Introduce Ecotourism to your next Family Vacation

Eco-tourism exists at many levels. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) offers recommendations for  trips that include stays at relaxing, environmentally friendly resorts or full blown clean-up/conservation missions where the vacation may seem more like  eco-labor but the payoff is invaluable. While organizations like TIES offer a stellar service that will help travelers plan their ecotourism adventure, it’s worth noting that you needn’t invest every moment and dollar of your vacation to the cause.

Recently, I took my five year-old to New Hampshire to partake in a number of manly, outdoorsmen type activities along with some other kid-themed attractions. Beyond a day at Storyland, our plans for the five days were pretty much undetermined but I knew I wanted to spend some of our time getting in touch with nature and supporting the local farmers.

Before heading out, I did some searching and came across a section of www.visitnh.giv which was specifically dedicated to green locations, activities and events. This resource led me to a phenomenal farmer’s Market just outside North Conway where we picked up some of the sweetest, juiciest blueberries on the planet, a jar of local honey and some fresh-baked bread that made our breakfast the next morning as good as any I’ve had in my life. And it definitely beat buying breakfast at a gas station convenience store.

Beyond the farmer’s market, some of our time was spent hiking in New Hampshire’s myriad White Mountain trails which provide unlimited real-life lessons in conservation and the importance of maintaining ecosystems. Plus they are free and using doesn’t create any secondary waste beyond a little sweat.

One of my favorite moments happened around the campfire one night when my son turned to me and asked, “Why are there so many more stars in New Hampshire then Rhode Island?” This led to a conversation about light pollution followed by talk about noise pollution (almost no industrial white noise in NH) in which my son ultimately agreed that he’d rather see more stars at night and hear the coyote howls instead of knowing where the next Mickey D’s is from the bid yellow arches shining from a mile away.

A day at the amusement park is obviously a hit with the kids but equal fun can be had for far less money while supporting a good cause if you know where to look and approach it with the right attitude. No matter where you decide to spend vacation, look into local farmer’s market and other eco-tourism resources before making the jaunt. It’s the best way to connect with a geographic region in an authentic way.

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