Located at a maritime crossroad, the island of Sri Lanka has been influenced over thousands of years by cultures throughout Asia, largely including its neighbor, India. Home to spectacular riverscapes, numerous Hindu temples, and an array of wildlife, the island is truly something to behold. Here, videographer Piotr Wancerz, captures the people who reside in Sri Lanka going about their daily lives; from schoolchildren to fieldworkers. Explore the island's peaceful beaches, unique cuisine, ancient temples and busy city streets like you've never seen them before in this video.
When Caitlin Murray met Alejandro and Agostina, conservationists and owners of Ecuadorian Mashpi Artisanal Chocolate Farm, she’d been living in South America for two years after a solo trip that inspired her to stay. They showed her how their commitment to regenerating Ecuador’s cloud forest focuses on sustainable farming practices and educating others. They also gave her a taste of their handcrafted Arriba Cocoa bar that won first place in 2016’s International Chocolate Awards. Inspired by their story and commitment to the environment, Caitlin wanted to bring others to their farm.
Volunteering abroad, solo backpacking, and working in the tourism industry, Caitlin realized in order to access culture and be socially responsible, she must find measurable ways to directly give back to local communities. Driven to create opportunities for women to collectively experience this, she founded Purposeful Nomad. Purposeful Nomad is a travel company that crafts deeper, safer, more ethically responsible travel for women. They attract women from a variety of backgrounds and ages seeking a different kind of experience. “I wanted to use tourism as something positive in the world and not just a consumerism ‘let’s take my life and emulate my life somewhere else’ ethos,” Caitlin explains.
Two years after her visit to Mashpi Farm, Caitlin launched her first women-only sustainable social impact travel program in Ecuador - called Food, Farm, Fleece. The 14-day itinerary integrates local experience and education. Early on, the group meets with grassroots organization founders of Paqocha, Felipe Segovia and Lorena Perez to learn about their efforts to revive the alpaca population. Next, they learn from Ecuadorian women how to shear, clean and spin the fleece with the opportunity to purchase handwoven wares directly from the makers.
Going through a transitional time in her life, Sara Carter signed up with Purposeful Nomad to “fulfill her desire to immerse herself in Ecuador's culture, food, and people, while affording her the chance to do it with like-minded women.” Within a few short years, Purposeful Nomad has grown to eight new locations and diversified itineraries - including Cuba, Morocco, India, and Guatemala.
According to the World Tourism Organization as explained in CNBC’s article “Eco-Friendly Tourism” eco-travel is expected to climb to 1.8 billion by 2030. Since 2000, worldwide destination seeking has jumped by more than 50 percent. As socially responsible travel continues to grow “we make sure our dollars stay local. We’re not a luxury tour company,” says Caitlin. According to McColl of Ethical Traveler, the best way to travel sustainability is to get to know the local people so the “money stays in the local economy, rather than getting extracted by foreign corporations … as a bonus, it’s a more genuine experience, and a better chance to connect with local people.” Purposeful Nomad prioritizes local from lodging and cuisine to hiring knowledgeable guides. Caitlin builds partnerships by talking to locals and finding ways to help. She doesn’t assume to know what a place needs. She asks. Would you like to work with us? How can we help?
According to MarketWatch, more than 1.6 million people volunteer on vacation each year, paying more than $2 billion annually to help out while traveling. Nevertheless, it brings into question how much lasting impact they are generating.
Purposeful Nomad focuses on tapping into established grassroots organizations that are already happening on the ground and are a proven success to help measure their impact. “Bigger volunteer organizations, can create incredible infrastructures in developing countries, but once they pull out, the schools are empty. We don’t want that,” Caitlin explains.
With the mounting popularity of conscious travel, terms like responsible, sustainable and ethical can often be overused or misused in the tourism industry. Epicure & Culture contributor, Daniela Frendo explains, “In the travel industry, greenwashing refers to tour operators which make eco-trips seem more sustainable and ethical than they actually are.” Travelers can mitigate this by asking travel companies whether they employ local people and buy locally-sourced products as well as learn more about how invested the company actually is in community-based projects. Aware of greenwashing, Caitlin says, “If you take shortcuts, people are going to know.” She thoroughly vets organizations and individuals to ensure there is transparency in where the money goes.
Back at the Masphi Farm, Alejandro and Agostina’s passion for conservation and keeping the Ecuadorian traditions of the cacao crop alive balances well with dishing out delicious artisanal chocolate. So, for your next trip, consider traveling with a purpose—it doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
JULIA KRAMER is a New York-based writer and avid traveler who addresses systems changes to social challenges through storytelling and community building. When she’s not writing or on the road, you will find her cooking something from her urban garden or hiking. Read more of her articles on travel and social impact at julia-roos.com.
