With A Little HELP From Your Friends In India

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The merits of travel to poorer areas of the world are constantly being debated. Some believe it helps communities, while others believe it helps to destroy them. However, as many travelers already know, there are ways that one can travel while conserving, and preserving, the area.

The goal of Help Tourism, in India, is as the name says: Heritage, Environment, Livelihood, People. Its purpose is to encourage travel as “a tool for conservation and sustainable development.”

When reading this recent article on Gonomad.com about Help Tourism, I felt what the experience of being a part of something different must be like. Dr. Swati Dasgupta joined the group to aid those still affected by Cyclone Aila’s aftermath, a storm that hit the Indian Ocean in May 2009. “The people of the delta are simple, stoical, bereft of the pettiness of urbanization. The inhospitable land has endowed them with values and a sense of hospitality that moves the outsider.”

I can’t help but marvel at humanity’s grace. It’s as though by extending a hand, out of courtesy and respect, that fear and hostility are not even calculated into the equation. My friends call me optimistic when it comes to my outlook on humanity, but how could we not believe in the good when an example is right there on a page?

Nevertheless, amidst the “wild beauty” of West Bengal, there is a dark side to watch out for. “The core forest area is forbidden territory to all but the forest department. At times misfortune strikes a fishing boat that has strayed into illegal waters. The stealthy tiger often climbs on such a boat and drags off a sleeping victim.”

In other words, the people may be lovely, but the wildlife is hungry.

That being said, conserva-tourism is obviously not for those who need the creatures of comfort. It is for those who seek a little spice and adventure, and even a few heart palpitations. I don’t think it’s easy to say which experience is better or worse, they are just different.

By Brit Weaver


About the Author

Toronto born and based, Brit is an avid leisure cyclist, coffee drinker and under-a-tree park-ist. She often finds herself meandering foreign cities looking for street eats to nibble, trees to climb, a patch of grass to sit on, or a small bookstore to sift through. You can find her musing life on her personal blog, TheBubblesAreDead.wordpress.com.

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