Tag Archives: The Pachamama Alliance

On Honouring Time as a Sacred Gift

At WINTA’s Indigenous Tourism Forum held as the concluding day of the Adventure Travel World Summit 2012,  my role was to explain why Indigenous Tourism is an approach whose time has most definitely come (slide deck here). When guests are received and hosted by indigenous peoples they have an opportunity to look at life through perceptual “lenses” that are not only different to the prevailing western worldview but are more likely to ensure our survival and prosperity as a species.

It’s my belief that only when a critical mass of people become aware of the lenses through which they perceive the world (ie their unexamined assumptions, values and beliefs ) and  wake up and become conscious will a real shift in collective human behaviour occur and we’ll start to live in harmony with Mother Earth. Travel and tourism can play its part in achieving this Shift. It was exciting to hear the Secretary General of the UNWTO position the 1 billion travellers as providing a huge opportunity to accelerate the shift in consciousness provided that the tourism community woke up themselves and assumed a role as guides along this adventurous journey!

The good news is that “waking up” is exactly what is happening on virtually every continent of this beautiful Planet Earth as you can see from this post by the Pachamama Alliance – an organization that has had a direct and, I think, very positive influence not just on my personal worldview but on my commitment to supporting “the Big Shift.”

In order to achieve their core mission of empowering the indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest to preserve their lands and culture its leaders have understood that their success depends on the extent to which they can convince the western world  of the relevance and power of a worldview that has sustained these first inhabitants for thousands of years.

Ben Sherman Addressing WINTA Indigenous Tourism Forum

The article titled New Moon Action: Honor Time As a Sacred Gift expresses and affirms the values that Ben Sherman (from Lakota Territory in the USA) spoke so eloquently about at the WINTA Forum – values of love, respect, reciprocity, and gratitude.

The Pachamama Alliance author points out that one of the most precious gifts of all is time – it is not a commodity that should be spent or even saved but a gift that should be consciously received (by stopping rushing and being still); shared (by focusing attention) and celebrated through acts of being rather than doing..

I’ll keep this article short because I know most of my readers consider themselves time pressed so rather than read my words please read the Pachamama post. When you start to think about time as a gift it puts the concepts of “voluntourism” and “slow travel” in a much deeper context with powerful implications for how tourism is practiced. As the indigenous worldview sees both time and space as a sacred gift, it’s less about spending time than investing time. People help each other using what has been described as “currencies of caring” i.e., “the mutual respect, relationships built on trust and the joy of sharing your gifts and talents” that Ben Sherman described as central to the indigenous world view.

“We’ve all been given a gift, the gift of life.

What we do with our lives, is our gift back”

And if you find these ideas inspiring, then I am sure you will be similarly encouraged by the concepts that a very bright young man, Charles Eisenstein, has presented in his latest book, Sacred Economics  as summarized in the short video positioned at the end of the article. Right at the beginning, Eisenstein distills in a few profound words how the old stories, which we have been telling about ourselves in our world for the past 300 + years,  have shaped our actions and our institutions:

Every culture has a story of self and answers the question “who are you” “what does it mean to be human?” Our current story says that you are a separate being among other separate beings living in a universe that is separate from us as well. You are not me; that plant is not me; we are each something separate. This story of self creates our world.

If you are a separate self and there are other separate selves out here and the universe is fundamentally indifferent to you or even hostile then you definitely  want to control and have power of these beings and those whimsical forces of nature that could extinguish you at any time. This story is becoming obsolete. It is no longer true and we don’t resonate with it any more. It is generating crises that are insoluble from these methods of control. That’s what is clearing space for us to step into a new story of self. Transcribed from video

The values articulated in the Pachamama article form a key part of the Conscious Travel model as simplified in this expression of the 7 new Ps of tourism.

Conscious Travel Operating Model

Each guest experiences the gift of a unique place (space) at a unique time as seen through their own unique set of lenses. Conscious Hosts are encouraged and enabled to slow their guests down so that they can use all their senses to experience their surroundings (Pace). Even time can stretch when we are so immersed and captivated that we lose track of it and enter “the zone”, or “flow” and another state of consciousness. In other words, instead of needing to discount products as commodities, we have the opportunity to realize and release true value associated with enabling our guests to expand their consciousness through their travel experience. To quote the Mastercard advertisement – the travel experience that transforms- priceless. This is the essence of Conscious Travel.

