Drifting with good intentions The endless ocean, broken occasionally by sand-fringed islands, stretched before me. A salty breeze caressed my face and two magnificent sails billowed bright in the sunlight as we headed into the unknown. I was on an oceanic adventure, sailing across the Palawan archipelago in a replica of a boat that first crossed these Philippine seas more than 1,000 years ago.
My trip was a taster of a new tour by local company Tao Philippines, which offers off-the-beaten-track sailing holidays between El Nido, in the north of long, thin Palawan island, and Coron, further north, off Busuanga island. Taking in areas few tourists visit, it directs some of its profits to funding community projects across the islands.
There are more and more responsible and ethical travel guides, including Lonely Planet’s recent “Lonely Planet Code Green: Experiences of a Lifetime ” and the upcoming “Green Travel: The World’s Best Eco-Lodges & Earth-Friendly Hotels” from Fodor’s Travel, aim to give readers a way to judge the sustainability of operations from lodges to wildlife treks. In a world where commercial enterprises are increasingly eager to tout their eco-tourist credentials, these specialty books help travelers distinguish environmental ventures from orchestrated PR. (In fact, “Code Green” has a short section on “How to Tell if Your Holiday Is Green or Just Greenwash,” and Rough Guides has a similar feature in its recently released “25 Ultimate Experiences: Ethical Travel.”)
Some publishers, such as the U.K.’s Rough Guides and Australia’s Lonely Planet, have integrated the concept into all their books and Web sites. They urge readers to reduce their global warming emissions and compensate for those they generate over the course of a vacation. Both companies’ Web sites have a feature allowing visitors to calculate the global warming impact of any given trip and then donate money to Climate Care, a British group that compensates for carbon emissions by funding initiatives that cut greenhouse gases. Every Rough Guide, moreover, contains a section urging travelers to stay longer in a given location to minimize their climate impact.
Lydia Polzer spent last Christmas on an intense 10-day retreat – Once you have heard her experiences, there’s still time to book yourself in for this year.
Ever since I lost my childlike excitement about everything sparkling, Christmas lost its, well, sparkle. So my relief was great when I found a low-impact, alternative to Christmas crackers and stockings last year on a hill near Sheringham in rural East Anglia. A 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat does add a new dimension to “Silent Night”. The Christmas period in noble silence sounded like music to my carol-worn ears. I added up the hours of meditation on the daily schedule of the retreat and felt a little intimidated when I got to eleven.
That’s a lot of silence.