A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to spend an extended period of time travelling extensively through South East Asia, Australasia and South America. Although taking an aeroplane to these continents didn’t help reduce my carbon emissions, when I was actually on the ground I tried my best to keep my carbon footprint as small as possible. One of the ways I wanted to try and make this work was to use the local populations ways and means of travel instead of just getting on the more convenient tourist bus that would pick me up outside my door, whisk me through the country with preplanned stops at particular vendors, and then drop me at a convenient destination.
This wasn’t just about ‘keeping it green’, but rather, I wanted to immerse myself in the culture and lives of the local people. I had read so many stories before I went away of people just following the ‘Gringo trail‘ and only visiting predetermined places that were built up around tourist trade, but I wanted to see the real country and that meant finding the real people. Travelling on those local buses, not entirely sure of where I was going to end up was a dream come true. I met some many wonderful people who would do anything to help you out and it cost me what it would cost them to get about – so another added bonus!
What more could you ask for – meet the locals, keep the budget low and save the planet! All worthy points in my eyes!
There were a few times when the going got tough though, times that I just wished I had kept it simple. One of those times was when I was in Peru. I got into a little town after dark, it was freezing and I couldn’t find anywhere open. I had walked around for 10 minutes and the cold was really getting to me – so much so that I began dreaming of being at home, central heating turned on full blast and my mother making me a roast dinner! At the time, I didn’t realise the danger I was in but a nice local school master pretty much saved my life! A local child had seen me wondering about and because of my appearance she wouldn’t approach me but instead told her parents about me. In turn, they went and got the local school master who had a basic command of English and he came and found me wondering about and led me off to the only guest house in town, down a small back alley which I would have never gone down if it wasn’t for him. They got me fixed up for the night and I arranged to meet with him the next day so I could show my gratitude. When I met him, he insisted that I have lunch with him at his expense. All he wanted was to practise his English with me so we had a nice relaxed lunch and I answered his questions about England and he helped me make some travel plans for my next destination. Those were the real moments that I felt I was really travelling!