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What is Responsible Travel?

by Nikki Rose
Copyright ©Nikki Rose. All rights reserved
What is responsible travel?  It's up to you to decide but time is running out.

It is a good idea to find out what type of travel is not green and make some
comparisons. The notion that sustainable/responsible travel is more expensive is
false. More expensive compared to what? Not traveling at all, yes.

But travelers do need to pay their local hosts fairly if they want to experience special,
private tours and participate in cultural activities, festivals, concerts, and outdoor
adventures away from "other tourists." That would cost money in our own hometowns
too. So a plane ticket out of town is just the beginning of our adventures abroad...not
the only thing to save for if we want to discover a world beyond our hotel room.
Investing in experiences of a lifetime that also support cultural or natural heritage
preservation is a mutually beneficial arrangement.

There are a few great ecolodges and rural lodges in Crete (and many places in the
world) that are much less expensive than a generic hotel. And the organic food
served is infinitely better. So it depends on your priorities. Some forms of tourism
seriously damage cultural and natural heritage. If you are staying in an all-inclusive
500-room hotel on the beach, that might be fine but at what cost to the cultural
heritage or environment? Think about that. You might have to live near there one
day. And pollution of our world's land, air and waterways effects all of us, for a start.
If we make a concerted effort to minimize that at home and abroad, we are doing
ourselves a favor.

So it boils down to priorities of consciously and actively participating in protecting
Earth and it's other inhabitants from less damage we humans are causing for our
own selfish entertainment. The phrase "save Earth" is misleading. Earth needs to be
saved from us. We can begin today by making it the priority.

In the case of traveling to Crete, Greece, here's some additional information:

Many people are capitalizing on Crete’s heritage without protecting it. Many people
know the facts.
Yet there is more unsustainable development-tourism in
Crete instead of less.
Our historic sites and natural areas are very vulnerable due
to lack of protection and maintenance. Both residents and visitors will lose what they
cherish if they do not make sustainable development and sustainable tourism their
highest priority. But who in a decision-making position is solving these serious
problems?  Why are citizens allowing public agencies and enterprises to continue on
this course?

Many residents have capitalized on destructive development-tourism individually or in
partnership with public agencies and multinational corporations. A few of them are
realizing they paid a high price to be involved in the destruction of their own cultural
and natural heritage. Other citizens just trying to maintain their way of life are virtually
powerless because they are not part of the multimillion dollar machine of mass
tourism.

Both residents and travelers can help by acknowledging the facts:

Avoid businesses
that do not support their communities or protect the environment
- do the research and beware of greenwashing. Which forms of entertainment do not
protect Crete’s heritage? What kind of impact do swimming pools, golf courses, jet
skis, all-inclusive hotels and junk food joints have? Generic forms of tourism are best
enjoyed in regions of the world where communities happily offer such experiences.
Would you change your preferred way of living to host foreign visitors? If not, then
pack that fact into your suitcase.

Do not expect perfect strangers in foreign lands to teach you about their heritage or
entertain you at their expense (free for you but not for them - their time or products).
Remember that many people you meet around the world are not as privileged as you
are -- they don't have the time or money to leave home. So why should they treat you
to a single peanut? Leave the false sense of entitlement at home. Experiencing true
hospitality is a precious gift, not an entitlement to all travelers or the responsibility of
all people -- including you, right?

Keep informed of efforts to prevent further unsustainable development and actively
participate in petitions and local, grassroots conservation efforts.

Actively support sustainable community-based tourism projects, small-scale
organic farmers, fishers, artisan food producers, and chefs. It takes a lot of effort for
them to deliver good and safe food to your plate.

Actively support musicians, archaeologists, historians, ecologists and others
working hard to celebrate and sustain Crete’s extraordinary heritage.

None of the above is a sacrifice.
We’re doing ourselves a favor. We may end up
living here if we don’t already.


Copyright 2010 ©Nikki Rose. All rights reserved.