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The Bucket List: Riad Yasmine

Whilst the entirety of this world is on my list, anyone who knows me will be able to tell you that the one place I long to travel to – like no other – is Morocco.

One of the many reasons for this is that travellers have the opportunity to stay in a riad. A riad – unique to Morocco – is a “large traditional house built around a central courtyard, often converted into a hotel” (cheers, dictionary). Morocco has many riads on offer, but there is one that arguably stands out from the rest.

Enter: Riad Yasmine.

“Enter the crossed threshold and escape the heat and vibrancy of Marrakech. Let yourself be guided by the cool air corridor leading you to the traditional patio. You will be enveloped by its bright and quiet atmosphere where only the chirping of birds comes to disturb the silence. Throughout your stay in the red city, the Riad Yasmine will be your safe haven of peace, a timeless nest preserved from the bustle of the medina.”

Photo courtesy of Riad Yasmine

The boutique hotel – which has been described as an “oasis within the chaos of the medina” – owes it’s iconography to it’s exquisite Moorish architecture and design. Characterised by a motif of white and olive green tiles, the riad enjoys sweeping courtyards and a mosaic dipping pool.

Photo courtesy of Bon Traveler

Guests are spoilt for choice with seven individually-decorated rooms. With the riad located mere footsteps from some of the best sites in the Moroccan capital of Marrakech. Riad Yasmine is as photogenic as it is special, and has met an impressive reception of travellers who praise the owner’s intimate and extensive approach to hospitality.

Photo courtesy of Bon Traveler

I’m trying to refrain from describing Riad Yasmine as Insta-worthy… but yeah, it’s Insta-worthy. From my research, I would advise booking far in advance – to describe the riad as popular would be an understatement!

Highlights:

  • Sipping on mint tea poolside
  • Basking in the Moroccan sunset over the medina from the roof

Photo courtesy of Ohh Couture

The ‘Deats:

Name: Riad Yasmine

Website: http://riad-yasmine.com/en/

Location: 209 rue Ank Jemel، Bab Taghzout، Marrakesh 40000, Morocco

Contact: +212 5243-77012

Photo courtesy of Ohh Couture

Be sure to check out my two previous posts in the Ginger Passports’ Bucket List series: Villa Ariana Grande and Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel 👌

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The Bucket List: Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel (Or Why Tourism is Political)

This is the second edition in the Bucket List series, with the first showcasing the Balinese architecture of Villa Ariana Grande. However, what makes this post so special is that what I am about to discuss is worth more than a pretty Instagram picture.

It is only recently that I have begun to take an active interest in politics, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Not only is it crucial that someone has a reasonable understanding of the political and cultural dynamics when traveling to a different country (in the interests of safety, if nothing else), but following current events and the like provides that extra dimension of appreciation for the context in which one experiences a new place.

The centrepiece of this post is Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will know that Banksy is a controversial and political graffiti artist who created the likes of Girl with the Red Balloon and Pulp Fiction. It was only in March 2017 – one month ago at the time of writing – that he opened the hotel.

The Walled Off Hotel is quite literally a work of art. In fact, it’s more of a demonstration than anything. The Walled Off hotel – hence it’s name – is located in Bethlehem opposite the Separation Wall (a wall constructed by Israel to segregate the country from Palestinian territory) and is self-promoted as having “the worst view in the world”.

The Walled Off Hotel has the unique potential to send a political message through it’s geography. According to the Conversation, “… placing an operating hotel on a site where guests can feel the oppression of the wall and experience the surveillance of an Israeli watchtower works to embed visitors in the occupation.” Guests will be subjected to physical confinement, checkpoints and security checks in the hopes of inciting feelings of injustice for those suffering from conflict such as that between Israel and Palestine. Banksy invites guests to subjugate themselves to the tensions of occupation, and his intentions for his latest masterpiece to construct a marriage between tourism and politics are sure to hit the mark.

Banksy’s latest instalment has attracted substantial media attention. Al Jazeera reported that critics accused him of “… making a profit off Palestinian suffering, normalising the occupation (and) beautifying the wall”. However, others applaud Banksy on his critique of the way Western tourists divorce travel from a country’s civil affairs and oppression. As for your opinion…? Well, you’ll just have to decide that for yourself.

If you are thinking about booking a reservation, you may want to act fast; it is likely that the hotel will only be funded for the remaining of 2017. Learn everything you need to know here.

The ‘Deats

Name: The Walled Off Hotel

Creator: Banksy

Location: 182 Caritas Street, Bethlehem, Palestine

Website: www.banksy.co.uk

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The Bucket List: Villa Ariana Grande

I’m introducing a new segment to my blog called the Bucket List. Different posts will showcase neat activities and accommodation from all around the world that I plan to visit but simply cannot wait to share with you right now.

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To get this underway, I’m super excited to share with you this Airbnb I stumbled upon whilst I was drooling over the Instagram feed of Maximilian Hansen. Called Villa Ariana Grande – for reasons I would love to know – this villa might just convince me to take a spontaneous trip to Bali in and of itself.

Photos from Maxi’s Instagram feed during her stay at Villa Ariana Grande.

