We’re an Australian couple on a mission to see the world, inspire people to think deeper about sustainability and encourage positive action.
With a background in coastal protection and enhancement (designing and building artificial reefs), I (Aaron) have worked around the world for over 10 years. Through travel and first-hand experience of reef degradation, I began to notice recurring environmental issues everywhere.
The biggest one for me was waste. Living out of a backpack for eleven years, I’ve come to realise that we (people) really don’t need much “stuff” to be happy. More stuff means more resources used, more waste produced and ultimately more strain on the environment.
Vivien is an Occupational Therapist. She volunteered in Madagascar for 8 months and got to witness the extremities of poverty’s grasp on local communities. During a national disaster (flood) that destroyed thousands of homes and people’s livelihoods, she worked in disaster relief.
Setting up a micro-financing project to get the local women back on their feet, Vivien developed a true understanding of the need for community support and education.
Lovin’ the Colourful Caribbean Way of Life
I think for now; the Caribbean is an ideal base for us. We’ve really slowed down our travels. Staying months at a time instead of days or weeks. This helps reduce the travel impact. It also makes it easier to establish local connections and live more like a local.
That’s the most sustainable way to be. Moving around and relying on imported goods and products is something we’ve really tried to minimise.
The Caribbean is a surprisingly diverse place. Each island is so unique. So far, we’ve been to: Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, St Martin and Grenada. It sounds like a lot, but there are so many more islands to explore.
We’ve really gotten into the music. Before coming I didn’t actually know much about the Caribbean and assumed Reggae was everywhere. In reality, each island has its own style, but there is a genre that really gets the crowd moving. It’s called SoCa (Soul Calipso).
There’s definitely an overall Caribbean “feel”. It’s a slow moving, good vibe kind of deal. But every island has within it their own style and traditions. Many of the islands even look very different.
I’ve found that because of the laid-back nature, there is less focus on material things and people are really living in the moment (in general). This really aligns well with our lifestyle.
And the food is fantastic. Fresh fruits and rum are a staple in the Caribbean. Other than that, each island has some local food specialties. One of our favourites is “doubles”. Which is traditionally from Trinidad. It’s a chickpea curry in a flour wrap with a fruity/spicy kick.
Favourite Memories of our Magical Caribbean Adventure
Our favourite place in the Caribbean so far has been Grenada. Not only is it a beautiful island, but the Grenadian people are just amazing.
We’ve spent a lot of time there and have gotten to know our local fruit lady, a farmer who supplies us fresh vegetables, a local producer of Gin, and have formed close friendships with others enjoying the island lifestyle. Living the local life for us is the dream.
We also snorkelled most days on St John, in the US Virgin Islands. The island is about 70% national park and marine park. The coral and marine life there is some of the best we’ve seen in the Caribbean.
One afternoon we had a dolphin mother and calf swim with us for over an hour. We were all “dancing” underwater. Just diving down and following each other around and around. They were just as inquisitive as we were and the four of us really enjoyed each other’s company.
That was pretty special.
3 Ways to Experience Real Caribbean Culture
It’s easy to avoid the tourist traps in the Caribbean. Simply don’t stay in the big, all-inclusive, tourist hotels. The best example of this is in Jamaica.
There are so many unique places to stay in Jamaica: mud huts, sail boats, jungle cabins and more. We hired a car for a month and drove around the island staying in Airbnb’s and boutique hotels. In summary, here are 3 ways to experience the real Caribbean:
- Stay in places that are not tourist resorts, and support local restaurants and stalls.
- Jump on a sailboat. There are various different options for this. Using a platform like Crewbay.com is a good way to avoid crowds (and in many cases it’s free).
- Volunteer – Workaway is a great platform that offers work in exchange for room (and some cases board). For example, you can work on a chocolate farm and experience real island life.
Our Vision for The Dharma Trails Project
Our vision for The Dharma Trails is a collaborative one. We understand that one person (or two people in our case) can make a difference, though it will happen much quicker if more people work together.
We are currently teaming up with brands and like-minded people to help spread awareness and hopefully encourage consumers to make more thoughtful purchases, specifically in the eco travel field. There are ways to make more sustainable choices when:
- Booking transport modes through carbon offsetting & insetting options
- Accommodation options – choosing eco friendly and green accommodation
- Reducing waste – Packing reusable products can save huge volumes of waste on the road, as well as shopping wisely.
- Responsible choices – ethical animal experiences, supporting the local community
The easiest way to travel eco-friendly is to be prepared. You wouldn’t go on a hiking trip without the right gear. It’s the same in an eco travel sense. We wouldn’t go to a beach bar without our reusable cups. We’d prefer not to have a drink than receive a plastic cup and straw that gets added to the waste pile.
But eco travel is not just about reusable cups and straws. It takes into consideration the best way to get around, where to stay and how to act in different cultures. For more information and eco travel tips, check out our free ebook download.