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Believe it or not, back in my childhood days I often played with this question. I’d see only negative stories on the news (shocker), and I’d always wondered if the citizens of the world would be more united if in fact we wen’t afraid and if we were instead, more excited to visit their communities, war-torn or not. I’m not going to get into the politics of it, who’s more accepted as a nation than others. The truth of the matter is, if we would all take a step back and look at the whole picture, we could see the beauty in the people and the environments in some of the countries where we’d least expect it.
Here are some examples:
If we just traveled to one war-torn or third world country in our lives, we’d be able to learn, listen and want to help bridge the gap that shouldn’t even be there in the first place. We’d see the anguish and we’d feel the need to help our brothers and sisters of the world.
I’m aware that the Westernized world is comfortable in its surroundings and happy with what they have enough to where they don’t so much as care to understand and peace together our world in their lifetime because they believe it can’t be done in that short period of time. I understand that feeling. As an adolescent, I couldn’t understand how I could make a difference, so I went about my life hanging with friends, seeing beautiful places, doing what I love, working, and all the while trying to forget about it.
So, let’s get to the point, what exactly do you bring to a war-torn, third world country?
- Understanding: I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been shunned upon for my nationality. In each instance I took 5 minutes to sit down and have a conversation and explained to them, “If I didn’t like your country, if I listened to my government, I wouldn’t be here today. But I love your culture, your people, your environment and I don’t agree with my government, so give me a chance at loving and understanding your culture.” Most of the time you will get a heartwarming response. People who dwell in their own countries and either can’t or don’t want to leave, only understand other nations through the television screen. When they meet with someone of a country they were told to despise, their views are shifted, more positively than not. This is how we create understanding and unity among all people and nations.
- Funding: To employ locals and improve destroyed infrastructures such as roads and buildings, and to provide relief for the people in the event of natural disasters.
- Beauty: Even the most financially hardened countries try to create at least one beautiful attraction for tourists; a statue, a cafe, a park. This beauty they also get to appreciate and benefit from themselves. The beauty they create for you can be valued every day by them.
- Aid: You never know how a community, person or place is going to affect you. You may be driven to want to help in some way, even if it’s buying a local hand made bowl, cleaning up the beach, or giving back on a larger project. Cultures affect people in certain ways, and it typically only takes one visit to be able to feel the need and want to fill it.
- Awareness: Responsible Tourism brings awareness to countries that otherwise might not be well known. And with awareness of their existence and history, comes awareness of their issues at hand that need assistance.
In sum, Responsible Tourism strengthens the economies in countries whether they need it or not. This funding makes the people happy because it employs them, it fulfills their needs and it makes them want to create more beauty for tourists so that they can expand their economy. The more financially stable the country, the more bounty for the people, the better health care and the more awareness that will be raised. And awareness is good, take for example the island nation of Kiribati.
Not many people are aware of this island, however it, like many others that surround it, is facing the threat of rising sea levels. Currently, the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, is in the process of buying land in Fiji to relocate all on the island of Kiribati for their safety. The next cyclone could wipe out the entire island. Bet this is news to you. One visit to the island and you’ll likely see the effects. Here is an example of where one might like to provide assistance, whether it’s donating to an online fund or physically going there to help relocate the people. With Responsible Tourism comes understanding of what the locals go through on a daily basis and letting them know that you’re there to learn from them. Let these locals show you the beauty of their country. Because every citizen of the world loves one place, one person, one thing about their country that they want to share with someone new who has no idea. Responsible Tourism brings faith to humanity when all seems lost. It restores culture and strengthens societies. And this is why Responsible Tourism contributes to Peace Building.