I stayed at an Airbnb for the first time just last month, when I stayed in Auckland during a road trip around the North Island of New Zealand. I thought I would feel uncomfortable living in someone else’s space, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I loved the homeliness you feel in Airbnb’s as opposed to in a hotel. I always struggle to settle or establish a routine when staying in a hotel, but I found that the relaxed atmosphere of an Airbnb can remedy that.

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Located in Canggu, on the southwest coast of Bali, Villa Ariana Grande is merely a ten minute drive from the beach, shops, nightlife and restaurants of Seminyak.

The spacious villa is actually a complex of self-contained villas, each with their own private swimming pool and en-suites. It showcases minimalist Balinese architecture and is built using local materials.

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The villa is close to the famous @strawberryfieldsbali boutique restaurant and café

If Villa Ariana Grande looks familiar to you, that’s probably because it is. The photogenic villa rose to prominence after being advertised as the ‘go to’ accommodation for Instagram Influencers such as Maximilian Hansen, Stacey Tonkes and Bianca Ella Booth.

The ‘Deats

Name: Villa Ariana Grande

Air Bnb: Villa Ariana Grande

Facebook: @luxuryvillaariana

Instagram: villa_ariana_grande

Location: Canggu, Bali

Rates: US$240-360 per night depending on whether it is low or peak season

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Oops – there we go. No Instagram-related post is complete without a half-naked hot girl posing poolside.

Have you stayed at Villa Ariana Grande, or have an Airbnb you’d love to recommend to fellow travelers?

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Postcards from Waikiki

Aloha ohana! 🌺 I am finally returning after my spontaneous month-long hiatus with some stellar new content, and it feels oh so good to be back. Over the past month or so, I have completed a round-world trip, which is something I can now tick off my (admittedly nonexistent) bucket list. I left from England, spent a few days in Spain, checked into the motherland (New Zealand), caught some waves in Hawaii, and then circled back to England again. I’ve got to say, I had presumed a 360° journey would be painful fight-wise (I passed through nine different airports), but I hit the jackpot on high-quality airlines and all but empty planes. There’s nothing like having the whole row of seats to yourself in economy class on a long-haul flight.

To give you a little taste of what I’ve been up to lately, I’m going to kick off with another instalment of the postcard series: the Waikiki edition. This was my third time traveling to Hawaii, which meant that – as an old hand – my experience was a little less touristic and more of an exercise in visiting all of my favourite haunts. I spent the week surfing, drinking watermelon juice, and roaming the streets of Honolulu’s most iconic neighbourhood in an exasperated search of vegetarian food (seriously, it’s an issue how few options there are. This is 2018, people!).

My time in Waikiki has inspired a few posts that I am really looking forward to sharing with you. As always, keep your eyes peeled towards the bottom of my post for my Waikiki travel vlog, which was published on the Ginger Passports’ YouTube channel….

The view from our hotel room

It’s not a Ginger Passports blog post without at least one photo of fruit or vege 🍉

Although they are native to India, you will find the glorious banyan tree all over the island

Sunbathing (or burning, in my case) ☀

Feeling aesthetic

And for your viewing pleasure…

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you’re the first to know when new content comes out 📽

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Everything You Need to Know About Booking an Ethical Safari

For most people, going on a safari is a once in a lifetime opportunity. For a lucky few – such as the people who operate safari tours in Africa – it becomes a way of life.

For these people, every day is an opportunity to interact with nature. They are privileged to personally experience some of the most intimate aspects of the wild. From the birth of a lion cub, to the hunt and capture of prey, the natural world is simply fascinating. There are few things in this world that will inspire and fill you with wonder as much as witnessing the majesty of nature undisturbed.

However, it pays to highlight that last word: undisturbed. Is it really possible to attend a safari whilst leaving the environment untouched? How do acts of tourism affect natural wildlife? If a safari is on your bucket list, issues like these might have you questioning whether it’s really such a great idea after all.

Allow us to introduce ethical safaris

Ethical safari companies practice responsible tourism to make it possible for tourists to enjoy the safari experience whilst promoting ethical standards and practices. These standards include protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of safari wildlife. For example, an ethical safari would never promote interaction with the animals that might harm them or disturb their natural environment, such as petting, handling, or hunting. Ethical safaris operate for the purpose of fostering education and appreciation for the natural world, rather than sportsmanship or exploitation of wildlife.

By practicing responsible tourism now, ethical safaris afford us the opportunity to observe nature – undisturbed – long into the future.

Responsible tourism… what’s it all about?

Simply put, responsible tourism is tourism that benefits the environment, animals, and people. It’s about respect for the ethical, racial, and political sensitivities of different cultures. There are a lot of facets to responsible tourism – and plenty of ways to unwittingly cross the line – however for the most part, this respect can be upheld through common sense.

With nature-based tourism such as safaris, we need to be looking at the impact our actions have on the natural environment. In order to thrive, natural ecosystems work towards maintaining a consistent balance. When something upsets this balance – for example, human intrusion – the natural system is disturbed. Food sources might be eliminated, or habitats destroyed. Consistently intruding upon the environment can devastate the natural inhabitants.

