Sneak thieves and wharf rats in Scotland, rubbing salt into the wound

Forth Coastguard Station

Just when you thought things could not get any worse, the dangerous, and seriously flawed, Government & MCA plans to close eight of our wonderful Coastguard Stations, have been put into action – early!

As announced on the Milford Haven Coastguard page on facebook –

“At 1330 utc the final Maritime safety information broadcast will be sent by the staff at MRCC Forth. On completion of this broadcast all operational responsibility will be passed to MRCC Aberdeen and Forth Coastguard will cease to exist, bringing to an end 109 years of Coastguards being at Fifeness. Safe seas, calm waters and light winds to all.”

Forth Coastguard Station was due to close on the 28th September; big mistake in itself, but to rub the salt into the wound, they sneakily closed it this Friday, 21st September!  Why would they do that?

There are several potential reasons:-

  1. Negligent management by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), under the ‘guidance’ of Sir Alan Massey. By allowing staffing numbers to become so dangerously low, they could not achieve a full compliment for the shift patterns. To close the station early would hide this appalling situation.
  2. Just three days before the closure, on Tuesday 18th, Sir Alan Massey and Stephen Hammond, Under Secretary of State for Transport Minister, were answering questions, in front of The Scottish Affairs Committee.  Luckily, most of the focus was on the Clyde Coastguard Station with Sir Alan Massey explaining about the pairing between Stornoway & Belfast, although he could not answer a few, very important questions, such as would the exams for the pairing knowledge take place before the closure (Sir Alan stated that you could not go on watch without having passed the exams) and the answer being I hope so! When Sir Alan Massey seemed to be unable to answer a question directly, Stephen Hammond blustered in with patronising quotes he had read since taking over the position from Mike Penning, a few days earlier. You should watch the committee in action to form you own opinions, my opinion is the four Scottish Ministers were thorough in their questions, knowledgeable and credible; whereas, Massey and Hammond did a lot of puffing, postulating and posing, but definitely showed no credibility. How sad. The number of contradictions and mistakes, in what they are saying is pretty incredible, even for politicians!

I am sorry that I did not publish this when I wrote it, I was so angry and upset at this tragedy unfolding that I wanted to continue the post later, but I just can’t.  It is only a matter of time before our coastal jewels become our poisoned chalices!

Oh, and by the way – there was much said about the Forth Coastguard Station closure (all of it against) and so they pretended to have another closure the following Friday, the scheduled date!  Normal service will be resumed when the blood pressure has gone back to normal!

Why the jewels in our crown will become poisoned chalices

I recently published two posts about our wonderful coastal areas – they are magnificent, and magnets to visitors and tourists. As summer is here (well, in theory anyway!), and people are being encouraged not to go abroad for their holidays, our coasts are getting busier and busier.  Visit Britain, quite rightly, spent the not inconsiderable amount of £3 million pounds on a marketing campaign to encourage us all to holiday at home.  A successful campaign it was and is; well, if you ignore the fact that both our Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are taking holidays abroad. Shame on them, but then, our MPs do not always lead by example – don’t do as I do, do as I say!

What should be good news for the travel and tourism industry will turn into a disaster. It is only a matter of time. We are an island nation, we are a proud nation.  Unfortunately the government doesn’t seem to have the same values of respect, integrity and gratitude as do most of the population of the UK.

When the Transport Minister, Mike Penning, announced the closure of eight of the Coastguard Communication Stations protecting us, there had been no independent risk assessments carried out.  There were no in-depth consultations, to the extent that both the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have called for risk assessments before implementation. No respect for the professional front-line guys and girls in the coastguard service.  Above all, no consideration for the trawlers, yachts, climbers, bathers, surfers, walkers, locals or tourists, who will be put in danger if these plans go through. It is not that there will be regional centres – the like of which, Mike Penning fought against for the fire service. There will be one national call centre in Fareham (Penning’s Folly) and all emergency calls to the Coastguard will be directed there ~ so where will the local knowledge be?  How will the visitor from abroad, walking along the cliffs of Scotland, be able to say where he is (should an incident occur) to someone the opposite end of the United Kingdom? It’s like the blind leading the blind – absolutely without common sense or reason.

