I am a person who is in love with the world. I want all human beings to not forget that despite the conflict in the news, there still is much beauty in humanity.
Despite our differences, we have a shared humanity that we mustn’t be scared of.
While news headlines can divide us, travel can unite us.
I see incredible beauty when I travel: from the kindness of strangers who help you order food to the new friends who invite you into their homes. Travel is an act of sharing. We share our culture, absorb another’s. We share these stories with our friends at Fourth of July barbecues, on social media, messenger apps. We are obsessed with travel tips – where to eat the best Bánh Cuốn in Hanoi, where to listen to progressive rock in Tokyo, the best beaches in Senegal, why go to Slovenia instead of Italy so you’re not mobbed by summer crowds.
Where we choose to travel is incredibly important. The businesses that we choose to give our money to makes an impact. Does this money go back to the local communities? Are you as a traveler making a positive impact with your presence? Or are you simply using this country for its sunshine to have a golden tan to make friends envious back home? What is the price of your golden tan?
As the New York City co-lead for Impact Travel Alliance, a global network of over 15,000 professionals committed to alleviating poverty and inequality through business or leisure travel, I know from experience that sustainable travel doesn’t have to be difficult. Just informed. When we travel with our eyes wide open, our experiences are much deeper than when we have blinders on. We shouldn’t avoid countries whose conflicts we read about in the news. Traveling to Myanmar and understanding all the sides of the Rohingya refugee crisis makes us not only better travelers, but also better informed world citizens.
Regardless of our superficial differences, travel can remind us that underneath it all, we are human. We must not lose our humanity. Especially in this time when we need it most.
Some call me an idealist. I call myself a dreamer. I dream of a world where instead of destroying cultures different than ours, we celebrate them. I dream of a world where we understand the inherent value of our beautiful world and we do everything in our power to preserve it.
My travel dreams started with reading about Brazil in my parents’ Britannica encyclopedia, sifting through photos in issues of National Geographic and the travel section of the New York Times.
I made my dreams come true through my blog, FreshTraveler – trading FAM trips with blog coverage to over 35 different countries, focusing on farm-to-table culinary and eco-adventure off the beaten path places like Senegal, Slovenia, Kenya and Belize.
I made other people’s travel dreams come true by becoming a travel agent with Protravel International, focusing on sustainable travel and putting together immersive trips for people to eco-lodges and family owned boutique hotels. How amazing it felt to not only recommend a places for my readers but also book it for them as well.
With my work, I am committed to transforming not only NYC, but all major travel destinations, into capitals of sustainable travel.
I remember standing in front of the largest Brazil nut tree in South America inside the Crystalino Nature Reserve wondering why there weren’t more trees this size in the Amazon Rainforest. An ecolodge on private land was the only reason this tree was still standing. We need to support businesses that positively contribute to local communities, and our oxygen supply. As a billion dollar industry, our travel destination recommendations and how we frame these narratives has the power to change communities all over the globe. This is great power that must not be wielded lightly.
Thank you for reading,
Patricia Serrano Chungsathaporn