New Year’s Day has been turned into a period of change and transition. We put a lot of faith in the idea of ‘new year; new me’, making resolutions and goals, and looking towards ‘future me’ with excitement (normally while being too hung over to move).
Still, I was disappointed to wake up yesterday and see the news; political dramas around the world, deaths thanks to drink driving and drug overdoses.
Another horrible terrorist attack in Istanbul.
Disheartened and feeling like 2017 would be just as bleak as its predecessor, I ignored all those New Year’s Resolution posts on Facebook and formulated my own question:
Instead of asking what your personal goals are for the coming months, how about we focus on the larger picture. What would you like to see improve worldwide in 2017? And, if possible, how can we as travellers start making those changes?
I put the question to my Instagram and Facebook groups and today, on the second of January 2017, I sat down and complied the results.
The biggest thing that people wanted to see was more positivity, and I totally agree with this.
The world is constantly overrun with negativity. The news reports the bad and the shocking, and even the idea of showing a cat up a tree at the end doesn’t take away from the impact.
2016 got a bad rap by everyone, myself included. I had some rather nasty things going on in my personal life but more importantly than that, it was a pretty shocking year for the world. There were some political movements that still baffle and confuse the masses, there have been far too many terrorists’ attacks and countless deaths as a result. And, of course, there was the incredible amount of beloved celebrities that passed away within the twelve months.
All of these things combined left me bitter and desperate for the calendar to flip over into a new year. And I wasn’t the only one. The internet as a whole went into riot with 2016 sucks memes and campaigns to keep Betty White alive for the rest of the year. People blamed the year for all their misfortune and anything bad that happened was simply written off as another victim of 2016. In fact Friend Dog Studios even turned the whole year into a horror movie trailer. While hilarious, it works to highlight just how bad this year has been perceived.
The negativity also took hold of the travel community. Suddenly countries were being boycotted due to terror, the old game of Mine Sweep got a map of Europe makeover and the idea of travel went from being something amazing to something scary.
So with 2017 officially under way and many of us planning epic trips in the coming months, a little positivity can and will go a long way.
Positivity links in tightly with love, good will and respect for other people and their cultures.
For travellers – no matter if they are simple vacationers, digital nomads or long term adventurers – respect for your surrounds is one of the most important things to consider.
I personally have been mortified by the actions of other people on the road. So much so that I have gotten up and left a social gathering as I was appalled by the actions and words of some of the acquaintances at the table. I have also moved train carriages in rural Japan to be away from that textbook typical ‘loud foreign tourist duo’ before.
Respect in unknown places should be a common sense staple. Do your homework before going somewhere unknown, try your best to understand and appreciate the culture; if you can manage that then your experience is bound to be much more enjoyable and a lot more positive. After that, spread the word. Talk about how warm and friendly the locals were, give tips on how to navigate the culture shock and, hopefully, not make a fool of yourself.
Put those positive vibes out there for the rest of the world.
Another thing that the travel community is crying out for is more responsible and sustainable tourism.
Everything we do has an impact on the earth. That takeaway coffee cup in your hand; probably not recyclable. The emissions from your car, or the plane you caught to Dubai, is poisoning the air.
This is something that I admittedly don’t know much about, but something that I am going to make a personal goal of for myself in 2017. When we have extremist groups destroying lives and architecture in order to make a statement, our reply should be cultural understanding and preservation of the world around us.
And last, but definitely not the least important, was a more conscious understanding of animal exploitation.
Just last night I had the chance to fortify myself on the couch with wine and snacks and enjoy the latest two part episode of The Grand Tour. It was one of their epic and insane adventures in a foreign country where pranks and breakdowns are guaranteed. There were laughs a million, stunning scenery and three grumpy old men trying to survive whatever the producers threw at them.
What I really liked about it, however, was the fact that they dedicated time to talking about the issue of poachers in Africa and the impact that has had on the animals. They even attempted to go and ‘hunt the hunters’ as they put it, a montage that played out with hilarious results.
While they didn’t really achieve anything in their following awareness antics, they did manage to bring the issue to millions of casual consumers. With The Grand Tour surpassing Game of Thrones as the most downloaded (normally illegally) show in history, their message reached millions and millions of people who might have otherwise never even known of poaching Rhinos for their horns.
Millions of animals are hunted and killed, either as trophies for shooting travellers or to have their horns, hooves, glands and other body parts sold as souvenirs. Others are forced into tourist trap servitude.
Offering financial assistance is not viable for a lot of us, but what we can do is be more aware. Planning an elephant ride in Thailand? Look into the companies first; see how they care for their animals and what they are giving back.
And for me personally.
I would love to see more travel bloggers look into the deep issues of the places they visit this year. Bring awareness to issues that lie under the surface and often get overlooked.
I’m not saying that we all need to turn ourselves into gritty foreign correspondent journalists or throw ourselves into dangerous situations in the name of a good story. Just that we shouldn’t gloss over the horrible details.
Were you ostracised for being a foreigner, or did you get ripped off because you didn’t speak the language? What about the darker side of the city you just stayed in? While you were drinking $1 beers and splashing around on the beach in Thailand, there were thousands of people trapped in slavery in the name of sex tourism. And how about the animals mentioned above. Did you find a company that treated their animals poorly? Call them out on your blog.
Let’s try and stop to think about those larger, often brushed over dark truths to the world around us.
Yes, we need to be spreading love and positivity and cultural mindfulness, but we should also be discussing the truth and using our platform and audience to bring global awareness. If we can all do this then maybe 2017 stands a chance of impacting the world for the better.
Thanks to all who responded to my initial question. Let’s hope that 2017 will mark the year that we, as a travelling community, can bridge some of these gaps in the world and help spread more awareness, more love and more positivity.
Did you miss my initial post with the question and have something to add? Have I missed something? Feel free to discuss in the comments below.
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