I’d travelled to Cambodia once again, not only because it’s one of my favourite travel destinations, but because I wanted to shed some light on the vast number of inspiring responsible tourism initiatives happening in this region. What I didn’t expect to find however, was a different type of tourism - one which I had come to learn through Ayana Journeys, a responsible travel company with a passion for providing educational travel experiences.
I hadn’t delved much into the term “Educational Travel” but as I read through the Ayana Journeys mission statement the concept began to unravel in my mind. Below is a snippet of the Ayana philosophy and how it relates to our adventurous pastime.
Many of the awful things that happen in our world come from a desire to assert control over others, a confusion between ‘different’ and ‘wrong’, or a combination of the two. We believe that respect and empathy are crucial to combatting these causes of much global unhappiness, and that the best way to achieve these is through immersive, hand-crafted, and open-minded travel.
So we [Ayana] reject the conventional model of ‘observing’ new places and cultures, which ultimately encourages us to feel distanced from them. Instead we craft engaging, ethical learning journeys that support open-minded travellers keen to develop an appreciation for other cultures, learn about different ways of life, explore international issues, deepen their own sense of empathy, and reflect on themselves as global citizens. - Ayana Journeys
This philosophy makes so much sense! We often travel to places more focused on what we will get out of it rather than what we will put in. How many times have you visited a place without even knowing what currency they use? Or how to say hello? Or the history and politics of the region?
Travel is more than an Instagram picture in front of a golden landmark. It’s cross-cultural connection, empathy and immersion, and I think Ayana has really expressed this through their educational travel experiences.
I was lucky enough to participate in their Secrets of Siem Reap tour while in Cambodia. The tour takes you behind the scenes into Siem Reap’s hidden backstreets and bustling marketplaces. I visited ancient temples dating back to 900 AD, watched the locals participate in morning prayer, observed the traditional art of knife making, and had a lovely chat with storyteller and "honourable grandma" about her 75 year young life here in Siem Reap.
For those interested in delving into the religious aspect of Cambodian culture, Ayana runs an Introduction to Buddhism day tour that will give you a deeper insight into the Kingdom and its people. Spend time with monks at a local pagoda, learning about their daily lives, rituals, and the practice of meditation.
They also offer tours to the temples, food tours and overnight homestays, all providing immersive experiences that will leave you educated and moved by this country and its people.
You can join one of the Ayana Journeys tours via their website or keep up to date with the latest on their Instagram. It's through educational and responsible travel, like that which Ayana offers, that we can truly connect with the world around us.
Click here to read more articles on responsible tourism in Cambodia.