Chapter 3 in Slimbach’s “Becoming World Wise” brought my mind back to my 2015 trip to Nicaragua. This was the first time that I became aware of the difference between being a “mindful traveler,” a “carefree drifter” and a “mass tourist.” Previous to this 2015 experience I think I fell somewhere in-between a mindful traveler and a mass tourist. My family travels quite often, and we tend to hit all of the larger tourist attractions when we arrive in a new location. However, we try hard to eat only at local restaurants, and always try the local cuisine. My dad even tried the fermented shark to become a Viking when we traveled to Iceland a few years back. However, things changed during my trip to Nicaragua.
Prior to our departure, we learned a great deal about service learning and appreciating cultures that are different from our own. Unfortunately, it became quite clear that not everyone quite understood this important concept upon our arrival. While I was spending time playing soccer with the locals and getting to know my host family, many of the students were taking pictures with the children. This bothered me because they had just met these kids, and they were taking pictures just to post them on social media in order to get praise. When I read chapter 3 of Slimbach I was relieved to see that others felt the same way as I do; That many people travel to third world countries for personal enrichment and oftentimes leave no positive or lasting impact on the country. Slimbach puts it perfectly, “Our first step toward social mindfulness is to understand and acknowledge the visible and invisible privileges and prerogatives that we as elite travelers take for granted but that often are denied to our third world hosts” (Slimbach, pg 88).
This experience made me realize my capacity exits this in limbo phase and become solely a “mindful traveler.” Personally, I think someone who is a mindful traveler is someone that wants to embrace the people and culture that is around them. There are no thoughts of superiority within this person, because they know that although cultures may be different, it does not mean that one is better than the next. A mindful traveler wants to better themselves through experience, while only leaving positive effects on the culture that they are experiencing. I view “mass tourists” as those who travel to countries solely to share it with social media or cross it off their bucket list. This kind of traveling reaps no benefit in my eyes, because mass tourists leave no time for cultural appreciation. Mass tourists are the reason that every major city has a McDonalds. People are either afraid to branch out and experience something new, or they feel that their ways are best and there is no point in looking for new experiences.
Our class defined the global community as “All people around the world living by and fighting for similar social values and basic rights.” After a month and a half abroad, I see now that this is not entirely true. This definition fits more to those who are “mindful travelers.” These individuals want to enact change for the better within themselves and the surrounding community. I can’t help but think that “mass tourists” don’t all fit this definition. Many mass tourists act the way they do because they are comfortable the way things are. I hope that one day we can all appreciate change and the challenges brought upon us that will ultimately lead to a better world.
I have been trying extremely hard to be a mindful traveler during my time in Barcelona as well as while visiting other countries. In terms of economic mindfulness, I have been making a conscious effort to eat only at local restaurants and shop only at local shops. Just across the street there is a small market that is owned by a family who lives right above it. We are now on a first name basis, and it is evident that I am one of their only loyal costumers. Their prices are equivalent to those at the supermarkets, and I would rather support their personal incomes than a large chain supermarket. The unemployment rate in Spain is quite high, and I hope that this steady support will make a small difference to them. When it comes to cultural mindfulness, I found the following Slimbach quote quite relevant. “Local traditions and material heritage are important for anyone wanting to gain a deeper appreciation for another culture…” (Slimbach, pg 85). I have been trying extremely hard to speak only Spanish around the locals, to show them that I appreciate their culture and want to gain further knowledge of it. Social Mindfulness has not been difficult, because I never view anyone as an inferior, no matter his or her social or economic status. The greatest change for me was ecological mindfulness. I care deeply for the environment and do as much as I can at home to preserve it. However, upon arriving in Spain I realized that the United States does not do nearly enough for this preservation. I really love the way that the Spanish (and most Europeans) separate their trash into waste, papers, plastics and compost. In addition, they charge extra for bags to dissuade people from using them. This has given me a greater appreciation for Spanish culture, and has taught me the necessity to try even harder to preserve the environment.
The picture I chose to share is from a Spanish market with all types of spices. It shows how I am branching out and trying new foods, while helping to support the smaller markets of Spain.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.