Living our Wildest Dreams with Intention
By Carolyn Ray, Publisher, JourneyWoman
If there’s nothing else we’ve learned this past year, it’s that nothing can be taken for granted. When we return to travel, we want to do so by embracing our wildest dreams fully and intentionally. Travel isn’t about counting countries and checking places off a list. It’s about living our lives – our full lives – with intention and purpose.
As travel’s most important influencers, we as women can set the tone for others to follow. One area that we can affect is how we engage with wildlife. As Dr. Carol Kline noted in our Animal Ethics webinar last year, “As we begin to understand more about animals and their individual lives, we learn more about their cognitive abilities, the types of emotions they experience, and the importance of their social lives. And as the news about the devastating impacts of climate change seems to be accelerating, we also know that we can’t travel the way we have in the past.”
Give yourself permission to dream big. Bigger than you ever have before because you are travelling like you never have before. But let’s travel with intention and support animal welfare.
I want to know: What are your travel dreams and how has the past year reshaped them?
How we Experience Wildlife: The Old Way and the New Way
One area that deserves more discussion and attention is the role of wildlife in our travel experiences. Growing up in Florida, I was surrounded by animals – in the sky, in the ocean, the rivers, on land – and grew to have a healthy respect for nature. I was fortunate to learn that the joy of observing wild animals –birds, stingrays, snakes, sharks, turtles, dolphins, manatees, whales, bobcats – far outweighs the benefits of wanting to restrict their movements by putting them in cages and tanks. At age 15, I was fortunate to become a PADI-certified diver, and then my world really opened up – our oceans are breathtaking places for discovery.
When we travel, we are often invited into local wildlife experiences that sometimes feel ‘wrong’. Those of us who have travelled for a long time have – whether we want to admit it or not – done things that we may not be so proud of now. Maybe we rode on an elephant, swam with dolphins or had a photo taken with a wild bird. That’s all in the past. But now we know better, so we need to do better.
It is for these reasons that I invited Nora Livingstone to join our Women’s Advisory Council last August. Nora and I did a webinar on Ethical Animal Tourism and I knew she would give us the expert perspective we needed on animal tourism. Nora has volunteered with animals in such places as Nepal, Oman, Sierra Leone and Costa Rica. She loves the idea of empowering people to live their dreams and travel while helping animals
Nora’s Tips: The Old and the New
One way you can experience wildlife authentically is to take part in citizen science by tagging sea turtles with local conservation officers. While you help populations of critically endangered species you will be putting more than just your toes in the water! These tags stay on sea turtles forever so they can be tracked and understood by scientists around the world. For the rest of their life and yours, you will have a living and breathing individual turtle who stays in the ocean- you don’t just go to the ocean and come home, part of you stays there forever helping future generations!
After sheltering in place and shielding for a year, we all know how painful it is to be separated from our families and forced to live in isolation. Yet, this is the everyday experience for dolphins who live in dolphinariums, tanks and blocked-off coves for tourists. Marine biologists around the world offer many experiences to help them help dolphins. With no experience needed, you can visit dolphins in places like Croatia and Scotland and help be the eyes of science. Watching wild and free dolphins under the supervision and mentorship of marine biologists helps them get more data to understand these animals better. You may not be swimming with them but you are ensuring their freedom and ability to swim with their families for their entire lives.
While there are many places to jump on a horse and see some of the same travels thousands of other people have, what if you could walk in the mountains and see horses who have lived there for thousands of years. In Mongolia the Takhi are the last genetically wild horses on earth, these prehistoric animals roam the same steps their ancestors did perhaps thousands of years ago. Stay in a gher (yurt) and be immersed in the nomadic life of the Mongolian people and understand your intrinsic need for wide-open spaces and freedom to roam.
When we talk about Africa, we are talking about an entire continent. Region to region is incredibly diverse, let alone country to country and city to city. This continent is not one to be easily crossed off a list, with a landmass of 30 million km squared and a population of more than 1 billion people we know there is not just one adventure to be had, there is more than 1 story to be told.
When you are thinking of your trip, what so you want to experience? Mint tea in Morocco, Gorilla conservation in Rwanda, a guided visit to a Masai camp in Kenya, the sunset by sailboat in Malawi? Africa is not merely a line to be crossed off, there are countless untold adventures for those looking to experience the uniqueness of the 54 countries on the continent.
Join us for a Q&A on Animal Tourism
on Thursday, May 13 at 8 pm EDT / 10 am AEST Friday, May 14
Join us on May 13 for a TravelReady Q&A session on the Ethics of Animal Tourism. We’ll share some basic guidelines for us on what to do – or not do – so that we’re more informed when we start traveling again. And, we’ll have an open Q&A with you about wildlife experiences and we can do to help the animals that mean so much to us with some general guidelines.
In anticipation of the session, here are some questions for you to consider:
1. Have you ever had an animal experience in your travelling past that you now regret and why?
2. If you could work or volunteer with any animal, what would it be and why?
3. What is the best impromptu, authentic experience you’ve ever had with an animal in the wild?
4. Is there a trip or an animal experience that you are evaluating right now?
Resources to Learn More
Nora’s suggested pre-reading material:
- Suffering unseen: The dark truth behind wildlife tourism, National Geographic:, June 2019
- How the COVID-19 pandemic impacts animals, Human Society of America (December 2020)
- How Wildlife Exploitation and Habitat Loss Fuel Pandemic Risk
- A Call to Stop the Next Pandemic, World Wildlife Fund
- Why I’ll Never Visit Ripley’s Aquarium Toronto, Justin + Lauren
Some our favourite books:
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Why Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy
What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins by Jonathan Balcombe
More About Engaging Authentically with Wildlife
These are just a sampling of the wildlife and ethical animal resources you’ll find on JourneyWoman.com.
JourneyWoman Publisher Carolyn Ray interviews Animal tourism experts Dr. Carol Kline and Nora Livingstone give us tips and guidelines to engage ethically with wildlife when we travel. (June 2020 Webinar)
Guest writer Dr. Carol Kline shares guidelines and tips to help travellers engage in responsible animal-based tourism.
For those who have a kinship with animals, there’s little more awe-inspiring than getting up close and personal with nature’s creatures in their natural habitat.
The Turtle Hospital is the first veterinary hospital for turtles in the world, with 2,000 rescued turtles since it was founded. The hospital helps five kinds of turtles: Loggerhead, Green Sea Turtles, Leatherbacks, Kemp’s Ridley (or Ghost Turtle) and Hawksbill.
Walking With the Elephants in Cambodia: An Experience Not Soon Forgotten
Guest Writer Carol Moore-Ede shares her visit to the Elephant Valley Project, Cambodia’s original elephant sanctuary.