Responsible Travel – You Have The Choice
To Our Friends,
Alesha and I created NOMADasaurus a little less than a year ago with the vision of promoting sustainable tourism and long-term travel. The ‘sustainable tourism’ part of our mission is based on our belief that through the ways we travel, the regions we visit and the choices we make on how we spend our money and where can have a positive impact on communities and families that are not as fortunate as ourselves. Another name for it is ‘responsible travel’.
Travelling opens up the doors to a world that can be both incredibly rewarding and desperately unfortunate. While many of us back in the ‘real world’ are more concerned about which new shoes we are going to buy and whether it is time to upgrade our TV or not, there are tragic circumstances occurring every day that we are trained to ignore.
According to UN Water, 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. 6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.
Please take a moment to think about how substantial those numbers are.
It is easy to ignore these stats and figures and instead focus on our own lives and the issues we have going on between ourselves, friends and family. It is the normal thing to do.
We are not here to say that the problems we face back in the ‘first world’ are not important. Of course, you must help yourself before you help others. But Alesha and I are travellers in a unique position to witness some of these ‘foreign problems’ first hand and we feel obligated to help out when and where we can. When it comes to responsible travel, we are huge advocates. Sustainable tourism is at the forefront of our thoughts and continues to fuel the fire inside us.
It is hard to say which charities need more assistance over others and who is more deserving of our help. Recently the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral and raised many funds for a great cause, despite the questionable values of the company that received the donations. Everyone has their own idea of where they would like to see their money spent and everyone deserves that choice. In this one particular situation, 5’600 people are diagnosed with ALS every year. This is quite upsetting, I agree, and it is incredible that so much help has been given to those who are affected by this debilitating disease. Over $100 million and counting so far! But who suffers more?
The cause that Alesha and I feel the most passionate about is access to clean drinking water. The numbers mentioned above scare the shit out of us. I come from a place where I can bathe myself for hours in clean water, and now I am backpacking in a country where nearly half of the population does not have access to the same luxury just to survive. It is something we take for granted and is easy to ignore when we cannot see it with our own two eyes.
This is not a problem that is impossible to rectify.
Compared with the billions (and trillions) of dollars governments around the world are spending on war, imprisonment, immigration and unfortunately greedily pocketing themselves, not much is really needed to make a huge difference. It is estimated that as little as $10 billion would be required to provide clean drinking water to the entire population. Or just 1.2% of the world’s military expenditure. Or just 15% of what the citizens of US spends on alcohol and tobacco every year. Or less than what the Australian government has committed to spend on some shiny new fighter jets.
Are our priorities really in the right place?
In Cambodia, where we are travelling right now, 20% of deaths of children under the age of 5 are caused by drinking dirty water. To us, this is unacceptable.
In a small effort to help combat this terrible situation, we have donated the funds required to build a water well in a rural village here in Cambodia. This post is not about big noting our pittance of a donation. It is not a means to justify our ideas of responsible travel and sustainable tourism. We do not consider ourselves heroes, or kings and queens of charity, pretending to save the world while I sit here writing on my Apple laptop. We do not have all the answers and indeed we are far from perfect ourselves. Simply put this is something we felt obligated to do. The more we travel, the more we learn. This post is about promoting awareness.
If you are in a position to travel please be thing about how and where you spend your money. Choose responsible travel. Eating at corporate fast food chains and only staying in international hotels does little to see your hard earned money make a positive impact on local communities. Avoiding developing or poor countries because of fear and being uninformed affects many people, yourself included.
How can you help? By buying food from the street vendors. Staying in locally-run guesthouses. Purchasing your supplies from small convenience stores in your destination instead of the market chains at home. Don’t give money to children who ask but instead support an enterprise that works personally with these underprivileged kids.
Some restaurants, cafes, tour companies and other businesses work closely with communities and charities. Sometimes the prices they have for services and products are a little higher than you can get elsewhere. Step back and think about how that extra few dollars out of your own pocket can potentially help a worthwhile cause. These types of expenditures are worth paying more for.
If you have the time to volunteer with an organisation, be very careful about which one you choose. Do your research and ensure the skills you provide and the money you spend will be utilised properly. Don’t do it for yourself, for a Facebook picture, to tell your friends back home how you ‘saved the planet’. Do it for the planet and for its people. Responsible travel is the key.
Realise that donating a lump sum of money is not the only way to make a difference, although this is indeed worthwhile. All you need to do is make conscious decisions. If you are already travelling, or are planning on travelling, you can make a positive difference if you choose sustainable tourism. Even if just once on your journey you sacrifice a little bit of luxury to provide business or assistance to someone who needs it, you are helping the cause. If would like some more advice on the best ways to do this, please contact us.
Life is about choices, but this only applies to those privileged enough to be born with these choices available to them. Not everyone has the luxury to be reading a travel blog on the internet. To be dreaming about seeing the world. To be considering spending money on a holiday instead of scratching to see where the next meal is coming from. We are extremely lucky. Don’t forget it, or take it for granted.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you very much for reading. If you agree, please share this around. If you have suggestions, comments or criticism please let us know. Open the discussion for better ideas on responsible travel. Promote awareness. Promote sustainable tourism.
If you are able to travel, travel responsibly. Make that choice and stick by it. Your actions can have a big impact.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Ghandi
Lesh and Jazza