Travelling: redescovering ourselves, celebrating diversity

Okay, tourism has a significant environmental footprint. As the basis of any means of transport is the burning of fuels – fossil fuels in general -,  travelling ends up with a lot of carbon dioxide.

But on the other hand, travel is a wonderful activity: allows you to meet other people, other cultures, other ideas. It makes us discover each other, and thus to rediscover ourselves, our place in this world so big and yet so small.

This weekend Dan and I visited Serra Gaucha, in the south of Brazil. It was a gastronomic tour. We tasted pinion cookies, local cheeses, wines and salami, homemade crackers and bread. We met nice people, as Mr. Severino, who dropped out of the winery crafts for lack of aid, and started producing jellies and jams with his wife on the route of the Stones Way (Caminho de Pedra -Bento Gonçalves-RS). At the end of the trip, at an improvised store by the roadside, we met Mrs. Ivone, who with great kindness taught us how to prepare beautiful colored beans.

We saw the elderly, young children and descendants of German and Polish people dancing traditional songs of their ancestors, in a folk festival in Nova Petropolis, RS.

Tourism values diversity. That’s why, despite its impacts, it could be considered a positive activity.

Traveling inspires the traveler, and creates conditions that enable communities to live in their traditions. It encourages youth not to migrate to big towns to find  a decent professional future.

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While we  don’t have yet available less-polluting means of transportation, here are some tips to make your travels more environmentally friendly:

– Get to know the customs and local foods. Talk to the locals, ask for receipts, ask everything you’re curious about.

– Do not take the “big city” with you. If you are in rural areas or park, do not put loud music. Visit smaller shops rather than big malls or department stores. Avoid fast food. Look for local foods. Snacks sold by the streets are great option to taste the typical local cooking without spending much.

– If staying in hotel, watch out for the laundry procedures. Most hotels and hostels ask hosts to inform if you don’t want your toil to be washed everyday, so it can save a little water.

– If you are camping, respect neighboring groups and take care of your trash.

– Avoid shopping trips. And do not get too excited, think three times before buying objects on the road. Buy what you  will really use. Prefer to travel to meet customs, food and natural resources.

– If you bring souvenirs for friends and family, buy something that has utility. Small typical snacks and candies are a good option. Your friend/family will have  a taste of your trip, ans drawers won’t get more cluttered with refrigerator magnets or keychains or postcards.


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