Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Leave No Trace Principle #7 and Letting Nature Sounds Prevail

With mass tourism really upon us (exhibit A: Boracay and other sad stories), I feel it's time for us to reacquaint ourselves with the principles of Leave No Trace.   Though specifically created for back country hikers, the principles can serve us in good stead if only we heed them.  Principle #7 in particular addresses one of my travel peeves:  the importation of personal noise pollution into places that used to be a sanctuary for travelers seeking quiet time and introspection.  I traveled recently by overnight bus to Mountain Province and along my row sat a comely girl headed for Sagada but kept checking her FB and fixing her makeup at every stopover like she's headed for a party instead of the mountains.  The Banaue-bound girls seated behind her were noisier, maybe unaccustomed to traveling in these parts and noting the constant arrivals and boarding of foreigners.  So much for finding peace and quiet this far from Manila I guess.

Then, there's this really wonderful book I borrowed from a friend that resonated with me.  It's "A Wilderness Called Home" by Charles Wilkins (2009 Penguin Books Canada).  This excerpt really drove home a point I've always believed in from the beginning of my travels:  

"I really believed human beings need a lot of silence.  We spend half our lives surrounded by electronic distractions and entertainment...  These create a reality but a very superficial one... so that people end up getting lost in it, drifting without a sense of time or focus...  In the back country, way out there by yourself, you have to create your own reality, deal with who and what you are, and as you do this, you shave off all this dehumanizing passivity and conformity.  Life becomes childlike again, it becomes magical." - former NHL hockey player, ski guide and mountaineer Eric Nesterenko I guess one of the most unnerving things to encounter when you travel outside the cities and into the countryside is the silence.  When you live in say, always noisy Manila, the concept of deafening silence can be alienating.  Which is perhaps the reason why city folks end up hankering for karaoke, a boombox or bring their own Bluetooth speaker + smartphone setup even deep in the rural areas or high up in the boondocks where people like me venture to get some peace.  Oh, I believe in the saying "to each his own," but c'mon, there are ways to go about it.  If you want to party all night, head off to a place like Boracay (then again, it's up for closure and rehabilitation) where revelry seems to be the norm, not the windswept hills of Batanes or the serene villages of Mountain Province.  

I keep encountering tourists who either crank up their speakers way too high for the neighborhood to hear or chatter up a storm even well after lights out time in the boondocks.  Maybe, it's the case of horror vacui or fear of empty/silent space?  I'm not anti-technology; I sometimes bring my laptop when I travel so I can work online though I would rather not; still, I feel technology has been robbing us of quiet places where we can retreat to.  Not when Spotify can reach so many distant places that a decade ago, only mountaineers and rather hard-core travelers would dare venture to.  Not when that teeny-weeny Bluetooth speaker can really amp up your iPhone iTunes playlist so that the whole village can hear.

Outside Magazine even came up with an update to the now half-a-century-old principles which espouses the following:  #1  Don't Do it for the Gram (in response to the hordes of tourists who flock to/stampede over places they see in Instagram/social media); #2 Minimize your Personal Pollution (yep, that includes noise pollution); and #3 Give Back (I always read influencers/wannabe travelers write their never-ending listicles on how to go travel/explore this and that place but very seldom read about how to travel responsibly).   Pretty much goes against the grain in this world saturated with people who automatically snap a selfie for their social media feed; wouldn't think a second whether their fellow travelers really wanted to share their taste in music; and wouldn't care about the locals and their place just that they can have a good time, never mind the trash, never mind if the environmental fee is paid.

The LEAVE NO TRACE Principles in brief:
1 Plan ahead and prepare
2 Travel and camp on durable surfaces
3 Dispose of waste properly
4 Leave what you find
5 Minimize campfire impacts
6 Respect wildlife
7 Be considerate of other visitors

Learn more by visiting the LEAVE NO TRACE website.

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