Have you ever stopped to wonder why some trips bring you more satisfaction than others? The majority of us prepare them with much care and dedication, and cherish high expectations. We work, we save money, we study all the possible destinations, we research routes, etc… And all of this in search of what, exactly? Fancy Facebook pictures? To relax in a cool hotel? If you responded yes, well, okay. We’ll stop there. But if you responded no, that’s not it, or that’s not all, well, friend, welcome to the team of experience hunters! Join us! And if you like, you can access the link for the free ebook GoLocal – Shared Experiences (unfortunately, it’s only in Portuguese for the time being).
Find the Treasure of the Lost Ark.
In 2000, I was completing a PhD in Anthropology and went to live with the Agta, a community of hunter-gatherers in the Philippines. I spent close to a year living in a thatched stick shack and running around communities with a tent on my back. This was definitely the best immersive trip possible in the region!
The Agta have a culture and a lifestyle that are completely exotic in our minds. They are semi-nomads, divide all the food that they have even if they’ll have nothing for the next day, share all personal objects including clothing, don’t distinguish between men and women in the family or group hierarchy, don’t know their own ages, etc. In other words, I had the unique opportunity to experience one of the most authentic communities in existence.
When I was there, there were only around 600 speakers of the language and the culture was in extinction. Despite this, the Agta gave me a treasure, an experience that taught me too many things to fit into this post. This is the first secret of authentic travel: the best form of tourism is communal.
Long live diversity!
After a year eating rice with sardines in the Philippines, I took advantage of the chance to take a little turn around Asia. It was a trip of incredible cultural diversity. Just in India, around 400 languages and dialects are spoken. In Thailand, besides Thai, there are languages like phuan, nyaw, galung, etc… and don’t forget that each and every one of these represents different ways to think, to act and to live…. plenty of material to delight any traveler!
This brings us to the second secret: for an authentic travel experience, beautiful scenery isn’t enough. The best type of tourism is the one that values cultural diversity, that is nourished by it, feeds it, and is aware of its role.
Remember that “he who pays the piper, calls the tune.”
More than 30% of tourists in the world come from G8 countries (aka the “richest” countries in the world). It is estimated, however, that about 50% of the money spent in tourism doesn’t even touch the wallets of the local population. Because of this, it’s best to consume products and pay for services offered by locals… and it’s much more fun, too.
And in this idea is the third secret: an authentic travel experience is a local multisensory experience that can best be reached by sustainable tourism.
4. Have a nocturnal expedition around your own room.
In The Art of Travel, Allan de Button describes the story of a writer from the 19th century on a nocturnal expedition of his own room. What a strange guy, you’re probably saying, but it reminds us that the world is, basically, no more than our own house. It doesn’t matter if you look like a tourist. We are all, in truth, one another’s neighbors. So, question things, ask for directions, and put any topic on the table. Nothing is more natural.
And from here comes the fourth secret: interaction. It’s this that’ll give you the greatest chance of returning home with new friends and being able to tell the old ones how to travel the most genuine way possible.
5. Search for happiness.
So at the end of the day, why do we travel? Psychologist Thomas Gilovich from Cornell University explains: “Because it’s the experiences you live that make you who you are, that construct your identity, that bring you true happiness.” The explanation is simple; you are used to material goods, but you grow and become happier with each new experience, whether good or bad. And, by the way, it is usually the latter that bring the most fun stories. So, if you can, don’t just plan for your hotel and your flights: invest in outdoor activities, artistic events, and learning opportunities. Be adventurous. This is the last secret.
“When we observe how some know how to manage their own experiences – their insignificant, everyday experiences – so that they become an arable soil that bears fruit three times a year, while others – and how many there are! – are driven through surging waves of destiny, the most multifarious currents of the times and the nations, and yet always remain on top, bobbing like a cork: then we are finally tempted to divide mankind into a minority of those who know how to make much out of little and a majority of those who know how to make a little out of much.”
Note: From the Latin experientia, experience is the action or the effect of experimentation (fulfilling determined actions to discover or prove something).
To learn more about GoLocal project, visit the website GoLocal – Shared Experiences (once again, unfortunately just in Portuguese for now).
*This article was written by Roberta G. De Souza, Biologist, PhD in Biological Anthropology, and co-founder of the company GoLocal – Shared Experiences. After more than 15 years of traditional communities both inside and outside of Brazil, Roberta decided to blend her passions of travel, nature, and community with the founding of GoLocal, a company that aims to bring travelers to local communities to promote more conscious tourism and to value socio-environmental diversity. If you want to contact her about her article, please comment below. Although GoLocal’s website currently has no English version, Roberta speaks excellent English and will happily help you out with any inquiries about authentic and sustainable travel for your trip to Brazil.
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