Our goal is to learn more about and enjoy our world while respecting that we have an obligation to minimize the impact of our actions. Protecting the earth’s natural environments ensures that species of animals and plants don’t risk extinction. It’s a promise to future generations that we will do our part to not only leave the world the way it was found, but hopefully to also make it a better place. Without a commitment to responsible and ethical tourism, much of what we take for granted today might someday only be experienced through history books. We’ve been trusted with the earth; it’s our job to protect it.

What to look for in an ethical safari

It’s nearly impossible to attend a safari and not be in complete awe of the world around you. But to maintain the natural environments of the animals, it is crucial that we take care to impede upon them as little as possible.

Before booking a safari, it’s a good idea to do a little research. Start by looking at each company, their mission statements and commitment to the community. Call and ask questions. If you’re unsure as to how to go about this, a travel agent who has experience in helping people find ethical safaris is a valuable resource. Finally, you can also contact South Africa National Parks to learn more.

Here are 8 things to be mindful of before booking your safari…

  • Safety should always be the number one priority. Your safari provider should have a strict set of rules for behaviors in place to protect both you and the animals.
  • There should be a focus on understanding that the animals aren’t there for entertainment purposes only. Guests should walk away from an ethical safari having been educated.  
  • Expect to view natural animal behaviors. During an ethical safari, you should never observe an animal being coerced into performing tricks or other showman-like behavior.
  • Look for safari providers that are committed to the local community or involved in conservation projects. These providers are more likely to adhere to ethical practices.
  • Ethical safaris should support sustainable practices. There should be little – if any – focus on souvenirs, especially those that are sourced directly from the environment. Avoid sales of items crafted using animal parts, natural artifacts or endangered plant life.
  • Ethical safaris will not permit the handling of wildlife; don’t expect to be able to cuddle the baby animals.
  • Avoid booking nighttime safaris unless they take place in an area where there are nocturnal animals only. Headlights, flashlights and camera flashes are disruptive to the nighttime habitat and sleep patterns of most animals.
  • Ethical safaris will limit the number of vehicles and attendees per safari so as to not overstimulate or intrude upon the animals and environment.

The number one goal of an ethical safari provider is to protect and preserve the health and safety of the animals and their environment – and you! No safari should ever endanger any for the sake of tourism.

If you’re interested in booking an ethical safari, we can guide you in the right direction. We at DK Grand Safaris are committed to responsible tourism, and offer a variety of safari services to fulfil your bucket list. We want to host you on one of our amazing adventures, like a Kenyan Photographic Safari, Masai Mara Migration Safari, Gorilla Trek, or other unique experience throughout Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia. Contact us today to learn more.

If you want to learn more about how you can be an ethical traveler and support animal rights, then the Reality of Elephant Riding in Thailand might be of great interest to you 🐘

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The principles of eco-tourism are continually rising in popularity as the world becomes more environmentally conscious. Many tourists now seek eco-friendly… read more

 

Waikiki Travel Vlog

I promised, and I delivered! It’s been a long, long time (four months to be exact) since I published my last vlog. As much fun as it was to try something new with my… read more

 

 

Postcards from Waikiki

Aloha ohana! 🌺 I am finally returning after my spontaneous month-long hiatus with some stellar new content, and it feels oh so good to be back… read more

 

 

 

Postcards from Oxford

Oscar Wilde once said that Oxford still remains the most beautiful thing in England, and (that) nowhere else are life and art so exquisitely blended, so perfectly made one… read more

 

 

Contrived Perfection: Why You Won’t Find Me on Instagram

In January 2015, I signed up to a little app called Instagram. I remember vividly the joys of waking up in the morning, grabbing my phone from the bedside table, and scrolling down my feed to see what had happened in the Insta-sphere overnight… read more

 

I don’t know what it is about these Egyptian megastructures that puts them on a tier above the rest. Maybe it’s the fact that they are the last surviving wonder of the world… read more

 

Park Güell: Gaudí’s Barcelona Dreamscape

Park Güell is a park in the Barna neighbourhood of La Salut, designed in the early 20th century by Catalan modernist architect Antoní Gaudí. It is composed of gardens and naturalistic architecture, and was declared… read more

 

The Bucket List: Riad Yasmine

Whilst the entirety of this world is on my list, anyone who knows me will be able to tell you that the one place I long to travel to – like no other – is Morocco… read more

 

 

“There is an admirable fact about the psychology of France: she knows no half measures, loathsome or sublime, she forges the thought and the beauty…” watch here

 

Dunedin

Dunedin holds a special place in my heart. Selected footage from recent local adventures include… watch here

 

Cairo

“Egypt is a great place for contrasts: splendid things gleam in the dust…” watch here

 

 

 

A year ago — well, a year and one month, to be exact — I told myself that enough was enough. I had been flirting with the idea of… read more

 

 

26 Grains: The London Café Bringing Back Porridge

Hello, my name is Dani, and I am a porridge addict. My morning is not complete until I’ve devoured soy milk porridge with sultanas, raspberries, and a drizzle of honey… read more