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. The videographers took a road trip in Sri Lanka and this video documents their travels.
Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 ethnic groups, bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. The videographers spent two weeks traveling in Myanmar and fell in love with the country. There are many cultural practices still alive due to the fact that the country was closed off to most of the world for some time.
The tiny Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen sits nestled between the Sierra del Carmen Mountains and the Rio Grande. Its Chihuahuan Desert location is strikingly beautiful, with green vegetation along the river, the brown soil of the surrounding desert and pink mountain cliffs creating splendid color contrasts.
I have been taking students to this magnificent landscape for 20 years – mostly to Big Bend National Park in Texas, just a mile north of Boquillas. My colleagues and I have also studied the ecological and economic value of this habitat, one of the most biodiverse and ecologically important desert regions in the world.
Recently I returned to study the ecotourism and conservation potential of Boquillas. In the process, I learned about a local vision for the border that is markedly different from the prevailing U.S. view.
Here the Rio Grande forms the line between the United States and Mexico. The river is an ecological gathering place that draws humans and wildlife. For Boquillas residents, the idea of building a wall here is sacrilegious. As Lilia Falcon, manager of a local restaurant, said to me, “We have friends on both sides of the river, we want these interactions to continue.” Her husband, Bernardo Rogel, was more succinct: “We love both countries.”
A fragile ecotourism economy
Boquillas was originally a mining town, with local deposits of silver, lead and zinc that attracted prospectors. By the early 20th century, 2,000 people lived there and a thriving industry was exporting ore.
That boom turned to bust, and by the end of World War I the mines were closed. The town nearly disappeared in the 1960s, but in 1999 when I first visited there, it had about 200 residents. They made their living from cross-border tourism, with U.S. visitors to Big Bend National Park entering Mexico via a legal but unofficial border crossing.
After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, however, the United States closed all of these informal crossings. Overnight Boquillas lost its income source, ruining livelihoods and jeopardizing years of effort by residents and government officials to build cooperative border relations.
The nearest place to get supplies was now a 300-mile round trip over rough roads deep into rural Mexico. Just three miles away on the U.S. side, gas, food and services in Big Bend National Park’s Rio Grande Village campground were now inaccessible. Relatives who were citizens on opposite sides of the border were separated, 115 miles from the nearest legal crossing point.
After more than a decade of lobbying by residents, the U.S. government created a “remote” passport facility, where people crossing the border could present their documentation by phone to a border agent located in El Paso. Boquillas reopened and merchants and guides returned. In 2018 more than 11,000 visitors crossed over from the United States.
Today Boquillas residents are working again to teach visitors about this part of Mexico, and ecotourism companies are expanding. People here envision a future for the border in which respect, cooperation and shared economic gain will create a prosperous and sustainable future for communities on both sides.
Welcoming visitors and valuing connections
It is obvious to me that people in Boquillas love their town and are hopeful about the future. “I want to show visitors the beauty of my home and to have a more prosperous life for my family,” Lacho Falcón, a local guide whose family owns the only grocery store in town, told me on my most recent visit as we hiked into Boquillas canyon, its massive vertical walls gleaming in soft morning light.
I have heard that sentiment repeated many times as I have gotten to know more people in the town. Thanks to economic activity from tourism, “We have been able to buy a vehicle, improve our house, and most importantly, send our oldest daughter Wendy to college,” said Lucia Orosco. She sells crafts to help support her family, which includes husband Adrián, who manages the ferry crossing over the Rio Grande, and their three children.
Canoeing the Rio Grande is a favorite tourist activity. The river cuts through spectacular canyons, supports abundant wildlife and provides water for this thirsty land. I spoke with Ernesto Hernández Morales from Vera Cruz, Mexico and Mike Davidson from Terlingua, Texas about the river’s potential to unify their countries. As partners with Boquillas Adventures, a Mexican registered ecotourism company that focuses on natural and historic interpretation, they are working to expand sustainable tourism opportunities in nearby protected areas, hiring local residents as guides.
“We see our work as more than a business,” said Hernández Morales. “It’s an opportunity to show Mexico and the U.S. working together for security and prosperity.” Davidson concurs: “It is our goal to provide our guests a high-quality, safe experience…and offer them a glimpse of daily reality on this part of the border.”
Chalo Diaz, a local guide who takes visitors on river trips, is excited about his work. “Boquillas is a beautiful town where you can visit friendly people. Now that the border has reopened, we have improved it and are connected to the world,” he told me.
