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The Dilemma Of Travelling Responsibly

I have always been a staunch supporter of travelling responsibly. I am not an expert in this field but in my own personal capacity, I do my bit. I try to keep the environment clean, carry my own water bottle, use public transport, support local community and propagate the idea through my blog and social media. But, there are times when travelling responsibly is not about these little challenges. Instead it’s about choices and decision making.
Last month, I was travelling through Rajasthan. I stayed in Jodhpur for a week and planned to visit the Bishnoi tribe in one of those days. Those who have spent time in Jodhpur would know how popular Bishnoi Village Safaris are. These are 4-5 hour guided tours through the Khejarli village– at a short distance from Jodhpur, to meet the local Bishnoi people. Bishnois are well known for their crusade in preserving trees and wildlife. A typical safari also includes meeting some local artisans, food in a local home and may be even a chance to buy some local handicrafts. On one hand, I wanted to support the rural tourism, on the other, I did not want to commodify Bishnoi community by making such a superficial visit, taking photos and adding them to my ‘Done-That’ list. I decided to not visit.
I faced a similar situation again when I went to Jaisalmer. I wanted to go into the desert, sleep overnight on the dunes, but not ride a camel– which is very much a part of Jaisalmer’s customary Desert Safari. Not riding an animal was a personal decision I made couple of years ago. After noticing how camels’ legs are tied up when they are (apparently) set free in off-duty hours, I did not regret my decision. But here again, it was a choice I had to make between not riding an animal– therefore, discouraging use of animals for commercial purposes, and supporting the local community– for whom this is a major source of income.
I am also not a huge fan of wildlife safaris. I just feel, we humans need to leave the wildlife alone. Of course, with the exception of forest rangers, conservationists, researchers and locals. Having said that, I am well aware that around every wildlife preserve open to tourists, there is a local community dependent on income generated by tourism.
So yes, these were few instances when I found myself stuck in between two similar yet opposing directions. I really have no qualms about missing out on the must-sees and must-dos, as long as I stand by what I believe in. I would rather spend my time whiling time away at a local food joint, getting a whiff of local life, than be bogged down by the pressure of ticking-off a checklist. But those who are choosing to go for these guided village-tours or wildlife safaris (responsibly, without creating a ruckus in the local habitat) are doing their bit as well.
Richa Gupta is based in Mumbai, is an avid traveller and also passionate about writing and encouraging responsible and alternative travel ideas. After having worked in the  fashion industry for over six years,  she decided to quit and started with a little not-for-profit initiative to help people with  travels which not only help support local culture, economy and environment but also offer life changing experiences. Her work and blog can be found at http://travels-and-stories.blogspot.in

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