When you step outside the gates of your resort...

A story told by Carine Buysse Deinze, Belgium

Carine is kindergarten teacher. She loves seeing people grow, developing their talents and their being. She relies on intuition, both in her classroom and outside. Carine loves being in contact with other people, also when she’s travelling.

What kind of holiday do we want this year? Beach, mountains, rest, action, familiar, new, luxurious, basic,…? People choose where they want to go and what they want to do. But what about values?

For instance, do we value sustainability whilst on holidays as much as we do when we’re at home? Or do we forget about it? Is it important to us that the staff we encounter to also be able to work and live in decent conditions? Or do we suddenly not care anymore when we’re on vacation? Should the landscape, flora and fauna remain authentic? Or should that tree, vegetation or animal die for our comfort? When Carine became aware of these choices in one sudden blow, it was a painful realisation. One that would leave a permanent mark. Here’s how she puts it:

“We’re brought ashore in this little boat. The sun sets. The moon shines brightly on the beach and makes the sea glisten. We are tired and hungry from the long trip, as we pick up the delightful scent of barbecued fish. In the distance, the chef looks carefree as he cooks in the alfresco restaurant. The scene makes our mouths water. A waiter pours fluorescent drinks into tall glasses adorned with exotic flowers. A hammock is swaying in the background. We’re in paradise!

As the days go by happy-go-lucky, we enjoy the sun, the hot sand and the cheerful staff. We happily dig in to delicious meals, which of course taste better here than anywhere else. We marvel at the beautiful colours, delicious scents and juiciness of the food. We enjoy each other’s company.

A few days later, we are itching to explore. We’re not really into beaches that much.

So we wander a little, longing to find out what else we can experience on this wonderful island. As we head inland, the path becomes rougher and dustier. There are also fewer tourists, beach houses and hotels as we go on further. The vegetation seems denser, it feels different. The wind drops. The heat rises.

Little dwellings appear in our sight. Shacks made out of reeds, wood and plastic. It is as if the inside and the outside were one and the same. People, animals and nature all crammed together. That’s when it hits us: this is the home of the friendly people serving us at the hotel."

From now on, we will only opt for holidays that leave as little a mark as possible. Only our smiles. Carine

"The contrast is striking. Their poverty, our prosperity, it is so hard to reconcile. We feel a bit ashamed and lack the courage to make contact.

Right next to the shacks, there’s a long strip of rubbish. A stark contrast to the romantic environment we’ve previously experienced on the island. So much litter… can’t just be coming from these inhabitants, we figure. And strangely enough, these aren’t things that would be consumed in these shacks. The realisation hits me like a freight train: this is a landfill… where garbage is dumped from the resort, our resort.

The sense of shame overwhelms me. Shame and excruciating guilt. How can this come from such a charming, friendly resort? Various questions spring to mind: do they know? Is there a budget? A policy? Government support? There’s not much left of our euphoria from the previous days. I’m at a loss. The locals look at us. There is resignation in their eyes.

We walk back to our luxury resort with new awareness. As tourists, we leave a footprint. From now on, we will only opt for holidays that leave as little a mark as possible. Only our smiles.”

Authored by Wendy Van de Cruys Ghent