At the heart of the notion of sustainable travel is the idea that the finite resources of our planet demand a discipline of travelers, one that seeks to preserve and even enhance the natural and cultural environments we encounter as we travel. People who discuss sustainability often do so by speaking to “the three pillars of sustainability” which are social sustainability, economic sustainability, and environmental sustainability. There are countless articles on the Three Pillars and understanding how the three are related and dependent on each other is an important intellectual exercise I want to recommend to you.
However, there is a less intellectual and, to my mind, more fundamental element to the sustainability equation, and that is the idea of respect born of empathy. Far too often, especially in an era of mass tourism, the impact of a lack of respect for the road and the people we visit are the most visible wounds inflicted by travelers. When we don’t respect the environment, when we lack compassion for the economic disparities we so often encounter, or when we fail to appreciate the unique presence of a culture’s customs and beliefs, we are deeply in the shadows of sustainability’s demise.
As we all return to some sense of normality after two years of sitting still, it is a good time to contemplate traveling with an altered sense of respect, an elevated concern for others and the environment. There are ever so small, but ever so important agreements we can make with ourselves that can alter both the way we perceive our hosts and the way we are perceived as their guests.
Empathy, recognizing and respecting the rights of others is a part of our duty to all of humanity. Empathy is essential to respect. We cannot begin to understand the motivations and customs of other cultures without the ability to see life from another person’s perspective.
All this somewhat weighty thought is really a big part of the motivation for much of our travels. The opportunity to see the world from different perspectives, to understand that we share more than we differ, and to revel in the differences is a blessing.
As travel professionals, we have the unique possibility of shaping the attitudes of millions of travelers as they set out on their journeys. We can hopefully instill the notion of respect where it may be lacking at times.
Hope to see you, and your clients. on the road.