Conscious Travel As A Way of Life
It’s a choice to become aware of our opportunity to be a conscious traveler. The question is, are we traveling for the iconic photo or are we trying to enrich ourselves by learning about local cultures and environments?
International travel has become increasingly prevalent in our lives.There were 25 million international tourist arrivals in 1950. And in 2020, that number stood at 1.6 billion. Travel and tourism generate over $2.9 trillion globally.
More people are traveling now than at any other point in history, especially after the travel hiatus many of us experienced over the last few years.
And at the same time, we are becoming increasingly aware that mass tourism strains our environment, doesn’t always fuel local economies and extracts resources from local communities.
Our Current Reality
When millions of people arrive at the same time to popular destinations, it puts pressure on the locals, their resources and the environment. And when cruise ships arrive at local destinations, most of the money flows back to the cruise line rather than the local economies. Travelers are often guided where to shop and are warned not to trust the locals who may be scamming them. There is usually a kickback to the ship with specific retailers.
Today, for many, especially young travelers, travel is about getting a great photo or selfie at hotspots. It has become a status symbol. And it is not very conscious especially when animals are mistreated and being used for tourist photos.
And maybe instead of traveling for selfies, young people can listen to the late Anthony Bourdain’s guidance. “If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel. As far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them — wherever you go.”
What if when we travel, the local communities are involved and the travelers among us consider the impact we have on them?
So, What is Conscious Travel?
Conscious travel was first introduced by Anne Pollock, a researcher who advocates for sustainable travel. How we choose to travel has consequences on the environment, local communities and local economies. And as a conscious traveler, we respect the interdependence and connectedness of all life and in harmony with the laws of nature.
Conscious travel is focused on three key areas:
- Shifting our mindsets when it comes to tourism, community by community, host by host;
- Exploring and expressing what it means to be fully human, fully alive and living in harmony with nature; and
- Coming together in communities to integrate conscious tourism with other key sectors.
In her words, “I believe travel and hospitality will sustain a far greater level of prosperity for itself and the communities it serves. The primary purpose shifts from maximizing profits to delivering long-term tangible benefits for all stakeholders. People and places flourish where and when there is a passionate commitment to a shared, higher purpose. Flourishing places and people operate at their peak expressing joy, vitality, adaptability, resilience and creativity.”
Conscious Travel Opportunities
Hotel chains and big resorts are usually not locally owned. The money spent at these accommodations doesn’t always get to the local economy. Even Airbnb, which was supposed to be part of the sharing economy, has hosts who are companies making a profit. As conscious travelers, we can make sure we are staying at locally owned places.
Animal cruelty is predominant with tourists who want a selfie with an elephant or a lion to impress friends back home. For many, it is even a bucket list item. Becoming aware that elephants in Thailand, for example, are held captive and trained with cruel practices, we may choose to no longer take selfies. There is a whole healthy world now called ethical animal tourism to explore as an alternative.
Conscious travel helps us remember how truly connected we all are. Beyond being a conscious traveler, how do we become conscious creators on this planet?