The Conscious Traveller

Those who have clocked the rate at which I mention wine on this blog may think I’m about to go in a different direction here, but I’m actually pausing in my frantic research on Bangalore to have a little chat about the ethical side of travel. Responsible tourism is a much-bandied term, and I think we should all be mindful wherever we go, but those who travel with kids have a unique responsibility and opportunity.

There are many facets to responsible tourism – from environmental sustainability (have you checked what air travel does to your carbon footprint lately?) to cultural preservation, animal welfare and human rights, and in the spirit of not wasting a good university-level education in ethics, my kids hear it all (which is how stand up paddling brought the sustainable fishing police into our very own kitchen. Be thankful I promised you a “little” chat.)

After four straight hours debating the science and ethics of environmental conservation and animal welfare, P finds a quiet spot at the zoo splash park where he stares at the water and prays for the school holidays to be over. Later, he will demand to know whether his salmon is from the Pacific or the Atlantic.

After four straight hours debating the science and ethics of environmental conservation and animal welfare, P finds a quiet spot at the zoo splash park where he stares at the water and prays for the school holidays to be over. Later, he will demand to know whether his salmon is from the Pacific or the Atlantic.

I’m going to try not to bore you, but I think it’s worth stopping to think through and explore these types of issues with the young minds whose worldviews we are moulding like so much putty (my eldest is five, humour me on that one). Animal attractions are easy go-tos for travelling families. Leah and Catherine of Around The World In 181 Days caution that there’s something to choosing an ethical elephant ride – or declining to go at all – and it’s a decision worth explaining to kids as young as three or four. A trip to the zoo, like the one Dragon Boy enjoyed, provides further discussion points.

Sometimes the debates start as soon as you open your atlas to decide where you’re going. Various countries have been the dubious recipients of actual or suggested tourism boycotts, as Brian recently discussed in quite a thoughtful and interesting exchange on Everywhere Once in the wake of Marte Deborah Dalelv’s conviction for being raped*.

People have cited many reasons to travel with young kids – I think the opportunity to discuss and apply values and ethics in a diverse range of settings should be prominent amongst them. Don’t miss the chance.

*Marte Deborah Dalelv has since been pardoned. Not absolved, mind you.

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