What travel-related issue do you believe deserves more attention?
Often times western travelers go to developing countries to volunteer and they go with a mentality that they know what is best for “x” community in “y” country. Travelers must stray from this idea; we need to work with the locals and let them tell us how we can help, not the other way around. We are experts of the place in which we live — let’s respect that natives are experts of their lands. Once we develop that mentality, only then can we truly be intentional with our volunteer efforts.
Sitting at the Indian visa office in Kathmandu the other day, I overheard an American man behind me talking to his neighbour. He said he’d been on the road for ten years. I assumed he would be an open-minded man. He then started to complain about Israelis because they always seemed to be wherever he went; announced that it was a shame that tourists were returning to Nepal after the 2015 earthquakes because it was nicer when they had been scared away; and admitted in barely hushed tones that he didn’t really like Cambodia, but kept returning because he liked the ‘cheap’ women. I have faith that travel broadens the mind, but I don’t think we can assume that this is an automatic benefit of travel. Travel doesn’t make one a good person. That must still be strived for.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say they are going to “Africa” as if Africa is not a massive continent packed with many different countries, cultures, and people. Stereotypes on the road are always an issue with travel, but it seems worse with tourism in Africa. Egypt is not Ghana, and Rwanda is not South Africa. Let’s start doing the continent some justice and refer to its specific countries.
I think we need to be more conscious of our impact on the environment when we travel. Taking a round-trip flight anywhere in the world is one of the worst things we can do for our carbon footprint. We’re not all going to stop flying and embarking on new adventures, though, but we can learn to take other positive steps forward. These can be as simple as picking up our trash wherever we are, respecting the local wildlife, and seeking out ways to get involved in local environmental projects.
Something that rubs me the wrong way is when people “volunteer” in another country for a few weeks, and come back gloating. Don’t get me wrong - there are some absolutely wonderful organizations out there that make an impact. However, it takes much more than a week or two to make a difference in the community’s lives. We need to be more aware of what we can do to make long-term effects on changing a community for the better.
Traveling, especially flying long-distance, has a big negative impact on the environment. That is the first level of awareness people need to be conscious about when traveling. Wherever people travel to, they should be sure that their activities are respectful of the environment. From the food they eat (e.g. from where it is sourced) to the activities they undertake (e.g. avoid many of the so-called Elephant Sanctuaries’), visitors can have a big impact - positive or negative, that is their own choice.
-Richard A. Bruschi
As a travel photographer, I think we need to be more respectful in photographing individuals in our travels. During my recent trip to Italy, I had asked a restaurant owner if I could photograph his restaurant and its patrons. He agreed and I set about clicking my camera. None of the patrons protested until I moved outside to photograph the front of the building. A party of four sat just inside the restaurant and could be seen through the restaurant’s open doors. I became so engrossed in capturing the overall scene of the restaurant that I did not hear a woman from the party of four yell at me and ask me not to capture her image. My close friend had to tap me on the shoulder and tell me the woman was yelling at me. I placed my camera at my side and we walked away. The photos of the restaurant exterior will never be published and have been deleted, because the woman in the party of four did not want her image captured. We need to be more considerate in our travel photography.
My biggest thing is access, both physical and financial. Huge populations of people are being left out of travel because they cannot afford it or their physical ability will not allow them to go explore. If the goal is to create a more compassionate and empathy-driven global community than we need to address this. Whether this means to create more financially responsible programs or more inclusive technology, changes need to be made. The world is there for all to see, but only a minority of people have the ability to access it.
Photo by Ingrid McQuivey