To thy­self be kind

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION LUXURY - ROB DUN­LOP

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.

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