Some More Relevant Reading From This Blog

The Role of Indigenous Tourism in Creating Conscious Hosts

Where Do You Stand?

Changing the Dream – Why Mindsets Really, Really Matter

The Legend, Prophesy of the Eagle and the Condor

Tourism – Whats the Point Part 3 & links to Parts 1 & 2

Conscious Tourism, Conscious Travel or Turismo Consciente?

After years of travelling, I shall be stepping on the South American continent for the first time on or around September 9th, 2012 when I am privileged to have the opportunity to speak at the  UNWTO’s Ethics and Tourism Congress. The provisional program can be downloaded here. The Congress precedes OAS’ XXth Inter American Congress of Ministers and High Authorities.

I am triply excited because not only will it be my first experience of South America but the host country is Ecuador – a country I have long admired for being the first country on the planet to recognise the Rights of Nature in its 2008 Constitution

Rights of Nature recognize the Earth and all its ecosystems as a living being with inalienable rights: to exist, to live free of cruel treatment, to maintain vital processes necessary for the harmonious balance that supports all life. (excellent history of this movement here)

This bold step by the Government of Ecuador was encouraged and supported by the Fundación Pachamama, the Ecuadorian arm of The Pachamama Alliance whose achievements I applaud and with whom I work – Conscious Travel communities will help introduce the innovative one-day,  awareness-raising Symposium developed by The Pachamama Alliance and we share their mission which is to bring about an environmentally, sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling presence (tourism) on this earth.

Thirdly – and I could hardly believe my eyes when I read the email of invitation, the theme of this important event is “Conscious Tourism For a New Era” – a concept proposed to the OAS and developed in June 2011 by Ecuador’s  Minister of Tourism, Freddie Ehlers,  and his colleagues. I’d like to think I might have had some input into this exciting vision but,  as there was no conscious conversation beforehand, it’s likely one of those serendipitous eruptions of a concept whose time has come.

Either way, I can’t wait to meet the participants at the august meeting and share in some very important and exciting discussions.

Here’s how the Ecuadorians defined Conscious Tourism after one of their brain storming sessions:


Conscious tourism is a life-changing experience that brings about personal growth and makes one a better human being. 

This new concept is based on principles of sustainability and ethics and promotes the values of peace, friendship, respect and love for life as the essence and practice of tourism. 

Conscious tourism is a covenant in which travel agents in communities of origin and destination and tourists pledge to co-exist with, have a sense of responsibility and mutual respect for, and commune with the natural and cultural heritage. 

Conscious tourism is a living, dynamic, and constantly evolving concept. It is an experience in giving and receiving.

Source: Concept paper presented to the Organisation of American States  by the delegation from Ecuador, download here

I am speaking on a panel with Gloria Guevara, Secretary of Tourism of Mexico.

I only have 20 minutes so I shall have to be focussed on what I think are some key points that are likely to encompass the the following:

1. It’s not conscious tourism but Conscious Travel. And this isn’t splitting hairs. Language is important. We’re not looking at incremental improvements to the stays quo but a fundamental, radical evolutionary shift  in how we live and travel on this planet. The word tourism keeps us mentally tied to the root of mass tourism – the tour, the package, the object, the thing, as opposed to the experience enjoyed by and supported by people. Conscious Travel is, as the Ecuadorians recognise, all about people – human beings not human doings. Language reflects our mindset and to change that mindset we need to converse in another language – a simpler, more gentle, less technical,  ostentatious language that speaks to the heart and soul as well as the cerebral calculations of a left brain.

That’s why I am not surprised that the term Conscious Tourism has emerged first from South America where a more youthful tourism economy is developing at the same time that the continent’s enormously rich population of indigenous peoples are taking a stand for Pachamama in so many ways. Between now and the OAS meeting, and especially during Indigenous Peoples Week (#ipw2012) I’ll be blogging frequently about the critically important role that Indigenous peoples have in developing Conscious Hosts and accelerating the BIG Tourism Shift.

