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Peru: A Brief History

With approximately 500,000 visitors each year, Manchu Picchu is one of the most visited tourist cites in the world. To visit Manchu Picchu is to feel what it must have been like for the Andean people hundreds of years earlier, it is a truly awe inspiring experience. However, for the Andean people, over the past hundred years, many things have changed.

Whereas tourism is the mainstay of Peru’s economy today, a hundred years ago the primarily industries were agriculture and textile production. Agriculture was important because it provided sustenance to the Andean people. Textile was important for them to keep warm, but textiles were also a valuable commodity and had great symbolism within the Andean regions.

During religious practices, cloth was the main ceremonial offering, and was used to show tribute to the elite. The practice of weaving was so sacred to the Andean people that shrines devoted solely to weaving were erected and worshiped. After colonization by the Spanish, Andean people wore woven textiles in assertion of their indigenous identity.

Over time, the Andean people’s lives have changed dramatically. Many have left their communities to seek out work as porters or cooks that cater to the influx of tourists visiting Peru each year. Others have to travel great distances each day to sell goods in city shops and markets, and the ancient tradition of textile manufacturing that was once such an integral part of the Andean culture is now on the verge of becoming extinct.

Tourism: The Sustainable Way

Danielle Weiss, Project Manager for Planeterra Foundation recently spoke with me about their project in Ccaccaccollo Peru.

 Since 2005, Planeterra has been working with the women of the Ccaccaccollo community to develop a weaving project. Three women from the Ccaccaccollo Community took part in a three-month training course held by a local non-profit organization in which they learned ancient weaving techniques including how to dye the wool using native flowers and plants. Each of the three women continued to teach the rest of the women what they had learned and today more than just women have joined together to create the Ccaccaccollo Women’s weaving co-op.

Gap Adventure groups visit this community as part of the Sacred Valley Tour where they have the opportunity to meet the women and learn about all the stages of the weaving process; from spinning the sheep wool, to dying the wool using natural dyes, and participating in a weaving demonstration. Travelers are also given the opportunity to purchase high quality textiles directly from the women who made them.

The Woman’s weaving co-op is an incredible example of just how tourism can be used to benefit the communities that they visit. The women economically benefit from the tourism that the weaving co-ops bring to their region, while avoiding the negative social and cultural impacts of having to leave their communities to find work. Ninety-five percent of all money earned at the co-op goes directly to the women and five percent is given back to the community to ensure its continued growth. The living conditions, healthcare, and educational standards within the community have all increased due to this project, and a younger generation is finding a new sense of pride in their cultural heritage.

Planeterra Foundation is an organization that truly changes people lives!

Make a donation by clicking here.

Triple Bottom Line: Evaluating corporate performance by measuring environmental sustainability and social responsibility as well as profits.

Until recently, I had hardly ever heard the term triple bottom line being used. However, I believe that I have always lived this philosophy. I think that it is in all of us to do better and to help out where help is needed. For me it wasn’t a choice, it just was!

I have never been a typical traveler. To me travel meant immersing myself in a destination and truly experiencing the culture of the place that I was visiting. For six years of my life, I traveled throughout Asia teaching English, volunteering and working with local businesses ensuring sustainable growth. The thrill for travel has never left, nor has the felling of making a difference in another’s live.  For this reason, I have chosen to complete my education in tourism. I believe that tourism can have a positive impact to developing areas while opening the eyes of the traveler to the real wonders that the world has to offer.

It is no surprise then, that I would be attracted to a company such as GAP Adventures. GAP Adventures are the “adventure people” and they have been “changing peoples lives” for the past 20 years. They follow a core set of values; this rings through in everything that they do, from their initiatives through Planeterra to their overall travel philosophy.

When I feel genuinely inspired about something, I cannot stop researching it, talking about it and sharing what I have learned. Over the course of this school year, GAP Adventures has assisted me many times without ever realising it. For my Entrepreneurship class, I wrote a case study and gave a presentation on Bruce Poon Tip, founder and CEO of GAP Adventures, which received a 100% grade. Most recently during my triple bottom line final exam, the essay question read:

1. According to Bruce Poon Tip, founder of GAP Adventures, “Done right, tourism can be a powerful transformer for sustainability”.

Is sustainable tourism an oxymoron or a vision for the future? What is your assessment? Why or why not?     (42 Marks)

I have never been happier to answer an exam question in my life because I believe that sustainable travel is more than just a vision for the future, it is the future. I answered this question at length, filling the remainder of pages in the exam booklet. I could recount my answer to this question and share it with you, but I feel that Bruce himself would be able to do it far more justice. Below is a video recorded at TEDx Whistler where he answers just this question:

Any more questions?

Watching the opening ceremonies to the Winter Olympics while sitting on my friends couch, was my inspiration for a road trip that took myself and two friends to the centre of it all: Vancouver, British Columbia.

