ETHICAL AND RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL

“Sustainable travel: it may sound like a contradictory concept. One flight is as bad for our beautiful globe as two packs of cigarettes are for a person. Mass tourism does not always have the best impact on a place’s culture, nature, or the local economy. That is why we think it is extremely important to make a positive impact. Here you can read how you, as a privileged traveller, can travel respectfully through your destination and ensure an equal exchange: in a cultural way but also in the field of wildlife! ”

– Charlie

ETHICAL AND RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL

“Sustainable travel: it may sound like a contradictory concept. One flight is as bad for our beautiful globe as two packs of cigarettes are for a person. Mass tourism does not always have the best impact on a place’s culture, nature, or the local economy.”

– Charlie

If you are reading this and you have an upcoming trip to Africa – or plan to put one in the calendar soon – the chances are, that you can say you are in a privileged position. You were probably born and raised in the more developed part of the world and have enough money and time to travel. When you are also a mzungu (the Swahili name for a person with white skin), it is especially important to be aware of the advantages that this entails. Especially when travelling in post-colonial African countries. In these countries, there are, of course, cultural differences that you should be aware of in order to value other cultures. How do you ensure that as a ‘privileged’ traveller with a well-filled wallet and a different cultural background, you meet the locals with respect and achieve an equal cultural exchange, without causing unintentional harm? Below you will find an outline of things to take into account and how we inform our travellers.

Africa: the other story

So when you read this from behind your computer or phone at home, you may have already noticed that there are strong stereotypes about ‘Africa’. Africa is dry and poor, children have inflated hungry bellies and flies on their faces and the adults are pitiful and needy. Oh yes, and then you have the Big Five that you can spot from an armoured safari jeep. For the sake of convenience, many people forget that Africa is not a country, but the second-largest continent in the world, consisting of 54 different countries. One of our most valuable goals is to debunk dangerous stereotypes. We think it is important that our travellers – but also the people at home – see Africa that is more than a Giro-555 advertisement. The content we share is the most important weapon in this battle.

We publish our own stories in the form of blogs, vlogs, and mini-documentaries to paint a more complete picture, but we also challenge our travellers: look and listen with an open mind and let yourself be surprised! Have interesting conversations with people, keep asking questions, and listen to their stories. It only takes a little open-ness to see how insanely diverse the continent is. We encourage our customers to share this diversity on social media and help to dismantle the stereotype of ‘Africa’.

Equivalent cultural exchange

An equal exchange between two different cultures is an important aspect of the trips we put together. In our opinion, you cannot say that you have experienced a country without learning about its cultures, norms, values ​​, and the customs of local inhabitants. We make this exchange a bit easier by working directly with local partners. These are the communities that welcome you into their homestay or organise a tour in which they teach you everything about their environment. This gives a unique insight into the daily life of local residents from the country where you are a guest. What does that really look like with traditional tribes in the modern world? Or among ambitious young people in urban areas? No embellished performances that often hide behind the wall of tourism, but the real deal – where two worlds get to know each other. And it goes both ways, deep conversations around the campfire mean that you too get the time to share aspects of your own culture. To ensure a cultural exchange that is equivalent, it is important to avoid the ‘White Savior Syndrome’. We inform our travellers about this in behavioural guidelines before they travel.

collaboration charles and mama rose shake hands
white savior syndrome selfie with chocolate bar and starved baby

White Savior Complex

“I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person”, said writer and journalist Eduardo Galeano. A wise statement to consider, especially when you travel to the African continent as a white, rich person. The world often sees African people as poor, pitiful, and needy – and that you are in a position to help. You have to be careful to not suffer from the so-called ‘White Savior Syndrome’ in which you are the white superior. What exactly do we mean by that? We will explain briefly.

barbie white savior syndrome for the classroom

Although all African countries are now independent, you will find many vestiges of colonisation that continue to lurk like a stubborn virus in the books, culture, norms and values, academic education, and the self-image of many people. One of the biggest stains is the white privilege that white Westerners have. White privilege often goes hand in hand with white superiority: the system in which whiteness is central, and is seen as ‘better than’. So you can say that the whole ‘we-are-white-rich-and-educated-and-we-have-to-help-the-poor-idea’ perpetuates this inequality and creates a situation in which the white westerner is seen as superior to ‘the African’. Not only can this mindset unintentionally cause damage, but it is also very derogatory and not exactly stimulating for the local population: What would it do to you as a person when you are labelled as a soul that needs to be saved? When strangers who don’t know your culture at all, roll into your hometown and tell you how to live your life?

Solidarity and equality is an important goal. To avoid the White Savior Syndrome when you are white, wealthy, and travelling in Africa, try to keep the following things in mind.

