A New Year’s Resolution: More Mindful Travel

Riding atop an elephant in the forests around Chiang Dao, Thailand was scary and thrilling. I remember split-second panic as the enormous creature began head-butting a tree, with me astride. The mahout assured everyone on our excursion this behavior was completely natural. No reason for alarm.

That was over eleven years ago and Matt and I both look back now and realize how grossly ignorant we were. Giving rides to tourists all day, following commands of a human handler, and being kept in captivity isn’t natural for any animal, most surely not the independent and majestic elephant.

Thanks to education and media attention, today tourism companies along with travelers (like us,) have a deeper understanding and appreciation for interacting with wildlife, particularly elephants. Since 2014, 100+ tour companies have officially banned elephant rides, lead in part by the industry gurus at Intrepid Travel. 

This shift to a more mindful approach to nature is encouraging and serves as proof that wrestling tough questions can raise public consciousness and bring positive change. Questions like…

How can we travel deeply, yet with less impact? What responsibility do we have to the cultures and creatures in which we come in contact? What is the ripple effect initiated from our path?

My latest “Travel Secrets” for Paste magazine tackles a few of those questions and more in hopes that for each of us 2017 can be a year of more meaningful and mindful journeys.

Travel Secrets: Mindful Journeys
By Jess Simpson | December 27, 2016
I’m currently enjoying the wilds of Costa del Sol, a place always associated with overdevelopment. And while some of its beauty has been diminished by man’s desire for box-like condo towers, gorgeously wild pockets thrive. Hooray for those pockets!


As we close the door on a year packed with relentless absurdity and unthinkable tragedy, most of us long for an escape hatch. We need a vacation. Not a trip where the travel glow fades as the return flight touches down. Like never before, many of us yearn for transformative journeys. Keep reading…

If you like this story, check out these too. 

Related stories:
What Every Traveler Should Know about Flight Rights

Travel Secrets: The Holidays


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