Travel Time – The Mindful Traveller

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It’s getting harder to find a unique travelling experience these days. Travelling to remote locations was once difficult, expensive and sometimes dangerous.

As people are becoming more aware of the impact that they are having on the world, they are looking for experiences that satisfy their travel urges, but don’t leave a massive footprint behind. Now that the world travel stage is open to a new audience, Kerry Moss of Quadrant Australia tells us a few things to watch out for, to ensure we are all still travelling with a conscious.

A good travel agent will help you arrange services where you can use local transport, dine in local restaurants and use the services of local tour guides. This doesn’t mean that you need to wait until you get there to organise everything. There are many companies who specialise in this type of service, some of whom even contribute to local charities. From the travellers’ point of view, not only are your funds supporting the destination you are visiting, but you are also getting a more authentic experience.

Many countries around the world do not have the sustainability standards that we have in Australia or in the Western World. You might be able to buy a bracelet made from ivory or herbal medicine made from rhino horn, but supporting these practices does no one any favours. It creates demand for a product that is both illegally and immorally obtained.

If you are interested in volunteering in a local community, make sure that your services are actually helping. There is no joy for children in an orphanage in Cambodia having tourists trudge through their home every day, unless your visit helps improve their situation. Contact the community first and see what they need. Taking lollies for children to a community who has no dental care is a recipe for a disaster.

When you travel you are often given the chance to interact with local animals. There are many good examples where this is done really well. The animal’s welfare is balanced well with the need for tourists to have a unique experience. Be sure that if you are attending an elephant camp in the Hills of Burma or if you are cuddling a baby orangutan in the jungles of Borneo, that the experience is worth the sacrifice. Be sure to research where the money goes and how the company is reinvesting the money into the local economy.

In some destinations, it is common practice to haggle on prices for local services. Certainly the first price you receive may not be the best value for the service. But don’t be a hypocrite. There is no joy in celebrating that you bargained a driver down to his cheapest price whilst you eat your highly inflated priced room service by the pool of your fancy hotel. Find the balance between good value and disrespecting the locals. You might earn 100 times what they earn, be sure not to cross the line for the sake of a few dollars.

If you can afford the time, try to spend less time moving around and more time in one location. This saves unnecessary costs for you, but it also means you get time to know the real community; you might get the chance to meet the farmer who grows the vegetables that you can buy at the farmers’ markets.

If in doubt, think about what type of world we want to pass onto our children and travel the world accordingly, only go where you are invited, and respect the local customs.

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