At the risk of sounding snobbish I shall assert that there is a great difference between travel and vacationing. A vacation invites people to become, well, vacant: Sit on the beach, stick your legs up and think of nothing - certainly nothing that could disturb the sense of peace. One might think of it as a form of escapism - an attempt to shut out the real world that lies beyond the closed doors of all inclusive resorts. Not all that much different to watching TV after coming home from work, except the world of 'make believe' can be experienced in a more tangible form - the cocktails at the resort bar produce real hangovers and upon return there will be a tan (or sunburn) to show for hours spent 'vacationing' on the beach.
The hallmark of travel on the other hand, is a sense of natural curiosity, a desire to engage with the surrounding foreigness. Travel is a great teacher. By venturing out into the unknown we are challenged to see the world with fresh eyes, experiencing its wonders and surprises and appreciating foreign customs and cultures. By reflecting on such experiences we also begin to realize hitherto unknown aspects of our own cultures, conditioning and environment. If we have truly 'travelled' rather than simply 'vacationed' we return enriched, not just from the experiences of our outer journey, but also from the parallel path of the inner journey, which is just as rich and exciting.
Culture and nature are the greatest treasures of our civilizations - they are our heritages. But both are in danger of disappearing under a flood of homogenizing corporate developments - nature has to give way to exploitation, which wreaks havoc in its wake. Formerly rich biodiversity hotspots are facing increasing pressures that threaten the once brimming life force of its flora and fauna. As we watch nature disappearing in front of our eyes we begin to realize its beauty and fragility - and its need for protection.
Sacred Earth Travel believes that all the earth is sacred - and that we must protect its fragile balance. I believe in treading softly on the earth - whether at home or travelling - for conscious living is a way of life. I believe that close contact with nature can heal the battle wounds of civilization that are inflicted on us by the stress of our busy daily lives. And I believe in the transformative power of travel - the journey within, as a way of reconnecting with the spirit and thus healing the soul.
I believe that eco-travel not only provides a superb way to become immersed in nature, but also offers great opportunities to help protect it for future generations. At its best, it can facilitate real, close-up encounters with the natural world as well as providing fascinating insights into the lives of people, who continue to live in close relationship with their natural environment.
Eco-travel also provides a direct means of supporting conservation efforts at a local level. Ecotravel ventures often involve collaborative efforts between local communities and eco-travel companies, thus providing a sustainable source of income, which actively supports the conservation of nature and culture for communities that otherwise might be forced to move to the cities or earn their living from destructive exploitation of their homelands (e.g. cutting down the forests, cash crop agriculture, gold mining, etc.).
Numerous ecolodges originally started off as scientific research stations and many continue to work on scientific research and conservation projects alongside their eco-tourism ventures. The future of their important work is secured by the visitors who come to learn about their research and conservation efforts. Thus, instead of being entirely dependent on funding from official sources (which, as we all know is continuously cut back), they can generate some of their funding directly and continue their work in these precious habitats. Eco-travel benefits everybody involved.
Kat Morgenstern, November 2006