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Travel For Good

July, 2019

Dear Friends,

Travel writers have a dirty secret: sometimes we ruin the places we love. We don't mean to, but sometimes writing about a place brings too many visitors to a destination, overwhelming its residents and infrastructure (for examples, see Europe Made Billions from Tourists; Now It's Turning Them Away).

But in other places, tourism can be a great boon, especially if local residents reap the benefits from the money visitors bring into a destination. 

I thought of this dichotomy this past winter when I got the chance to visit the nation of Colombia. I was fortunate to travel with my friend Karin Stein, a Colombian native and musician. During the winter, she leads small group tours to Latin America, focusing on places where she has friends and family (an added bonus: almost every day includes a musical or dance performance by local performers). Her company, Artes Latinas, does an exemplary job of practicing sustainable and ethical tourism, including purchasing carbon offsets for air travel through the Limon Watershed Foundation in Costa Rica (where they plant trees that help absorb carbon dioxide).

I was struck by the incredibly warm welcome we received. This nation, which has long been troubled by political unrest and violence, has entered a new era of peace that's led to a rebirth of its tourism industry. As one of the most biologically diverse and culturally rich countries on earth, Colombia is eager to show visitors the renaissance that's happening.

No place better illustrates this transformation than the city of Medellin, which in the early 1990s was one of the world's most violent cities. On our visit there, I was especially fascinated by the role of art in its turn-around. On a graffiti tour of what was once one of its most troubled neighborhoods, we learned how people now come from around the world to see its amazing street art (see photo).

So as you're making your travel plans, I encourage you to think beyond the standard tourist destinations. Some of the most vibrant and fascinating places in the world are those that are rebounding after political unrest and economic decline, from Colombia and Albania to Malawi. Here in the U.S., I love Detroit and Milwaukee, two cities that are being rejuvenated thanks in part to creative entrepreneurs and flourishing arts scenes.   

It's wonderful to see these places as they recover---and the money you spend on your trip can help that transformation.

Blessings on all your journeys,


For More Information:

My Spiritual Travels website includes a description of my trip to Colombia with Artes Latinas: Colombia Reborn. Contact Artes Latinas for information on upcoming tours to Colombia, Costa Rica, and Peru.


Recommended Reading:

Elizabeth Becker's Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism looks at the ways in which travel can be both a positive force and tremendously destructive.

Veteran travel writer Rick Steves explores the ways in which tourism has much greater implications than is commonly thought in his Travel as a Political Act.


Book Updates:

The publication date of August 13 is fast approaching for my new book Near the Exit: Travels with the Not-So-Grim Reaper, which is about places that have helped me come to terms with mortality.

Two exciting pieces of news: Foreword Reviews has given it a lovely review, and Barnes & Noble is going to feature it on their new releases table in all their stores for two weeks after publication.

I'll have lots more news in my August newsletter, but for now you can pre-order the book through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local independent bookstore. Or ask your public library to order it---that way many people can read it.

In the meantime, don't forget about my Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God. It's a memoir told through trips to a dozen holy sites around the world. If your book group is interested in reading it, download the Holy Rover Discussion Guide.

Coming Up:

Book Launch for Near the Exit: August 27, 7 pm, at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City, Iowa

Reading and signing at Dragonfly Books in Decorah, Iowa, at 7 pm on September 5

Iowa City Book Festival: October 5, 1 pm

Speaker at Writing for Your Life Conference: Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 29, 2020

Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She's the author of the memoir Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God and the creator of Spiritual Travels, a website featuring holy sites around the world. Her newest book Near the Exit: Travels With the Not-So-Grim Reaper will be published in August.
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