Well, another year rolls closer to the end and we inevitably think to ourselves “Wait, where the heck did 2017 go?!?’. As more years pass, they seem to go faster and faster. Maybe it’s the information overload that is modern day technology that fills our days so much more, thereby making them shorter (and thus our year, as well). In that regard, technology can be both a blessing and a curse. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a tech-rant as that would be hypocritical as I type this on my macbook and load photos from my iPhone before emailing it to the cluster.ph editor (Hi Jenny and Charlotte!). What I do, however, want to talk about is responsibility, how we can make three positive changes in our lives and for when we travel.
Since I touched on tech earlier, maybe I should make a full disclosure and admit that I’m a bit of a tech geek. I loooove gadgets. Together with travel, it’s my main “non-necessity” expenditure. That being said, I don’t want to be a slave to one. So that’s where change number one comes in.
1. Don’t be a slave to technology. Tech was made to make our lives easier and save us time. While it successfully does both of those, it also has a nasty habit of taking over a big chunk of our attention. In fact, studies done on mobile usage shows that we spend almost 5 times as many hours looking at a mobile screen than we do interacting with real people on a social level. Scary stuff.
So my New Year's challenge to you is: Change your mobile habits. Don’t throw away your phone or stop using it completely, but maybe make a point to not check it when you’re interacting with people in a social setting. They’re giving you their time and it’s only polite to give them your undivided attention in return. Got a missed call or text? Get back to them later. Or check the screen to make sure that there are no emergencies when you excuse yourself for the bathroom (unless, of course, the bathroom is the emergency).
For the hardcore phone addicts, a social get together underwater is always a great way to keep the occasion tech-free.
2. Be a responsible tourist. While you may think of this as being polite to people in foreign lands and making sure you have all your visas, the responsibility I’m talking about here is choosing the right activities to do while traveling. In particular, with animal interactions.
Instagram recently banned posts and hashtags that promoted animal cruelty, so that searching for hashtags like “#elephantride" or “#dolphinkiss” will prompt a warning sign telling you that it’s damaging to the welfare of these animals (yay Instagram!). Today, a lot of people are unaware that some of these practices are detrimental to the animals, so the change I’m requesting you to try here is to have second thoughts about animal interactions when traveling and to do your own research to find out what are acceptable before doing them. (FYI, on a local level, swimming with migratory whale sharks without feeding, touching or changing their behavior like they do in Donsol is ok. However, feeding them an improper diet to keep them near boats and thousands of people, like they do in Oslob, is NOT ok). You can check www.wwf.org.ph to find out more about what is and isn’t acceptable.
A nice reminder of how not to see an elephant when on vacation…
The proper way to see an elephant. That is, in the wild on safari where they are free to roam and do whatever they want to do.
(Note: intentionally not showing in the photo above the elephant doing what he wanted to do all over the grass in front of us…)
3. Always leave a place better than when you arrived. How can you possibly do that? Quite simple: just pick up some trash and make sure you don’t leave any of your's lying around. This also means traveling with a reusable shopping bag, water bottle and steel straw so that you’re not creating any more single-use plastic litter. And next time you go for a swim, spend 2 minutes picking up any trash you see on the beach and disposing of it properly. Two minutes is nothing, but if everyone does it we can help all of those pristine beaches stay that way. Pristine.
Want to visit beaches as clean and clear as this?
Do your part in keeping them spotless by picking up trash and not leaving any of your own.
(The only piece of rubbish on this beach is wearing a cap and shades).
I could go on and on about other positive changes you can make for next year. But if you’re anything like me, having a smaller number of changes makes me more likely to a) remember them and b) actually implement them.
So happy New Year's everyone! And I hope to catch you all on a nice, clean beach or mountain in 2018!
Thank you to @powermaccenter for my travel gadgets that I have such a hard time putting away (my pics shot with an iPhone).
@rudyprojectph for protecting my eyes as I search for trash on blindingly white beaches.
@piquadro for my baggagehandler-proof luggage.