4 STEPS TO A CONSCIOUS TRAVEL

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?

When you're far away from home, consider the impact of your steps. Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand.

When you’re far away from home, consider the impact of your steps. Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand.

With our Drop The Tension project we have travelled from Australia to Europe without flights, looking for answers to this question. Here’s some of what we learned… Continue Reading →

Our first podcast! :)

We had the pleasure of recording our first podcast!

During our overland&sea travel from Australia to Europe we had a chance to shortly speak on radio and give a couple of interviews for local newspapers, but this is the first time we had an opportunity to share our ideas about dropping the tension and following your passion in a proper podcast for the California Рbased Learn Educate Discover!

Happy listening and if you like what we say – feel free to share the message ūüôā

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Trans-Siberian Railway your own way – how to guide

A week on the train.¬†8 time zones. 9288 kilometres – a quarter of the Globe. Endless forests and swamps, wooden villages, train stations alike magnificent palaces surrounded by decaying¬†heritage of the once mighty Soviet Union. Friendly, hospitable, spontaneous and from a foreigner’s point of view – positively crazy people. The richness of Russia, the contrasts between the¬†wealthy¬†and the poor, modern and old, clean and muddy, silver watches and gold teeth. The heart of Eastern Europe with Moscow and other¬†big, modern cities¬†slowly fading away¬†to the endless grasslands, mountains, wilderness. Golden, mosque-like domes of Orthodox churches step-by-step giving¬†way to¬†actual mosques, Buddhist stupas, followed by vast¬†forests visited by nomads. Eventually arriving in Vladivostok at the Pacific, from where it’s just a ferry ride to Japan. Or a 250 kilometre car ride to the North Korean border.

This romantic image must catch¬†anyone’s heart in one way or another. Who has never dreamt of travelling by the Trans-Siberian Railway? But how to do it?

Ready to depart!

Novosibirsk. A Trans-Siberian train ready to depart!

Sure you could¬†go to a travel agent and let them organise the trip. But you’ll soon find¬†that not only will you spend up to 3 thousand dollars on¬†getting it¬†organised but you’ll also spend the whole journey partying with fellow Europeans, Americans or Australians instead of actually getting to experience the reality of the train¬†the way it is.

Wanna do it differently? Let us tell you how to pay USD 160 for getting a Russian visa, buying the ticket and enjoying the magnificent journey the way locals do!

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5 WAYS 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:

  1. Ensuring proper respect to the people of the places we visit
  2. 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!

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Consider the impact of your steps when travelling

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.

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Western Mongolia – Practical Guide

Having decided to go through the west of Mongolia instead of Ulaanbaatar, we didn’t really know what to expect – there was not much information online. Hence, we thought it could be very useful for future travellers coming this way to have some practical information available online. But don’t worry, if you’re not going that way, this post won’t bore you with dry facts – you’ll learn about the fascinating¬†reality of¬†Mongolia!

Amazing landscapes, lack of roads, traditional life and smiling, hospitable people are some of the main reasons to leave your heart in Mongolia. Here: the 'road' out of Khovd, the main town of Western Mongolia.

Amazing landscapes, lack of roads, traditional life and smiling, hospitable people are some of the main reasons to leave your heart in Mongolia. Here: the ‘road’ out of Khovd, the main town of Western Mongolia.

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Finding the ‘real’ Tibet

Of all the views of our journey, the Tibetan Plateau was the one to transfixed me. For the first time, I felt myself truly and totally riding the journey. I never tired of looking out the window at the seemingly endless green plain and huge blue above. My thoughts remained present in the landscape, thinking only in wonder of the naturally treeless land rolling by like an ocean and contemplating the life that might be happening inside the intermittent white tents…

The Tibetan Platue: Endless grass and boundless sky.

The Tibetan Plateau: Endless grass and boundless sky.

We (now joined by Jarmo, perhaps the first Polish-Sichuan chef ever!) were hitch-hiking through the accessible regions of Amdo Tibet. This is not to be mistaken with the Tibetan Province – closed to foreigners unless you’ve the budget to fork out big for a guide who’s guaranteed to make sure you don’t see too much! There are, in fact, places where Tibetan culture exists that have no access restrictions and nomadic life may even be better persevered than within the Tibetan Province. Inspired by this blog, we chose to take a route between Chengdu to Xining to learn something for ourselves about this ancient civilisation. Continue Reading →

We made it: Australia to Poland NO FLIGHTS!