United ecologically, separated politically?
In 2011 Mexico and the United States signed a cooperative agreement to conserve the spectacular Chihuahuan Desert landscape. This initiative builds on proposals dating back nearly a century to create a cross-border international peace park.
American black bears, mountain lions, bighorn sheep and a host of smaller animals, as well as over 400 species of birds, move across this landscape. Studies show that conserving this region requires maintaining free movement for wildlife. Researchers warn that building a border wall through the area could threaten thousands of plant and animal species by preventing them from moving between patches of the best habitat.
Currently Boquillas is the only access point where people can cross between the protected areas in this region. This makes it critical to future conservation success. People in Boquillas believe that building a border wall would sever this connection, causing hardship and insecurity on both sides.
MATTHEW D. MORAN is a Professor of Biology at Hendrix College.
THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION.
Csaba Labancz filmed this video compilation when he spent three weeks in Iran visiting most of the major cities and some unknown villages up in the Elburz mountains as well as some of the most remote places in the desert. This film is an essence of a country of ancient traditions, breathtaking landscapes, truly helpful and kind people and countless historical places.
Located in the Indian state of Manipur, Keibul Lamjao National Park is the world’s only floating wildlife sanctuary. The park’s Loktak Lake—the largest freshwater lake in northern India—is a spectacular sight, dotted with green patches and rings of vegetation known as “phumdi” that float atop the water. A biodiverse park, Keibul Lamjao provides sustenance to the people and animals of Manipur—including sangai, an endangered subspecies of brow-antlered deer revered by locals as the binding soul between humans and nature.
The city of Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and is known for its busy streets and ornate shrines. The videographer, Jiajie Yu, described his intentions for making this film as “wanting to portray Bangkok in a cinematographic way, create a hypnotic, immersive and suggestive experience of the city through its faces, alleys, sound and music.”
Tim Kellner recorded this video to display his experience traveling in Alaska. In regard to his experience, Tim states “When I was a kid I would stare up at the giant stuffed grizzly bear in the Buffalo Science Museum and imagine seeing it alive and in the wild. That dream finally came true. I can't even begin to describe with words my experiences in Alaska so hopefully this video will capture just a small piece.” The music in the video is also by Tim.
This video documents the faces of Kathmandu and architecture in Nepal’s capital city. On display is the daily life of people in Kathmandu and tourist sites. It is the largest city of Nepal and has a population of approximately 1 million people. Additionally, Kathmandu is also the biggest metropolis in the Himalayan hill region. The languages spoken are predominately Nepali and English.
"Life While Traveling" is a short film about the way we look to the world when we travel. It's about colors, shapes, textures and details that surrounds us every day, but we only realize when we are far from home.
A film by Joan Bosch
The remote island of Socotra looks like a landscape out of a sci-fi film. Over millions of years, the isolated island in the Arabian Sea has cultivated a unique biodiversity unlike anywhere else on Earth. Twisted dragon’s blood trees and bulbous bottle trees have made Socotra a place of legends, feared by sailors throughout history and believed by some to be the site of the original Garden of Eden.
Our way around the World's 8th tallest mountain - Manaslu in Nepal. Sharing the path with mules, yaks, an odd stray dog and beautiful hard working people enriched by layers of cultural heritage amongst a literally breathtaking scenery that are the Himalayas - the roof of the World.
In the mountains, the weather changes so quickly it can feel as if you are experiencing all four seasons in as many days. This was our experience when my partner and I walked the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail in Japan’s Kii peninsula a couple of years ago.
When we got off the tiny bus at the sharp curve in the road that indicated the bottom of the mountain pass, the sky was full of wispy scudding clouds. The climb was steep and the path was almost obscured by drifts of dry autumnal leaves, even though it was already January. At one point, we pushed our way through a tiny crack in a rock face. The passage is meant to be a charm for good fortune in child birth. Despite being deeply uncomfortable in confined spaces, I thought it worth a try.
That evening, we lounged in the scalding thermal baths in our ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn). The baths had views of the mountains opposite, which were bare and brown but were quickly covered by darkness. Compared to the bone-warming heat of the baths, the dining room was distinctly chilly, and we shivered as we ate our way through several courses of locally sourced vegetarian food. The flavours were crisp and surprising; I didn’t recognise a single vegetable on my plate.
We woke up on our tatami mats the next morning to a surprise: it had snowed overnight. The world that had seemed so autumnal in the sunshine of the day before had now been bathed in midwinter. We marvelled at the icy gleam as we ate our breakfast (more unidentifiable vegetables) and packed a bento box for lunch.
