Mindful travel: Do yourself a power of good by doing good
Apps and AI will help you plan the ideal trip, but make sure you follow the global trend to be nice to the world
Exciting innovations are expected within the tech travel sector in 2019. Most journeys begin and end seamlessly in the palm of a hand and there is an app to assist with every aspect of a trip to suit every type of traveller, no matter their smartphone IQ.
From scrolling through destination galleries on Instagram, tapping up-to-the-minute weather reports or creating bespoke itineraries, apps are a winner for holistic holiday planning. Generic e-brochures are being eclipsed in favour of paperless digi- guides, and voice maps (self-guided audio tours) provide an excellent way to explore solo and at one’s own pace.
More personalised attention is expected as AI (artificial intelligence) collates behavioural data gleaned through cookies, Facebook posts and other info- sharing sources, with individualised touring suggestions sent straight to mobile.
The good news is the upswing in a more mindful approach to travelling. Online exposés and documentaries highlighting the backstories behind animal entertainment have seen more people shun elephant riding, avoid marine mammal performances and resist interactions with captive dolphins, lion cubs and suspiciously docile tigers. Travellers now look to support activities that uphold admirable ethics, and the better educated tourist is less likely to purchase goods made of ivory, exotic skin products and the body parts of endangered animals.
Philanthropic travellers are showing an interest in “going and doing” projects by volunteering at animal sanctuaries, cleaning beaches and going on cultural exchanges to engage with locals on a personal level.
“Voluntourism” has had a bad rap thanks to volunteer organisations more interested in a well-meaning person’s wallet than in making a positive difference on the ground. Sharing skills or spending time for no financial gain is admirable but should happen only when tourism becomes something in which local people can be a valued part.
The over-tourism crisis has led to greater awareness of responsible tourism, defined as reducing negative social, economic and environmental effects and enhancing the well-being of host communities. As residents in fragile cities such as Venice protest behemoth cruise ships docking in the Marco Polo Basin and rail against the intrusive seasonal tourist invasions, crowd-shy travellers are casting an eye at lesser known places and more uncharted territories – such as the Micronesian Islands in the North Pacific, Lake Abbe in Djibouti, and the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in Botswana. These places are less likely to be found on traditional bucket lists and inspire the ever elusive wifi disconnect, a coveted luxury in our digitally driven lives. The move towards slow travel means making deeper connections with nature and destinations.
Doing the ultimate safari in Africa is hot with a sense of urgency as the world’s great Eden faces poaching, trophy hunting and human encroachment. Lodges with appropriate sensitivity to wildlife (best achieved sans 4x4 convoys and at a decent distance from animals) have conservation high on the agenda and are giving back to local communities.
Jennifer Lalley, co-owner of Natural Selection Travel, which manages Shipwreck Lodge in Namibia and Planet Baobab in Botswana, says: “There’s certainly merit in drawing guests’ attention and donations to good causes, but tourism companies should be digging into their own pockets as well to make sure projects have sustainable funds available.”
Studies have shown that travel makes you healthier, relieves stress, enhances creativity, boosts happiness and lowers the risk of depression. Brilliant benefits, but they should not come at the expense of people or animals. Let this be the year for us to enjoy high value, low impact travel and leave no trace.