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Transitions Abroad Magazine November/December 2007 Vol. XXXI, NO.3

Travel Feature

In the Land of the Gods
Volker Poelzl’s writing and photographs provide a fascinating look at a land of towering peaks, glaciers, and vast valleys in northern India known as “Dev Bhumi,” or “Land of the Gods.” In the region’s remote and untouristed Spiti Valley is a small but thriving Buddhist population and some 30 monasteries scattered across the valley and adjacent mountains.

Columns

Back Door Travel by Rick Steves
Traveling in Bosnia-Herzegovina

The Resourceful Traveler by Tim Leffel
Eco-Friendly Travel: Simple Strategies that Result in Cost Savings for You and the Planet

Independent Travel by Rob Sangster
Seven Wonders: Lots to Wonder About

Senior Travel by Alison Gardner
Over the Sea to Skye: This Scottish Island is Easy to Get to, Hard to Leave

Ask the Expat by Volker Poelzl
Finding Community Support Overseas

Local Encounters by Michele Peterson
Life’s a Beach: But There’s Also Much More to the Mexican Communities You Visit

The Intentional Traveler by Michael McCarthy
Volunteer Vagabond: Gypsy Jean’s Advice for Giving Back to the Countries We Visit

International Career Adviser by Jean-Marc Hachey (magazine only):
Selling Your Skills with an Elevator Pitch

Responsible Travel

Interviews by Ron Mader
The Business of Ecotourism
Carol Patterson, author of The Business of Ecotourism, addresses the current challenges of ecotourism businesses and her recommendations, as well as suggestions for those seeking employment in this field.
Final Call
Leo Hickman, a Guardian journalist and author of The Final Call: In Search of the True Cost of Our Holidays, provides a candid look at the “mounting and grave problems” of the “short-sighted” tourism industry. He offers his thoughts on how tourism management and tourists need to change in order to stem the looming crisis.

Traveling in the Terai: Trekking Off Nepal’s Beaten Path Lawrence Morgan
DIY Mekong Delta: How to Experience the Real Vietnam Without a Group Tour Robert Reid
Voluntouring in Thailand: Participate in a Community-Driven Ecotourism Project Sara Schonhardt
Mountain High: Finding Spiritual Space at Hong Kong’s Tao Fong Shan Kristin Van Tassel
Volunteer in Nicaragua: Choose from a Range of Post-Revolutionary Options Laurel Seaborn
Cultural Ecotourism in Panama: Stay with the Embera Indians in What ‘Feels Like a Lost World’ Kim Walker
Volunteer in Ecuador: Work with an Indigenous Amazonian Community Sarah Keyt
Zipping Toward Sustainability: Conservation-Minded Businesses in Ecuador’s Choco-Andean Corridor are Preserving Their Environment Astrid Jirka
Teach Your Children Well: Visit Costa Rican Cloud Forest Preserves that Help Support ‘Two of the Most Progressive Schools on the Planet’ Jarett Emert
Tree Top Adventures: Swing from Limb to Limb in an Eastern Township of Quebec Lies Ouwerkerk
Discovering Tuscany by Farm Ben W. Tettlebaum
Volunteering in Transylvania Joanna Liss
International Volunteer Workcamps: A Unique Opportunity to Experience a Foreign Country, Not Just Visit One Katie Paddock

Departments

Information Exchange

Explorations
World Music
Book Review
Calendar of Arts, Culture, Events
Ecotourism Awards
Off the Radar Travel Adventures
Best Blog

Activist Responsible Traveler
Re-tiring or Retread? Boomers and International Service Ann McLaughlin

First Person
The Soccer Balls of the White People: Friendship and Storytelling Lead to Cultural Exchange in Niger Kimberly Mace

Travel to Eat
The World on a Plate: International Programs that Teach You How to Make Brazilian, Italian, and Thai Cuisines Joe David

Travel Tips
Staying in Harmony: Communication is Key for Happy Travel Companions Carol Mickelsen

Endpage
Coming Home: Walking Away from Vietnam with a Sense of Peace Denise Dubé

From the Editor

As this issue was headed to press, hundreds of monks and pro-democracy activists were rounded up at night and trucked away to unknown fates in the repressive country of Burma. With the world watching, Burmese military government troops used tear gas, automatic weapons, mass arrests, and likely worse, to quiet opposition. The exact numbers of casualties suffered is not clear. The regime admits to only 10 deaths, but it is thought that the number of fatalities is likely many times this.

