Ever visited somewhere and left with the feeling that you didn't learn anything new or just scraped the surface of the destination?
The best travel experiences are the ones that allow you to travel at a slow pace, explore further and immerse fully in the experiences which lead to unlikely connections. Maybe you've already experienced a trip like this which has transformed you and is etched in your memory.
If you're looking to have a rewarding and transformative experience on your next trip and not sure where to begin, this blog post will provide you with the four steps to ensure your next trip is a rewarding and memorable one.
The value of your travels does not hinge on how many stamps you have in your passport when you get home. The slow nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried superficial experience of 40 countries.Rolf Potts
Some of the best ways to slow down during a trip are to take a train to your destination or try other modes of transport other than a flight, if possible. TRAIN TRAVEL has become more popular in the age of climate change where conscious travellers are opting to reduce their carbon emissions by taking a train instead of flying. This display of slow travel was seen at its best during the summer of 2019 when climate change activist, Greta Thunberg gave air travel a pass and opted to sail across the Atlantic Ocean instead. I'm not certain how many days her journey took, but I'm certain she saw much more than had she taken a flight, and what her eyes were opened up to out there on the vast ocean gave her memories to last her a lifetime. Another movement that has taken off is the FLIGHT SHAMING movement. Some people need to take a flight to be able to travel, especially if you travelling to or from an isolated island like Bermuda. However, there are many other reasons why someone may need to take a flight, so flight shaming can lead to unnecessarily judging someone's preference to take a flight. This movement began in continental Europe where there is extensive railway options. The truth of the matter is we aren't all Greta Thunbergs and shaming is unhelpful, but if you can avoid taking a flight, of course, you should.
During the shelter in place, the only place for me to explore was around my own yard. This allowed me to take note of things that I was previously too busy to notice before. My senses heightened to the sights and sounds around me. I learned the birdsongs of a few birds! These were sounds I previously heard amongst the noise of everything else, but which I was able to hear more clearly.
SLOW TRAVEL as it is also called, is a way to encourage travellers to take direct flights, where possible, stay longer in a destination and fully immerse in the destination. This type of travel has immense benefits for the environment and local economies. Importantly, the benefits to you as a traveller will be transforming. To slow down when you have reached your destination, try walking or bicycling. By exploring this way, you'll be able to take notice of what's around you, sometimes even in the minutest detail. Most destinations offer walking or bicycling tours or even allow you to rent a bicycle. You ca opt for a self-guided tour that you can take at your own pace or hire a guide. You'll be amazed at what you're able to see! Bermuda is a great place to explore. Some ideas are to visit the numerous parks, nature reserves or take a city or heritage tour. Renting a bicycle is also easy. Our 18 mile-long nature trail that makes exploring by walking or bicycling easy.
One discovery I made while exploring my yard was the Surinam Cherry Tree which originates from South America and takes its name from the Dutch-speaking country of Surinam. It is better known for its small sweet red cherries which are packed with nutrition. The leaves, however, when crushed are used as insect repellent or can be consumed as tea to treat a variety of ailments.
There is a choice to be a tourist or to be a traveller - If you'd like to change your life then be a traveller.Craig Storti
Don't be afraid to explore. It's likely you're taking off time from work and putting in a lot of time to plan a great trip, so get the most out of it by venturing out. Of course, be safe as you explore which generally means following the same precautions you would take as if you were at home. If you're still uncertain about safety precautions, do some reading on the destination before you get there like reading news articles and travel guides.
If you're travelling solo, this is an even better reason to explore. SOLO TRAVEL is a great way to explore a destination as you travel at your own pace. The other benefits of not travelling with companions are that you will get out of your comfort zone and meet new people and try different things. Just knowing that you are travelling solo allows you to take full responsibility for you and your choices. Bermuda is a great destination for travelling solo. There are many opportunities to explore while in Bermuda whether you decide to explore alone or with a personal tour guide or tour group.
While sheltering in place and slowing down, I kicked into explore mode. It was only my back yard, but I explored every corner of it, re-discovering things I had walked past multiple times. I rediscovered that my yard is filled with a treasure chest of plants and herbs - from fruit trees to herbs and plants to make refreshing drinks. See some of my finds below. Another discovery I made is the Locust and Wild Honey Plant otherwise known as the Monstera or Swiss Cheese Plant. This plant produces these long sweet fruits. The leaves of this plant are aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and the fruit is delicious. This plant has been around for thousands of years as the Bible refers to John the Baptist eating it.
People who have the least contact with locals are often the most critical of them.Craig Storti in The Art of Crossing Cultures
The next step to achieving a rewarding trip is to fully immerse in the destination. IMMERSIVE TRAVEL is about experiencing a destination like a local. It's also about the discovery process. From where you decide to live to what you decide to eat and do, the choices you make can lead to an immersive experience or leave you feeling like you haven't learned anything new about your destination.
Because immersive experiences get you interacting closer with locals and local life, the impact is better for the local economy. You may be surprised to know that in many destinations only $5 for every $100 spent by visitors actually stays in the destination. Due to many large global corporations owning attractions and accommodations, travel dollars will leave countries that may be in most need of these travel dollars. By choosing to support locally owned businesses, local artisans, local guides, tour operators, and accommodations, there will be less LEAKAGE of your travel dollars and you can be confident that you contributing positively to the local economy.
