This is a guest post by Shweta Ganesh Kumar.Shweta Ganesh Kumar is a writer and a freelance travel journalist who is based in the Philippines with articles frequently appearing in the New Indian Express and the One Philippines.When was the last time you took a vacation and woke up hearing the sounds of nature filter through your window? The gentle lapping of the ocean waves or the lovelorn crickets chirping away or birds chattering away noisily as opposed to the whirring away of your air-conditioner or the murmur of your TV in the background?
If you have taken more than a minute to ponder on these questions, then I would say that it’s time you thought about eco-tourism. And what better occasion to go green with your travel choices than on Earth Day?
Now when I say eco-tourism, I certainly do not mean that you jump on a plane and then an SUV and make your way to a luxurious five star resort that sprawls across acres of forestland that has been cleared to make way for it. ‘I can hear the sounds of nature here,’ you may argue but that to me is almost like heading to a zoo, to experience wildlife. Sure, you are holidaying in an ecological setting, but that does not mean that you can delude yourselves into believing that you’re helping the planet in any way.
On the other hand, imagine taking a deep breath and climbing into that long distance bus instead. Yes, you won’t save as much time as you would by flying, but you would certainly be doing your part in saving the world. So what if your leg space leaves a lot to be desired and there are no attractive airline staff walking around? Focus instead on the sights outside the super wide window by your seat. Fresh green paddy fields and flowering trees, village children waving as if their life depended on it, cows standing their ground in the middle of the roads and stray dogs that scamper about…sights you might have missed as you travelled through the clouds leaving a smoke trail behind you.
And when you jump off bones aching, but with a renewed vigour nevertheless, head to a home-stay instead of the resort with the shiny-waxed floors and the fancy facilities. This way, you not only get to holiday at a place that has it’s own personality but you also get a taste of the local flavour. Not to mention the brownie, or should I say ‘greenie’ points you will stack up, by opting for an eco-friendly home-stay.
Take Geeta and Sugunan’s Hill view farms in Mysore for instance. Tired of the rat race, this dynamic couple chucked their corporate careers to become organic farmers. In 2006, they took it a step further by opening their homes to tourists who came to explore Mysore. They insist that you eat all meals with them. No prizes for guessing that the food is prepared from the vegetables grown on the farm, completely free of all chemicals. For a start-up that grew out of a passion to make a change, Hill View Farms has seen visitors not only from all over India, but also many countries from across the world.
Of course, it’s not just this particular home-stay that has exemplified this simple concept of throwing open your doors and falling back on the ancient practises of organic farming. Look a little closely, by which I mean, refine your Google search when you plan for a holiday and I guarantee that you will find an environment-friendly accommodation option in the region. So even if you have no choice but to board that jet plane to get there, why not erase a little bit of your carbon footprint by opting for a green living experience?
This Earth day, why not pledge to notch up a little less frequent flyer miles and a few more green miles. After all every green mile you travel ensures that those stunning holiday destinations will be preserved for a little while longer.
Shweta Ganesh Kumar is a writer and a freelance travel journalist who is based in the Philippines with articles frequently appearing in the New Indian Express and the One Philippines. Prior to this she was a Communications Officer for Greenpeace India and a correspondent with CNN-IBN. She has contributed articles for ‘Chicken Soup for the Indian Spiritual Soul’ and ‘CBW’s India’s Top 42 Weekend Getaways’. Her short fiction has been published in Australian Women online. She is also a guest blogger for Pratham Books, an Indian NGO who works to provide children with affordable books. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.