The other three guests at our ryokan had only hiked up to spend a single night in the mountains, and were preparing to trek back down to the bus stop. We were the only ones going on to the next valley. Our journey took us through woods of tall, perfectly straight pine trees. The path – carved out by the passing feet of pilgrims over hundreds of years – was mercifully easy to follow, despite being covered with six inches of perfect, untrodden snow.
The snowfall deadened the usual sounds of the forest. The rustlings of animals were replaced with the tinkle of a shower of snowflakes giving in to gravity and releasing the bent branch of a tree. The crisp crunch of yesterday’s dry leaves gave way to the creak of snow compacting under our boots.
We walked quickly in the cold, unable to pause and sit down because everything was shrouded in snow. Occasionally a small red shrine would loom out of the whiteness, punctuating our route and breaking up the uniformly straight trunks of the trees.
It was a day of discoveries. We watched a monkey scamper down a branch, eating a fruit with yellow flesh. We followed deer tracks over a ridge and found a natural theatre in the hillside, with an altar set against a snow bank and a semi-circle of tree stumps that served as seats. What such a place might have been used for, we couldn’t fathom.
Unexpectedly, the next day dawned with a pale misty light, bringing with it a mild breeze that soon had dollops of snow falling from the trees. As our icy surroundings thawed, the ground revealed spring-like green shoots that had previously been hidden under the mantles of leaves and snow.
By the time we had reached the first temple on our route, the snow had almost completely disappeared, lingering only in corners of cool shadow. By the following day, the sun was travelling through a cloudless sky and we were sweating in our thermals and fleeces. The ground had dried out and we were able to sit and eat our bento boxes in the sunshine, looking out at unimpeded views that had been obscured by drifting snow and mist for the last couple of days.
The final destination of our journey was a temple set against the backdrop of Japan’s tallest waterfall, a setting worthy of the Romantic poets and Edmund Burke’s understanding of the sublime. After several days spent almost entirely alone in the forest, it was something of a shock to see other people here, eating ice cream and browsing the souvenir shops. In our opinion, it was still too cold for ice cream, and we hurried back to our final inn, where we were the only guests. That evening, as we sat in our room, there was a small earthquake that caused the windows to rattle; with this most unsettling of experiences, we prepared to return to reality.
To be a pilgrim is a strange thing. Whatever your reasons for making a pilgrimage, the experience of walking for miles across several days makes you acutely aware of the deeply personal and previously unchallenged spaces of your mind and body, as well as of the fact that your experience is shared in some way with all of the pilgrims, known and unknown, who have walked the route before you. The process of walking through a landscape towards a chosen destination allows you space for contemplation and reflection.
At the time, however, very little of this actively crosses your mind. While I was walking the Kumano Kodo, I thought a lot about how cold I was, how hard work it was to tramp through the snow, and what we might be given to eat at the next ryokan. Now those aspects have faded for me; I still remember how my body felt after a day of cold and tiring walking, but I remember it more as a feeling of satisfaction at having worked hard to achieve a goal.
And while some of the individual details of the journey have faded, others have only become clearer: the monkey, for instance, and the perspective-bending vistas that opened up between lines of brown-barked pines in the snow. My sense of place connected to the Kii peninsula has become stronger, especially since returning to the UK and the routines of everyday life in London.
In some ways, physical and temporal distance allow an experience of place to grow in the mind, until the place almost becomes a conceptual metaphor for the subconscious mental processes you went through there. For me, the physical and spatial experience of walking the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail has become a mental metaphor for contemplation and reflection, and now if I ever need to find a moment of calm or reflection, I can think myself back there. I realise now that I sorted out some important psychological issues in my mind during that trip, even though I rarely actively thought about them while I was walking, and this helps me to approach other challenges.
You don’t have to go on a pilgrimage to achieve this on a smaller scale. A walk in the countryside or a visit to a park can have a similar effect on your mentality, even weeks or years afterwards. Through this process of being and walking in landscape, a place – experienced through physical motion as much as through the eyes – can become a valuable space in your mind which you can inhabit when you need a momentary break from everyday life.
ANNA SOUTER is a writer and editor based in London. Her research interests include contemporary art, landscape and walking.
THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON ROAM MAGAZINE
Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula has the highest concentration of active volcanoes on Earth, and this video shows the Kamchatka Peninsula landscape. There are a total of 160 volcanoes in this region, and 29 of them are currently active.
