Destiny Calling

Destiny is calling and once again, it is time to move on. Cambodia has proven to be a remarkable country in which to spread my wings. Each of the destinations inside this destination played a worthy hand in a highly spirited game of discover the hidden mojo. But beyond the emotive temples and past the scenic serenity, the poignant charm of Cambodia is carefully concealed within the subtle grace of her people.

Born post Khemer Rouge, the fantastic glow emanating from the young adults with whom I interacted radiates hopes and dreams. Perhaps it is borne from the repression their parents endured. Out of the darkness and into a life, ever-marked by the unspeakable acts of which man is capable. Does the balance grow under the light of freedom found on the other side? I don’t know. What I am certain of is that there is tangible purity in these children.

The surge in tourism is viewed as a blessing, creating jobs, enhancing the standard of living and bringing to their doorstep, vicarious journeys as experienced through the eyes of visiting guests. The concept of traveling themselves as foreign as the thousands pouring through temple gates, for now, they still find it exciting to be a part a different world, if just for a moment

As a personal practice, optimism generally prevails over pessimism. But with one foot firmly rooted in reality, I have no choice but to add a large dose of pragmatism here. I wish to wrap my arms around these kids as to perpetually protect their innocence.  In addition to catalyzing economic development, rapid growth can also pave the way for an influx of interested visitors that do not always have the best interest of a country, it’s people or the environment, at heart.

From Ubud to Uluwatu, I imagine Indonesians originally shared such positive notions about the impact of tourism. If you asked now, I wonder if the Balinese would tell a different story. The island, is at this moment, surging to capacity yet the building continues. Expansion more profitable than zoning, hotels, resorts, restaurants and shops are rapidly replacing what is left of the rice terraces and farmland. Retail space is becoming too expensive for locals to rent; more and more Western shops are moving in. Much of the remaining agricultural parcels are being sold off as the quality of life becomes less valuable than the property. The prohibitive cost of living pushes families further and further from the tourist hubs, all but evicting sacred vibes of the island. Bliss is now pedaled as the hot commodity. What has it cost?

One Western toilet flushes more water than the average Indonesian consumes in one day. Yet the building continues. Heavy smog permeates the cities, road congestion clogs the streets and water pollution is killing the fish. The building continues. Deforestation and habitat destruction is devastating the wildlife on the island. When is enough, enough?

There is a window of opportunity after which everything changes. Cambodia is now in that window. Consider this my written plea to the almighty gods of tourism: Please, please, please, let’s not make the same mistakes again. Cambodians are proud of their land and of their perseverance. They still care about the happiness of visitors and possess a desire for us to find their home worthy. They possess an innocence I no longer do.

Live. Learn. Lend your voice.

~ by Christine Fowle

Happy Earth Day

It is not by mistake that this year and last, my voyage has me circumnavigating the globe over April 22nd. Earth Day. However, there was a time in the not so distant past, I didn’t think much about the health of the planet or the majority of its inhabitants. There are a lot of things I didn’t care about that are now important to me.

Friends & colleagues are likely cocking their heads and making a Scooby Doo-esque ‘hhrruuh’ kind of noise. The me they know spent two years heading up the hotel’s sustainability council. She recycles, ardently supports non-profits and on her last day of work, emptied a file drawer containing seven pairs of vegan shoes.

The shifting of priorities began when I started asking seemingly simple questions like, “What is Al Gore talking about?” The more answers I got, the more questions that arose and the more appalled I became. At the government, at corporations and with my own behavior. The only way to help in solving the problem was to become the solution and grabbing at the low-hanging fruit was the logical place to begin.

Refusing plastic grocery bags, boycotting bottled water and minimizing waste was the easy stuff. Downsizing possessions and eliminating disposable purchases from my repertoire soon followed. The freedom from stuff was addictive and from clothing to cutlery, surrounding myself with meaningful expressions of what I value, the clutter-free clarity remaining is priceless.

The evolution has been a work in progress and during the week of my birthday 2009, I adopted a vegan lifestyle. It didn’t begin as a stand against global warming; it was physical, spurring from how I wanted to nourish my body. It hasn’t always been socially comfortable or globally accepted. But after learning about the cruelty of factory farming and the environmental impact of animal agriculture, every birthday I celebrate a lifestyle choice that is now very dear to me.

It shouldn’t come as a complete shock that I previously disregarded the environment. For years I’ve shared similar habits in regard to my own personal care. My healthy diet for years has been in direct contrast to my rock star tendencies. I’ve been attempting to pacify the unseen powers of wellness by offering up a wheatgrass bargaining chip and thus far have succeeded. There is however a point of no return. And my fear is that it will be crossed.

I’ve gotten enough answers and pleading ignorance is no longer a viable option. With all certainty I know I’m as individually responsible for taking care of this planet, as I am my own personal wellbeing. Because of this, my Earth Day gift to myself and to Mother Earth is to let go of my bender alter ego and give up drinking for good. It will not only help preserve my body, it will save on the recycling of dozens upon dozens of future wine bottles. Recycling is good. No-cycling is better. Healthy longevity is best and it’s a decision I look forward to celebrating each and every April 22nd.

Happy Earth Day!