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Who Ruins the World? Travelers? A Chat With Gringo Trails Director Pegi Vail (Part 2 of 2)

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Missed Part 1 of chat with Gringo Trails director Pegi Vail? Read it here.

AA: The section on Timbuktu, Mali dealt more with the power structures and privilege inherent in travel rather than environmental impact. The woman interviewed finds the Malian landscape beautiful but her local guides disagree because the land offers no practical purpose. She mentions that she had nothing to offer local people; she just always wanted to see Timbuktu. Her experience forced her to think about her ability and desire to travel for traveling's sake. My wanderlust has guided me plenty of places. I don't see anything wrong with her behavior as it was presented in the film. Can (or should) we make allowances for honest curiosity in a discussion about travel's impact on culture? (This may or may not be code for "Please make me feel better about my somewhat compulsive traveling.")

PV: I share the same wanderlust! I think traveling is among the best ways we can all get to know one another around the world and be more aware of, respect, and enjoy both our similarities and differences. Especially as a young person just setting out -- discovery and curiosity drive our journeys, as they should. I encourage travel as early as possible and as much as possible.

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Above: The morning after a full moon party in Thailand. Provided by Pegi Vail.

AA: All things considered, which countries are promoting tourism correctly?

PV: I don't think there is any one country who can do it all and there are so many countries with locations in them that are really working to control/manage tourism in a sustainable fashion. Even in Thailand, long visited and featured in our film as a cautionary tale in terms of Haad Rin beach on Koh Pha Ngan Island has many great locations. I love Thailand! Now that they've had over three decades to see the transformations brought on by tourism, they can better plan for the future.

Thirty years ago, no one could have anticipated such rapid growth with the rise of what I've been calling "tourism globalization." Individuals like Potjana Suansri and her group Responsible Ecological Social Tours (REST) for example, work with fishing villages and hill tribes to consider what to expect from a tourism influx. They do this by asking community members what they want out of tourism experience early on, before it's out of control, and to strategize how they will embrace and manage tourism once it grows. Many new initiatives like these have been and are flourishing.

For more of Part 2, you can pick up exactly where you left off at adedana.com. There you'll find Pegi's thoughts on international action, solutions, and a preview of her new initiative -- spoiler alert: it involves travelers!

Gringo Trails is an official selection of the 6th annual Environmental Film Festival at Yale. The film will be screened on April 6 at 1:30pm. The event is free and open to the public.

You can watch the film at Media Arts Center San Diego on April 19, 20, 22, & 23 and in New Zealand at the Documentary Edge Film Fest in late May.