Here is a new blog post from one of my favorite authors, Zoe Weil, author of Most Good, Least Harm. You can learn more about Zoe and the excellent work that she does at www.zoeweil.com

I love traveling, even though I’m well aware of the carbon footprint I leave when I fly far from home. Traveling is one of my less-than-MOGO (most good) choices, although I do try to minimize my impact, stay in eco-friendly places, and take some comfort knowing that I am positively affecting those who rely on tourism for their livelihoods. Where I live near Acadia National Park I’m reminded all the time that, without tourism, many of my friends and neighbors would have little income, so I try to be a “good traveler” when I leave Maine and support local economies even as I leave my own for awhile.

I went on vacation to Belize a few weeks ago, because for years I’ve wanted to explore the coral reefs to see the incredible undersea life that abounds there. What I didn’t expect, or plan for, was the amazing day I spent with two Mayan brothers in a jungle preserve.

I had half a day and an evening after I left the small atoll island where I’d stayed for 5 days before my flight home, and I decided to head to a somewhat remote national park where there was a single lodge that housed those who wished to explore this beautiful jungle and its myriad waterfalls. I was the only visitor, and the cook was ill, so when I arrived, the only people at the lodge were two young Mayan men, the lodge caretakers.

I spent the afternoon hiking up to the waterfalls with one of them. I asked lots of questions about his life, and he introduced me to lots of edible jungle plants, while asking questions about my life. When we returned to the lodge, his brother told us that the power was out, so we spent a couple of hours that evening talking by candlelight, eating the nuts and papaya I brought to share and talking about our lives. Although I had spent a week reveling in the eye candy of the coral reefs, this day and night may well have been the highlight of my trip.

In the end, my favorite part about traveling is usually not the great sights, the ruins, the flora and fauna, or learning about the history of another place, but rather truly connecting with other people and learning from and sharing with them. This is when I usually laugh, and sometimes cry, and always grow the most. I make new friends and feel like I am giving back a part of myself after all I’ve received.

by Zoe Weil, author of Most Good, Least Harm and Above All, Be Kind

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