|Six Ways to Drop Tourism and REALLY Travel, Part 1: Ditch the Resort Packages and Lodge Locally|
|Sunday, 12 January 2014 00:00 | Written by Tonya Kay | Blog Entry|
I've understood from a very young age that I'm meant to leave footprints all over this planet before I die. I love to travel because it keeps me moving, enriches my life and nurtures empathy for the vast number of perspectives and realities that exist in this world, reminding me that mine is not the only one to be preached, missioned or warred into dominance. These are insights, incidentally, that I treasure.
Yes, I want to leave footprints all over this blessed Earth, but let them be light footprints. As an avid traveler to many a third-world country, I've seen the social, environmental and cultural atrocities that tourism can bring to lands that had already-established and viable governments, religions and family structures before we arrived. I know, too, that tourists personally miss out on all the best experiences by insisting that their way of life travels with them. I mean, why would I vacation in Thailand's rich culture if I was going to isolate myself from it in a resort, eating steaks and drinking imported wine for the duration? It's a heck of a lot cheaper to fly to Vegas for that experience. And a heck of a lot less destructive.
I am an Earth-loving, diversity-supporting, wildlife-protecting woman in my metropolitan Hollywood neighborhood and that is not going to change just because I am in another part of the world. In fact, I am currently in Kaua'i and even here I recognize that the people like you and me who give a damn are still a minority among locals and vacationers alike. So I have to be just as much or more of a renegade when I am traveling—even in Kaua'i—to uphold my eco-conscious integrity.
Those of us who really, really care—who are willing to go all the way to see the world we wish to live in thrive—are a minority. A massively influential minority, to be sure, but a minority nonetheless. No matter where I am, I will respect my world and the community I am a part of. And when I’ve done that, not only do I get to return home feeling like my integrity is intact and my Earth has been honored, but also knowing the culture I have experienced blossomed for me and shared its rich secrets, defining me no longer as a frowned-upon tourist, but elevating me to the noble role of traveler.
Over the next few blog entries, I will share with you six wonderful ways to drop tourism and really travel. Here is the first:
Tip One: Ditch the Resort Packages and Lodge Locally.
Hostels are locally owned and operated—and a prime place for meeting other captivating international travelers for a fraction of the cost of staying at a hotel. In Ireland, I lodged in a hostel with my own large private bedroom for $8/person/night (compared to the average $100/night at a hotel at the time). Hostels often have a community kitchen where you can choose to prepare your own healthy foods for less, too.
Another way to lodge locally is to stay or work at a World Wide Opportunity on Organic Farms (WWOOF) farm. These are networked internationally through the website and if you are willing to put in a few hours a day on the farm, you can often stay and eat for free as long as you like. In Japan, I stayed at the Kawaguchiko WWOOF farm called Earth Embassy and Solar Cafe and was delighted to discover an authentic onsen (natural hot spring) within walking distance, Mt. Fuji a short bus ride away for the hike of my life, ice caves and the famous "Suicide Woods" directly across the road, and a real small community cultural festival in the quaint neighboring town with fireworks, teenagers dressed in traditional kimonos and not another white person around. These are the kinds of experiences that resorts just don't provide.
If you are into tenting, public campsites are another great way to immerse yourself in a series of genuine, local adventures. Or if your family does not want to rough it quite as much as the aforementioned possibilities, you can stay at a bed and breakfast, eco-retreat or really any establishment, so long as you make sure it is owned by a local.
Next week I’ll share two more ways to help you drop tourism and really travel.
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