Today we are writing to you from POLAND!!!!!!!!! We have made it the whole 25,000km from Wendy‚Äôs Melbourne, Australia, to where we sit now in lounge room of Jurek‚Äôs mother in Katowice, Poland,¬†without taking a single flight! Around 15,000km of the way, we hitch-hiked. Project Drop the tension was cooked up while hitch-hiking east coast Australia ‚Äď why don‚Äôt we keep going to Poland? we thought. We wanted to travel to get ideas and inspiration from different cultures for ways to live our own lives and decided that might be interesting for other people too. Wanting to travel consciously, our idea was broadly to explore cultures of sharing along our flight-less way: to meet people from a range of diverse backgrounds taking local action for more a human-friendly world. 1 year, 2 months and 10 days later, we‚Äôve made it! We have officially completed our conscious overland journey crossing halfway round the globe, visiting 15 different nations. WOW!

We made it to PL!

We made it to PL!

It’s surreal for us to be here and have our clothes folded away in drawers (!); we imagine it will take some time to adjust back into living life in one place. No doubt we will have many more ideas, reflections and perhaps conclusions to share with you in the coming weeks and months as we fully churn all the experiences that have gotten us to where we are now. But for now, we wanted to mark the achievement by looking at some of the huge contrasts we’ve had along our way:
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25 photos to make you re-think China

China is often shrouded in stigmas and stereotypes. From the outside heading in, I had an idea of what I expected to see. However, we found China to be a massive and multifaceted place, full of surprises. Here, we’ve selected some images that might help shift your thinking or broaden¬†your perspective of China 2015.

Highway, Yunan Province: The roads in China are a breath taking work of engineering. Entering from Laos, where the road is so muddy our bus was often going up hills sideways to avoid bogging, the contrast was stark. In China, mountains and valleys are no obstical, the road continues straight, tunnelling through the mountains and bridging over valleys, for kilometers, if that's what it takes. The roadside reading "Descent for next 54km" is probably not in existence anywhere else in the world. They have special emergency breaking areas for trucks when breakpads get too hot on the constantly angled declines.

1. Highway, Yunnan Province: The roads in China are breathtaking works of engineering. Entering from Laos, where the road is so muddy our bus was often going up hills sideways to avoid bogging, the contrast was stark. In China, mountains and valleys are no obstacles: the road continues straight, tunnelling through the mountains and bridging over valleys, for kilometers, if that’s what it takes. The roadside reading “Continuous downgrade¬†for next 54km” is probably not in existence anywhere else in the world. They have special emergency breaking areas for trucks when breakpads get too hot on the constantly angled declines.

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Laos photostory

We entered Laos (in the middle of July) accompanied by Wendy’s dad Greg, who joined us for a week, rediscovering the backpackers trails of the 70’s. Laos welcomed us in¬†a completely different style – it appeared the whole country, however small, poor and undeveloped, is covered with a network of tourism industry. This, mostly being eco-tourism, has created a barrier between us – visitors and the real life of Laos. Barrier in the form of money, the one thing we believe divides people the most. Barrier high but not uncrossable.

Welcome to Laos Democratic People's Republic!

Welcome to Laos People’s Democratic Republic!

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The real Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan is (in)famous for its Full Moon Party ‚Äď an event where thousands of beautifully tanned young English-speaking Europeans, Australians and Americans proudly display their six-packs and cleavages, drinking mixed alcohol from buckets, their feet cut with broken glass scattered in the beach sand, getting wasted (and hopefully laid) to an echoing cacophony of US Billboard top 10.

Many people say Koh Phangan is heart-shaped, but for the sake of this explanation, let’s simplify it into a square. In the lower-left corner is Thon Sala ‚Äď the island’s town. The lower edge is an extension of the town with supermarkets, atmosphereless night clubs, steak bars and, most important ‚Äď hostels. Important because this is the way to the lower-right corner, Haad Rin, the Full Moon Beach. A concrete skeleton of a peeling, abandoned unfinished hotel casting shade on faceless souvenir shops immediately makes you understand where you are. While most people come here with a simple and positive reason to have a good time, what they don’t realise is that the Thai people spend their childhood looking at falangs (whites) who are either drunk or hungover, and in the natural disrespect learning to extract cash from the ones who have less brains but more in their wallets.

Without this introduction I wouldn’t be able to say that the reason I’m writing this is as simple as that: the rest of Koh Phangan is completely different.

Water buffalo at Koh Phangan

The real Koh Phangan

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