Book Review: Lonely Planet's Code Green

Robert Todd Felton's picture

I have a half-dozen or so travel stories that I love to tell. Like the time hiking in Sweden when we came across a herd of Lappish reindeer in a remote valley and were so close you could hear them breathe.  Or that time when we brought out a soccer ball on a beach in Mexico and were quickly caught up in a terrific game of pick-up soccer with kids from four or five different countries.

It's no secret that the best travel experiences come from those moments where we make a connection:  a connection to place, to an event, or, most thrillingly, across the gap of culture and geography to another human being.  It's those moments, like coming across a deserted beach miles long, or getting caught up in a May Day celebration, or laughing over a shared joke with someone who doesn't speak the same language, that give us our most compelling travel experiences and best memories.  And because we value that beach, that parade, and that person, our journeys to their backyard can't degrade the very treasures we're there to seek.  So, we walk the fine line of visiting places our very presence may destroy in order to celebrate and preserve them.

That's where a book like Lonely Planet's Code Green can come in. It proffers nearly a hundred different tours that fit criteria for sustainable and authentic tourism.  As editor Kerry Lorimer explains in the introduction:
"As a traveler, responsible tourism is about accepting responsibility for your actions, attitudes, and impacts:  through your conscious choices, you can minimize your personal impact and make a positive contribution. Be a part of the solution, rather than the problem."

In the following pages, Code Green helps us with those choices.  Each of the tours profiled takes into account the three "triple bottom line" issues Lorimer outlines:  environment, social/cultural, and economic.  Each tour description includes three to four paragraphs on the trip, its responsible travel credentials, and information on when to go and how to get there.  The book also includes stunning photos from Lonely Planet's impressive image library.  Interspersed throughout the directory are mini-essays with helpful guidance on sustainable tourism, like "How to Tell if your Holiday is Green or Just Greenwash" and "Begging:  To Give or Not To Give."  

Overall, the book is an interesting sampling of some sustainable tourism options.  The tours range from the specific (volunteering in the Ban Kingkaew orphanage in Thailand) to the vague and general (going on a Sierra Club trip).  Lorimer herself pens about a third of the entries, while the rest are farmed out to Lonely Planet writers and local experts.  Few of the entries provide enough information to seriously consider a trip or even really serve as a starting place, but what the book does is help you think about what types of trips you might want to take.  Do you want to help clean flotsam up off that beach, take part in that parade, or elicit giggles and laughs from children who live in places we can hardly imagine?  Because, as we travelers know, being a part of the solution rather than the problem makes for the best travel stories.



Robert Todd Felton is the Literary Travel Editor for Wandering Educators



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