 

 

Hamsa Mansour: The Egyptian Cyclist Showing How it’s Done

Twenty nine-year-old Hamsa Mansour is many things: athlete, adventurer, aspiring documentarian and storyteller – and come 2019, she might just be the first Egyptian woman to solo cycle the entirety of Egypt… read more

 

 

8 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Studying Abroad

I realise that I’m probably not the archetypal exchange student. I largely went on exchange to escape a love-hate relationship with my home country, and I had no intentions of returning afterwards… read more

 

 

 

 

The global refugee crisis is believed to be the worst humanitarian disaster since the second world war. Fleeing from war-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan, we might presume that the only… read more

 

In Defence of Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation is defined as when “people from a dominant culture take cultural elements from a marginalised group without knowing or caring about… read more

 

 

Airline Inequality: A Social Microcosm of Class

When you think of situations in which class is highly visible, the chances are that the example of air travel will not immediately come to mind. Yet this is one of the most… read more

 

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2017 Blogging Recap: Running Away From My Problems

A year ago — well, a year and one month, to be exact — I told myself that enough was enough. I had been flirting with the idea of starting a blog for years now, but the technical side to things really threw me off. I’m not a complete numpty when it comes to technology, but words such as RSS and permalink could have been part of a foreign language for all I was concerned.

In the end, it was a trip to Southeast Asia in late 2016 that really pushed me to throw the Ginger Passports together. I saw it as an ideal opportunity to generate content and launch my brand. Gritting my teeth, I went the budget route and signed up to wordpress.com (I would later swap over to the more professional wordpress.org), recruited a talented friend to speak code — and here we are: thirteen months later with a blog I couldn’t be more proud of.

2017 was one hell of a year. I mean that in both the best and worst possible sense of that word, but for the purposes of positivity, I am going to focus on the best.

2017 began with a bang – quite literally. I spent my favourite New Years Eve yet in a high rise in the Auckland, curled up with a bottle of Shiraz and watching King Kong (adrenaline-pinching, amiright?). When the clock struck midnight, I ran out to the balcony and watched fireworks cartwheel over the luminescent city.

I began the year how I intended to finish it: with a map in one hand and a suitcase in the other. For the first week of January, we road tripped across the North Island of New Zealand. Beginning in Auckland, we zig-zagged our way down south, making pit stops in iconic places such as Hobbiton. We concluded the journey in Wellington, where we filled several action-packed days making the most of the capital’s cultural scene.

Trying to be all creative and such at Hobbiton in Mata Mata

Stumbling across a painted piano on the waterfront… just your average Wellington shenanigans

Feeling nosy? Get your business all up in my travel vlog of the North Island road trip 🎬

February was a milestone month for me in that it was the first time I published a piece of work on an independent platform.

I had been a follower of the feminist travel blog – Travelettes – for some time by this point, and was eager to try my hand at submitting a guest post. Not expecting much, I wrote an article on navigating the turbulent landscape of homesickness, and voila! How to Get Comfortable with Traveling was published a few weeks later.

This was also a time that I began to realise the value of my home. Foreshadowings of change in the coming months were beginning to creep into my life, and I began to feel a need to explore and appreciate my own city before the opportunity escaped me.

On the hottest day of the summer, I launched my beach review series at Saint Kilda Beach in Dunedin. On what was likely the windiest day, I made the trek up to Lover’s Leap to take in the jaw-dropping views of the Otago Peninsula.

Totally not posing at Saint Kilda Beach

Channeling my inner Tolkien at Lover’s Leap

If you ask me what my favourite part of New Zealand is, my answer will irrevocably by Central Otago.

For some reason or another, I decided in March that a Central Otago escape was in order. Drawn by the temptation of vineyards and gourmet cheese, I packed my bags and left the coast behind.

Quite by chance, my trip synchronised with a spontaneous roadie of my friend Becky (check out this interview with her), and one Saturday morning, we decided to go on an adventure up the Remarkables mountain range in Queenstown (the tourist capital of New Zealand). A bottle of mulled wine later, and we decided that skinny dipping in glacial lakes seemed like a good idea.

Becky being the badass that she is

The stunning Lake Dunstan in Cromwell

Central Otago is the most beautiful place on Earth, and no one can convince me otherwise

(Let’s just pretend I didn’t just skip two months, okay?)

If anyone ever tells you that running away from your problems never solves anything…. well, they’re wrong.

Okay, so that’s probably not the best advice to be giving you. But in this particular case, it worked wonders.

Midway through 2017, I was not a happy chappy. As special as my home country of New Zealand was to me, I just wasn’t prepared to invest in a short-term future there. I was nearing the last semester of my degree, and needed to be thinking about what I was going to do once I walked out of that exam room for the final time. During June, I really worked myself into a state over this, and — against the wishes and logic of nearly everyone I knew — I resolved that unhappiness by buying a one-way ticket to Spain. You could say I was quite literally running — flying? — away from my problems.

