Throughout my experience in New Zealand I have found that mindful-traveling ultimately comes down to participation and willingness to experiment and try new things. After only a few short weeks there is already this sense of normalcy beginning to form as a result of becoming a mindful-traveler. I have been able to gain knowledge about my host culture through my Maori and Religion lectures, simple walks through town, and conversations with locals. However, I have also been able to actively participate in Kiwi culture. For example, I am currently planning a road trip around the south island for this weekend. Although planning the logistics of this trip took some time, it is not unusual for a Kiwi to do the same thing for a long weekend. This is a perfect way to experience the countryside of New Zealand in the same manner a local would! In this way the experience is both culturally and economically mindful because we are supporting the economy in a way that does not exploit tourism and also participating in a bit of the local culture in order to gain an authentic immersion. This is not the first trip I have planned that encompasses a mindful-traveler. For my picture this week I am including a picture of my rock-climbing trip from last weekend. It was planned in the same way my road trip is- just as the local would. Rock climbing is almost its own culture within the culture of New Zealand and it was exciting to experience such a diverse subculture in an authentic and inspiring way through mindful-travel. As a result, mindful-traveling was something I was already participating in without even knowing it a week ago!
Slimbach defines mindful- traveling as “approach[ing] our field settings with a level of sensitivity and curiosity that raises our conscious awareness of how we affect the social and natural environment we enter and act upon” (Slimbach, 74). So far I have been able to travel in a manner that supports Slimachs theory. Although I do believe that mindful-traveling is an effective way to gain a definition of the global community I also believe there are other ways to do the same thing. For example I have found that simply slowing down, making a routine, and talking to locals in between lectures has been the best way to learn about local culture. To me it is not so much about mindful-traveling because traveling hints as this sense of haste and movement. I have found that I am able to make more cultural connections when I am stationary rather than moving from place to place.
By mindfully traveling in a stationary manner I have noticed a clear division between the tourists and the locals. Additionally, I have found that being a mindful-traveler in New Zealand is much easier than I had originally anticipated. I pictured being tempted to act more like a mass tourist or even a carefree drifter since I knew I wanted to do tons of travel within the country. However, I have easily moved into a state of cultural awareness. The distinguishing factor between the mindful-traveler and the mass tourist largely has to do with the cultural view New Zealand has on tourist and the existing Kiwi culture as a whole.
Kiwis have the stereotype of being wildly adventurous and this is true to an extent as many stereotypes are. Before this experience I pictured Kiwi’s being wild to a degree of being irrational. However, this is not the case, the culture definitely encourages and accommodates for more adventurous activities, but not all Kiwi’s risk death at every turn like their stereotype suggests. This affects the mindful-traveler because participating in adventures activities becomes part of the innate Kiwi culture rather than an activity exclusively for tourist. The culture and type of tourism that New Zealand attracts also affects the mindful-traveler. Here in Dunedin tourists are simply a part of everyday life but there is a very distinct disconnect between the Kiwi world I am experiencing and the world they are seeing.
Slimbach spends a large part of chapter 3 discussing the causes and effects tourism can have on a culture. He argues that economic, cultural, social, ecological, and spiritual factors all have an impact on the local culture. However, the tourism here is very different from the tourism found in places such as Europe or a third world country because Kiwi’s do not let the culture of tourism effect their day to day lives. Everyday several tour busses pull up to the university and about 50 tourists get of each with their selfie-sticks and fanny packs. They stop in town for about 20 min and then are off to their next destination. Minuets later it is as if they were never there. So although tourism is a large part of the countries economy, many move from place to place so fast they are unable to make a genuine connection or over run the town for long. This structure of tourism contains the carefree drifters and the mass tourists away from the true Kiwi culture and the mindful-travelers. These aspects of New Zealand society clearly distinguish the mindful-traveler from the mass tourist in a very clear manner that is unique to the country.
I have found that our working definition of a global community is an accurate representation of what the global community is for the mindful-traveler. However, it is almost impossible for the busses of tourist that appear every day to feel this same sense of community, they simply do not stay in one place long enough to get a grasp of what life is actually like here. In the workshop we said that a:
“global community is a shared living space of interdependent individuals endowed with universal human rights, whole choosing to act upon them, embracing differences and working toward common
goals.” (QU301-ROP Spring 16)
In class this was simply a definition to me. However, looking back on it the part that stands out is where we highlight interdependent individuals because this is what truly makes up a community at its core on both a large and small scale. From a country such as the US it is difficult to see how interdepended we all are. However, I have slowly begun to realize how vital other countries existence is to everyday survival (especially in a country that is an island). On a smaller scale, it is clear that even though I am international, I have still become a member of this community of interdependent individuals. This is largely to do with mindful traveling. I am not simply getting off a bus every hour to see a new sight- I am actually living and experiencing the culture for what it is. I don’t think I can ever go back to being a mass tourist- it is simply no good enough.