1. Poverty Porn

The images you shoot, the context in which you post them, and the words and hashtags you use have far more influence than you might think. Not only on the environment in which you are a guest but also on the image that your friends at home get of the country you are travelling in. When you use poverty for your personal gain (Instagram likes, a sensation, so-called ‘inspiration’) this is called ‘poverty porn’. This will not only encourage the aforementioned stereotyping of poor, needy Africa but affect the dignity of many people and be another fence in the way on a mission to equality. Using #PoorAfricanChild on Instagram? Maybe don’t! Find out more about debunking stereotypes (including hilarious satirical movies) on this website!

Checklist social media

2. Visits to orphanages or schools

As a travel agency, we often get the question: can we also visit an orphanage or a school? You have to be careful at orphanages in Africa. The fact that they make a lot of money, from the volunteers that pay a lot of money to volunteer and the donors that pay money monthly per child, means that now orphanages are sprouting up in many places. And, of course, they have to be filled with children. Did you know that, for example, 80% of the children in orphanages worldwide still have one or both parents? And 50% of these children had a home environment that was good and safe enough to grow up in? Orphanages have become an industry fueled by western benefactors with money (to return to the white saviour syndrome). Read here what the other adverse consequences of orphanage tourism are – such as serious attachment problems – and why there shouldn’t be so many orphanages in Africa at all! The consequences of visiting schools are less severe, but often the program is stopped when visitors come to take a look. Do you ask yourself: would tourists ever come to a classroom in the Netherlands?

children in school desks in africa

3. Handouts

As a travel agency, we often get the question: what can we bring from the Netherlands to hand out to the children? This is, of course, a well-meaning gesture, but you should also be careful when giving things out. In addition to creating a begging culture, this also stimulates the White Savior complex, where you as a traveller get to be the saintly Saint Nicholas. In addition, it is difficult for you to properly understand what is needed and useful in a community. For example, you can hand out cute stuffed animals, but chances are that the same stuffed animals will be available for sale in the local market the next day, because yes: mouths must be fed and school fees must be paid! If you want to maintain equality, it is better to pursue an honest business and give an extra big tip to someone who has done their job well. Would you like to hand out nice things? Then start by investigating what benefits children. Then buy those things on the spot, so that you can stimulate the local economy. And finally: do not take or post photos when you do give things to the children!

woman with money in her hands with the make a change note
man at fruit market
two people in the desert

Respectful travelling: behavioural guidelines

When we receive travellers to African destinations, we share some behavioural guidelines. The above topics have touched on them, but if you want to travel through your holiday country respectfully, there is more to it. For example, it is first of all important to realise that we are guests. We do not matter here and must adapt. To make this a little easier, our behavioural guidelines contain some suitable tips & tricks. For example, what kind of clothes are best to bring and put on in order not to make your hostess feel uncomfortable? Never take photos of people without permission – especially minors – this applies everywhere, right? Do yourself a favour and be patient: time is different here and no one benefits if you pull a grumpy grimace when your food is put in front of you twenty minutes later. We also provide our customers with a guide on tipping. In addition to it being a fair way to do business, it is also expected of you more here than in the West. The salaries are lower and those in tourism largely live off their tips. In our opinion, giving a big tip for a service that you are satisfied with is better than just donating. How much do you give that nice taxi driver or that hotel employee who has lugged your heavy rolling suitcase up three flights of stairs? Ask our tip guide!

Respectful travel: animals and wildlife

Tourists come with money, and orphanages aren’t the only ones seeing business opportunities. Animals and wildlife, especially when there are rare animals, are often exploited to the bone by the tourist industry to make money. Tourists often have not studied enough and have no idea of the negative impact they leave. Just think of the worldwide debate about riding Thai elephants. Africa too is full of its own unsavoury practices using defenceless wildlife. For example, you want to pet cute orphan lion cubs? These lions soon mature and regain their freedom – seems harmless. What travellers often do not know is that these lions are then easy targets for trophy hunters. As they are used to human interaction they make the perfect lion to be sold at a very high price. Unfortunately, this is just one of the many gruesome examples in which many animals, even endangered species, are used as a tourist money machine.

Still, not all interactions with rare animals are bad. For example, when you do a chimpanzee or gorilla trek in Uganda, the money you pay for it (which is definitely a fair price) is directly spent on protecting the animals and their environment. When you book a trip with us, you will be well informed by your Travel Designer. For example, did you know that wildlife conservancies spend their income differently to many national parks? We leave you with the choice to decide what you think is ethical or not.

wildlife spotting in etosha namibia

Work ethically

What applies to travellers also applies to us: we live and work from a privileged position on the African continent, and we must act responsibly. For example, we do our best to avoid any trace of white superiority in this content, and at home. We keep a close eye on what we post on social media in our private lives to portray accurate and equal images. We also try to create as much employment as possible. Read about how we stimulate positive impact by encouraging the development of local communities. We also do this in our own office: we ensure that as many functions as possible, that do not require Dutch-speaking tongues, are filled by local colleagues. The magicians behind the scenes who will create your perfect trip to Kenya? These are – naturally – Kenyans!

And so, we all ensure that our different cultures, backgrounds, norms and values ​​can enrich the others and bring us all closer together!

Do you have more questions for our travel consultants?

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