Vancouver is a vibrant city for people to visit. Nestled between the Coast Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver is in one of Canada’s best geographical locations. Vancouver’s climate is much milder than that of its eastern neighbors, the city is surrounded by natural beauty, and it offers some of the best outdoor activities in the world.  Vancouver has also been awarded “best city to live in” numerous times.

It’s not surprising then, that Vancouver would be given the honor of hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. During these Olympics, the eyes of the world were on Canada. Vancouver was at the centre of this and I was only a one-hour ferry ride away from the action.

The workload at school was building up, but there are not many chances to witness the Olympic Games first hand, let alone have them hosted in your own backyard. With that in mind, on Saturday, February, 20th, my two friends and I woke at 5am to catch the ferry to Vancouver. It was a good thing that we left so early, because the line to board the ferry had already started to spill out the front doors. Eighteen hundred people boarded the ferry that morning all decked out in white and red. They were feeling the same sense of pride that we were and were heading to the mainland to show it.

Once in Vancouver, we got off the Sky train at Waterfront Station in search of the torch that ‘The Great One’ himself, Wayne Gretzky, had lit only a few days prior. Although it was still early, the city was buzzing with excitement. The streets were busy and there were so many people, that they spilled into the streets.

From the tourch we proceeded walked through downtown. We watched different street performers showcase their talents, from juggling fire while riding a unicycle, to break-dancing in a spandex one piece. We were tempted to zip line across Robson square, but we couldn’t justify the seven-hour wait in line. As the night settled in and the sun went down, when on a normal evening people in Canada would be going to bed, Vancouver was just waking up. The streets became one large party; people were yelling and cheering all in support of their home country. I have never before seen such a sight. People from all walks of life all joining together for one common purpose, celebration.

5 Businesses That Inspire

The classroom is a place that we go to learn and to gain inspiration. I have learned about the following 5 businesses during my studies at Royal Roads and they have managed to do just that, Inspire.

GAP Adventures, Bruce Poon Tip

GAP Adventures was founded in 1990 in a garage on the west end of Toronto. Since then Gap has come a long way. Led by their charismatic leader Bruce Poon Tip, GAP has grown to be the world’s largest adventure tour company in the world. They now operate on 7 continents, have over 27 offices worldwide and boost revenues in excess of 120 million annually. However, it’s not only GAP’s overwhelming success that captured my attention, it was their values and culture.

They have built their business model around education, community, sustainability and responsible travel. I have never seen any travel company do as much to give back than GAP Adventures.

TOM’S Shoes, Blake Mycoski

“One for one” For every pair of shoes bought, a pair is donated to a child in a developing nation. All shoes are made in fair-trade factories and from 100% recycled materials. In just 4 short years Blake’s company has grown and over 400,000 shoes have been given to children in need. My hope is that they will continue to grow and to continue to do what what it is that they do, “Use the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good”.

BlackspotAdbusters

This one gets credit for just simply sticking it to the man. They copy popular branded shoes, but make them in fair-trade factories, out of recycled and organic materials.  They then wholesale to independent shops assuring that the money earned stays in the local communities. One other cool fact, Blackspot is an open brand, meaning that it is usable by anybody, for any purpose. They have done this solely to give people more option than just the conglomerate brands.

Modrobes, Steven Sal Debus

I’m not only giving Steve a shout out because he is a personal friend, but because he is doing something that more companies should. Some of you may remember Modrobes and some may not, but if you were of a certain age in the late nineties, chances were you owned a pair. Now, Steve is back. This time with a line of sportswear made from 100% recycled bottles. The garments look great and if not told, you would never even know. They still have the same comfort level that Modrobes have always been known for.  However, Steve isn’t stopping at recycled garments. This spring he will be officially relaunching Modrobes from his new store on Queen St. West, Toronto which will also be constructed from 100% recycled materials.

University of the People, Shai Reshef

Shai Reshef is doing something truly special. He has created the first free online university. He is being backed by the UN and has recently formed a partnership with Yale University. UoPeople is still in it’s early stages, but support for this program has been huge. Hundreds of academics from around the world have offered to volunteer their time and the list of students wanting to enroll grows daily.

“I’ve made enough money. Now, it’s time to give back.” – Shai Reshif

Hello World!

In my lifetime, I have been fortunate enough to visit some of the most beautiful places on Earth and meet some incredible people along the way. However, for most of my travels to date, I  held the philosophy of “living in the moment”. Sadly, this also means that I have no real documentation of these experiences. I’ve never taken many pictures, although I love photography and I’ve never kept a journal, although I’ve always wanted to. It is for these precise reasons that I have started Bright Side Of The Road.

I love to travel and I don’t foresee this changing any time soon. Bright Side Of The Road will capture all things noteworthy! Talks with fascinating people,  visits to places near and far or whatever thoughts that might inspire typing.

Enjoy.

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