Conscious tourism, or why look at birds and go to forest therapy


Conscious tourism, or why look at birds and go to forest therapy



Conscious tourism, or why look at birds and go to forest therapy

And where to go so that the usu­al vaca­tion turns into a con­scious one

Text: Ale­na Galk­i­na

Pho­to edi­tor:
Nina Rasyuk

A pho­to:

At the sev­en­ti­eth ses­sion of the UN Gen­er­al Assem­bly, it is announced that 2017 should be the “year of sus­tain­able tourism” (sus­tain­able tourism). Dur­ing this year, the World Tourism Orga­ni­za­tion (UNTWO) and the gov­ern­ments of the coun­tries should estab­lish coop­er­a­tion. The pri­or­i­ty is a tourism sys­tem that con­tributes to the con­ser­va­tion of the ecosys­tem, cul­tur­al her­itage and gen­der equal­i­ty.

To put it sim­ply, the coun­try, accord­ing to the wish­es of the UN, should devel­op the regions — at least their pub­lic trans­port and hotel busi­ness. Small towns and rur­al areas should become attrac­tive for tourists, local res­i­dents should get jobs, and, as the finale of the fairy tale, inequal­i­ty between regions of one coun­try should dis­ap­pear and pover­ty should decrease.

The sus­tain­able devel­op­ment trend also exists in fash­ion. The term “sus­tain­able fash­ion” refers to projects with an eth­i­cal approach to the pro­duc­tion of things. Stel­la McCart­ney makes col­lec­tions from ocean debris. Since 2013, H&M has been releas­ing the Con­scious line with cloth­ing made from recy­cled mate­ri­als. Mirosla­va Duma launch­es the Fash­ion Tech Lab foun­da­tion, which sup­ports eco-projects: Orange Fiber, which pro­duces fab­ric from orange peel, and Dia­mond Foundry, lab-grown dia­monds. The direc­tion of “sus­tain­able” is in archi­tec­ture, bank­ing and in the restau­rant busi­ness.

Air and trav­el com­pa­nies are tak­ing the first steps. The Amer­i­can low-cost air­line Jet­Blue made one of the largest bio­fu­el orders in the his­to­ry of avi­a­tion: 125 mil­lion liters of a mix­ture of veg­etable oils is enough to oper­ate in the same mode for 10 years, only reduc­ing harm­ful emis­sions. Tour oper­a­tor Intre­pid offers more than a thou­sand group eco­tours. And the exhaust gas­es of the plane (the one on which you went on an eco­tour) and the spent elec­tric­i­ty (the one that helped you, for exam­ple, charge your phone and dry your hair in a hotel) the com­pa­ny com­pen­sates with its projects in the field of alter­na­tive ener­gy sources (includ­ed in the tour price). Lux­u­ry tour oper­a­tor Aber­crom­bie & Kent offers trips to geot­her­mal pow­er plants: you can, for exam­ple, go to Ice­land’s Hell­ishadey, the world’s largest geo­elec­tric pow­er plant, which gen­er­ates ener­gy from under­ground sources.

Only hotels lag behind in terms of sus­tain­abil­i­ty. A “green” hotel today is any hotel in which tow­els are not changed for five days, because the com­pa­ny cares about the envi­ron­ment. At the same time, there will def­i­nite­ly be a cou­ple of bot­tles of water in the room — of course, made of non-degrad­able plas­tic.

A good exam­ple of the devel­op­ment of unat­trac­tive regions for tourists is the Ger­man indus­tri­al town of Völk­lin­gen. The local met­al­lur­gi­cal plant was not just closed, but turned into a giant indus­tri­al muse­um. Now the city receives 300 thou­sand tourists a year.

From the out­side, the goal of sus­tain­able, or con­scious, tourism is clear. The envi­ron­ment is pol­lut­ed — let’s try to make it clean­er. There is a huge tourist flow in Euro­pean cap­i­tals — let’s lure tourists to the regions and give locals jobs. The mar­ket has been cap­tured by inter­na­tion­al hotel chains — let’s help local busi­ness­es. But what does all this mean for the tourists them­selves? How to change the pro­gram of your tour so that the vaca­tion turns into a “con­scious jour­ney”?

