca and protocols that enabled communication and transaction.

The old Story is now unraveling. We’re living in the space between two Stories. A new Story is emerging from within the cocoon called chaos.  That’s why it’s such an exciting and terrifying time to be alive. That’s why I refuse to discuss weight loss plans for an engorged caterpillar when it’s about to morph into a beautiful life form that’s able to defy gravity.

The Signposts of Yearning
In my ATWS presentation, I also quoted the French philospher-writer, Antoine St. Expury.

St Expury quote

The implication being that somehow yearning had to be aroused. But based on the enthusiastic response to my presentation and observations of what’s happening all around me, I now think the task is less one of arousal (ie evoking the desire to move on) and more to help people better envision where to move to.When our understanding of root cause is accurate and when our vision is clear and compelling we’ll take the right actions and bounce back faster should failures occur.

Signs of yearning are oozing from the cracks and crevices of the crumbling walls that hold up “business as usual”. We yearn for what’s missing in our lives – whether that is a state of being we once knew or a state of being we intuit could and should be known.  But our traditional ways of placating, fixing or avoiding those uncomfortable feelings of loss – such as drugs, drink, depression, exercise, eating, working, protesting and even adrenaline-infused adventures – no longer work.

Charles Eisenstein, a contemporary philosopher, raconteur, and author, articulates the many ways in which contemporary society fails us all, rich and poor.  Future opportunities lie in seeing those yearning as signposts towards a more beautiful world – and a more meaningful, healthy valuable visitor economy  – “that our hearts tell us is possible”.

Conscious Travel IS about doing – don’t get me wrong. We plan to create a form of travel and hospitality that provides sustainable livelihoods as well as deep levels of meaning and fulfillment for host and guest alike without chewing up and spitting out places and cultures. We also know you cannot create a new tourism from the same mindset that created the old. Task # 1 is to wake up and become aware of the filters of perception in order to complete Task # 2 the act of replacing them so that we can get on with Task # 3 building something better.

Being-Seeing-Doing4BEING (getting ready), precedes SEEING (aim) which must precede DOING (fire)

Conscious Travel is about working with hosts and places from the inside out.

It’s about turning off the auto-pilot – which enables us to wander in a trance – so we can make  mindful, aware, informed choices about who we are, what we yearn for, what matters to us, what’s worth preserving and what future is worth creating.

It’s about seeing – envisioning a better way of being hosts and guests. It’s about making visible what has been hidden (the assumptions that underpin our actions), making sure they still work for us and changing them if they don’t.

Then, and only then is Conscious Travel  about doing and  building new capacities – not to win an obsolete game (more of the same) but to create a new and different game altogether and then to excel at that. Our 12-Step Transformation Program is designed to take convert small groups of hosts in communities from passive participants in an obsolete economy into pro-active change agents capable of leading the way to a truly sustainable, flourishing local economy in which welcoming guests plays a key part.

Conscious Travel is designed to create a lifetime commitment to action learning and change leadership at the community level and develop the appetite for all the “how to” programs being developed by subject experts.

weight loss quoteWhat I am proposing isn’t for everybody – in fact it is likely to appeal to a minority – dreamers, thinkers, agitators who are the unreasonable and crazy ones among us.

Conscious Travel is for leaders, architects and builder – but builders of whole communities not those who specialise in bathroom renovations!

And these leaders will come from all parts of tourism. They are unlikely to carry a business card that says leader though. Individuals of modest or low status initiated all previous revolutions and major social shifts in our “his-story”.   That pattern prevails today. What’s different is that each of us is being asked to step into the role of revolutionary by contributing our unique talents, insights and gifts. What’s different is that our technology now supports the connection of individuals, the sharing of new ideas and their cross-fertilisation regardless of geography in seconds not years. We may feel alone – but we are not. Conscious Travel is a collaborative community of individuals holding hands while we step courageously into a better future of our own making.