Many tour operators have developed experiences that allow you to live like a local. In Bermuda, tour operators have created foraging tours and local cuisine experiences. The best local experience is to stay in a guest house or an Airbnb as Bermudians are some of the best hosts. Our hospitality will leave you feeling like family and will give you memories to last a lifetime. Immersive experiences will give you insight into the culture. You'll get to taste local cuisines and hear the stories behind them.
While I was immersing in the experience of exploring my yard and literally going back to my local roots, I came across these babies. I forgot how much joy they brought me. I'm not sure if it's their large presence or if they're just easy on the eyes that I love most. Strong hurricanes and neighbours who got too carried away with hedge trimming, in the past, had destroyed them, so I was happy to see them make a come back. These beauties also produce a root vegetable which goes by several names such as eddo, taro, or dasheen. How could I have overlooked that I had food growing right under my nose?
When people travel, they make unlikely connections and shatter stereotypes.Ken Budd
You've already been provided with three key steps to take towards creating a travel experience you'll be talking about for years to come. Now that you know how to slow down, explore and immerse, we'll move to the next and final step.
Travelling can facilitate CONNECTIONS with others like no other experience can. When we meet others from different cultures and countries, we see our differences and learn to appreciate and accept them. We also realise that we have more in common than not. Despite all the attractions we may visit or that nice beach we swam at, connecting with locals is the most memorable souvenir. It may have something to do with our common humanity and our desire to connect.
Where and how do I connect with locals, you might be asking? There are a few ways to go about it. Firstly, I would recommend reading about the country before you get there. Learn about some of the cultural traditions and behaviours and learn a few phrases of the language.
The more you can communicate, the more you connect. Locals will also take note of the effort you are making to communicate in their language which can go a long way to making real connections. Simple phrases like "Hello", "Good Morning", "Thank You", "Please" and so on can be very effective phrases to learn. In Bermuda, although we speak English, we love to exchange pleasantries. A popular one is to say "good morning" to each other and people who passerby whether you know them or not.
Nothing connects people like the universal smile. Wherever you go, the smile is understood to mean friendliness and being approachable. So if your language is limited, a genuine smile will help you to connect on the universal level.
As we touched on above, travelling solo can take you out of your comfort zone making you more inclined to strike up a conversation with a local or be more aware of the potential connections around you.
Ethical volunteer experiences can give you more insight into the destination and help you to meet like-minded locals. My first international VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE took me to a country I thought I had insight on. You see, before I visited Guyana, I was sure that it was a Spanish speaking country and that the locals were mostly of Amerindian heritage. I couldn't have been more wrong. So much for reading up on Guyana before travelling there to volunteer. Not only is Guyana the only English speaking country in South America, the people and the culture reminded me so much of the Caribbean. I volunteered for 4 months, so by the time I left, I felt more Guyanese than Bermudian. You may not have 4 months to volunteer, but perhaps you have a few hours or a day or two of your trip that you can spare. I wouldn't recommend orphanage volunteering, however, as there are many child welfare concerns raised such as volunteers perpetuating the existence of orphanges for children who actually have families as well as the trauma that can be experienced when volunteers, who children have bonded with, have to abruptly leave.
Eco Island Travel will be developing its tours and experiences with the volunteer in mind. Bermuda is a captivating paradise with natural beauty, amazing marine life, and culture. There are ongoing initiatives to keep our beautiful beaches pristine as well as land and marine conservation initiatives. On your next trip to Bermuda if volunteering interests you, watch this space or get in contact with us Here
The shelter in place wasn't all bad. Not only did I rediscover my surroundings and the treasures they held, but I rediscovered the steps needed to have a memorable trip to last a lifetime.
This plant is affectionately known as Match-me-if-you-can/ Match-me-can. It is impossible to match any of its multi-coloured leaves. These leaves are known to draw inflammation and fever from of the body. The leaves are soaked in vinegar and applied to joints or on the soles of the feet.
The well-known aloe vera plant, popular for healing burns and the juice can also be consumed to treat other ailments. The taste is not for the faint-hearted!
The Nasturtium plant is known by its yellow and bright orange flowers. The plant's leaves and flowers are edible and are often eaten in salads. The leaves are also packed with vitamins and minerals.
Father John has been traditionally used as a tea to reduce fevers and in a tonic to build up the body. (Historic and Edible and Edible Herbs of Bermuda).
Lemon Grass has to be my favourite. Not to be confused with cane grass which looks very similar. The aroma from this lemongrass is AMAZING. It is known to have a multitude of uses including being a mosquito repellent. Also known as 'fever grass' it is commonly used as a tea to reduce fevers and is refreshing on a hot summer's day when steeped in billed water and consumed as a cold drink.
Disclaimer – The information on the plants is for informational purposes only and not medical advice, neither should this information replace your doctor's advice, because, well hey, I'm not a doctor.
I hope you enjoyed this post and if you have any other suggestions on how to make a positive impact when travelling, I'd love to hear about them in the comments.
Eco Island Travel is a social enterprise travel company focused on helping travellers discover exploration and adventure through sustainable and cultural journeys. Eco Island Travel makes exploring and having new adventures in Bermuda easier by letting you know the best ways to explore and by creating experiences tailored around you, that all have a positive impact.
Those of us lucky enough to see the world have a responsibility to ensure that it is preserved for locals and future generations.
You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.
Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Responsible travel is not only better for our world, it’s also more interesting and memorable. Responsible tourism is the future of travel.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
When people travel, they make unlikely connections and shatter stereotypes.
Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
Martin Luther King Jr
Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.
Sustainability is no longer about doing less harm. It’s about doing more good.
Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travellers don’t know where they’re going.