3) Interpretation: The Ecotourist Learns
Proponents of ecotourism believe in the power of travel experiences to change lives. For guests and hosts to have the fullest experience, there must be room for genuine cultural exchange.
Travellers see the value in immersing themselves in a situation that is different to their own. Some parts are clearly enjoyable, like tasting new food and discovering new sights. But being surrounded with people from another culture, perhaps with different languages, beliefs and traditions from you, can be deeply instructive and valuable in ways you might not have imagined.
Human connection is arguably what makes travelling so very fulfilling. You might not remember a particular meal too vividly, but the warm smile from that sweet old man selling empanadas will stay with you forever.
You can also act as a considerate representative of your home country. Sharing your own culture and stories with your hosts is an important part of the reciprocal experience. Ambassadors of ecotourism will hopefully contribute to improving the international tourist’s reputation, and promoting friendly, respectful cultural exchange.
For this to happen without harm, visitors must cultivate an awareness of the culture and history of the region. Ideally, you want to come away with a deeper understanding of the country’s political and social situation, for instance, recognising how the effects of colonial rule are still felt years after independence.
This understanding enriches you as an individual, but you can also take it back home and tell others what you have learnt. You can be a part of building global cultural awareness and spreading responsible tourism practices.