We’ve started to hear words like ‘eco travel’ and ‘sustainable travel’ a lot more over the last few years, but what does it all really mean?
Hitting that offset option for your emissions when you fly makes you feel good, but is it really doing any good.
We [virtually] sat down and spoke to the Founder of Mindful Travel Solutions, Amanda Simpson. With years of experience in the industry and a passion within the mindful travel realm, she is honestly a wealth of information, awe-inspiring stories and someone we can all learn from on treading a little lighter when we travel.
“We travel to explore unknown lands and cultures.
We travel to witness wildlife in all its glory.
We travel to be immersed in natural beauty.
It is inevitable that by traveling, we leave some form of impact on the destination as we know it.
However, it is your choice whether that impact will be positive or negative”.
Amanda Simpson, Founder Mindful Travel Solutions
FOR THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW THE STORY BEHIND MINDFUL TRAVEL SOLUTIONS, WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START?
I had been working in travel for nearly a decade in various roles and knew that travel was my calling, but that something was missing for me. I had travelled extensively, knew how to sell retail travel, and loved what I did, but it
wasn’t enough. So I started a degree in International Development to start my own charity one day and make a difference to the lives of those I had met on my adventures, mainly the beautiful Khmer people of Cambodia.
In the meantime, I continued to work in retail travel to finish my degree and find that missing puzzle piece. I am now one semester off graduation! Finally, after multiple deferrals, overseas adventures, and the biggest adventure of all, Motherhood. But what I have realized in the past few years is that it is genuinely possible to combine all of my passions: Development, Sustainability and Travel.
That is where Mindful Travel Solutions came about, 15 months ago. Since then, Covid-19 has forced a complete standstill and to be honest, in a way, it’s precisely what we needed.
Time to redirect our energy and showcase our love for Ethical, Sustainable, Eco-friendly Travel!
Which means we [Mindful Travel Solutions] can support small local suppliers and properties to ensure the profits from tourism stay with the local communities. We support eco-friendly initiatives to make sure the destinations we love to visit are better for the future, and we encourage ethical tourism to create positive memories, not leave negative impacts.
We also donate 10% of all profits to small grassroots charities in Cambodia, which to date has meant over 750kg of rice has been donated and 33 community safety visits were implemented.
WHEN DID YOUR MINDSET CHANGE TO BE MORE ECO-CONSCIOUS WHEN TRAVELLING?
I think it was on one of my breaks from traveling that I had that moment of clarity. Why do we behave one way in our own environments, but when we travel, we lose that sense of commitment to the greater good?
For example, how many people do you know about that backpack through Asia: with their keep cup and reusable bottles? Very few. However, it is often these countries that have incredibly poor sanitation, waste disposal and general issues around single-use plastics. Was I contributing to these issues?
The animals that I see online who die covered in waste on a remote beach, that almost doesn’t feel like a real issue to me, because I am so far removed, had I had an impact on this vast global issue? And how many others out there had unintentionally done the same?
It became apparent that every holiday we take has consequences, and there was no reason why these could not be positive ones. So I decided to personally begin to travel more ethically and also empower others to do the same. Plus, if I am honest, Eco Properties are AMAZING! It’s not as if I am somehow sacrificing my happiness for some higher being. These properties are usually remote, off the grid, incredibly beautiful, unique, and romantic.
Do you have a place that draws you back, time & time again?
I have a few, but I think that if I had to pick one: It will always be Cambodia.
I have a theory that each time you travel and fall in love with a place, a little piece of your heart stays there. For the longest time so much of my heart remained in Cambodia.
I will be launching some exhilarating “Mindful Tours” of Cambodia in 2021 where we give people the opportunity to learn about the destination through a truly immersive experience. I want to share my love of the country with the world!
A close second would be Japan….. honestly, the most unique and crazy destination I have ever had the privilege of visiting. Every single trip is entirely different.
WHY CAMBODIA AND ASIA. WHAT STARTED THAT LOVE AFFAIR?
The people primarily, but my gosh! The food is a close second!
Cambodia, for those who do not know has an incredibly troublesome past with a horrific genocide occurring less than 40 years ago. This almost destroyed the entire country and over 3 million people were killed. What drew me to Cambodia was its people. They are the most resilient, kind, and charismatic people I have ever met. Forty years ago, really isn’t that long ago, yet the people you meet are incredibly strong and have survived more than we can ever imagine. But they are proud of Cambodia.
They are happy. They are the epitome of resilience and they truly inspired me to make a difference in this world. The people are what drew me back time and time again.
MOST MEMORABLE TRIP; GOOD OR BAD
I have a fair few as you can imagine, so I thought I would throw a few crazy stories out there.
~ The time I was held at gunpoint on Christmas Day in Laos.
~ The time my appendix burst in rural Japan and nobody spoke a word of English, so we communicated via drawings for surgical consent.
~ The time I went paragliding through the Himalayas, in Nepal at sunset, with a guide who pretended to crash.
~ The time I lost my mum in a busy Thai market, with less than 2 hours before our flight was due to depart.
Travel is Crazy! It is adventurous. And it has provided memories that will last a lifetime.
FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO TRY AND BE MORE EARTH-FRIENDLY WHEN THEY TRAVEL, WHAT TOP THREE TIPS DO YOU HAVE.
1. Think about the Local’s: When you eat at local restaurants, stay at local hotels and participate in local activities. You support income and jobs for local communities.
2. Think like a local: When you turn off your lights, be conscious about your shower times, and avoid using excessive electronics, you conserve local energy and water.
3. Be an Eco Warrior: When you bring your eco products with you on holidays, you avoid contributing to single-use plastics that cripple already overloaded waste systems.
But I think mainly it comes down to trusting your gut. If an activity involving animals looks to be harmful. Don’t partake. If a destination seems to be overflowing with waste or pollution, ask around, see if any hotels offer green initiatives, support those properties. Maybe even see if there is anything you can do to help spread the word.
We all offer skills, whether we be social media superstars, handymen or women, or simply not afraid of a little hard work. If we work together, the problem won’t be as much of a burden to any one community.
WE [THE JONESES] TRY OUR BEST TO TAKE REUSABLE WATER BOTTLES AND OFFSET CARBON EMISSIONS, BUT WHAT MORE CAN WE DO FOR THE COMMUNITIES OR PLACES WE TRAVEL TO?
I think as long as you are conscious to think about the communities you are visiting before, during and after your stay then you are already walking in the right direction.
Most tourist destinations will have local initiatives in place to protect the natural environment and conserve its beauty. Get in touch, offer your support. Stay at properties that support conservation.
A few emails or phone calls is all it will take to make a world of difference.
LAND OR SEA ADVENTURES?
Sea! Any day of the week.
IF YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE; TREE TOP VIEWS OR ENDLESS OCEAN VIEWS?
I think it depends on my mood and my overall being at the time. But I don’t think I can go past the ocean’s sound and the smell of the fresh sea air.
WHAT IS YOUR TRAVEL SPIRIT ANIMAL?
I would love to say a sloth because they are the coolest animals on the planet. But I think I’m a meerkat, always running around looking at everything from all angles.