It is no secret that the longevity and health of our planet are at risk. As the human race, we need to pull together and deliberately make an effort to do our part in preserving and protecting the Earth and its species. We recently interviewed Serena Martineau; she described her passion for travel and shared ideas on how to ethically explore the world while simultaneously protecting the environment of the places we visit.
Immersing In Culture
Traditional family travel was what initially inspired Serena to learn more about the diverse planet we live on.
“Visiting beautiful resorts was wonderful, but I found myself longing to see what was beyond the resort. I was hungry to go and interact with the locals. I wanted to eat native foods and experience life as a local. I was perpetually curious about life outside of my bubble.”
For many, traveling can be an incredible and life-changing experience. A humanitarian trip to pipe fresh spring water down to small villages in the rural South Pacific Islands was the initial “life-changer” for Serena.
“I believe you can spend hours in a classroom learning about the world, you can watch documentaries and hear what others have to tell you. However, it’s not until you personally immerse yourself into another’s culture that you actually get a true sense of what life is like for that community. For me, living in a small village on Kandavu for many weeks was what initially changed my perspective on travel. It was the first time I authentically experienced a culture outside of my own, and it was profoundly beautiful.”
Good Intentions Gone Wrong
Opportunities to help communities in need are more available than one might think. Serena believes in the goodness of humanity, and she encourages people to offer support and aid where others may need it. That said, she has witnessed the flip side of humanitarian aid – where helpful intentions did more harm than good to a community.
“For example, if you went into a community and provided shoes for an entire village, the people would be grateful to have reliable shoes, and you would feel good about providing them. That said, what about the village shoemaker(s)? How is he or she going to make their living to provide for their family and lifestyle? Unfortunately, this is just one example of good intentions gone wrong. It is wildly important to do your due diligence when offering aid in regions of the world that are unfamiliar. It is heartbreaking to see a once peaceful community wrought with animosity because someone from the outside world disrupted what was once working.”
If you are looking to provide meaningful service, Martineau suggests that you do your research. Find organizations that are already successfully making a difference for the environment and world. “There are fundamental things that we all need to survive, safe water, shelter, clean air, food, medical care. Focused organizations that are providing innovative solutions are always an excellent place to start. Beyond that, I support others who are offering educational and employment support to communities to fight against poverty and achieve sustainable development.”
A Different Kind of Tourism
The way we travel impacts people in communities, but it also affects the wildlife and nature surrounding those communities. That is where Ecotourism comes into play. Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment while taking measures to sustain its natural state. Serena consciously makes an effort to travel ethically.
A few months ago she planned a vacation to Costa Rica and stayed at an eco-friendly resort called Lapa Rios Lodge, a National Geographic resort.
“I admit I do enjoy a beautiful hotel experience. Lapa Rios offers a luxury experience but at the cost of no creature. Guests stay in luxurious bungalows amongst the trees. We felt great about staying at the resort because it was apparent that they went above and beyond to preserve the integrity of the natural environment. Plus, their hospitable staff were all local, which means they are sustaining the native community.”
Traveling gives people a sense of freedom and excitement. It offers new opportunities for personal growth and wisdom.
“I hope that we can all challenge ourselves to be more conscious about the effect we are having on the planet. Next time you plan a vacation, take a moment to explore outside of the “tourist trap/chain resorts” that are often the first to pop up on your google search. Do your research and find an eco-conscious hotel. I think many people would be surprised that they don’t have to compromise their comfort in order to stay somewhere that is environmentally conscious. It ends up being a win-win situation.”
As Martineau has experienced, “Individually we will have a small impact but it’s the little things that make the big difference. If we are all doing our small part, collectively it has a massive impact on the world.”
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