I love my country, that will never be in question, but working in the travel and tourism industry and seeing such a crazy, ill thought-out plan makes me want to cry. And all for the sake of saving a small amount of money, which will probably be spent ten-fold in getting an empty shell of a building up to the standard it needs to be.

Norfolk is where I spent my holidays as a child, stunning countryside and seaside places.  But the Coastguard Station at Yarmouth is one of those being closed down, and the MP, Brandon Lewis (Conservative), has voted for the closure plan!  Why would he do that when there are so many miles of coastline in his constituency? I doubt his constituents realise he thinks it’s okay for Norfolk to lose its Coastguard Station!

There are far more MPs voting against the plans in a survey the CoastguardSOS team carried out; well, from those who deigned to reply anyway.  There are 189 MPs with responsibility for coastal areas and only 14 have voted for the plans, whereas 89 MPs are against the plans. Of the remaining coastal MPs, 13 have ignored the requests and 73 haven’t bothered to answer. Have a look and see what your MP said.

This government is not listening to the  people of the United Kingdom.This government is arrogant and without integrity on how it has handled these Coastguard Station closures.  The Transport Select Committee is now looking into the whole matter again and has invited written new evidence to be submitted on the changes to the Coastguard Service.  I hope to goodness this all-party group will be able to halt plans that will result in fatalities, of that there can be no doubt.

Our travel and tourism industry, both domestic and inbound, would suffer greatly should deaths occur. I am somewhat surprised that the commercial arm of the industry has not spoken out about this.  The tourist boards and town councils all report back (ultimately) to the government …….  I should imagine, if they are aware that the Coastguard personnel had gagging orders put on them, they would not want to rock any boats, so as to speak!

First they want to sell off our forests, our heritage; now they want to take away our safety at sea and by the coast.  What next?

Delicious Devon and the Gnome Reserve

Recently we went to Devon for a short break (courtesy of a gorgeous girl friend, Louise) and had a fabulous time. Driving along the A39 ‘Atlantic Highway’ through Fairy Cross, we suddenly saw signs saying Gnome Reserve.  Now, never having seen anything like this before, we felt we had to visit before we left, if only to satisfy ourselves they weren’t living under the same dreadful conditions that the Native Americans had suffered!  Rescue plans started being hatched!

The long and winding road that led to the gnomes was not always easy to follow.  At one point we stopped to ask this delightful old man if he knew where it was, as we had run out of brown rose signs to guide us.  “Never heard of them” he said. “Although if you carry on this road and then do a left, there’s a forest where the little people live.”  With huge smiles on our faces we drove on and then suddenly saw this sign (in the photo on the right) by the side of the road. Oh, if they were warning motorists to go slowly then perhaps the gnomes were being well looked after. With hope renewed, we carried on and turned into the car park.

At this moment I was thinking of a dear friend, Zoë Dawes, who is the Quirky Traveller, as this would have been just perfect for her travels!

A pleasant welcome and more of Devon’s beautiful scenery greeted us. The house set in the gardens was one of faded grandeur and something about it made it look ethereal, yet still full of homely charm. As we entered, a voice called out a greeting to us and we met a delightful lady, by the name of Ann Fawssett Atkin, who was sitting in one of the rooms painting pixies. Ann is an absolutely wonderful and mesmerising lady and is the founder of the Gnome Reserve. We chatted for a while and then Ann told us to go into the other room and choose our Gnome hats to wear ~ you better believe it ~ she also added that it was almost compulsory to wear one.  Oh, I am loving this adventure :-)

Look at the photo – how funky is my hat??!!  Out to wander in the woods and it was like entering another realm; lots of gnomes, hundreds of gnomes, young gnomes, old gnomes, athletic gnomes, lazy gnomes, naughty gnomes and, oh my, you will have to visit yourself to get the full splendour of it all.  I have never really gone past 6 years old so I was in my element.  You can follow the path or go your own way – you can even get help with your lottery choices by fishing for pebbles.with numbers on the bottoms.