Achuar Host

Achuar Host

2. Conscious Travel constitutes a completely different way of seeing – it involves casting off of outdated, inaccurate, distorted lenses that don’t enable us to make our way in this world.  Until a critical mass of us (and that doesn’t have to be a majority) have made that shift ; understood the implications;  and can create opportunities from this new way of seeing then we’ll always be tinkering at the edges and identified as fringe.There’ll be endless conferences, declarations, great initiatives and projects but no real ground-breaking change.

3. Conscious Travel is about a new set of  “Ps.”  Travel is, of course the movement of PEOPLE (who come with bodies, minds, spirits and souls)  between PLACES  – from one space to another. The old mindset focussed on products but they can be standardised, homogenised, automated and substituted – quickly becoming commodities that lose their value. Places on the other hand, cannot be reproduced – unless you have 13.5 billion years to wait – as each place is both geographically and historically unique.  By celebrating the uniqueness and, therefore scarcity, of places, we might recoup a higher and more appropriate yield and return greater net benefits to the host community.

The next key “P” stands for PURPOSE – a community of conscious guests and hosts are shifting from an obsession with “a cheap deal” or “quick return” to a sense of meaning, a desire to personally expand, to leave the world a better place. We know that more and more travellers want to return home transformed in some way and that conscious businesses (of which there are a growing number) are discovering that when they focus on generating value to all stakeholders (of which the environment is one), they thrive.

When a guest, who is seeking to connect with the people of a very different place to the one they call home,  meets a host whose PASSION  for the unique attributes of his place is infections and who has the capacity to re-create a sense of wonder and awe, then magic happens.  A trip is turned into a transformative experience taken home as a memory that can last a lifetime.  And the “passion” comes out when we “PLAY ” – when it’s safe for the host to experiment and be herself (authentic)  while “ad libbing” and when the guest feels fully alive, yet comfortable and at ease while ready to be stretched.

4. The shift from one decaying, mechanical  model of tourism (the industrial model) is replaced by its holistic, organic, juicy ecological version will occur not thanks to any more conferences and, God forbid sterile declarations of populated by pompous phrases but when, individual by individual, and community by community, hosts wake up to the opportunities and responsibilities; when hosts step up and commit to becoming change agents in their communities; and when they meet up with each other and the broader community and engage in spirited dialogue that leads to action that is right for the place and time they find themselves in.

So I am excited because this meeting in Quito might create the space in which we can drop our masks and defences and figure out out to birth a new operating system and make that shift from product to place.

This is a meeting of leaders (ministers and top authorities) who have traditionally been tasked with leading the people out of one troubled place to a promised land. With no disrespect intended towards the participants, I don’t think they can do that by declaration, policy statement,  international agreement, or even by pulling in the big consulting guns. But what they can do is create the conditions that support communities of tourism providers embark on a journey of discovery and action together.

It’s as if we’ll be journeying up a river through a dense forest pregnant with possibilities and the strangeness and richness of the surrounding environment will be eased if we are guided through this landscape by a scout who knows the territory. That’s why developing real conversations with our indigenous brothers and sisters is crucial. Their understanding that all  land is sacred  is the key  to shedding the materialistic lenses that have spawned so much greed, destruction, unnecessary competitiveness and sense of scarcity that plague modern society and that is so evident in mass tourism.

Source: Survival International

Machu Picchu (Wikipedia)

Ironically, in making this journey, we’ll be coming home. All tourism has its deepest roots in the soil of pilgrimage. Many of our most popular tourist “hot spots” are ancient sacred sites – Stonehenge, Machu Pichu, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, Angkor Wat, Borabador, Varanasi..Sadly, many tourists, don’t know what to do when they get there because, thanks to the dominance of a materialistic, reductionist worldview,  we have lost that spiritual connection that depends on a genuine sense of wonder and awe.

Over the next month, we’ll look at the key values common to an indigenous worldview that could nourish and shape new roles played by conscious hosts.

Readers – of all persuasions – do please feel welcomed and encouraged to add to this discussion.

Next: Changing the Dream: Why Mindsets, Really, Really Matter

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