The title was given to me by Kurt Ackermann and I loved the high concept. Chatting (actually skyping) with Kurt, I developed the presentation to show what happens when tourism officials, businesses, visitors and locals aren’t on the same page. In the case of Oaxaca, Mexico there were numerous ‘tree failures.’ I balanced the photos of these beautiful trees that crashed with spectacular ugliness with some cool photos of friends in the local markets.
We should keep in mind that in travel we are visiting people as much as places and when this concept is considered the ‘unique selling point’ travel takes on a significant meaning, one which values conversation and the blessing that it is to visit people on their turf. I think back to my conversation with Transitions Abroad founder Clay Hubbs who talked up the incredible PRIVILEDGE it is to be invited to someone’s home.
In my presentation (here’s the video) I responded to the idea that we should be speaking a common language in tourism. Agreed, I say, but does the language have to be English?
What I have learned in the past 15 years in Mexico is thanks to learning Spanish … and Zapotec and Mixtec and Chinantec and Ayuuk … and the numerous variations. Mind you, there are 16 indigenous groups in Oaxaca and 100 languages. I might have only learned how to say a simple phrase like ‘Thank you’ or ‘Delicious’ in quite a few of the indigenous tongues, but learning a simple saludo is a giant leap forward in showing respect.
Far too many indigenous people haven’t had many foreigners or nationals take an interest in their language. How can we listen if we don’t give any consideration to the local lingo? And what are we listening to if all the words are in standard American English? (Mind you, I love standard American English and I speak it very well!)
Here’s another example of what we can learn if we listen to indigenous peoples. It’s a phrase I heard this year on Radio New Zealand:
It’s fine to have recollections of the past but wisdom comes from being able to prepare opportunities for the future.
He pai te tirohanga ki nga mahara mo nga raa pahemo engari ka puta te maaramatanga i runga i te titiro whakamua.
Let’s start getting future fit. Meanwhile, I’m going to think about how to follow my presentation with something along the lines of ‘Sucking Less @ Collaboration.’ Your ideas, as always, are a big help.