I heard a story last week that has stuck with me so I thought I would share it with you all….
… a man went to a small African village and noticed the lack of water supply. The women of the village walked 15 miles every day with water vessels upon their heads just to have enough water to sustain the village for one day. So, as any of us I think would admit, the helpful thing to do was to build the village a well. He did.
He returned later after the well had been built and noticed that no one was using the well and it remained untouched and vacant. Perplexed, he asked why this was and why were the woman still walking 15 miles every day just to get water. He soon learned that this journey for the women became a sense of comradery and community amongst one another. It was their opportunity to get out of the home environment and enjoy the time spent with friends and fellow women in the village. Thus, no need for the well.
Before assuming people’s needs it is always important to ask first!
As I continue on in my journey of following my passion for sustainable tourism and figuring out ways that I can give back and create positive impacts throughout the world via travel, I am beginning to surround myself with inspiring and impactful thought leaders in the realm of sustainable tourism. Today, I thought I would share one of these admirable people with you.
Her name is Dominique Callimanopulos. She is the founder and president of Elevate Destinations in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her inspiration for the creation of Elevate stems back to when she was younger. She traveled a lot and during this time and she witnessed in her words, the “gap in resources” between her life at home and the communities that she was able to visit. (Her revelation moments…)
Now Dominique and the Elevate crew are making extraordinary and unforgettable positive impacts throughout the world. They run 121 different types of trips in 29 countries, sprawling over almost every continent. Their mission of transformative travel aims to transform both travelers and destinations through travel and meaningful experiences. Many of these trips include service and volunteer trips. Elevate offers Donor Travel trips where the donor has the opportunity to travel to the communities they are supporting. This is creating a deeper connection, increased cultural exchange and long lasting impressions on the donor and the community.
Elevate also offers Urgent Service Trips to Haiti. Not only is Elevate connecting volunteers to disaster relief programs on this trip but they are ensuring that their efforts are socially and environmentally sustainable.
In my email interview with Dominique she said, “Our donor travel programs for international non-profits have helped to raise millions of dollars to address a wide range of issues, including water and sanitation, women’s empowerment, poverty alleviation and more. Our Urgent Service volunteer trips to Haiti have raised funds for youth on the ground.” Additionally, Elevate provides carbon offset options for all land portions of travel and also encourages offsetting your flights. They partner with the most sustainable accommodations in the areas they visit, ensure their partners are following sustainability guidelines and much more. Not only is Elevate managing to accomplish all of these initiatives, but on top of everything they are donating 5% of the net cost of all private trips back to non-profit and local community partners that support conservation and social efforts.
It is important to remember that while the world may be our oyster we must honor its beauty, preserve cultures and the environment, lift up communities by asking them what they need and travel to contribute the fabric of the world rather than taking away from it. Elevate is doing just this. Support people, initiatives and companies that are paving the way for this to exist in the future.
Lastly, her words of advice to me were, “focus on creating lasting partnerships both with tour operators and trusted non-profits that are engaged for the long term in community-led initiatives. Cultivate a network of colleagues working toward similar goals, participate in associations to leverage your impact and innovate”. If you are passionate about responsible travel and respecting the environment and communities that we get to be witness to I would love to connect and share with you.
I thank Dominique and the Elevate crew for your work and inspiration. I urge you to check ’em out.
While travelling throughout Perú it is easy to recognize the major tourism industry that has been developed and counted upon my many native Peruvians. Many locals and their families have come to rely solely upon tourism and the support that it provides for their families and communities. In a report, “Peru’s Tourism Cluster-Macroeconomics of Competitiveness”, it is stated, “since 2004 tourism arrivals have grown 12% annually, over three times as fast as average growth rates in the world” (World Economic Forum, 2009). This paints a picture to show how impactful this industry has become for Perú and its citizens. Keeping this in mind it is of utmost importance for tourists to become aware of the impacts their decisions can make on the people, the environment and who they are supporting. By making the choice to travel responsibly when in Perú, you are able to help sustain and help preserve the livelihoods of this unique and wondrous culture. One such outfit that resonated with me and is a beautiful example of sustaining and supporting local community is Awana Kancha: Museo Viviente del Ande.
What is Awana Kancha and how are they creating positive impacts in the lives of the natives through the tourism industry? Awana Kancha in Quecha means the “Palace for the Weaver” . The vision began in 1989 when three brothers travelled throughout Perú searching to embody the richness of Peruvian life. In 1998, they opened the doors to what they now call the “first living museum of the living Ande”. The brothers recognized the importance of the llama, alpaca and vicuña to the native people and wanted to exemplify this to the tourist population. They also wanted to make the Peruvian camel accessible to tourists in its natural environment. In doing this, they have created an operation that is associated with over fourteen local communites consisting of over 420 families. This project embodies the entire process of dying, spinning and weaving which has been an ongoing tradition for the native people for many years. Lastly, you are able to purchase the high quality textiles on-site where 100% of the proceeds goes back to the local community.
My experience at Awana Kancha was unique. This place has resounded with me since I have returned home. Going to Perú with the intention of being a witness to the tourism industry and hoping that I was not seeing the country being exploited by irresponsible tourists, this was refreshing to observe. I was excited to learn that Peruvian culture to the natives is one that is highly cherished and will continually be preserved. Awana Kancha is one impactful way that this was showed to me during my travels.
When travelling the world or even at home, when we are creating our own human footprint it is important to become aware of the impacts that we are making on the earth and its people. To support local projects such as Awana Kancha creates small yet very impactful change in the world. To respect a foreign culture and to cherish and help preserve its beauty should always be a priority and this has been illustrated through the efforts of the people associated with this project.
I am taking inspiration for this post from a recent comment on my first article written here. Many times in our travels we find a simpler way of living or Pura Vida- the pure life theory in South America. There are many cultures that sustain their lifestyles only based upon what they need. It is interesting in our society how we have convinced ourselves of the material things, the social status, the money and power that we need. Living consistently this way endangers us of losing touch with some of the most important things in life. Such as who are true selves are and the beauty that exists within the world outside of material possession. Simplicity.
I have attached a photo from the “floating islands” in Lake Titicaca in Puno, Perú. These families live soley on a small island about the size of a football field made out of reeds. Their diet consists of mainly fish and potatoes and corn that are traded with the nearby city. For pleasure, the play soccer or volleyball to keep the layers of reeds tamped down to support the structure of their island. Pretty amazing, simplicity.
In your opinion, what is your version of Pura Vida? Do you believe it is a beneficial way of life?