Iri­na Ryabo­vol, rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the inter­na­tion­al trav­el metasearch

“The rules are sim­ple: do not buy fakes and things that are pro­hib­it­ed in the coun­try, pay atten­tion to what is pro­duced in the region, try local cui­sine and look for guides in local orga­ni­za­tions, not in inter­na­tion­al com­pa­nies. Use pub­lic trans­port and rent a bike for short dis­tances. It is also impor­tant that by help­ing the region, you expand your hori­zons. Com­pare: a tem­plate pho­to of a sun­set on the palm of your hand or raft­ing on the Mekong Riv­er full of impres­sions? A guide from a trav­el agency who shuf­fles facts, or thoughts under the cen­turies-old walls of Angkor?

The main thing in con­scious tourism is to choose regions instead of hack­neyed cap­i­tals, use pub­lic trans­port and eat local prod­ucts. Trekking, hik­ing, glamp­ing and reste­val, gas­tro­nom­ic and wine tours — all this fits into the cat­e­go­ry of sus­tain­able tourism. In addi­tion, we have com­piled a guide to activ­i­ties that can be prac­ticed wher­ev­er you are, sup­port­ing the trend towards con­scious tourism.

Публикация от Свобода путешествий (@momondodreams)

Conscious tourism, or why look at birds and go to forest therapy (photo 1)

Bird­watch­ing: trav­el to watch birds

The tourist’s atten­tion and inter­est in wildlife is anoth­er point that turns an ordi­nary trip into a con­scious one. Bird­watch­ing, or ama­teur ornithol­o­gy, is the eas­i­est way to draw atten­tion to this nature. You dress warm­ly, take a ther­mos, binoc­u­lars, a phone with the ecosys­tema app and leave the city. Exam­ine the birds, deter­mine their species and record what you see in a field diary.

Such activ­i­ty not only makes you move no less than with Nordic walk­ing, but also increas­es atten­tive­ness and, final­ly, returns that con­nec­tion between man and nature lost dur­ing life in the city. Anoth­er rad­i­cal argu­ment may be that bird­watch­ing reduces anx­i­ety, irri­tabil­i­ty and helps to get rid of depres­sion. The Eng­lish writer Helen Mac­don­ald test­ed this out in her own expe­ri­ence: watch­ing a goshawk helped her cope with her grief after the death of her father. Mac­don­ald described her wan­der­ings through the hills and forests and bird watch­ing in the book “I Means Hawk”.

Conscious tourism, or why look at birds and go to forest therapy (photo 2)

Veroni­ka Samot­skaya, founder of the Bird­watch­ing Moscow project, teacher of the Bir­dID bird iden­ti­fi­ca­tion course

“Bird­watch­ing can be of inter­est to peo­ple who, in prin­ci­ple, love nature. Among bird­watch­ers, of course, there are peo­ple who are far from biol­o­gy and zool­o­gy: screen­writ­ers, engi­neers, mil­i­tary, psy­chol­o­gists, pro­gram­mers, econ­o­mists, and so on. Some peo­ple like to watch the behav­ior of birds in their feed­ers. Oth­ers want to see as many species of birds as pos­si­ble (a kind of col­lect­ing). Bird­watch­ing has become a mass sport in Europe and Amer­i­ca. Peo­ple spend mon­ey, trav­el to find and see new bird species.”

Where to go to watch the birds? Just enough to get out of the city. Already in the Moscow region there will be lap­wings, preda­to­ry kestrels and dozens of oth­er bird species. Then bird­watch­ing can be prac­ticed wher­ev­er you go. In Slo­va­kia, expe­ri­enced bird­watch­ers look at wall climbers, in the French Camar­gue — at flamin­gos, puffins are con­sid­ered to be the trea­sure of Ice­land and the Faroe Islands, and the Ural attracts ama­teur ornithol­o­gists with the steppe eagle and the demoi­selle crane. You can, like the writer Jonathan Franzen, even go to Antarc­ti­ca to look at the emper­or pen­guin and anoth­er 30 species of birds. The most excit­ing thing in such an activ­i­ty is to record what you see. Today, sci­en­tists know more than 10 thou­sand species of birds: the num­ber of birds in the field diary is a kind of indi­ca­tor of knowl­edge of wildlife.

