To thyself be kind
With so many travellers turning to mindfulness, spirituality and so-called positive ways of living, we steadfast types are increasingly made to feel uncaring and left behind, especially when the vernacular of said philosophies (ethical, responsible) is used to shame our indulgent plans.
Well, we shouldn’t worry. After poring over the literature, manifestos and mantras, it turns out there isn’t much to learn anyway. Much of it is so obvious, we should be celebrating our fidelity to common sense. That most parodied of counter-cultures, hipsterism, revels in the local, from crafted beers and coffee to bicycle mechanics. With independent and niche at its core, small businesses and communities tend to benefit. Paradoxically, hipsters provide an unpretentious travel message: consider buying local products and services which, in turn, support parish economies.
Just when we thought we couldn’t possible cram any more stuff into our heads, along comes a movement that promises to free our minds — mindfulness, which is about slowing down and enjoying simple pleasures that are passing us by because we’re too busy thinking. Achieved through meditation, the advice is to see, hear, touch, taste and smell your travels. Catch your breath now.
Friends of the Dalai Lama is a formal alliance that helps support the punishing travel schedule of His Holiness. The meat-eating poster boy of Buddhism preaches altruism as the medicine of our time. The message is to empty your pockets of foreign coins and ask how you can make a difference.
At the other end of the spectrum, the focus is on thyself. Positive psychology is less about glossy magazine collages, affirmations and chants, and more about adopting “scientifically proven methods” to enhance well-being. This new science wants us to be happy. For travel, the five-pronged pitch-fork formula translates to: do something you enjoy, get lost in the moment, achieve something along the way, make it all matter, and don’t forget to smile. The science is in.
And let’s not forget those heartless fickle types who subscribe to cruel physical workouts, strict diets and designer sportswear that transitions from breakfast to the dinner table. They have hijacked the term wellness. The long-serving don’t nibble on ancient grains but focus on well-rounded health, preferring activities that “feed the soul”, such as yoga and difficult expeditions. Their message: ingest healthily, stretch, walk, and at night switch off devices and connect with a book or friend.
Responsible tourism? Weighed down by guilttrips, greenwashing and carbon emissions calculators, is it any wonder we remain cynical about an issue most of us really do care about? Just because it’s luxe, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Nevertheless, proponents advocate choosing hotels, resorts, airlines and tourism operators that are genuine about ethics and sustainability.
So, after much inquiry, deduction and reduction, I present a bite-sized manifesto, free of karma, crystals or kale. Its simple message is to travel kindly. Be kind to the planet. Be kind to its inhabitants. Be kind to yourself.