One approach to being a GOOD traveller is to get off the tourist trail. By stepping away from the crowds and venturing to more remote destinations, GOOD travellers can avoid contributing to over-tourism as well as have more authentic and meaningful travel experiences.
We're not the only ones highlighting the advantages of getting off the beaten track. Responsible Travel is urging us to ditch bucket-lists and seek out brave, alternative adventures. Meanwhile, Fodor's has developed a list of places NOT to go in 2018, which includes overcrowded destinations such as Phang Nga Park, Thailand. Instead, they recommend that you take "the road less littered and enjoy a tropical vacay away from the fray."
However, staying away from tourist hotspots does not make you a GOOD traveller in itself. In fact, visiting remote destinations will often require GOOD travellers to be especially thoughtful about how you behave - from ensuring that cultural norms are being followed in areas less accustomed to foreign visitors, to taking extra steps to minimise your environmental impact in locations where tourist infrastructure may not yet be well developed.
So what does it take to be a GOOD traveller in an undiscovered destination? In this article, we talk to the Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA) about our upcoming trip to one of the least visited countries in the world: Kiribati.
Kiribati - for travellers not tourists
Kiribati is regularly listed as one of the least visited countries in the world. Most people have never heard of it and few people know how to pronounce it.
Kiribati (pronounced kiri-bas) is a remote island nation in the central Pacific Ocean with just two flights a week servicing the main island of South Tarawa from Fiji. It is made up of 33 islands (21 inhabited) spread over an area of 3.5 million square kilometers. It is also the only country in the world to sit across all four hemispheres.
The tourism slogan for Kiribati reads “Kiribati is for travellers, not tourists”. The Kiribati National Tourism Office (KNTO) states “Kiribati is not a holiday destination for everyone. The serious and committed traveller will be rewarded for their visit with the experience of welcoming and wonderful people and a lifestyle that is as far away from your everyday as you can get. Tourists who are looking for swim up bars, cocktail lounges and fluffy towels need not apply.”
Tourists who are looking for swim up bars, cocktail lounges and fluffy towels need not apply.
KNTO explains that "Kiribati is for travellers – those who have a passion for exploring and discovering, people who like an adventure off the tourist trail to places where few have been before, and people who want to understand a country – not just see it. Kiribati will challenge your view of how life should be and show you a less complicated way of living where family and community come first."
Kiribati will challenge your view of how life should be and show you a less complicated way of living where family and community come first.
The Kiribati Discovery Tour
GOOD Travel's cofounder, Eliza Raymond, spent a lot of time in Kiribati through her previous job leading the Kiribati Healthy Families Project. She says "I visited Kiribati through my work with Family Planning New Zealand. However, my visits quickly became more than just my job. I formed lifelong friendships with my I-Kiribati colleagues and I developed a strong connection with the culture and people of Kiribati. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to spend so much time in Kiribati and grateful to everyone I met who made my visits so memorable. When I left my job at Family Planning to focus on GOOD Travel, I was determined to find a way to maintain the connection I'd built with Kiribati and give back to a place that had given me so much."
When I left my job at Family Planning to focus on GOOD Travel, I was determined to find a way to maintain the connection I'd built with Kiribati and give back to a place that had given me so much.
GOOD Travel therefore partnered with Family Planning and the Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA) to offer our inaugural Kiribati Discovery Tour. The tour is designed for travellers with an interest in learning more about innovative approaches to improving sexual and reproductive health in the Pacific. The participants on the trip will be encouraged and supported with fundraising prior to traveling to Kiribati. Half of the funds raised will be donated directly to KFHA and half of the funds will be used by Family Planning on their work to improve sexual and reproductive health in the Pacific region.
The trip will include the opportunity to spend time at KFHA and participate in some of their health promotion activities. Trip participants will also have the opportunity to experience Kiribati culture through a weaving workshop and a visit to a village in North Tarawa where one of KFHA’s staff lives. The KFHA team are looking forward to welcoming the team to Kiribati and showcasing their important work to the world.