I landed in Madrid a week later and I never looked back. I fell in love with Spain in the same way you might fall in love with someone who saves your life. The language, the culture, the people… I was starving for change, and took everything in my stride.

Palacio de Cibales in Madrid

As chance had it, I arrived in the Spanish capital the same weekend of World Pride, and had the unmissable opportunity to march down Puerta del Sol with three million other supporters. 2017 marked the 40th anniversary of the first LGBTIQ pride parade in Spain, so it was a particularly special event indeed.

There’s nothing like a bit of ELO

After falling for Madrid, I bought a train ticket south to the Mediterranean paradise of Andalusia. I delighted in tastes of Málaga, Granada and Seville before bidding a short adiós to Spain and flying to the City of Love.

Just east of Málaga… those beautiful moments before I was reduced to a sun-burnt lobster

As I wrote on the blog, Paris is… well, Paris. And as Anne Rice said, “Paris was a universe whole and entire unto herself, hollowed and fashioned by history… as vast and indestructible as nature itself”. One of us definitely nailed it.

To me, Paris was always one of those places where the idea surmounted the reality. To elaborate, I never actually thought I would make it there. Not in any macabre way or anything – it was just that Paris always seemed so far away and distant, as though belonging to someone else’s dream. To stand in her very midst was a surreal experience.

Because nothing screams Paris like the same photo taken by every tourist ever

I didn’t think it possible to consider any part of France to prevail over Paris, but that was before I stumbled upon Nice. Nice – the Mediterranean heel of France – drew me for reasons I cannot fathom. Perhaps it was the landscape reminiscent of Andalusia, or the local culture that made it so effortless to feel not on holiday, but at home. All I knew was that when I left – with my pockets full of truffle oil and lavender sweets – I almost felt homesick for a place I barely knew.

A local food tour with the French Way

August was punctuated with one last nod to Spain; I flew to the Catalan capital of Barcelona to immerse myself in Gaudí’s dreamscapes for a couple of weeks.

Blown away by Gaudí’s Park Güell

If you had asked me at the beginning of the year where 2017 would take me, I would not have said Egypt. Not because it didn’t intrigue me – quite the opposite – but because it existed in a completely different world that was incompatible with all safe intentions of the independent, female traveler. And yet – much to the joys of my mother and father – I found myself spontaneously stepping off the plane at Cairo airport in the early days of September.

Cairo was all I wanted it to be and more. I ticked the touristic activities off my bucket list – think Pyramids and Citadel – but I also had the opportunity to explore a more authentic side to things such as markets. Staying with locals certainly didn’t hurt, either. I was also treated to some classic street harassment, which was neither appreciated nor altogether surprising. If travel has taught me one thing, it’s that you can’t pick and choose the positive aspects of a culture.

Making friends in the desert

Taking in views from the Citadel

After over three months of living out of a suitcase, I eventually made it to my final destination: the United Kingdom. There, I began my final semester as an undergraduate on exchange in England.

It was relaxing to be able to focus on my studies for a wee while without another trip looming on the horizon. As invigorating as I find travel, it does mean sacrificing the little things. Like routine. And gym memberships. And a proper bed.

It is now mid-December, and I have itchy feet again. My restlessness has me trawling through budget flight search engines, keeping an eye out for deals. My camera has sunk into the depths of my wardrobe, and the Ginger Passports feels naked without fresh content three times a week.

The last two and a half months haven’t produced the same content as when I first left New Zealand, but I’ve still managed to be productive; just last week, I had a second piece published on the Travelettes called Barcelona vs. Madrid: Which Spanish City Is For You?

I’m not choosing to think of 2018 as the beginning of something new. I’ve learnt that seeing starts and ends to things isn’t always healthy, and can pre-empt failure if intended plans don’t exactly take shape. Rather, January 1st will just be another day. I won’t set goals for the next twelve months, nor will I foster expectation. My blog – and myself – will grow at our own pace, and enjoy what life has to offer on this side of the world 🌍

P.S. Hello from January! 👋 For a more audiovisual recap, check out this little flick

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Traveling with the F-Word (That’s Right…Feminism)

Let’s have a little talk, shall we?

As a gender studies student, I was determined that I would somehow incorporate a blog post discussing this wonderful thing called feminism. For those of you that are not acquainted with feminism – or perhaps need a little refreshing in the midst of the anti-feminist backlash – allow me to welcome you back into the classroom.

Feminism is essentially the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. And when I say ‘essentially’, what I mean is that I copied and pasted that right out of the dictionary. Plagiarism points for me.

Gender equality – or inequality, I should say – bleeds into every area of life. We hear about the gender ratio in parliament, the wage gap between female and male employees, and even the extent of legal independence women should have in some parts of the world. As important as these issues are, there is a further niche where gendered assumptions and expectations permeate, however implicitly: travel.

