February 20, 2004

Sustainable Tourism - Notes from a Novel

The last time I was in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, I found myself with some time on my hands.

Wandering through one of the mega-bookstores in the mall I noticed a novel nestled somewhere in the middle of a shelf: "Taureg" by Alberto Vasquez-Figeroa. Unfamiliar with the author (although he's written 40 books!), or the title, I gave it a quick look and passed it by.

A few minutes later my friend Rosāngela came up from another end of the store and asked, "Have you ever heard of the book Tuareg? I'm looking for it." I think her estimation of my skills as a knowledge worker rose a few percentage points as I took her straight to it.

The book is a jewel!

I've seen marketing and reviews give it the superficial "never-mess-with-the-wild-men-of-the-desert" treatment. I saw something different.

The book is about hospitality - and honor. It is about the tortuous path to redemption or its alternative.

I found it to be a richly layered study of colonialism, post-colonialism, and recolonization. The story line moves ahead relentlessly through a series of cultural miscommunications and treachery that resolve in escalating tragedy. Set in North Africa, the descriptions of oasis-dominating military encampments uncomfortably brought to mind scenes of the luxury resorts I've encountered in other parts of the world.

Here is a book, taken as parable, that ought to be read by traveler and travel professional alike. After finishing it I am left with the questions - "What are the obligations of hospitality?", "What is sustainable tourism?", "What is 'hidden from me in plain sight' as I travel?"

Posted by rollingrains at February 20, 2004 10:01 PM | TrackBack