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Sustainable travel is not just about taking your reusable water bottle with you wherever you go or organising a beach clean-up within your community. Sustainable travel is also about being an advocate for accessibility and inclusion in the industry.
What do I mean by these two words, accessibility and inclusion? Why have they come up so often in recent discussions around travel and freedom of movement? Accessibility and inclusion are two pillars in our society that advance equality. They are the ingredients for a diverse, equitable world where hierarchy and inequality are matters of the past.
For a long time, we have failed to acknowledge how much travel and the freedom to roam is a huge privilege, not accessible to billions of people in our world today. If we examine the facets in which our ability to move freely across borders becomes more accessible, we unveil privileges like access to education, income inequality brought upon by currency appreciation and depreciation, the languages we speak, the passports we hold – essentially, the places and social structures we are born into.
It is for these reasons the discussion about accessibility and inclusion in travel, whether that’s short-term holidaying or long-term remote work, is so important. An inclusive travel industry is one that does not discriminate.
Let’s discuss how you can be an advocate for a more inclusive future of global mobility.
Become aware of your privileges
As mentioned in the above introduction, the ability to cross borders is a privilege and recognising the existence of this privilege is a profoundly important step in becoming actively involved in uplifting those who don’t yet bear those same privileges. If a problem in society is not openly recognised how can we, as a collective, discover the motivation and inspiration to find a solution?
There is a great divide between those who have freedom of movement and those who don’t. Factors such as the passports we hold, the languages we speak and the currency we earn all play a role in this divide. As international social worker and travel blogger Sojourner White explains, “our social identities affect our social location and inform the benefits we possess when we are, or are not, travelling.”
Related Reading: Travel Privilege to Know About and Why
Privilege is also rife in the remote work movement. In a recent discussion on diversity and inclusion in the work from anywhere movement, Lorraine Charles (founder of Na’amal) explains, “This [remote work] space is still elite… Access to the internet is becoming a human right. Without it, you cannot have equal access to employment or education.”
It’s important to recognise even something like access to the internet is a privilege. By acknowledging this, and recognising the other privileges that we bear, we can start to amplify discussions about equality, and amplify the voices of those already working to bridge the social divide.
Related Reading: This Week in Ethical Travel: Passport Privilege
Amplify the voices of those creating accessibility & inclusion in travel
There are many wonderful initiatives making travel inclusive and accessible, and an increasing number of entrepreneurs enter this space every year. By finding out about these initiatives, and supporting them, you are contributing to not only the cause but the solution as well.
Take, for example, Wheel The World, an initiative supporting people with disabilities through their online database of accessible travel experiences. There is also IGLTA, who provide information and resources for LGBTQ+ travellers and work to expand LGBTQ+ tourism globally by demonstrating its significant social and economic impact.
In Nepal, Sajana Bhadel founded Girls Empowered By Travel, an organisation that provides safe opportunities for women in Nepal to travel and get involved in community work. Quite often, women in developing nations lack the authority needed to gain access to freedom of movement. Sajana’s concept is a game-changer for the women in her community.
Philippine-born Marinel De Jesus founded Equity Global Treks, a mission-based tourism project that offers transformational journeys, with the ultimate goal of achieving workforce equity in the trekking tourism industry by uplifting women and indigenous communities.
Related Reading: Travel, Diversity & Inclusion
In Bali, social enterprise Nomads Giving Back! is working to make remote work more accessible by providing skillshare programs for local Indonesians. Founder, Tarek Kholoussy, saw a lack of diversity in the remote work scene in Bali and so created the Skillshare With Impact model that leverages the knowledge of experienced remote workers and provides young Indonesians with the skills and guidance to enter the remote workforce. His team aims to expand this model across other regions in the near future.
All these ideas and initiatives were created with a foundation to promote accessibility and inclusion. They exist to bridge the inequality gap. I have no doubt there are hundreds or maybe thousands of other initiatives in this space and so if you come across some please do share them with our community.
Be mindful of the divisive language you use
The language we use and it’s subliminal messaging plays a larger role in our division than we may realise. It was only recently, in a podcast interview with JoAnna Haugen the founder of Rooted, an online resource aligning tourism-related work with the UN’s sustainable development goals, I was able to learn about significant words that may contribute to exclusion in travel. In the episode titled ‘Reshaping the tourism narrative to promote equality and diversity,’ JoAnna explains, “…if we say that something is cheap, we are actually closing the doors to a lot of people who might not find something to be inexpensive. So this is the case of using a word that is not inclusive of a lot of people. If we talk about something that is undiscovered, the truth is that for the majority of the world the land that people are exploring has been a part of indigenous culture for many, many years. We need to be really mindful about what that kind of language does in silencing and disregarding generations of ancestral knowledge, for example.”
Divisive language also surfaces in the remote work space. Many remote work events and discussions use headlines like “Meet the top digital nomads,” or “Hear from the best remote workers”. Words like ‘top’ and ‘best’ sustain a level of hierarchy in an industry that is already very inaccessible to many. Instead of using exclusive words like these, a more inclusive approach would be to shape words in a way that don’t pertain to authority, for example, ‘experienced’ or ‘professional’.
The language we use often arises from our subconscious and it takes a deliberate effort to become aware of how it may affect others. It is through this awareness that we can ensure we aren’t perpetuating the divide simply through the language we use.