While the international community took actions and made proclamations to show support for the Burmese people, analysts say that without strong pressure from Burma’s sponsor, China, life in the closed country will return to “normal.” That is to say, to tyranny. Earlier in 2007, Burma was listed among the world’s most failed states by Foreign Policy magazine, right behind Sudan in human rights violations.

In the recent news coverage of Burma, I have been struck by how many times tourism was cited for playing a role in opening the world’s eyes to the plight of the Burmese people. Although National League for Democracy party opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi discourages travel to Burma because tourism dollars support the regime; small numbers of travelers have gone there anyway—some with the purpose of increasing awareness of the issues there.

In the March/April 2004 issue of Transitions Abroad, we published columnist Rob Sangster’s article “The Lady Said ‘Stay Away’ But I Went to Myanmar Anyway; Here’s Why,” and a year later, we published Sangster’s “The Road to Mandalay,” as well as Shaughn McArthur’s piece on “Why Traveling to the Country May Be in the People’s Best Interest.”

Although traveling to Burma was a decision that neither writer made lightly, Sangster summarized his decision, saying, “No one benefits by remaining ignorant of facts on the ground. Being present provides deeper understanding of what the conflict is about and what’s at stake.”

In his March/April 2004 article, Sangster quotes a Burmese man explaining that the absence of military personnel on the streets is because the government wants to improve its image. “Tourists keep the soldiers behind the fence,” he said. Sangster goes on to conclude, “[T]ravelers carry torches that can illuminate a country. Their light may not reach the darkest corners, but the government is very aware of their presence—and affected by it.”

The fact that Sangster and McArthur used their trips to give a voice to the subdued people of Burma is a significant reminder of the positive role that travel can play in the world. In a day in age when only “five percent of the world’s population [has] ever flown in a plane,” as Guardian journalist Leo Hickman tells us in his interview with Ron Mader (page 25), it seems ever more important that we recognize the privilege of travel and give it purpose. Added to this reality are the critical global environmental challenges we face today.

In a video interview I conducted with environmentalist and author Bill McKibben for www.AbroadView.org/Green, he says, “In the last few years, as we’ve learned about the extent of climate change and global warming, it’s gotten much harder to just blithely dismiss getting on an airplane and flying around the world. That one airplane trip to wherever you are going requires the consumption of more fuel and more carbon than most people in the world will use in a year for all the tasks of their daily life—not to be taken lightly. To me, the only excuse for travel is to go someplace, see something different about how to live in the world, and bring it home to do something about it.”

Sherry Schwarz

Transitions Abroad Magazine

Publisher and Editor
Sherry Schwarz
Senior Editor
Joanna Hubbs
Web Content Editor
Gregory Hubbs
Design
Jeffrey Boyce
Advertising Manager
Kate McGrail

Contributing Editors
Susan Griffith (Work Abroad )
William Nolting (International Education and Work)
Jean-Marc Hachey (International Careers )
Volker Poelzl (Living Abroad)
Rick Steves (Budget Travel)
Rob Sangster (Independent Travel)
Tim Leffel (The Resourceful Traveler )
Zahara Heckscher (Volunteering Abroad)
Edward Trimnell (Language Immersion)
Deborah McLaren (Responsible Travel )
Ron Mader (Ecotourism and Latin America)
Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson (Gap Year)
Cynthia Harriman (Family Travel)
Bill Mohan (Teen Travel)
J. Mara DelliPriscoli (Lifelong Learning)
Michele Scheib (Disability Travel)

On The Cover
Longtail boat being moored at sunset off Ao Nang beach, Thailand.

Photo by Ewen Bell of ewenbell.com.
Bell is an Australian travel photographer who specializes in Asia and adventure. He helps lead a small number of photographic tours each year to share his knowledge on Thailand, India, and China. Bell was awarded Australia’s 2007 Travel Photographer of the Year (ASTW).

Mission Statement
Founded in 1977 by Clayton Allen Hubbs, Transitions Abroad is the only publication dedicated to work, study, living, volunteering, and immersion travel abroad. Its purpose is the dissemination of practical information leading to a greater understanding of other cultures through direct participation in the daily life of the host community.