One voice is all it really takes for a conversation that can positively impact our planet, writes soloist Belinda Roach.
I have never been quiet about things that really matter so, it was not a difficult decision to fly solo and start my own ethical business.
One voice. That’s all it really takes to begin a conversation that will lead to a huge impact on the way we look after our planet and the people on it.
I want to be the person with that voice because during my travels, it was obvious that there were host communities who were being exploited. Their voices kind of got drowned out by large corporations who shipped, flew or bussed travellers around the globe without much thought as to what sort of impact was left behind.
It also got me to thinking about what share of the money that we as travel consumers spend, actually goes back into the local purse.
Putting principles into practice
Don’t get me wrong. I love travelling and setting foot off the beaten track still gives me a buzz every time. But I don’t want to be the one that stamps all over someone’s backyard and moves on without a backward glance, leaving footprints everywhere.
It made perfect sense to me to look for local knowledge and ask the people who live in the places we wish to visit to be hosts, to feed, or to guide us around. That’s why I decided to put my money where my mouth is and began setting up the sort of business that would make a difference – the type of business that would give back to the community.
As Dame Freya Stark said:
“There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.”
So getting to trade with locally owned hotels and keeping the scale of the business appropriate to local conditions, supporting industry which promotes traditional crafts and skills is the way I get to put my principles into practice.
I also want to share these special and magical places with my customers and at the same time, to empower them to join me in improving the lives and working conditions in the places they visit.
Sourcing local products and services for tourists who want to travel responsibly and be part of the local scene, offers a maximum return to the indigenous community. I could see that by promoting ethical tourism, the local families could benefit from the income.
I get to share my love of travelling in a way that I can still sleep at night and my guests get to really experience the culture of the places they are in (rather than gazing at it behind the glass of an air conditioned, gas guzzling tourist coach!). A win-win situation for all!
The green dream
Long haul flights mean more carbon footprints and like I said, I like to tread lightly when it comes to travelling. A holiday package that allows for a slower pace of life, such as using local ferries or getting on a train that will take you through breath-taking scenery – one that allows for stops along the way to meet friendly locals, is stress-free and environmentally friendly. From my experience, I know that a well-planned and interesting holiday can be kind to the planet at the same time. I loved heading off the beaten tourist path, so the tourist cattle market packages never interested me. I loved to travel light and left excessive packaging at home, this helped me focus on the journey and the experience.
I wanted to make sure that everyone could experience the wonder of seeing animals in their natural habitat, immersing in rich and authentic cultures, hearing stories of rituals and beliefs from locals at least once in their life but with the support and guiding hand of an ethical travel company.
You don’t just talk the talk but walk the walk. Travelling to so many beautiful parts of the world, trekking through rainforests, or standing at the foot of a foaming waterfall then seeing the evidence of man’s impact on earth stops you in your tracks. Teaming up with environmental charities, giving entrepreneurs in developing countries a hand up or helping to support local communities to buy back parcels of land so that it could be returned to a place for local wildlife, was always a top priority on the business plan.
I wanted to set up a business that would make an impact but in the right way – a sustainable and meaningful way. It is easy to donate by phone, drop a few dollars in the charity box, or donate to the op shop. But, by empowering and inspiring local entrepreneurs and supporting the setup of micro businesses, placing the ownership of land back into the hands of the local community, and offering sustainable tourism, I feel like I am playing my part.
Is having an ethical business important to you?