October 12, 2007

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Ideas for traveling in good conscience

Shirley Vogler MeisterA small notice in my parish bulletin suggests that those interested in the “green movement” need to band together to raise consciousness about protecting the environment and ourselves.

Coincidentally, around the same time, I received an e-mail that caught my attention: “Traveling Right: Ethical Tips for Your Next Trip.”

Yes, we need to be conscientious when away, too.

Although I know that my husband and I and our family have always tried to travel in ways that left where we had been a better place, now there’s more help to do this.

Gimundo, the “Good News Daily” located at www.gimundo.com, which I mentioned in a recent column, notes, “If you’ve got a conscience, a vacation abroad can be a constant conundrum. …

“These days, there’s a lot for a concerned citizen to be concerned about. … By following a few tenets of ethical travel, you can make sure that you’re supporting rather than damaging the environment and local culture, wherever you may roam.”

In the past, after doing basic research about where we were headed and what we needed—especially since we mostly camped—we basically “winged” our travels. Unfortunately, we cannot do that now because of ongoing travel restrictions and laws resulting from new dangers and travel threats.

Especially when going abroad, Gimundo says, “It is prudent to hook up with [a] responsible tour operator who will help you spend your vacation money wisely and avoid the shady businesses that abound.”

Paul and I did this when traveling to Austria, Germany and Italy years ago.

Nowadays, however, there is even more to consider, i.e., the environmental impact of greenhouse gases from planes and autos. Now travelers can get a TerraPass (www.TerraPass.com) to support clean energy and environmental projects worldwide that neutralize the negative impact on the environment.

Another piece of advice: Give the locals a hand no matter where you are headed on vacation.

Going to www.stuffyourrucksack.com will explain what’s most needed in the community where you are headed.

Another suggestion is to sign up for a volunteer vacation. Such philanthropic opportunities can be found by checking for the perfect volunteer vacation for you at www.responsibletravel.com.

The Ethical Travel Guide is available through www.amazon.com or bookstores. Gimundo also suggests a backpack, the latest Lonely Planet guide and a camera. Then “you’ll be good to go in good conscience.”

What they don’t mention is how to be nourished spiritually while gone. It is always gratifying to find Catholic churches when traveling.

We have rarely missed Sunday Mass when away from home, even when in some wilderness areas. We planned ahead without the benefit of the Internet then.

Now, if you are traveling with a laptop computer and if there is Internet access along the way, you can find Catholic churches through www.masstimes.org.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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