Tourism is one of the most powerful forces globalizing our plant. Travel to distant places has expanded and thankfully broadened our horizons. Tahiti is no longer just a photo in an aging copy of the National Geographic. Now the adventurous traveler can fly and stay almost anywhere in total comfort.
Yet all is not as marvelous as it seems. Consider the Gringo Trails…
Crisscrossing South America, Africa and Asia, the Gringo Trails offers hardy traveler rural indigenous adventures. But at the same time, thoughtless travelers have an equal opportunity to alter the once pristine environment and disrespect the local culture.
A new film, Gringo Trails, presents the strong belief by leading members of the Travel Industry, from Lonely Planet to the National Geographic Society, that travel to another cultural or environment MUST be respectful of that culture and environment. Otherwise, just Stay Home!
This not to say that cultural tourism should be stopped. Rather it is a plead from regional tourist boards, rural villages, travel writers and even members of the Bhutan Royal Family to learn to travel respectfully, without injury to place or people.
This insightful film asks all who see it to consider the once beautiful beaches now covered with cans and broken bottles, the peaceful village where blaring music now shatters the calm.
In short, who has the right to define a community: those who live there or those who only visit there and then depart?
There are a growing number of organizations now beginning to address this very question. One such organization is the World Food Travel Association. Founded and directed by the world veteran traveler Erik Wolf, this organization offers both training and certification focused on a wiser and more consider form of travel than the older what’s-in-it-for-me-alone form of tourism.
Food, as Erik Wolf points out, is a common human experience. So is travel and the longing to see other places and meet new people. Let’s be sure we do both with respect and honor.