“Live life with no excuses and travel with no regrets.”
– Oscar Wilde.
Ever since I can remember, I have always loved to travel. The dream of visiting an unknown destination would always bring me pure elation. Such feelings of fervour were not only limited to the singular destination visit but also the path I took to reach there. The journey, the mode of transport, were also the factors I was so fascinated by. While people grumbled about airport delays and unnecessary train halts, I was completely mesmerised by the entire process. The preparation of eagerly anticipating the sight of someplace unfamiliar.
I can go on to write hundreds of pages about my love for travelling, discussing my intimate relationship with this experience called wanderlust. But that is not what this article is about.
Today, I want to talk about the time I participated in a quest. A quest to find out why I was so drawn towards this particular activity. All I ever wanted was to find myself exploring the numerous nooks and crannies of the world. Why? The answer came as a result of conversing with those who asked me the motivation behind it.
That is when I started Novoto.
In hindsight, my answer’s inspiration was pretty simple. I definitely owe one major part of it to my opportunity to travel over 30 countries across the world along with the privileges that accompanied it. Simplicity lay in the heart of my passion for I could not withstand not knowing what the streets of a new city held in store for me, what food from a particular culture would taste like, what enchantment monuments laced with local folklore would entail and what adventures meeting different people from all over the globe would ensue.
It was a privilege to travel. However, my privilege never blinded me from the crass reality of poverty and how the people from my country, India, are subjected to it every day.
I believe that my privilege taught me a lot. It was through my travelling pursuits that I decided to give something back to the struggling communities.
It’s funny how Novoto came into existence. These dreams took shape in a moment of subtle epiphany, on a wee day in July 2016. A fairly ordinary day, as I took a stroll along the Mediterranean coastline of the stunning French Riviera.
What I saw must be a common sight for all the Riviera visitors. I chanced upon a humongous wall of touristy chatter. The sheer number took me by surprise as their intent became clearer in my eyes. I observed how the bustling cafes, pubs and restaurants, thriving gift shops and the completely booked local lodges created an economic ecosystem that formed the foundation of their livelihood. This made me open to the possibility that the thing I love, can become the means to ensure my livelihood.
The Potential of Tourism
Tourism is considered one of the biggest industries in the world. It has a yearly economic contribution close to 7.6 Trillion USD to the world! Out of every 10 workers in the world, one is employed in tourism. That’s 9.9% of all total jobs in the whole world.
Travel is not just a means of employment. It also contains a huge potential for world reforms. It can be used to establish sustainable development for our planet. Which it requires so urgently!
2017 has been a historic year when it comes to the impact of this one industry to the world.
The United Nations named 2017 as the Year of Sustainable Tourism. This is done with the mission of combating global poverty and fostering intercultural dialogues and mutual understanding between the communities of the world.
I am one of the staunch believers in its potency to bring about a positive shift in the map. However, it seems to be dormant in nature. Especially in the second and third world countries.
I realised that tourism in the French Riviera and that in developing nations such as India, Nepal, and others in South-East Asia are not at the same level.
The local communities in these regions have similar structures but lack government initiatives that would give them a kickstart to their ventures and training right at the grassroots level, which will reflect in the results of long-term planning.
We need to step up. Travel is a beautiful experience, but it has the potential to have so much more of an impact. It is such a useful instrument, which can make millions of lives easier and happier.
All it requires is a little bit of an effort from our side. The smallest of the efforts one can take is to be aware of the impact that their travel experience leaves behind. Consciously trying to reduce your carbon footprint, supporting and encouraging travel in a sustainable fashion, and not supporting unethical practices of tourism are additional examples.
Another big role in changing the perspective of the people is through the act of ethical volunteering. Where you make sure that you do volunteer to help struggling communities, but only under the guidance of ethical volunteering groups. By that, I refer to organisations which genuinely care about the locals and provide volunteering opportunities, not just to cash on the guilt of the volunteers.
Post coronavirus, this is the best time to initiate this change. The industry can have a fresh start. Where all travel companies, bloggers, tour guides and hospitality staff can initiate the best practices to encourage people to explore. Travelling while keeping in mind the impacts it has on the environment, supporting ethical practices, is something the world sorely needs after this pandemic.
Through Novoto, I plan to stay at the forefront of this revolution.
My motivation behind starting Novoto came from various sources: Presence of numerous local communities that strive to make a living out of tourism, a pledge to assist them in the same, passion for travelling and finally, that one poignant thought that stuck with me since the day I took a stroll along the Riviera.
Our mission is to connect people with a similar and conscious effort to make a positive impact through their travels and help the communities which need it the most.
Novoto emphasises on the practice of ‘Cultural Exchange’; where the travellers’ satisfaction is prioritised in both the aspects of tour and volunteering. We strongly believe that this facilitates the local economy, along with the individuals who are associated with both of our practices.
You are satisfied with your Novoto experience, and so are our partners (stakeholders and communities). That’s our aim.
However, executing the above is not as simple as it sounds. It is an intricate process that involves policy changes from the government and the involved members from both the industry and unfortunate communities in tandem, via a ‘trickle-down’ system that benefits all. And in order for this mechanism to be successful, we need conscious travellers and tourism leaders. Individuals who see the world through our lenses. The upsurge in their numbers will become the answer to so many of the problems faced by individual governments! People need to start realising that travel is not just a frivolous venture, or social status, but an instrument of change meant to be used responsibly.
All we need is one small step. A step towards creating a better world; taken by your decision to visit a destination. For this vision to become true, we need you. You control the power to build the future of travel.