“We are going for a hike to Mount Gennaro tomorrow”. Matteo shared his plan for the weekend of Sep 2012. Matteo and I drove out of Rome early in the morning to enjoy the nature and experience the thrill of hiking to Mount Gennaro. Needless to say, I was super excited. The uphill walk and the trees seemed to be quite similar to the Shivapuri hill of Kathmandu valley. However, the stark difference was that I didn’t see anyone en route.
After walking for almost 2 hours, we met a couple who were collecting mushrooms. They were friendly and seemed to be proud of their forage. After about an hour walk, we were on the top of Mount Gennaro. The name “Mount Gennaro” had me assuming that we were hiking up a small mountain however, it being a hill was not at all disappointing as the view was absolutely breathtaking. While I was enjoying the moment, he prepared lunch for two in matter of minutes. He had carried beans, bread and tomatoes to prepare the most rewarding delicacies of the day.
Buon appetito! Matteo said with full of energy and warmth. After finishing the lunch, I was busy capturing the scenery and taking in the incredible sight. Then I noticed Matteo was busy crushing the empty cans and putting all the trashes in a big container. I couldn’t really understand what he was trying to do but when he said that he was planning to take the trash with him and dispose it properly in Rome I was truly amazed.
I was certainly taken aback by his genuine concern and dedication. What had me more surprised was the fact that there was no one, absolutely no one around us, there was no CCTV surveillance nor a board urging the hikers to take back the trashes. However, Matteo was collecting the trash as if it were a routine responsibility. That was indeed an eye opener moment to me. Despite taking up several trekking trips in the Himalaya, I was not always mindful about the trash. I would put the trash in the nearby bin, but taking the trash back home was beyond my imagination.
The simple act by Matteo was a true example of basic responsibility regardless of the law and appreciation. Needless to say, his company, Vagabondo viaggi, is known for community driven responsible tourism. They practice ‘leave nothing except the footprint and take nothing except the photograph’.
Travelling is one of the best teachers, provided one is ready to learn. For me, it was the perfect lesson that I will always remember while travelling locally or internationally. Whenever we think of sustainable tourism, we think of 3Rs (Reuse, Recharge and Recycle). The image of water bottles, polythene bags and carbon credits should be a primary concern for every traveler more so every citizen.
After Mount Gennaro hike, every trek of mine ended with a collection of trash be it in Nepal or beyond national borders. We also encouraged the group members to do so. We even practiced ‘Trekker of the day trophy’ for the one who carried the biggest trash bag by the end of the day. Needless to say, trekkers increasingly enjoyed the amusing and conscientious challenge.
The mantra of sustainable tourism is to be respectful towards the nature. When one respects nature, s/he lives and travels in harmony with nature. The practice of Eco-friendly travels come out naturally. Perhaps this is a high time to move forward and evolve towards regenerative travel which practices just the opposite of ‘It’s not my backyard’.
As the world is waiting to restart tourism, the key question remains ‘will the return of travel be smarter and more sustainable than it was before March 2020?’. I can’t wait to travel with Matteo again and see how he continues to drop his “ego” in order to make the travel experience more “eco”.