Conscious tourism, or why look at birds and go to forest therapy (photo 3)

Conscious tourism, or why look at birds and go to forest therapy (photo 4)

Agri­tourism: vil­lage instead of city

Agri­tourism is the very help of tourists to rur­al res­i­dents, which is men­tioned in the con­cept of sus­tain­able tourism. Imag­ine that instead of a vaca­tion at sea, for exam­ple, you go to work in an olive grove near Lake Gar­da in Italy or in a vine­yard in France for three weeks.

From the first day you delve into the cul­ture of anoth­er coun­try: live accord­ing to the regime of the house that accept­ed you, work with local res­i­dents, dine with them at the same table, try the local cui­sine. The degree of involve­ment in the pro­duc­tion process must be agreed with the own­er in advance. You can just live in an Ital­ian vil­lage by rent­ing a guest house from the own­er, or you can work five or six hours a day (for this you will be pro­vid­ed with a bed and food for free). On Airbnb, there are fun­ny options — for exam­ple, a house in Tus­cany, where you can live for two euros a day on one con­di­tion: feed the chick­ens every day.

The option of rur­al tourism should be con­sid­ered in the case of coun­tries that are expen­sive to live in — for exam­ple, Scan­di­navia. Liv­ing in a fish­ing lodge in a Nor­we­gian or Swedish vil­lage for a week is cheap­er than rent­ing a camp­site.

Conscious tourism, or why look at birds and go to forest therapy (photo 5)

Conscious tourism, or why look at birds and go to forest therapy (photo 6)

Japan­ese prac­tice of shin­rin-yoku, or “for­est baths”: a jour­ney through the forests instead of ther­a­py

Let’s start with the fact that in Japan twen­ty years ago they includ­ed “for­est baths” in the nation­al health pro­gram. To under­stand the scope of shin­rin-yoku prac­tice, imag­ine that, for exam­ple, a trip through the for­est is includ­ed in your com­pul­so­ry insur­ance pol­i­cy. And there will be a sci­en­tif­ic expla­na­tion for this. Walk­ing in the for­est reduces the pro­duc­tion of cor­ti­sol, the stress hor­mone, strength­ens killer cells that fight virus­es, and in the case of dia­bet­ics, blood sug­ar lev­els decrease. Phy­ton­cides are respon­si­ble for this — aro­mat­ic sub­stances secret­ed by trees and plants.

The first study on the ben­e­fits of “for­est baths” was pub­lished in the 1980s by Roger Ulrich. It turned out that the patients of the Texas hos­pi­tal, who lay in the wards with a view of nature, recov­ered faster and need­ed less pain med­ica­tion than those patients who looked at the con­crete wall. And even ear­li­er, in the 1970s, Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan researchers Rachel and Stephen Kaplan proved that con­tem­pla­tion of nature increas­es con­cen­tra­tion. Mul­ti­task­ing of the brain can be trained by the “soft fas­ci­na­tion” tech­nique: this is what the Kaplans call watch­ing, for exam­ple, a but­ter­fly or a sun­set in their book.

Conscious tourism, or why look at birds and go to forest therapy (photo 7)

Japan is not the only coun­try where shin­rin-yoku is prac­ticed. For­est baths are pop­u­lar in Nor­way, Den­mark, Swe­den and Fin­land. But you can try them on any trip: just leave the city, down­load a track­ing route (for exam­ple, in the Wik­iloc app) and go for a walk with friends or fam­i­ly. Impor­tant: shin­rin-yoku and trekking are not the same thing. In the case of the first, it is impor­tant to relax and observe the flo­ra around. A walk of 500 meters can last two to three hours.

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