Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make only a positive impact on the environment, society and economy. I have often wondered how it could be that a ‘tourist’ could have a positive impact by travelling.
I enjoyed an idyllic childhood in Goa, India but also remember humid, hot summers with very little water in the wells (we had to pull water from the well in villages in the '80s)-what I remember hearing then was talk that the local five-star hotels would buy water by truckloads to fill their large swimming pools. I also remember my mother complaining about how expensive fish was during tourist season — the best fish was already bought by the big chefs in the hotels before it came to market. So, I remember how tourism affected our lives back then.
As luck would have it, via a friend of a friend on Facebook (social media has its plus sides!), an opportunity knocked to volunteer for a week in Morocco.
My interest piqued, I contacted Jane Bayley who runs La Maison Anglaise, a highly rated eco resort that supports a range of community projects in Taroudant, Morocco. Jane helps coordinate volunteers for the organic farm that I was to work on and is intensely passionate about permaculture; she helped me understand the accommodation was basic, I would be living near the family and their organic farm, would need to work with earth and plant fruit trees (which would help attract bees & provide fruit to the family) and contribute towards meals. It sounded like there was a lot of interaction with locals in the village as well as the family I would stay near. For me, this was a win-win situation — an opportunity to volunteer whilst learning about community projects locally, interacting with locals & soaking up the culture, eating home-cooked meals, learning about real Morocco and getting some exercise and sunshine. So, this early January, I booked my flights from Gatwick to Agadir, Morocco which I was surprised is only a 3 hours, 15-minute flight and off I went.
Now, I have done a stint of WWOOFing in my younger days, which involved working on an organic farm in Portugal but whilst on the plane, I was quite worried & started having second thoughts. What if I dislike the people I live near or what if the other volunteer is obnoxious and we don’t get along. What if I can’t adjust to life without electricity, what if, what if…