And deep in the heart of the wood was a magical fairy circle with the remains of an ancient tree (looking like a chair) in the middle.  The photo to the right shows the sign by the path, isn’t it wonderful? I flew away through the trees with the fairies, which will come as no surprise to a few people! The quote from Lord Byron says:

The beings of the mind are not of clay; essentially immortal, they create and multiply in us a brighter ray and more beloved existence.

When we’d finished our walk, we returned to the house and gave our hats back and were given a clip board with a question sheet on it, to show how observant we could be when walking around the Fairy & Wild-flower Garden. Somehow this just seemed so normal! We got the correct number of fairies, but failed to see three of the cuckoos ~ all will become clear if you visit! And to top the day off, we then had a sandwich followed by a Devon cream tea; all freshly made and delicious.  What a happy experience.

Great Britain’s coast – huge jewels in our crown : 2

Pembrokeshire, near Castlemartin – with thanks to Dr DJ Davies, Historian & Author.

Recently, we published a post on the beautiful coastline around Britain.  A question was asked on Facebook and Twitter as to whether anyone had any relevant photos and the ones published were given by the photographers. The co-incidence was, they were all of England, which actually, was very pertinent as it was St. George’s Day!  But there is so much more!

Pembrokeshire, Porth Clais to St Justinian 5 Mile Walk – with thanks to Mike Hillen.

Today, to redress the balance, here are some piccies of the amazing Welsh coastline. Wales is leading the way with coastal pathways; this weekend you will be able to walk the entire coast ~ an incredible feat and deserving of much praise.

Mumbles, Gower Peninsular – with thanks to Dr DJ Davies, Historian & Author.

Tenby Lifeboat RNLI 16 – 02 – with thanks to Mike Hillen.

It will run from the outskirts of Chester in the north to Chepstow in the south, via the major town and cities, small villages, cliff tops and beaches, a total of 870 miles (1,400 km).  What is refreshing is that the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) has co-ordinated the development of the path with 16 coastal councils and national park authorities. A clear case of ‘Winning By Sharing’ :-)

Deganwy on the River Conwy looking over to Conwy town side – with thanks to Coastal Joe

The future of tourism #FUTourism

I have so many posts I want to get onto the blog, that it is diffficult to know where to start, so here goes. Recently I spent an evening at The Future of Tourism event, held at The Royal Institution, 21 Albemarle Street, Mayfair in London. The big bonus was that I sat next to Andy Jarosz of 501 Places fame. I have immense respect for Andy, he’s well versed in travel and tourism, writes extremely interesting and informative posts and, to top it all, is a very, very nice man!

“G Adventures invites you to join us at the Future of Tourism, an evening of lively discussion about the future of the travel industry and sustainable travel, with visionaries from across the tourism spectrum.  We’ll be exploring the future of travel and how sustainable tourism plays such a vital role in giving back to the places we visit.

RSVP to join us and enjoy a top line-up of speakers:  Bruce Poon Tip – Founder, G Adventures  :::  Richard Hammond – Chief Executive and Founder, Greentraveller  :::  Gary Arndt – Travel Blogger, Everything Everywhere  ::: Paula Vlamings – Associate Director, Planeterra

While there is no official charge for the event, we are suggesting a donation of £5 which will benefit the Planeterra Foundation. Founded by G Adventures, Planeterra is a non-profit foundation supporting social and environmental solutions in the destinations our travellers visit.
We look forward to seeing you there!   

The team at G Adventures”

The evening was introduced by the delightful Lyn Hughes, co-founder of Wanderlust. Hardly any seats were empty and the audience was in sparkling form.  Behind the presentation podium was a large screen showing the presentations, etc.  Either side of this was a smaller screen with live tweets being shown with the hashtag #futourism, or, as Lyn said, easier to remember if you say FU Tourism!

The tweet screens were well used during the evening and there were some very witty people attending and participating. They were very amusing and chuckles abounded, but sometimes to the detriment of the speakers as they could not see them and when they did look round, the screens were on the next tweet.