In the travel arena, I am a very privileged individual. Pretending otherwise will not do anyone any good. I’m privileged because I grew up in a safe country rich with opportunity (shout out to New Zealand), am from a financially stable background and have a supportive family who encourage anything and everything I set my mind to. The term ‘privilege’ receives a bad reputation because it includes connotations of individuals who have never had to work a day in their life, don’t understand what it means to be confronted with setbacks, and who are generally just ‘bad people’. I acknowledge that the avenues I have taken to make progress towards my goals may not have been characterised by the hardship many other people experience, but that doesn’t automatically make me unworthy of enjoying them. Accepting that I am in a position of privilege – as uncomfortable as that process may be – affords me the opportunity to overcome the prevailing obstacle in the way of holding myself partly accountable for the injustice in today’s society.

Travel can be a feminist pursuit through many means. Anything that furthers women’s ability to achieve things that society may not necessarily acknowledge or approve of for women is a feminist issue. This article will illustrate 3 tropes which you – as a female traveler – can identify to challenge the mentalities that prevent women from participating in an equal and rewarding experience of the world 💪

The “Settle Down” Trope

You know what I’m talking about – the idea that a woman has only succeeded at being a woman if she has managed to land a job, find a man, slap a ring on her finger and pop out two or three young ‘uns. That, ladies and gentleman, is the arithmetic of womanhood. Anything that strays from this paragon means she has failed.

One of the many problems with this trope is that it doesn’t accommodate goals such as travel. How is a woman supposed to maintain a 9-5 job when she’s never in one place long enough to make the interview? How is a woman supposed to settle down if she doesn’t have the suburban house with the white picket fence? An airport is no place to raise children.

The reality is that this paradigm does not fit every woman. Truth be told, I would be surprised if any woman – or man, for that matter – was perfectly content following this preconceived course. Success is subjective, and in the words of Swami Vivekananda: “The idea of perfect womanhood is perfect independence.”

The “Vulnerable Woman” Trope

“But is it safe? You know… for a woman?” 

“Will you have a man with you?”

“No parent wants their daughter alone in a foreign country – you’re being selfish!”

If any of these sound familiar to you, then you will have been exposed to the Vulnerable Woman Trope. This is the one where – upon announcing your travel plans – people automatically latch onto the implications of your gender.

Now, I’m not stupid. I know that there are some places in the world that it would be simply irresponsible to venture alone. But there are also a lot of places that – while they certainly carry their risks – should not be off-limits for someone purely because they identify as a woman and not a man.

Statistics illustrate how men are actually twice as likely to experience violent assault committed by strangers than women. Yet, you rarely hear people warning their fellow male friends to avoid traveling alone. This fixation on the danger of solo female traveling only disseminates the cultural falsehood not only of women as vulnerable and helpless beings, but also of the conceptual impossibility of men as victims of crime. These ideas work to scare women out of expanding their comfort zone, and are all but an invitation for victim-blaming if a woman does happen to be assaulted whilst traveling on her own.

The take home message is that you should not let misogynistic stereotypes around female independence limit your opportunities. No one should travel somewhere without educating themselves on personal protection and welfare, and consulting the social and political landscape of any prospective country before booking those plane tickets should be a priority. Bear in mind that gendered advice around security can be delivered more for the purpose of reaffirming the Vulnerable Woman Trope rather than actually presenting a realistic view of safety. Traveling alone can be a rewarding and empowering experience – for both women and men – and we need to understand that threats to this independence are not all that meets then eye.

P.S. a fantastic resource for genuine advice on street harassment whilst traveling is this article by Everyday Feminism.

 

The “Woman = Things” Trope

When I was preparing to move overseas for the first time, I pulled a Marie Kondo and down-sized my possessions to the point where I could fit everything I owned into one suitcase. When I would share this with my friends, they would be astounded and ask how I could get rid of so much shit. And that’s what I want to emphasise – that it really was ‘shit’. It may have been shit I was admittedly attached to, but it was nevertheless shit. When it came down to it, I didn’t really need five pairs of Nikes. Nor did I really need three sets of reusable coffee flasks. Once I accepted that, a more minimalist lifestyle suddenly became a lot more appealing.

Society is obsessed with ‘things’ – and by ‘things’, I mean anything that you can buy/own. We tend to hierarchise people based on money; a habit propagated by commercialism and capitalism. We are taught that the more things we own, the more successful we are. We further observe this through the notion that shopping equals happiness.

Why is this a feminist issue, I hear you ask? Well, consider the relationship between females and shopping; the stereotype of women as ‘shopaholics‘ is well-established and reinforced by the philosophy that individuals that own a lot of stuff possess higher prestige and status. By going against the grain, females are gambling being judged as a lesser woman who has perhaps failed at cultural femininity.

Anyone who travels knows only too well that lugging bags upon bags of belongings wherever they go is a burden. Half the point of traveling is to detach yourself from material ownership and to feel at home – not within the four walls of a house – but by the quality of the people around you. A nomadic lifestyle is incompatible with the convention of women accumulating more and more stuff, which is all the more reason to challenge it.

Some final thoughts…

Travel provides many opportunities: the opportunity for new experiences, the opportunity to meet new people… and perhaps most importantly, the opportunity to learn.

Growing up in New Zealand, misogyny manifests in micro-aggressions. In other words, sexism is an implicit and underlying mechanism that characterises the female existence in a seemingly insignificant way (emphasis on the ‘seemingly’). But when I am in foreign places, the gender inequality can sometimes be so palpable, it’s like a slap to the face.

