The Conscious Traveler

How does the thought of an ‘Abu Ghraib Bus Tour’ strike you?
Sickening? Far-fetched? How about totally consistent with
precedent? Today’s grievous atrocity can easily turn into
tomorrow’s tourist attraction. Auschwitz, the Nazi extermination
camp, has long been reopened as a museum. The British newspaper
The Independent recently published an article billing
war-scarred Sierra Leone as a ‘holiday paradise.’
And

Travel + Leisure
recently ran an article entitled ‘Rwanda
(After),’
in which the author traveled the genocide-ravaged
country watching gorillas and paying for children’s educations.

As the obvious tourist spots get ditched in favor of roads less
traveled, more and more travelers are faced with the question of
how to be a responsible tourist in places beset by conflict,
economic distress, or environmental degradation. A few
organizations have surfaced to provide answers. The
International Centre for
Responsible Tourism
was created as a ‘post-graduate training
and research centre’ to study and promote ideas surrounding
responsible tourism. The centre serves as a kind of clearing house
for ethical travel proposals and guidelines for tourism businesses.
Other groups, such as
Global Exchange,
offer ‘Reality Tours’
— trips that educate people about the
countries they visit, rather than glossing over cultures with
souvenirs and nice hotels. Another option is
World-Wide Opportunities on Organic
Farms
. Willing workers, or WWOOFers, travel the globe working
on organic farms in exchange for room, board, and the pleasure of
contributing to an eco-friendly endeavor.

There are, of course, some environmental obstacles that can’t be
overcome when it comes to traveling. Unless you swim or walk to
your destination, a long-distance trip — especially one via a
plane — devours fossil fuels. The

Union of Concerned Scientists doesn’t resolve that conundrum, but
it offers some helpful tips
on how to reduce the environmental
impact of your next vacation. Among them: use public transportation
in your destination, bring your own toiletries (rather than relying
on the heavily packaged soaps and shampoos that hotels provide),
and contribute to eco-friendly organizations to offset potential
environmental damage.

Go there >>
International Centre for
Responsible Tourism

Go there too >>
Rwanda
(After)

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