Community tourism: trend or necessity?
You’re preparing your trip to South America but don’t really know how to do it…You have the choice between many destinations such as Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile or Brazil! The point is: what meaning will you give to your trip? Will you travel as a backpacker going to where your feet and heart will lead you? Will you book an organized trip with a local agency which will bring you more security? Or will you be tempted by a very special adventure within a remote local community? Actually, there is no “good” or “worst” way of traveling. Writing this article, we simply would like to outline the issue of community tourism and in particular, what are the factors that could decide you to choose this way of traveling rather than another. Let’s go! 😉
Community tourism: the best way to get immersed in the communities’ daily life
South America, thanks to its cultural and regional diversity, gives travelers from the entire world the possibility to discover and get immersed within native communities, such as Amazonian communities living in the jungle or Andean communities living in altitude, both cultures being totally different.
Although opting for getting immersed within a community implies some sacrifices (for example in terms of comfort), this way of traveling will leave you an indelible mark deep inside. This may seem insignificant for some people, but this kind of experiences will enable you to step back a bit and take a global view of the world in general, consciously or unconsciously. You will ask you some REAL questions, such as:
Do I really want to do that in my life? Do I really need that? How do they manage to do all this? Why do they keep smiling under all circumstances whereas I’m always complaining about anything??? :-)) Yes, it might seem a bit exaggerated but it’s more or less what we all think when we share experiences with the communities.
Beyond these questions, all in all very existential, you will above all learn how to live like the local populations do: you will learn about traditional fishing on the Amazon river, discover the Amazonian wildlife, livestock farming in the Andes, traditional cooking at the fireside, the different methods of agriculture and handicraft (such as weaving or pottery). All these activities will tell you much more about a population than any book in the world!
At the heart of the Peruvian Amazon, near the city of Iquitos, Wilder and his family welcome visitors wishing to discover the real life conditions of the jungle native communities. In Canaán village, the travelers will thus have the possibility to try out traditional fishing (harpoon or line fishing), discover the richness of Amazonian wildlife through trekking or night camps in the middle of the jungle, help working in the fields, learn how to make handicraft with local materials, among many other things!
Read more about this homestay experience at Wilder’s family in the Amazon.
Community tourism: economic stakes for the local populations
One should keep in mind that the main objective of community tourism remains to support the local populations who generally face very low incomes. When these communities agree to open their selves to tourism, it raises or complete their incomes and brings them better life conditions, and very often, also better perspectives for the future generations. So, just forget about mass tourism: doing community tourism means traveling with very small groups to ensure a real proximity with the communities and to prevent such drifts leading to terrible consequences, in particular from an environmental point of view.
Community tourism: common awareness on environmental issues
For many of the people who already have experienced community tourism in South America, they necessarily noticed one key element: the proximity and harmony between the populations and the nature. In other words, how can I make the nature my ally, how do it contributes to my well-being in general, and how can I live from the nature without deteriorating it? So many issues that are sometimes difficult to address in our daily life of “city-dweller” or X person from the “Western countries”, but which suddenly take on their full meaning within the community.
Many communities also implement sustainable development projects, aiming at raising awareness among the residents of the community, in particular the children, concerning the importance of encouraging appropriate environmental practices. This is for instance the case of San Rafael community in the Peruvian Amazon, which specialized in the research and preservation of butterflies species from the region. The Morphosapi butterflies farm was implemented in a volunteering way. This butterflies greenhouse formed with a big garden enables to observe and study the butterflies complete life cycle.
There are many other initiatives and communities to discover. It is now up to you to decide how you will organize your next trip! 😉 Don’t hesitate to share your experiences of community tourism, whether you traveled to South America or to any other part of the world! Hasta pronto! 🙂
Photo credits: Latitud Sur