There is no unhappiness like the misery of sighting land again after a cheerful, careless voyage.” – Mark Twain
How would Mark Twain react if he had to stay home for over 7 months without the access to sanguine and careless voyages? Undoubtedly, he would have come up with a distinct and fitting quote for today’s world.
The dream and desire of travelling, the enduring bug to hit the road and see the world; it is much older than you think. Interestingly even in the time of stoic philosophers such as Socrates or Seneca, the ancients shared the same longing to see magnificent sites and far flung places.
The discussion is ongoing among avid travelers, host community, destination management company (DMC) and other stakeholders on when and how will Global Tourism restart? Seeing the second wave of COVID in Europe and other destinations that are struggling hard to contain the virus and regain confidence in travel, no one has the power to predict the exact moment that travelling will be revived. However, one may take help from ancient philosophy of Stoicism in order to accept the unprecedented challenge and navigate without losing enthusiasm and remaining resilient. ‘Know thyself’ was the key to Socrates’ teaching and it can also help today’s travelers in understanding and respecting thy responsibilities towards a sustainable world. Some of the following tips might help us understand and adapt these unpredictable times better.
1. Thou shall embrace nature
We are part of nature and nature is not a destination but the home. Stoics strive to live in harmony with nature. Perhaps this is the best time to promote activities that are responsible and eco-friendly, and patronize the business that organises carbon-offset adventures. While you wait to travel to your dream ecotourism destinations like Patagonia, Bhutan or Nepal, you can visit the nearest national park or the place of natural beauty in a few hours’ hike or drive. This reminds me of a friend in Belgium who had visited three national Parks in Nepal, but never made it to Hugo Kempen National park, the first National Park in Belgium. You can explore the best kept secrets in your own region or country. You will be amazed by your discovery.
2. Thou shall promote local
You can support the local economy by simply buying a cup of tea from a local shop or enjoying locally grown coffee. Many travelers are not aware of the fact that Nepal grows one of the finest Teas which is sought after in the global market. Be it part taking in a Tea tasting session in Kathmandu or trying authentic French crepes while visiting Brittany. While buying local souvenirs, art work or authentic local experiences, you always will have a choice to make it memorable and impactful in your next trip.
3. Thou shall be cosmopolitan
Stoics call themselves the citizens of the cosmos, hence not limited to a small geographic region or a country, hence they strive to be cosmopolitan. Being cosmopolitan is not an easy thing to do but the right thing to do. As a traveler when you explore with a cosmopolitan mindset, you treat every place as you would take care of your own home. You would be a responsible traveler picking the hotel/operators who walk the talk of sustainable tourism. You don’t ask to change your towels and sheets every day; and try your best not to waste the food and other resources.
4. Thou shall be mindful
You become respectful and mindful on culturally sensitive issues in the destination. Be it taking selfies or clicking the photo of the locals. You might be unintentionally being a part of the problem rather than the solution by travelling to places where the locals are affected by over-tourism. Rather you might want to choose a lesser- known, destination and see if you could be a part of the solution to the locals whose economy would be impacted simply by your presence and purchase. Taking up a volunteering assignment in a local village school or a local NGO working for people with disabilities, there are many ways to enrich the travel experience by sharing the goodness of giving be it time, expertise or just exchanging heartfelt smiles by picking up conversation with locals.
5. Thou shall know thyself
People try to get away to the country, to the beach, to the mountains. You always wish that you could too. You can get away from it anytime you like by going within. Nowhere you can go is more peaceful than your own soul. Every trip that you take should help improve yourself and your life. Let your next trip help you in inner discovery so that you really don’t need to make several trips in a year to go away from yourself.
Ask yourself one simple question, “Why are you travelling” before you pack your bags for any destination; once you know why you are travelling your entire experience eventually becomes more purposeful than you would initially expect it to be. One of Seneca’s quotes which said, “Don’t bring ruins to ruins. Build a life worth visiting, that you don’t want to flee” if put into practice would enrich anyone’s travel experience be it Mark Twain or any other traveller.