KFHA’s executive director, Norma Yeeting, says “Everyone is very excited about this trip. It will help bring funds to Kiribati and also raise the profile of both KFHA and Family Planning New Zealand in providing essential services to ensure good health for families in Kiribati. We are looking forward to showing the group that KFHA is a well known organisation and is a leading NGO on reproductive health and rights in Kiribati.”
Everyone is very excited about this trip. It will help bring funds to Kiribati and also raise the profile of both KFHA and Family Planning New Zealand in providing essential services to ensure good health for families in Kiribati.
The Kiribati Family Health Association and Family Planning
KFHA is a leading NGO in Kiribati focused on improving sexual and reproductive health through clinical services, health promotion and advocacy. Their primary clinic and office is based in the main island of South Tarawa and they also work in partnership with 9 island councils and community leaders to bring sexual and reproductive health services to remote outer islands. In addition to their clinical, health promotion and administrative staff, KFHA has a team of youth volunteers who perform - rain or shine - to their peers to raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health.
Family Planning is New Zealand's leading sexual and reproductive health NGO. They have been working in partnership with KFHA since 2012 through the Kiribati Healthy Families Project, funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme. “The KFHA team are doing inspiring work to increase access to quality sexual and reproductive health services in Kiribati and the Kiribati Discovery Tour will give visitors the opportunity to learn from them”, says Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond.
The KFHA team are doing inspiring work to increase access to quality sexual and reproductive health services in Kiribati and the Kiribati Discovery Tour will give visitors the opportunity to learn from them.
Being a GOOD traveller in Kiribati
In order to be a GOOD traveller in Kiribati, it is essential to take time to learn about the country, history, culture and language. Together with KFHA and Family Planning, we've come up with a few key tips below.
Accept invitations to dance when at an event in Kiribati
Smile, be friendly to everyone that you meet and show your appreciation for the Kiribati culture
Enjoy the Kiribati sense of humour and have fun!
Dress appropriately - women should wear skirts that cover your knees, bring a sarong for events and not wear a bikini in public
Take off your shoes when entering somebody's home and when visiting a Maneaba (meeting house)
Sit properly especially when you are in a Maneaba (meeting house) or visiting someone's home - the best position is cross-legged or with your legs to the side to avoid pointing your feet into the Maneaba
Learn some words in the Kiribati language such as Mauri (hello), Ko rabwa (thank you), Tekeraoi (good luck), Tia boo (goodbye), Ko uara (how are you?), and I marurung (I'm well)
Be polite and do not judge or offer advice before really learning about a situation
Respect your elders
Always ask for guidance from I-Kiribati if you are unsure what to do or how to behave
Minimise your environmental impact - your carbon-footprint will be automatically offset through your trip fee but try to also minimise your energy consumption and waste
Support the local economy by buying locally-made souvenirs
If you decide to join this trip or visit Kiribati independently, you will be one of only a small number of I-Matangs (foreigners) who have ever visited Kiribati. This comes with responsibility as you will automatically be perceived by your friends back home as an 'expert' on Kiribati. It is important that you respect this role of ambassador with openness and honesty. We encourage you to acknowledge that there's no way that you can become an expert on a country in just a few days and that the only true Kiribati experts are I-Kiribati. You should also think about how you will represent Kiribati through the photos and stories you share with your friends and family. Ensure that you represent the people you meet with respect and dignity, and reflect about why you choose to share a photo or story, before doing so.
Here are some additional resources that we recommend:
Kiribati National Tourism Office website is a great resource to learn more about tourism opportunities in Kiribati as well as additional tips for visiting the country: http://www.kiribatitourism.gov.ki/
A Pattern of Islands is a fascinating account of Sir Arthur Grimble's time as a cadet officer in Kiribati between 1914 and 1933. The book provides some interesting context for understanding the colonial administration of Kiribati as well as insights into the Kiribati culture. Return to the Islands is the book's sequel - less known but also well worth a read!