Richard Hammond was the first speaker on and, as one of the tweets said, ‘he didn’t mention TopGear once!’. Richard is the Chief Executive and Founder of award-winning website Greentraveller, the travel editor of GREEN magazine (distributed by The Guardian) and writer of the ‘Go Green’ column in National Geographic Traveller magazine.

Richard was an eloquent and very interesting speaker and was not distracted by tweets or chuckles once – a credible feat!  I’d not heard him before and learnt a lot, mainly from the passionate way he was speaking, I was definitely engaged!

Gary Ardnt spoke next. Gary is the creator of one of the most popular travel blogs in the world, everything-everywhere, and one of TIME’s “Top 25 Best Blogs of 2010”. He has been travelling the world since 2007. An amusing speaker, Gary has a wealth of travel experiences and stories to share and spoke about the joys or otherwise of communication whilst travelling. He ended his talk by saying ‘Travel is a right.’

And that is where I disagree entirely; I believe travel to be an absolute privilege. Travel as a right can be destructive- conscious travel, eco travel, local travel, is what we should all be doing.  There are some inspirational pioneers in this field, but that subject is for another post :-)  Suffice to say there is a very small number of countries that is virtually unspoilt. Bhutan is right up there in cherishing its place on our wondrous planet. Bhutan limits its tourist numbers and looks after every living thing.  The gross national happiness that the kingdom measures, is a clear indication that happy people are caring people, lucky country!

The third speaker was Paula Vlamings, Co-Executive Director, Planeterra. Through her work at the environmentally focused Institute at the Golden Gate, Paula became involved in sustainable tourism and the power tourism has as an economic development tool. At Planeterra, Paula works to create lasting benefits in the communities G Adventures travels to.  An admirable organisation, working with the local communities towards sustainable tourism.

The final speaker, and the finale, was the man himself, Bruce Poon Tip. A true pioneer in the travel and tourism industry and a confident & competent presenter. Bruce founded G Adventures in 1990 with the belief that other travellers would share his desire to experience authentic adventures in a responsible and sustainable manner. He was right, it’s grown from a one-man show to a company of over 1350 world wide.

The next event in the series is in Melbourne on the 18th April, it sold out ages ago!  G Adventures is to be applauded for these events and all that it does in the field of sustainable and responsible travel and tourism, long may the company carry on!

Happiness is a place ~ Bhutan


For as long as I can remember, the magical kingdom of Bhutan has been one of the countries I’ve most wanted to visit. One of the world’s leaders in the future of tourism, Anna Pollock, gave the opening keynote speech there last month at the PATA Adventure Travel & Responsible Tourism Conference, Anna is the founder of ConsciousTravel and is very highly respected in the travel and tourism industry.  After the conference, she wrote a post entitled, Why Bhutan IS the First Conscious Travel Destination. One sentence stands out for me –

Pull not Push: the hallmark of a Conscious Travel Destination is its ability to attract the right customer – the visitor whose values match those of the host. Bhutan isn’t for everybody. Bhutan is for the visitor seeking a unique, and some would say, exotic experience of a vibrant culture expressed in a pristine setting.

Blue Poppy

At the World Travel Market (WTM) last year, Zoe Dawes (The QuirkyTraveller) and I were fortunate enough to talk to one of the tourism ministers and some of the tour operators on the Bhutanese stand. Both of us have Bhutan right up there at the top of our bucket lists! In fact, after WTM, Zoe was asked by First Choice to respond with her choice for ‘The End of the World Bucket List’ and, naturally, she chose Bhutan.

This Monday, representatives of the UN attended a high-level event in the UN General Assembly hosted by the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan to look at the happiest countries in the world and discuss how to put happiness on the global agenda. It is all the rage at the moment, countries trying to measure happiness and not just economic growth. Bhutan has been doing this for nearly forty years now, when the grandfather of the current constitutional monarch, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel, initiated the idea of an alternate model to gross national product as a measurement of national progress. How refreshing, how wonderful to be the country that started it all, that had the foresight and understanding to give birth to such a valuable concept.

A true pioneer who uses lambswool, local hedgerow and gorse!

