Have you ever had an experience where you knew, at a cellular level, that its very essence would impact you and stay with you for the rest of your life? My recent experience guiding 14 dignitaries from Namibia, Africa through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park is one of those special moments that I will carry with me forever. The name of our adventure was called “No Borders” and the foundation for the visit was to share ideas, through group discussion about sustainable tourism with representatives from our beautiful national parks and the concessions within them.
What is Sustainable Tourism? I learned this week that sustainable tourism is like a three-legged stool; the legs being economics, environmental and cultural preservation. It’s the understanding of, and commitment to, the enduring value of conserving wildlife and wild places for the sake of human-wildlife coexistence. Namibia has dedicated nearly half of its landmass to National Parks, Conservancies and private protected land. Conservation of land is even written into their constitution. So make no mistake about it, Namibians understand and are committed to sustainable tourism. And, they do it well. The “No Borders” adventure covered almost 700 miles in ten days and I had the privilege of spending all those miles hearing and joining in on discussions of Sustainable Tourism and how their model has manifested over the years. I discovered that our Namibian friends are people of action; they move forward and get things done because they truly care. It is their way of being in the world, I believe, that brings this model to life. They truly care!
Dan Austin said, “They came as friends and left as family”. That statement sums it up best. Their warm, caring ways are authentic and infectious, which creates a space of openness and flexibility and we bonded immediately. A special moment that will always be with me is when we all witnessed the Crow Indians perform traditional tribal dances. We all were drawn in by its ancient sound transporting us back to a time when there were “No Borders;” leaving us all a feeling that the tribal dance was coming from a long line of proud ancestors. It was especially inspiring when members of our Namibian family were motivated by The Crow and responded with their own ancient traditional dance. This was spontaneous and genuine. Little did I know, the entire ten-day adventure would go this was; spontaneous, genuine and inspirational. You see, at our core, humans have “No Borders,” we just need to communicate and be vulnerable enough to share. To me, this tour was a perfect storm of genuine humanity.
By the second day, I was adopted by Hilda ( the manager of Sheya shu Shona Conservancy) and called her mom for the rest of the adventure. Gustaph ( chairman of Omatendeka Conservancy) was referred to as “Pastor” as he blessed all of our meals. As I recall all of our Namibian family members, I realize I have a unique bond with each and every one of them. Trust me, I will never forget them and hope to one day share more special moments with them.
As important as it is for the details of Sustainable Tourism to be discussed amongst all involved , I believe it is equally important to point out that deeply caring about each other and the willingness to compromise is the platform that our three-legged model of sustainable tourism truly rests upon.
I wish my new family well and was honored to be a part of something bigger than any individual; helping to create a part of the world that knows “No Borders.”