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The day I won the trip of a lifetime…

I woke up on August 29th like any other weekday morning.

Step 1: Turn off iphone alarm.

Step 2: Put on glasses.

Step 3: Check email on phone.

Step 4: Email from Intrepid, could be interesting. I open it and it says “Dear Lizzie, Congratuations for being one of the winners…”

Step 5: WHAT???????????????

I can probably stop with the steps now. So, after seeing my name and the word congratulations in the same email, I realized this was something I should read on the big screen of… my laptop. I whip it open, and before I could open up my curious congratulatory email, my friend Lindsay starts sending me messages to the likes of “OMG!!! YOU WON!!! WHY DID IT TAKE YOU SO LONG TO WAKE UP!!!???” (please note, she lives in Canada and saw that I won on Facebook about 3 hours before I did).

As it turned out, I had entered an Intrepid Travel contest on facebook in early August. The concept of the competition was to win the ultimate adventure, where you don’t know where you are going until you get to the airport. In order to win, you had to identify the person you would want to take this ultimate adventure with and explain why you wanted to go with them in 25 words or less. So, out of 20,000 entries, my 25 words of why I wanted to take an ultimate adventure with my sister WON!

Now we fast forward to today, December 20th. My sister and I leave on our adventure in 17 days. Do we know where we are going yet? No. Do we have any hints? Kinda.

It will be entering the cooler months of the year where we are going = North of the equator? Or, very far south?

We need typhoid and Hep A vaccinations = South America, Africa, Middle East, parts of Asia (ya, that didn’t narrow it down too much)

We need to pack sleeping bags = Camping?

Basically, there is an infinite number of possibilities of what this trip has in store for us. And I can’t wait to find out!

One of the best parts about winning this mystery trip is that it is with Intrepid Travel, one of the pioneers in sustainable/responsible adventure travel. They use public transportation rather than high carbon emitting tour buses. They have participants stay in small locally owned accommodations and eat at local restaurants to help create revenue for the communities they travel through. They educate their travelers and the local people they visit on sustainable tourism policies. Being considerate of the environment, supporting the economic development of local communities rather than international investors, and supporting education. Does it get any better?

So my question to you is, have you ever wanted a trip planned for you, where all you have to do is show up at the airport and go? Could you handle giving up control like that?

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Sustainable Tourism, What’s that?

Sustainable tourism…what on earth is it? Before taking a 3 month course on it in school, I had a very mishmashed understanding of it myself. I knew it had something to do with doing positive things whilst traveling. But really, how vague is that idea? Thankfully my understanding of sustainable tourism was corrected by my professor, Dr. Caroline Scarles, and I hope I can share some of my insights with you.

So, it is my mission, through this blog, to step up the discussion about sustainable tourism. To talk about what it means, what it looks like, how you can get involved in it, and how it can benefit you and others.

Therefore, before I get the 2011 posts started, I thought it would be a good idea to set everyone up with a base understanding of sustainable tourism.

First off, let’s talk about sustainability in general.

Sustainability, while a seemingly modern concept, is a rather old idea based on science: the capability of an organism to sustain itself. Easy enough.

Now let’s move on to 23 years ago when the term sustainable development was defined in the Brundtland Report in 1987. Also known at Our Common Future, the Brundtland Report defined sustainable development as:

“development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

To this day, this definition is still referenced.

Now, there are 3 areas, or environments, to which such sustainable development is supposed to consider: economic, environmental, and social. These are sometimes referred to as the Pillars of Sustainability or the Triple Bottom Line.

Have I lost you yet? I hope not. At this point you are probably thinking “but what does this have to do with tourism?” Well, the goal of developing sustainable tourism is to support the concept of sustainability, as referred to in the Brundtland Report, and support the Triple Bottom Line:

1) the consumption of resources in tourism should not compromise the ability of future generations to appreciate the same tourism resources

and

2) when developing sustainable tourism, it should take into account the economic, environmental, and social affects it will have on the area it is being developed. Some examples of these three categories in tourism are…

  • economic: does the tourism development benefit the economy of the locals in the destination it is being established?
  • environmental: how does increasing visitors to the destination affect the local environment? Can it still survive for future generations to enjoy?
  • social: is the local community’s culture and way of life positively or negatively affected by this tourism? Are they happy with it? Getting involved with it?

At this point I think I have given you enough to chew on for a bit. I will introduce more ideas in the weeks to come. Specifically, I will talk about some of the different forms of sustainable tourism that you may be more familiar with and how they fit under the umbrella of sustainable tourism, such as: Eco-Tourism, Green Tourism, Responsible Tourism, Ethical Tourism, Pro-Poor Tourism, Slow Travel, and Voluntourism.

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