In 2001, Dr Greg Stephenson decided to renovate a dilapidated part of his own house using earth and thatch, in the traditional way, which he then rented out as a holiday let. Little did he realise where it would lead! Greg is an architectural historian, who has written about, and worked in, building conservation for the past 18 years. Under the Thatch was established in 2001 to find a viable end-use for another cottage that was rescued from collapse and the success of this first project soon led to the next, and the next and, before long, it had snowballed into a substantial social enterprise.

Under the Thatch’s ethos is one of conservation and sustainability ~ profits are used to maintain the historic buildings and to fund the purchase & renovation of new ones. This is where the lambswool comes in!

As Greg says: “We use traditional crafts and materials in our building conservation. This means we use lime instead of cement, limewash instead of acrylic emulsions, local hedgerow timber is used for roof repairs, and gorse cut from the local fields. We endeavour to use environmentally friendly materials in our building work, such as sheepswool insulation rather than fibreglass, limecrete rather than concrete, linseed-oil based paints etc.  We have an exceptionally high occupancy rate that leads from our flexible pricing – working hard to keep properties full, and with community benefit all year round. We employ local people to conserve and maintain our properties, and do not use any outside agencies. We source local tradesmen and women in the restoration of our properties, and prefer to use freelancers who then take their newly-gained conservation skills with them to other jobs.”

Now, how wonderful is that?  When you go on the website for Under the Thatch (UTT), you will be spoilt for choice ~ it really is full of authentic, unique and quirky places to stay.  Fancy staying in a railway carriage? Then have a look at Wendy in Wales.  A gypsy caravan? Then Geaglum Cottage & Gypsy Caravan, in the Irish lakelands of Fermanagh, is for you. (Chosen by the Independent in their ‘Six Best Romantic Rentals’.) Or how about trying one of the new properties, now ready after a 6 year restoration project. Enjoy a truly ancient French medieval townhouse in Bellac – a ‘cite de caractere’ in the beautiful Limousin region of central France. The property dates back to the 15th century and just take a look at the box bed!

Greg is passionate about what he does ~ his 4 Ps are passion, purpose, projects and preservation.  Greg will tell you himself, he is living the dream.  And what a great dream it is ~ what UTT does benefits so many people and safeguards historical premises that are falling into ruin. Without his passion and purpose, none of this would have happened; a trail blazing pioneer if ever there was one. All people who work for UTT are as passionate as Greg, their ethics are strong and they love what they do too.  As Sir Winston Churchill said,

If a man finds a job he loves, he will never work again.

While fewer and fewer of us are travelling abroad for our holidays; the cottages and other accommodation offered by UTT are so unique, it’s a totally new experience to stay in one. That’s a good thing for this wonderful planet of ours ~ we have to become more conscious of the impact our travel makes and we have to leave teeny-weeny footprints where we go, or better still, no footprints at all! But that’s for another post!

Greg and UTT have been showered with many awards, have a look at the About Us page on the site. Each one is well deserved; you’ve got to take your hat off to someone who truly has made a difference; who is being the change we want to see in the world ~ thanks Greg.

The travel industry needs Pioneers!

The travel industry needs Pioneers with a capital P! P for passion and purpose. P for positive and punchy.  Positive people perpetuate passion.

The noun of Pioneer is described thus :  pi·o·neer 

1. One who ventures into unknown or unclaimed territory to settle.
2. One who opens up new areas of thought, research, or development: a pioneer in aviation.
3. A soldier who performs construction and demolition work in the field to facilitate troop movements.
4. Ecology An animal or plant species that establishes itself in a previously barren environment.
~   The adjective of Pioneer means trailblazing, leading the way.   ~   

Bruce Poon Tip and Anna Pollock are outstanding examples of trail-blazing leaders.   Trailblazers who have followed their hearts and dreams ~ who have dared to go out on a limb ~ who have led the way to bring their visions of how the travel and tourism industry could help look after and cherish our wonderful planet, to fruition.  

They’ve both been recognised for their work; Bruce has been awarded, amongst many other honours, the Ethics In Action Award, World Savers Award by Condé Nast Traveler magazine, as well as the Travel and Leisure Global Vision Leadership Award for voluntourism.  