The downside to being a Kiwi is that it’s easy to take a relatively egalitarian society for granted. But through living in one of the more privileged countries in the world, us females have a political voice that is heard and respected. Educating first ourselves and then others about the injustices occurring in other societies is an opportunity that should not be undermined but rather encouraged.

Through a feminist approach to traveling, women become more aware and vocal of the inequalities plaguing humanity. I am a firm believer that social change is a bottom-up process, and what better way to start than by challenging the mentalities that reinforce sexist travel tropes.

Photos courtesy of Unsplash

Hungry for more? Be sure to check out my blog post: The Bucket List: Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel (Or Why Tourism is Political) 🌍

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The Reality of Elephant Riding in Thailand

You can’t travel to Thailand and not ride an elephant.

Or can you?

I try to live an ethical life. I only eat vegetarian so as not to support the meat industry. I avoid buying cosmetics that have been tested on animals in a laboratory. I make a conscious effort to educate myself on global issues from a variety of sources so that I can make informed choices on things that matter. So you’d think that I would be able to resist my temptations to visit an elephant park on my trip to Thailand, right?

Wrong.

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Just why are elephant parks unethical?

There are a number of reasons. For starters, despite claims that the elephants are ‘rescued’ from the wild, this is not always the case. Many elephants are captured as young calfs, and tortured into submission. This process is referred to as ‘Phajaan’, which roughly translates to ‘Elephant Crushing’.

Furthermore, even if they were rescued, that does not mean to say that the park has bettered their situation. As Brendan van Son of Brendan’s Adventures put it: “… these animals are being exploited for the financial wellbeing of the company that rescued them.”

Many riding experiences also include mounting a howdah onto the back of the elephants for tourists to sit on. These platforms have been known to rub against their skin and cause blistering and pain. Despite their enormous size, the weight of these platforms can also be problematic and lead to permanent spinal injuries.

It is also impossible to provide the equivalent conditions for elephants in captivity as they would experience in the wild. Elephants have evolved to survive – and thrive – in an environment that parks just cannot recreate. This can lead to premature death, disease and an overall diminished quality of life.

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I know what you’re thinking: You’re a massive hypocrite, Dani! You participated and reaped the rewards of elephant tourism, and yet here you are, bad-mouthing the industry. Sort your shit out!

I know, I know. I’m the first person to admit that there are so many appeals to elephant riding. It’s sensational to get up and close with creatures that have previously only existed in films or in enclosures at the zoo. Especially coming from a country where elephants are not indigenous (*cough New Zealand cough*), this is an undoubtedly thrilling experience.

Secondly, there is an element of control that goes hand and hand with being taught how to ride an elephant. These beings are the largest land mammals on earth. Riding them is nothing less than a humbling experience.

Thirdly, it can sometimes be hard to imagine traveling to destinations such as Thailand without ticking elephant riding off your bucket list. They’re a cultural icon of Southeast Asia, and boycotting the experience is far more than a missed photo opportunity.

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The elephant park I visited in Chiang Mai, Thailand was called Baanchang Elephant Park. We learnt how to look after, feed, ride and bathe the elephants, all of which were experiences I thoroughly enjoyed.

They didn’t use howdahs, but rather invited you to ride on their backs with nothing but a loose rope knotted around the elephant’s neck and girth for stability. I have researched this, and the evidence shows that this is not nearly as harmful to the elephant as are howdahs (for more on this matter, see below). While in hindsight I would not do this again, if you are hell-bent on getting on the back of an elephant in some way or another, then this is the way to go.

I did not witness any examples of unnecessary brute force being inflicted upon the elephants at any point during my stay, even when the elephant I was riding decided to veer off the track and go walkabouts through the bush. It was lightly guided back to the group where we peacefully carried on without any fuss.

I do not have complete and unwavering knowledge of how ethical Baanchang Elephant Park is, but from my experience and research, they seemed to tick a lot of the boxes. If you are considering visiting Baanchang on a future trip to Thailand, I suggest you peruse their website to fully understand the nature of their company and their dedication to giving elephants the highest quality of life possible within a domesticated environment.

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I am not against all elephant parks. Just the unethical ones. If you are firmly planted in your plan to visit a park, then I ask that you consider the following in mind…

  • Take your time when choosing a park to visit. If you are rushing to map out your itinerary and don’t allow yourself to carefully research what each park offers, then you are far more likely to risk supporting the dark side of elephant tourism.
  • Ensure that the park only features elephants they have been rescued from abusive circumstances, and has an emphasis on educating tourists about caring for elephants as opposed to giving rides. Whilst I discussed that riding bare-back is better than riding with a howdah, refraining from riding at all is even better.
  • If you are like me and can’t keep your hands off souvenirs, check to make sure you are not purchasing ivory. Ivory’s monetary value is the primary reason elephants are poached in the wild. To put the gravity of this issue into perspective, it is believed that – since the 1900s – the Asian elephant population has halved. Halved. Let that sink in for a moment.