Final Metaphor For Today
In my presentation to ATTA I agreed with Buckminster Fuller about not fighting existing reality but to focus on creating something new.The same wise man also said, There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.”

caterpillar to butterflyBut in this case, I’m not sure  Mr. Fuller had access to the same information as our generation. Science has, in fact, since discovered that within the caterpillar are cells that behave as if they know they are going to become the butterfly. They are called “imaginal cells” which exist in small number within the caterpillar for much its life and, while the caterpillar is healthy and active, are isolated from each other. Once the caterpillar enters its slumber in the cocoon, these cells start to multiply, and as their numbers grow, join up and merge and start to feed on the body mass of the caterpillar that turns into some form of nutritive soup. When the last of the soup has been absorbed by the new life form emerging from joined-up imaginal cells, it’s time for them to press open the confines of the cocoon and appear as a butterfly. It’s no coincidence that they are called imaginal cells because half the task is imagining the better world and dreaming it into existence.

Throughout this planet right now human imaginal cells are waking up and realizing that their time has come; they are not alone and it’s time to join up and get ready for a new life. Those of us involved in the travel and tourism community play a very important role in helping these human imaginal cells find and meet each other no matter where they might be on the planet. That’s a pretty meaningful role and a damm good reason to get up in the morning, don’t you think? And from where I sit, enough doing to last a lifetime if done consciously and to the best of one’s ability.

Conscious Travel is seeking associations, communities and small groups of hosts willing to explore road testing our transformation program. A one-day workshop is being prepared to initiate the “wake up” process that is specifically designed for hosts. For more information, please email reference WakeUp Call.

Charles Eisenstein is an author of three books: The Ascent of Humanity; Sacred Economics and The Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. He has admirably articulated how our Story emerged to shape the values & behaviour that underpin the western world; its current dissolution and the opportunity to support the emergence of a new Story. The video above has been clipped from a longer video 4:20 minutes created by Ian McKenzie called Occupy Wall Street: The Revolution is Love. 

Bali Soul Journals – for the conscious traveller

front & back flap BSJ

I am very pleased to provide a sneak preview of what I consider to be the best contemporary insight into the essence of Bali – as seen through the stories of 14 Balinese residents – beautifully compiled by writer Clare McAlaney and photographer Trish McNeill. Unknown to me at their time of writing, the authors included a chapter on Conscious Travel which I have re-posted here. Please view their original post here and Facebook page and wonder through their site to stimulate your appetite for the book.

I was honoured to be asked to write the Forward which I am posting below in the hopes it will make you beat a speedy path to the RESERVE NOW Section as it’s a sensory delight and full of wisdom, hope and humour.


Bali Soul Journals is no ordinary travelogue. It’s a tapestry that weaves storyteller, story, image and reader into one rich fabric – a precious insight into the essence of a unique place.

Wrap this fabric around you  (and it will drape around your shoulders like a silken shawl) to experience a contradictory array of emotions as all your senses are mysteriously activated. Awe, admiration, sadness, curiosity, wonder, pride, hope, despair, compassion and determination will likely be just some of the feelings evoked by the stories of an island and its people struggling to maintain its integrity and avoid a cultural unraveling.

Bali Soul Journals joyfully and gently educates – as in “draws out” – the conscious traveler who yearns to be a participant not voyeur, welcomed guest not tolerated consumer, contributor not exploiter. Bali’s sensuous landscape and profoundly rich culture come alive through the journals of fourteen Balinese who daily must balance economic imperatives with a compelling need to keep their cultural fabric intact. 

Balines Kites - image sourced from and © held by Bali Soul Journals

Balinese Kites – image sourced from and © held by Bali Soul Journals

Author, Clare McAlaney, and co-photographer, Trish McNeill,  successfully immerse readers in a virtual experience of Bali from the inside out, enabling them to hear stories that cannot penetrate the plate glass of a tour bus or compete with the din of musak, megaphone or motorcycle engine. There’s a gentleness to the writing, suffused with hope and belonging, that is quintessentially Balinese slowing your breathing, relaxing your shoulders and drawing you into the mystery beyond the temple walls,

Bali Soul Journals is the perfect inspiration for conscious travelers. The guide models a way of seeing, being and behaving in a place that could deliver a sustainable livelihood and enhanced dignity to the host while enriching and transforming the guest.