They put everything on the line to follow their passion and risked everything to do what they believe in.  They are what this industry needs, the doers!  There are enough talkers, organisations and associations to drown in ~ we need the Pioneers ~ they are vital to the industry’s future.  Not going on in the same old way, doing the same old things, but bringing passion and purpose to the forefront, getting ‘it’ and doing ‘it’.  It’s called ‘Living the Dream’.  It is anything but easy, people scoff at your ideas and show no support, when you start out.  The Dream requires passion, persistence, purpose and personal belief.  

In 1990, Bruce Poon Tip founded G Adventures in order to deliver authentic experiences to travellers, who also craved adventures beyond all-inclusive resorts. When no bank was willing to provide a loan, he started the company with two credit cards. A true Pioneer! Since then, G Adventures has grown to become a world leader in adventure travel, offering more than 865 small group experiences on all seven continents to more than 100,000 travellers annually.  Until the World Tourism Day, on 27th September 2011, the company was known as Gap Adventures ~ on that day they held The Future of Tourism Conference in Toronto. Gap between G!  G for great, g for genuine and g for get up and go! Have a look at the website and register to watch ~ see Bruce in action, along with other great speakers.  An evening of motivation and purpose ~ no tickets to buy, no affiliation or registration fees, just a donation of whatever you felt appropriate to Planeterra. (Determined to lead his industry in sustainable tourism and community development initiatives, Bruce founded the non-profit Planeterra Foundation in 2003 to make a positive difference in the lives of people around the world.)  Prepare to be inspired!

Anna is a high level strategist with over thirty years’ experience advising tourism destinations, tourism boards and major corporations in Canada, Australasia and Europe. She’s an acknowledged visionary ~ indeed, in 1999, British Columbia, Canada, presented Anna with The Tourism Visionary of the Year award for her perception, vision and knowledge in her services to the tourism industry. She has detected a number of major trends affecting the development of tourism internationally and has developed innovative strategies to exploit emerging opportunities, with the main focus on environmental & social responsibility, climate change and low carbon economies.  Anna, with dual citizenship of Great Britain and Canada, is a true visionary and wrote papers ten years ago about many of the subjects being discussed now.

Anna founded, and is President of, Desticorp, and is founder and Chair of the Advisory Board of The Icarus Foundation, a Canadian-based NGO focused on developing a climate friendly tourism sector in Canada. Anna is currently writing a book and has founded a new organisation called Conscious Travel.  Her vision is that the industrial model that fueled tourism’s growth has now run out of steam and carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. Working together, we must find an alternative, less harmful way of enabling humanity to explore its home, Planet Earth.  Read Anna’s latest post, ‘Good morning Tourism: time for your wake up call’

Exciting times and two very exciting people I am privileged to know. I am always motivated after listening to them. As speakers, they are passionate and powerful. They really do believe what they say, they live it!

And, best of all, they are both absolutely wonderful people :-)

Where does travel & tourism start?

There’s a whole wide world out there but, by making a bucket list of all the countries we wish to visit, do we miss what is around us on an everyday basis?  Yesterday, my lovely friend, Margaret, and I pointed the car along the road and ended up in Olney in the shire of Buckingham. It is only ten miles away and yet we went through some gorgeous little villages and saw England’s green and pleasant land.

Olney is a gorgeous market town and most of the buildings have been saved from the 60s and 70s destruction of our towns and villages, and are from the eighteenth century.  It is a very popular place to live and the prices of the houses reflect this, but the atmosphere of Olney and the friendly people there, make it a place where people want to stay. At one time, the main industry of the town was lace making and the picture to the right shows The Lace Factory, which is now a private residence.

