Managing complexity when traveling to foreign countries
“I couldn’t possibly go to Egypt, not with the way they’ve treated foreign journalists lately,” my friend told me, as we were discussing location for his upcoming dive holiday over coffee.
“I don’t want to support that system”.
“OK,” I tried, “then how about Iceland?”.
“Are you kidding me?” my friend shot back, “with the whaling?
I definitely don’t want to support that!”
Bias and Dilemma
This little conversation got me thinking about the dilemma we sometimes face with diving and travel, as many scuba divers voyage to far off locations.
Not all of these may live up the ethical, legal, or environmental standards we’d like them to.
So should we not go? Punish them with our absence? Show then we won’t support them?
Ultimately, that is a personal choice, and there are regimes out there that we could definitely agree we shouldn’t support.
But if we refuse to visit any country that does not live up to the very highest standards imaginable, we’re likely to end up staying home (and if we think our own country is perfect, we probably need to take a good hard look at it).
The Yin and Yang
Another friend of mine, a scientist, once told me something about otters. Otters mate for life, and when they sleep, the otter couple holds hands to prevent each other from drifting away in their sleep.
Otters also rape baby seals to death. Reread that last sentence. It is a scientific fact.
So are otters cute or monsters? Well, depending on your viewpoint, they’re both. Nature, life, is complex and trying to boil a species of animals or a nation down to a Disney-like “good” or “bad” bisecting, we’re trying to oversimplify things. Sometimes we have to accept that things can be both good and bad.
Watch this video report.
Picking the Lesser Evil
So where does that put us in terms of picking countries to visit?
Well, as I said, it is ultimately a personal choice.
But looking for flawlessness can be tricky, and limit us. And usually, isolation does little in terms of changing things in a country. Isolated North Korea hasn’t really brought about a massive change in the country.
So traveling in countries that are vastly different from ours is often a matter of accepting compromises to the way we believe things should be, or accepting complexity that is different from what we know from back home.
Here are some Tips and Tricks For Making Dive Travel Easier.
More Than Partial Solutions
If you want to make a difference in the world, your vacation plans are only part of the solution.
Sign petitions and join forces with organizations trying to bring about the change you want to see, such as the UN, Amnesty, Greenpeace, and Mission Blue.
Join these organizations and support their work with your money and your time. While in countries, give extra tips or donations to those you feel deserve it.
Talk about your home country and how you do things there, showing the locals that there are other ways (respect local customs and laws, though).
Here’s how a scuba diver can Make A Positive Difference For The Environment.
Change comes from many sources, and real change comes from a combination of external pressure and inspiration, internal motivation, and political opportunity.
As travelers, we can influence many of these, if only in our own small ways. But never think that you cannot create change.
In the end, that is the only thing that ever has, to paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt.
A New Viewpoint for the Traveler
Naturally, stay away from the most totalitarian of regimes, and avoid places that are deemed too dangerous to travel in (consult your state department for info on this), and always go by your conscience.
But wherever you go, try and see the good and the bad of it, and take in the complexity.
Try to improve what is bad, and celebrate what is good.
Darkness goes away when we shine a light on it.
So should we not go? Punish them with our absence? Show then we won’t support them? What do you think? Leave a comment below!