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The Asian elephant is now an endangered species. It is estimated that only 30,000 exist in the wild. While I do not condone parks that mistreat elephants, there are those that strive to rehabilitate and protect them from extinction. We may have to come to terms with the reality that these parks could be the saving grace for these animals, and I strongly believe that we should support them. You can find a list of ethical elephant sanctuaries to visit here.

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I would like to note that I am not an expert on the ethics of elephant parks. I am purely someone who is discussing a personal experience, has researched this issue and is passionate about the politics of animal cruelty.

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The Green Traveler: 5 Eco-Friendly Destinations to Visit This Year

The principles of eco-tourism are continually rising in popularity as the world becomes more environmentally conscious. Many tourists now seek eco-friendly activities and accommodation during their travels as a way of protecting the communities they visit. You can enjoy a much richer travel experience knowing that your presence isn’t harming the environment nor the wellbeing of the locals.

Certain countries are leading the way regarding eco-tourism, making it a top priority to unite conservation, local communities, and responsible travel. Here are some of the best eco-friendly destinations to visit this year…

New Zealand

Over the years, New Zealand has worked hard to protect its spectacular natural beauty and wildlife by practising sustainable travel. New Zealand offers an abundance of eco-friendly tours and activities, including bird-watching, dolphin and whale-watching, and nature cruises.

One of my favourite places to see wildlife up close is the Otago Peninsula. Located in Dunedin, the Otago Peninsula is rightfully recognised as the wildlife capital of New Zealand, and offers a unique opportunity to see the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross.

I’d also recommend a visit to the Glowworm Caves. Set in the Waikato Region, this tour showcases an incredible light display of thousands of glowworms inside the Waitomo Caves. The experience of watching this light show is truly magical, and one you cannot find anywhere else in the world.

Photography courtesy of Alex Siale for Unsplash

Samoa

Samoa is one of the most naturally beautiful destinations in the South Pacific. The islands of Samoa are comprised of gorgeous reefs, beaches, and lush rainforests occupied by crystal waterfalls and breathtaking gorges. Eco-tourism is widely embraced in Samoa, where responsible tour operators are regulated and are proud to protect Samoa’s delicate environment, economy, and marine life. These tours are also supported by many of Samoa’s eco-friendly hotels. The eco-friendly accommodation options in Samoa ensure that tourists have a unique travel experience without compromising the welfare of the environment.

Photograph courtesy of Moon for Unsplash

Iceland

Iceland’s breathtaking scenic beauty has made it a bucket-list destination for many travellers who are enthusiastic about ‘nature tourism’ (look it up!). The dramatic landscape has a form unlike anywhere else on earth, made up of volcanoes, lava fields, hot springs, and geysers.  

Iceland boasts a well-deserved reputation as one of the most environmentally-conscious countries in the world. Over the years, the country’s government has continued to fight against ocean pollution, and actively promotes the use of hydroelectrical and geothermal resources for heat and electricity production, particularly in the nation’s capital city, Reykjavik.

You can find one of Iceland’s most amazing eco-friendly activities in the town of Húsavík, where you can go whale-watching in an electric-powered ship named Opal. Opal was designed and built over half a century ago as a trawler, and has now been converted to operate carbon free and cause the least amount of noise disturbance to the whales. Even though Opal runs on electricity, it is rigged like a beautiful, traditional sailing ship, and can even recharge its batteries at sea when the ship is under sail.

Photograph courtesy of Giuseppe Mondì for Unsplash

Costa Rica

Costa Rica has been yet another primary leader of the eco-tourism movement. This small yet captivating corner of Central America currently produces 95% of its electricity from renewable resources, with a goal to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2020. Costa Rica has over 12 main ecosystems, which is said to take up 5% of the world’s biodiversity. With a growing selection of eco-lodges situated in mountains, volcanic regions, and alongside national parks, Costa Rica is an ideal destination for the green traveller.

Photograph courtesy of Max Boettinger for Unsplash

Norway

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Norway is often voted as one of the best places in the world to live. The essence of its appeal lies largely in its natural beauty and outdoor adventures like cliff-climbing, hiking, and kayaking. This Scandinavian country is indeed powered by nature, as its official slogan claims. There is so much to see and explore here, from mountains and glaciers to deep coastal fjords and waterfalls. Norway is dedicated to preserving its amazing landscape, with many green initiatives working towards responsible tourism.

Photograph courtesy of Mikita Karasiou for Unsplash

If you are looking for inspiring, eco-friendly destinations to explore and gain a greater appreciation for the world’s precious environment, New Zealand, Samoa, Iceland, Costa Rica, and Norway are just a handful of choices. Sustainable tourism by visitors who respect the environment is especially important, as the revenue generated through tourism will help to fund more eco-friendly initiatives in these countries for the future.

Author Bio

Harper Reid is a freelance writer from Auckland, New Zealand ,who is passionate about travel and adventure. She enjoys taking impromptu hikes with friends or driving along New Zealand’s most scenic routes. However, most days you’ll find Harper planning her next travel adventure – with Norway next on her list. See more of her work here.

Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

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