Earlier this year, Wendy was invited to speak about our conscious overland journey between Melbourne(AUS) and Katowice(PL) at the Bratislava PechaKucha Night Volume 37.
For those of you not familiar, PechaKucha is a presentation format originating from Japan, that is now popular around the world. It’s simple, yet challenging: 20 photos x 20 seconds. Definitely a tight schedule to summarise over a year on the road! The evening was part of the [fjúžn] festival, promoting and celebrating a multicultural Slovakia.
Wendy’s speech focused on a basic question travellers should ask themselves when coming back from a trip: How should we speak about our journeys? Travel stories often speak of exotic customs, bizarre foods or insane adventures. But do these stories build an accurate image of the place we visited? Don’t we, in stressing the differences, forget that the places we saw and people we met share much in common with ourselves and our own communities? Don’t we, in telling our stories in this way, unwillingly perpetuate stereotypes about how much people around the world differ from us? Is there another way to speak consciously about our travel experiences?
Enjoy the video from Wendy’s presentation!
The following text is the ‘past student’ speech Wendy gave at the Maffra Secondary College end of year Presentation Night 15th December 2016.
I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land Maffra stand on: the Brayakooloong people of the Gunaikurnai nation and pay respect to the elders past and present.
I’m back in Maffra tonight to celebrate the milestone of my youngest sister Louise completing her year 12. To her and her classmates, congratulations! Tonight marks both the close of one chapter of your life and the opening of a new one which holds more possibilities for you than any of us can imagine. Whether you sit there knowing what you’re going to do next year, or are still making up your mind – to you all, I’d say, take your time and know there are no ‘wrong ways’.
This article was first published on tourism_LOG blog where it was one of the winning pieces of the “Fair travelling and experiencing the world” competition. It’s a shortened version of 5 WAYS TO BE A CONSCIOUS TRAVELLER post with text cut down to minimum for a quick read.
Travelling to far away countries has become a possibility for more people than ever before. This is really exciting as travel is the best education we can get, helping us to become an informed global citizen. But no one ever really teaches us how we should travel…
We fly, sail, Interrail, cycle or hitch-hike around the world, staying in hostels, resorts, home-stays, couch-surfing… But how to get most of our trips while making sure we respect people and places we visit? How to be a CONSCIOUS TRAVELLER?
Cheap airfares are making overseas travel a possibility for more people than ever before. This is really exciting, as travel is the best education we can give ourselves to become informed global citizens. But on the other hand, no one ever really teaches us how we should travel….
We brushed up against many different forms of tourism on our overland journey half-way round the world, and it seems to us there is plenty of room for more conversations around conscious travel. In fact, if it was up to us it would be a compulsory school subject ;). Travelling “right” is really a double-sided coin that comes down to:
- Ensuring proper respect to the people of the places we visit
- Ensuring travellers get the most out of their trips abroad.
This article is Drop The Tension‘s first in our series of useful information to help backpacker-local interactions be positive experiences for both sides. Take this as a guide for anyone heading overseas. But it might be especially useful for a young person heading off backpacking for the first time (Know someone? Share this their way!), especially if you’re travelling solo (we think you’re awesome :))
We’re not into rules and remind you that this is just a guide of things to keep in mind. Common sense is the first thing you should pack for the trip and it’ll help you determine what is appropriate for your given situation. Any questions or comments, please contact us below – we’d love to start a discussion around this topic!
So, WHAT IS CONSCIOUS TRAVEL?
Conscious travel is about being aware of the impact your being there has on a place. A conscious traveller should strive to keep their travel low-impact. In this, I mean that we don’t want the places we visit to change dramatically through our visit. It’s that old rule ‘leave things as you found them… or a little bit better.’
Your impact includes everything from:
- The cultural impact: in some destinations, you’ll find yourself getting a lot of attention as a foreigner. The world round, people are listening to western music and watching Hollywood films. Seeing you can sometimes be the movies ‘coming to life’. People will be watching how you behave and might even copy what you do. While in the ‘spotlight’, don’t behave in a way you wouldn’t want to be copied… Don’t make yourself (or your country) famous for something you wouldn’t want it to be famous for!
- Your environmental impact: many places in the world lack environmental education. If locals are paying attention to your behaviour, disposing of rubbish (which, by the way, was introduced to the rest of the world by ‘The West’, without even a hint as to what to do with it!) correctly or refilling plastic water bottles where possible can start showing people other ways of doing things that care for the surroundings.
- The impact of where and how you spend your money.
We were in Kaula Lumper last week, out for lunch with an ex-college of Jurek’s. Long before we met, Jurek worked 8 months for an IT firm in the ugliest building in the KLCC precinct. Passing through KL this time around called for lots of catching up with friends unseen for years.
This particular friend asked questions I hadn’t been asked for a long time, with a directness that demanded answers, and something I at first mistook for aggression. “So travelling is great, but at some point you have to stop and get a job, what are you going to do for money?” I reacted. Fell into the trap of defensiveness. Fumbled to justifying myself and voiced thoughts about potential development work, courses I may or may not take and other ideas I’m carrying round in my pocket. Answers I’d pull out for a worried grandma.
Later, it appeared the question was masking something quite different, given away by a flippant comment delivered in the same masculine tone, that almost had it slip past me unnoticed. “Yeah, I really hate this company since that happened. But I don’t want to leave until I have the next job lined up. I’m not the type of person who is okay with not having a plan. I mean, I can’t just do what you guys are doing.” A convoluted, backhanded compliment. On surface glance, I’d thought it a stab. A dig that we’re free wheeling hippies who are going to have to give up these idealistic dreams at some point and suit up to an office for a salary like the rest of the world. But this wasn’t it. I examined more closely. The bravo was a cover up. This was about his own fear.
Too sold on the collard shirt, sitting across the table in the nice restaurant in the swish new mall that commerce built, I nodded and the conversation continued without missing a beat. I kept the peace but I missed the opportunity.
Well, there’s a different response I’d like to give to this comment. A turn I’d have liked the conversation route to have taken. I USED TO BE A PERSON WHO NEEDED A PLAN. I’ve sat in that chair. In my mind, I’ve rationalised away the hopes and actions of those who are brave enough to be living out their dreams. I’ve been judgemental of those who actually seem to be genuinely happy. I’ve even been the person asking those questions that pull these people back down to earth from the higher place they’re acting from. All of this because I was scared.
Hey guys! While I’m having an incredible time, it turns out the overland travel thing can also be really exhausting. Huge trips on rough roads on hot over crowded buses, sometimes with more bags of onions than human passengers, leaves you really tired. 6+ hours on hard floored ferries full of smokers, where you can barely find a clean space out of the sun to lay out your camp mattress (which deflates these days anyway, so provides little relief from the hardness of the metal floor); then just when you’re comfortable it starts raining and you have to relocate in a hurry and most passer-byers will stop to ask for a photo with you, all starts to take it’s toll. Your bum is so sore and you’ve started developing some weird pimples from all the sitting and sweating that it now part of your everyday life – will it ever look the same again?! Looking at a world map in some hotel lobby, leaves you feeling completely overwhelmed at the distance that lays ahead of you… How many more bus trips will that mean? Why am I doing this? What difference would a plane make anyway?
We’re a couple of two; Wendy, an Australian, 24 years old and Jurek (pron. yoo-rek, as in ‘you reckon’), a 28 year old Pole. We haven’t always been the people we are now. We haven’t always done the kind of things we now find ourselves doing. Because, like most people, we’ve been too scared. Yet here we are! And we’ve decided it’s a journey worth sharing. Turns out living the life you only let yourself dream about starts with one small step… Drop the tension!