Two hours off the coast of Colombia is a small island home to over 1,200 people. As the entirety of Santa Cruz del Islote only spans the length of two soccer fields, residents live in close quarters, making the island four times as dense as the borough of Manhattan. Despite the circumstances, the community makes the most of their limited surface area, packing in a school, two shops and one restaurant. Only 150 years ago, the island was uninhabited; today, generations of families are proud to call Santa Cruz del Islote home.
My Grandpa Joe was one of those classically great men. A mensch. Born in the bathroom of his parents’ Temple Street home in downtown Los Angeles in 1917. The family moved around Los Angeles a lot — from downtown to Boyle Heights to Tujunga to Beverlywood. Sticking close to the pockets of other Jewish immigrants who faced daily anti-semitism. In his pre-teen days, he would travel miles by bus to get to school, then travel all the way back to work in his father’s garment factory into the night — the schmata business — learning the machines. Then he’d do his homework. It was clear very early on that he was a standout student and, after skipping pretty much every other grade, he ended up at Berkeley. Apparently, he was in a rush to meet my grandmother, Ethel, who was also at Berkeley. After graduation, they came back to L.A. He also ended up in the garment industry, one of the first to create women’s sporting apparel.
And as great and respect-worthy as that all is, the story of how he made his way in the world was simply a precursor to a just-as-impressive story of how he made his way around the world. Joe’s true passion was travel.
By his retirement, he had also started a small side business as a travel agent. He called it, Love To Travel. He kept himself busy (and his travel deductible) by organizing and sometimes leading tour group in various parts of the world.
By the time I came around, he had already been across the globe a few times — which was in and of itself a pretty exotic feat for the era — but he was only just getting started. Joe and Ethel rewarded themselves for a good life of hard work by spending the second half of it, over thirty years, visiting places all over the world. At least once a year, they would take off — most often in Western Europe, but also Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, Central and Eastern Europe, and probably quite a few more. When they’d return, the family would gather for an old-fashioned slide show. Ethel would prepare a platter of dried fruits and nuts, the screen would go up, lights would go down and the projector would flick on. What proceeded then would be a competition of memory for the small stories and events of their trip. My grandfather’s memory for detail was unassailable, but Ethel always had the last word.
Many years later, after he had died and it was apparent that I would continue the legacy of travel and photo-taking, my grandmother entrusted me with his many boxes of slides. They were highly unorganized and consisted of everything from loose negatives to filled carrousels to small, bulging slide boxes. Thousands and thousands of images. All un-labeled.
It’s taken me fifteen years to get it all together and scanned. I have barely started down the process of trying to figure out where these places are and what year they might have been taken. I may never know. In some ways, it’s not what really matters. I actually quite enjoy the mishmash of time and place that these images, in this scattered format, create. They come together exactly like my memory of him — a richly condensed man of great experience and joie de vivre.
What I love about these images (and this is only a very small taste of them) is that they are there to document the travel as much as the place. His images are heavily aware of being a visitor — in those days, foreign travel had a formality to it. In the images, you can see both the formulaic-ness of tourism but also a man who would climb to any height to get a better view than the crowds. He would do anything for a good shot — I watched him sneakily break off to go take a snap, many times.
I love the raw talent depicted in these photos. A high percentage of them are out of focus, which for me only adds to my appreciation for him. Focusing was hard, in those days — no electronics or fancy in-camera technologies. He learned it all on his own, with no training — and considering that, there’s a side story that develops with these images of a man who was learning a craft from love of subject backwards. Which is also how I learned photography.
My favorite image is one that I don’t recall ever making it into a family slide show. It features my grandmother driving an early 70’s Nova on a foreign beach somewhere. It’s a shocking image for me in so much as she never drove. Usually, Ethel was in the back of a stuffy Cadillac — she suffered from a deep, nearly-disabling anxiety and her overly-dramatic fears made her almost comically over-concerned about every little thing. Seeing her here, carefree and outrageously off-the-beaten-course adds an entirely different look at their relationship and adventures together.
In the end, your photographs should not only show a great life, they should convey what you loved. Enjoy the following story of the man who loved to travel.
Photo essay by photographer Bernardo Salce, who rode 4,000 km on his bicycle from Bogota, Colombia to Lima, PeruRead More
3 guys, 44 days, 11 countries, 18 flights, 38 thousand miles, an exploding volcano, 2 cameras and almost a terabyte of footage... all to turn 3 ambitious linear concepts based on movement, learning and food ....into 3 beautiful and hopefully compelling short films.....
= a trip of a lifetime.
Move, eat, learn.
Filmmaker Chris Grewe displays his best experiences while traveling Colombia in slow motion.