The terminology of ‘the mindful traveler’ versus the ‘carefree drifter’ is interesting to me, as at first glance to the assignment prompt, I found myself wanting to characterize myself as a mindful drifter- a socially and culturally conscious individual that has literally and figuratively drifted around the beautiful country of Australia without an agenda (one of my favorite pass-times is floating in the ocean, letting the waves carry me and the wind push me along to wherever I end up). As I began to read Chapter 3, I realized that the substance behind the definitions of both of these terms are what truly matter, and that it is crucial to be consciously aware of all aspects of my surroundings and intentions in my travels. I do believe that ‘mindful traveling’ is a key characteristic of members of the global community. Reading up on the detrimental effects that tourists can have on countries, such as economically, environmentally, socially, and civilly made me realize my privilege and ignorance when it comes to the amount that developing countries undergo to sustain the tourist population (Slimbach, 35%). The image that Slimbach inserted on this page helped me visualize both positive and negative consequences to travelers in these countries, regardless of the mindfulness or lack thereof.
Because Australia is not a developing country, I found that although it still extremely important to remain conscious and aware of our impact as education abroad students, I felt as though this chapter resonated with my memories from my time spent in the Philippines much more than with my time here thus far. Slimbach included a quote from Abernathy, a local speaking about the tourists around, saying “’[t]he tourist I’m looking at may make in one year 500 or 600 times what I make. I didn’t use to think of myself as poor, but now I do…Where did they get all that money? It can’t be by just working hard, because we also work hard and look how little we have. Maybe these people are rich because we are poor’” (37%). Although our activities and choices in the Philippines were that of the locals, since we did everything with our family that lived there, it breaks my heart to think that those around us, selling hand-made leis or bamboo placemats, could have felt that way just in our presence. I think that being aware of how we, as outsiders, drastically impact the lives of the locals around us in our travels, is essential to keep in mind wherever we may go.
The concept from this chapter that was most applicable to my abroad experience in Australia has to be the ecological mindfulness. Slimbach discusses the carbon footprint we create, placing numeric values on flights (i.e. one ton of CO2 for one person to fly from Canada to Japan), and noting how we can minimalize any additions we may place onto our footprints that we may not realize (38%). During our third day in Australia, the leaders of our education abroad program had a 45 minute discussion with all of us about keeping the country’s environment as clean as it was when we got here. We talked about the amount of carbon dioxide we emitted from our drives to the airport and 26 hours of travel to get to Cairns. We brainstormed the best techniques to minimize our ecological waste, as we had already done so much damage to the environment before even arriving at our destination. Some of the ideas brought included shorter showers, recycling, etc. The nice thing about everywhere that I have been in Australia so far, is that you can turn electrical outlets on and off, depending on if they are being used or not. They have a half flush and full flush function for the toilet to conserve water, and everything is clearly labeled on both the containers and the trash/ recycling receptacles as to what can be recycled. The outdoor showers along the beach have signs reminding you that ‘every drop counts,’ and there are rubbish bins located all throughout public areas to minimize littering. Although I will have emitted more than two tons of carbon dioxide in my flights to and from Australia, it is comforting to know that I am doing everything in my power to keep that emission from getting any greater.
This image is of my scuba diving adventure through the Great Barrier Reef. I think it does justice to my ecological goal while in Australia- to witness and experience the beautiful land and sea in the greenest, least environmentally disturbing way.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.