We found a little path between the buildings which took us to the road that runs parallel with the main street. Such lovely houses and, for me, a fabulous surprise!  We came across a specialist workshop for Aston Martins!   As we were walking, we saw a DB5 parked, and then a DB6 and then, even more!  Heaven for me as an Aston Martin enthusiast from the year dot ~ I’d gone round the factory in nearby Newport Pagnell a few times and watched the amazing people hand building those cars.  This is me standing next to the DB5, and what a car it was, in superb condition and a classic example of David Brown’s design expertise and good old English workmanship.  I did offer to move it for the guy, but he declined my kind offer and drove it himself ~ heigh ho!  As the guy said, it is easy to save up (well, for some it might be!) and buy an Aston Martin, but the hard, and very expensive, part is keeping it in tiptop condition.

Enough of my drooling and back to Olney!  We went into Teapots which is a quaint little teashop, near the Village Cross. The food is all baked on the premises and comes from Mrs Beeton’s and other wonderful old-fashioned cookbooks. The pic is the afternoon tea but we opted for the cream tea, which is scones, jam and cream, with a pot of tea ~ all extremely delicious.

Wandering around, we went into several hand made furniture shops, oh to win the lottery, and some divine dress shops :-)  We were very good though, well nearly, I bought a skirt and Margaret bought a pair of shoes. There is so much to see and do, but perhaps Monday is not the ideal day as the William Cowper Museum was closed and is definitely worth a visit. William Cowper and his friend, John Newton, wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace”.

Guess the answer for where travel and tourism starts, is right outside our front doors!  We had a great day and I’ll have time to work off the cream tea before my weekly weigh-in on Thursday evening!

Travel into a sustainable future

Our planet is being depleted by us; even today came the terrible news that Brazil is going to go ahead with the Belo Monte dam.  It will inundate at least 400,000 hectares of forest (1544 square miles); expelling 40,000 indigenous and local populations and destroying habitat valuable for many species.  This is after the President has received tens of thousands of letters and emails addressed to her, which were ignored as were the more than 600,000 signatures. Horrendous, and all to generate electricity which, by all accounts, could easily be generated with greater investments in energy efficiency. So, so sad and so easily avoidable.

Hope for the future does spring eternal and there are many people out there who are truly immersing themselves in responsible and sustainable tourism.  These are the people who are making things happen, who have gone out on a limb to bring about a new order to how tourism works, not built on the old model of growth, growth, growth, with low costs and huge numbers, but built on a new model of caring about the countries, paying back to the environment and the local population.  To experiences that are truly real, that actually give you a taste of the customs and peoples of the country; not in a glitzy, glamorous way but in a traditional and true manner.

The Native Americans had the right idea, their philosophy, their ‘ten commandments’ would have kept this wonderful plant earth in an ever replenishing cycle.  They only used what was needed, always paying respect for what they had.  Think what a beautiful place America must have been when they were there, before the white man came and plundered and pillaged everything, before the greed for more and more came about.  I read a book a long time ago called ‘Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee‘, what an effect that had on me; I was completely and utterly horrified.

Similar things still happen today, man’s greed and lust for power taking over from peace and common sense. How does this relate to travel and tourism?  Well, I can name two countries that have not allowed this to happen, that have had respect for their land, their customs and all the interconnectedness ~ with thanks to Shyman33 on Twitter for a new awareness of that.

Have a good look at Bhutan and Samoa.  Both countries are very proud of their heritage and indeed, Bhutan has the best philosophy of all.  They do not look at gross domestic product or profits and loss, the philosophy for their country is the gross national happiness.  How wonderful would it be if all countries did the same.  Not enforced happiness but a natural, joyful well being :-)  Samoa means the sacred centre of the Polynesian Islands, it is natural, unspoilt and magically beautiful.

Both these countries are at the top of my bucket list ~ I am going to visit them as soon as I possibly can.  My perceptions are from what others have told me, from what I have read and from the pictures I have seen. Powerful indeed, is a word-of-mouth recommendation from a person you trust and respect.  It’s all about Personal Relationships!

If you want more info on travelling in Bhutan, have a look at Bhutan Dragon Adventures; and for Samoa, look at Samoa Select (An insider guide brought to you by Polynesian Xplorer).

And if you want to follow people who truly believe in responsible and sustainable tourism (and have done so for many years, not like some, who have recently jumped onto the bandwagon!) then please find out more about Anna Pollock and Gopinath Parayil ~ shining lights :-)