I’m the biggest travel fiend going. Not like a white-dreaded gap yar type, but more a work my ass off all Summer to surf tropical waves all Winter kinda fella. I love it all; the build up trawling the internet looking at waves, stressing over skyscanner about flights, waiting around at the airport all excited and semi anxious and then there’s the actual being away. I somehow manage to feel at home away from home, even in the most far-flung places. But it does always lead me on to think; “this is the shit, but apart from a patronising tip to the locals, what can I give in return?…”
As surfers, we seem to be drawn to the countries with environmental, social and political problems and as surfing becomes more popular and flights become more accessible and cost effective, we are inadvertently having an increasing destructive impact on the places we visit.
I try to be as less destructive as possible and leave a positive impact. I always try to learn about the local culture (although I probably should have learnt a bit more about offerings to Buddha when I picked up an orange thinking it was a complimentary appetizer) and dress accordingly. That doesn’t mean full robes but just maybe not strutting through Taghazout topless in short shorts. I also try to learn a few words of the local language, even if it is just “Uno mas por favour” but most importantly I try to support the local economy so I’ll never eat at a chain food outlet and always a local place or buy food from a local market.
Stuff like this really does make a difference, but the main thing I try to do is to not travel with rose tinted glasses and open my eyes.
Sri Lanka for example, it’s a beautiful place home to great waves and it is so cheap it can be exploited very easily. But if you are traveling here be mindful about the fact that the country has literally just pulled through one of the bloodiest civil wars in history that has directly affected every single Sri Lankan, oh and not to mention the Tsunami. So be kind and respect local cultures. There may be a few mangey looking feral dogs kicking around and the locals do eat with their hands, but it’s all part of the experience. Show the dogs some love, they’ve been through a lot too and ask the locals how to eat local style, they will be honoured to show you. And please don’t barter for pennies.
Maybe you’re in the Maldives supping beers after 9 hours of surf time, it seems like actual paradise but just remember that the country has been repeatedly called out Amnesty International for extreme human rights violations.
And not to mention the execution of the alleged drug traffickers in Bali…
With open eyes, we can see that Paradise isn’t perfect but we can see how to make a difference and how to spend our money effectively and help improve the lives of those we may never meet but will thank us eternally.