This publication arrives at a critical tipping point in the history of tourism. By turning what are sacred places in substitutable products (i.e. commodities), mass tourism has undermined its ability to create sustained wealth and well being. Only by celebrating the uniqueness of each place and re-weaving the many and various threads that comprise the complex yet delicate tapestry that is Bali, can both guest and host alike benefit from future encounters.

There’s no denying that Bali stands on a knife edge – mass tourism’s juggernaut is pulling apart so many of the threads that hold its fragile culture together. This book is both a rallying cry for visitors to wake up to the challenges their presence creates and an invitation to help co-create a more harmonious, respectful way of being together.

Post on Bali’s Impact I wrote in March 2010 –

What is a Conscious Traveller?

PostScript from Anna Pollock (Nov 22nd)
Serendipity and Synchronicity are powerful concepts and words. You’ll start to use them the more you let go the need to plan and control; trust the process and live in the present. Both are happening in my life now. I wasn’t aware of this blog post from Bali Soul Journals until two weeks ago when I received an email from the authors thanking me for being a source of inspiration for their latest book creation. They sent me an e-version of the book before it went to the printers and even though I had to squint to read it online, I couldn’t stop. The essence of Conscious Travel is all here. What an affirmation that a new Story can emerge just at that moment when despair darkens the sky. The book is being launched at the end of November. It’s a feast for the eyes and nourishment for your soul as it offers hope. Get your order in quickly, in time for Christmas.Bali Soul Journals

Bali Soul Journals

When Bali Soul Journals was born, it was as sibling to another book, Things you need to know about Bali. As author, I had felt there was ‘something missing’, the ‘je ne sais pas’. It wasn’t until I chatted with Jack Canfield, author of the famous Chicken Soup for the Soul series, that the penny drop. While it is fine to give practical advice, capturing people’s stories about a location was not only more interesting, it was necessary.

I returned home and began researching a term that Jack had used, ‘conscious travel’.

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Leading the Way: The Adventure of Travel

The theme of ATTA’S Adventure Travel World Summit  2013 conference (#ATWS2013) was imagine, inspire and invest:

atws 4

and both the organisers (ATTA) and the host country (Namibia) delivered in spades!  The conference was excellent and the week spent before with the WINTA family utterly unforgettable and transformative. Still trying to find the words to describe so many impressions and insights. So much joy, and sharing!


Shannon Stowell, CEO of ATTA accepts Talking Stick from Chief Ian Campbell

In the meantime, here’s my presentation – I’ve added various links to the paper in case people want to go into more depth (click on title to download)

Paper: Leading the Way: The Adventure of Travel

Slide Deck Only

and just in case you weren’t sure of its relevance, remember the words of Carl Sagan, and if you are too young to know who he was, look him up on Google!

Until the answer is yes…

The Power of GirlsThe tourism community needs more women leaders willing to ask the hard questions, be prepared to look reality fearlessly and roll their sleeves up.

Please submit stories of women making a difference and showing true leadership on their web site and support the authors (Caitlin Rowe and Amy Cunningham).  Also please visit and support Equality in Tourism – an important initiative dedicated to ensuring women have an equal voice in and share of the benefits from tourism globally.


We must never stop asking:

Are we Equal?

Just over two years ago, director Sam Taylor-Wood created a short film starring Daniel Craig as 007 and Judi Dench as M. However, this was not a stereotypical Bond tribute. The film, released to coincide with International Women’s Day, asks the infamous womanizer and secret agent whether or not he considered women to be equal to men. The video is quite effective at making the viewer question whether or not this is true and I urge you all to have a look. It is certainly an interesting and attention-grabbing way to use a popular male image and archetype to promote gender equality.

Source: The Guardian, 7 March 2011

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