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PLANETA

Choosing where to go and what to do once you get there
by Ron Mader

WISHLIST WIKI

The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.
- Active Participation Notebook

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FLICKR ALBUM: Workshop 21


Travel offers opportunities to try something new, break one's routine, set a new pattern, see the world with new - hopefully more compassionate - eyes. Travel engages all the senses in ways that interacting on a screen cannot match.

Your vacation can have positive benefits for yourself and the people and places you visit. Initiatives abound which depend on visitor spending and interaction that funds conservation and social work and basic livelihoods. These are not charities but living, breathing examples of good practices in action. Find them!

Want to maximize the experience (not to mention your expenditures?) Slow down.

The chief expense for most travelers is transportation, so if you slow down, you can go deeper. Fast travel, like fast food, may be convenient, but it is less rewarding than slower immersion experiences. That's why the motto of Planeta.com is 'think smart, travel slow.'

THE VIRTUOUS CIRCLE

Travelers are active players in a global phenomenon that goes by many names including ecotourism and responsible travel. The good news it that we are all on the learning curve as this level of collaboration has never been attempted before.

As visitors, we have the option of selecting operators and places that show compassion toward the earth. A multiplier effect occurs ('the virtuous circle') as responsible travel acknowledges all stakeholders.

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SUGGESTIONS FOR THE VISITOR

The challenge of ecotourism lies in balancing multiple factors in deciding how eco one wishes to travel.

The Web makes it easier than ever to find eco-friendly, people-friendly places. If you are looking for local guides and recommended operations, consult our World Travel Directory.

If you have an idea of where you would like to go or what you'd like to do, your journey begins with the information quest. If you want to find out specific details about a specific operator or destination, post queries in relevant forums. Look at photos online Flickr.

Buy a guidebook or travel app. Ask friends and family for their suggestions.

THINGS YOU CAN DO

Once you arrive, here are a few things visitors can do:

BE GENEROUS - Be generous! Once you have decided where you are traveling, contact locals and ask what they would like. This is a variation of the Platinum Rule (Do unto others as they would like to have you do unto them).

BE NEIGHBORLY AND RESPECT THE LOCAL ECONOMY - In a small town being neighborly is essential and every local job is vital.

RECYCLE DEAD TREES - Global understanding could vastly be improved if we took (and left) better books on our trips! Recycle those dead trees! If you have academic leanings, before you go do some research and find out if the local libraries can use more technical materials and take them something they can use.

PICK UP THE TRASH - Actions speak louder than words. If you are concerned about the environment, show that you care by picking up trash and never throwing anything of yours on the ground. As the adage goes, 'pack it in, pack it out.'

LEARN THE LANGUAGE - Learn and use a few words starting with 'hello' and 'thank you.' If you have the time, take a language class. For example - there are some great Spanish language schools in Latin America and Spain.

BE RESPECTFUL OF PEOPLE'S PRIVACY - Some people do not wish to be visited. In rural communities, wait until you are invited to approach homes or groups of people.

TAKE PICTURES - Check out the guidelines for Responsible Travel Photography. During or after your trip, send photos to those you've taken a picture. Bonus points if you share pictures that others want via social web channels Facebook and Flickr.

BE RESPECTFUL OF RESTRICTIONS - Some communities may be closed to visitors. Natural attractions might be off limits for cultural or environmental reasons. When in doubt of whether or not to proceed, ask first.

BE RESPECTFUL OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE - Traditional land owners should be acknowledged. Indigenous people working in tourism take their role of welcoming visitors very seriously. Recognize their connection to the land and you'll learn to see their heritage with different eyes.

BUY LOCAL CRAFTS - If you are looking for a gift or a souvenir, patronize the arts and demonstrate your support for local culture. Buying from a local artisan can cut out 40 steps in the traditional export chain. Planeta.com's Tourism and Crafts Guide explains the details. What not to buy? Items made from endangered animals or pirated archaeological treasures.

TAKE PICTURES - Check out the guidelines for Responsible Travel Photography. During or after your trip, send photos to those you've taken a picture.

BUY POSTCARDS - Seek out postcards shot by local or resident artists and photographers.

VOLUNTEER OR CONTRIBUTE TO A LOCAL CHARITY - Ask around and find out which social or environmental efforts can use your time or a financial contribution. Again, be generous!


AUTHOR

Ron Mader is the responsible travel correspondent for Transitions Abroad and host of the award-winning Planeta.com website.


FEATURES

g Guide to Open Space Technology
g Wish List for Responsible, Sustainable Ecotourism
g Travel Checklist
g World Travel Directory

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g What is the value of attention?
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g Local
g Responsible Travel
g Slow travel


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