Traditional Burmese spinners at work. Image credit Tourism Transparency

Continuing our theme on responsible tourism, an anecdote by a New Zealand museum curator, also an experienced and politically aware traveller to Burma, shows how responsible tourists can make a difference to the people and places they visit.

I’m going to tell you a little story, which is so typical of why I love travelling so much. I have been to Burma many times, yet on this particular trip I travelled up north to Putao in Kachin State. I hired a truck and driver from one of the churches so I could visit a nearby village as there was no public transport. All along the way the truck stopped to pick up people walking along the road. As they jumped off they would give me a big smile of thanks and a wave.

As we passed through a small village a man told me that the daughter of a woman living there had gone to live in New Zealand. On the way back I stopped and visited the old lady. She was a tiny soul, bent over but full of smiles and friendship. Her traditional house and garden were spotlessly clean. Through my friend I asked her about her daughter and took some photos. I also got her daughter’s address in Auckland, so when I got back to New Zealand I printed some enlarged photos of the mother and sent them off to her daughter who she hadn’t seen for years.

A few days later I had a lovely letter in the mail and then a phone call from the woman – almost in tears with emotion. She hadn’t seen a photo of her mother since leaving Burma 10 years ago. I could tell her all about her mother’s house and garden and her neighbours and an old school friend that she went to school with. She was so thankful and full of joy.

Now, who would dare tell me I can’t travel to Burma? Such are the joys of travel.

More here.