Explore the world, share your travel knowledge, and teach others how to be respectful tourists.
Recently, I applied for the adventure of a lifetime with the 2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism Development (IYSTD 2017) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The Traveller’s Competition sends one person on a month-long trip to 5 different destinations across the globe to practice and share how to be a sustainable, respectful tourist. The mission of this campaign closely aligns with my beliefs and future aspirations, not to mention nearly parallels a personal project that will launch beginning in March 2018. Check out their campaign video below! It leaves you feeling purposeful, impactful and an important part of the global community.
All the details aside, I want to share what I submitted for the contest. Our prompt was: “Share your experience on how you #TravelEnjoyRespect and explain why you should be selected to represent the global ‘responsible traveller.'”
“High in the Andes in the outskirts of Puno, hand-built adobe homes line the only road that runs through the village of Atuncolla. On our last day, we finished refurbishing the modest-by-US-standards school library and packed our bags, bidding farewell to thin mattresses, insects in our rooms, bathrooms that require manual flushing, hour-long walks to reach water and steep temperature changes in a day; despite that, my heart panged as I hugged a community goodbye that welcomed us into their homes, feeding us, teaching us their ways of life and sharing their stories before journeying to our next stop: Machu Picchu.
My trip to Peru taught me the importance of fully immersing yourself in a culture and stepping into another’s shoes. Respectful tourism is enjoying sightseeing balanced by taking the time to learn about your surroundings. “If you want to be educated and wise, you must open your heart, expand your mind, be accepting and ready to change.” This idea embodies my vision of a responsible traveler. From my many experiences abroad inputting this mentally, I’ve learned to share my stories, teach what I’ve experienced and feed the minds of the wanderlust that aim to do the same.”
The response strays far from perfection, but in writing it, memories of my first trip to South America flooded my mind. The lingering, limited brisk air I breathed while playing color tag in Spanish with some of the children in the village; the silence and serenity of Atuncolla that came with its remoteness; the warmth from the fire on my cheeks while our light-hearted hosts told folktales and stories I couldn’t yet understand.
All this to say, I realized if we don’t say yes to an adventure, be fully present in the moment and interact with those around us, we might miss out on what could become some of our greatest memories—the ones that leave deep-rooted impressions and evoke the rarest of emotions. Those are mine of Peru.
Travel often, enjoy the adventure, respect the culture.