From Traveler To Transformer at Inle Lake
As the sun climbed steadily in the sky, radiating its morning light and energy onto the lake, we hopped aboard our 4-person motorized canoe for the day. The captain of our wooden watercraft kicked the engine to a start to propel us forward, and the loud motor roared grumpily, coughing out blackened smoke into the atmosphere.
An inner struggle arose within me.
On the one hand, I felt so grateful to have the opportunity to visit this quaint countryside-town built afloat Myanmar's Inle Lake—a town which only in the recent decades welcomed in more tourists.
Yet as I inhaled the intoxicating smell of our engine's gas exhaust and smiled forcefully at the couple other passing tourists each on their motorboats, I felt a sense of guilt for disrupting the stillness of this otherwise serene scenery.
But my tainted thoughts were momentarily washed away by the novel beauty that met my eyes.
As we continued forward, we passed by blankets of lush gardens floating on top of the water, where farmers were working and walking skillfully on the vegetables' intricately woven roots.
Well, this was a site I had never seen before.
Soon after, we neared a group of fishermen each on their own wooden rafts in the middle of the lake. Our captain turned off our boat's motor, and we drifted silently next to the fishermen, who carried on with their tasks as if they had grown accustomed to visitors watching them.
But this was another site I had never seen before.
I gaped in amazement at the fishermen who were each balancing themselves with one leg on the edge of their rafts, controlling their paddles with their other legs, and maneuvering their handwoven fishing nets with their adept fingers all at the same time. This was done so gracefully, it was as if the fishermen were dancing ballet to the sounds of the water's gentle ripples, inviting the fish underneath to come closer.
Suddenly, our captain restarted our canoe's engine. Its blackened smoke puffed back out into the air and the cringeworthy noise killed the environment's tranquility yet again, making me wish I were invisible.
But rather than erasing myself from the picture, I found myself there with a greater sense of purpose than before.
It would be selfish of me to simply take in and enjoy the lake for my own sake. As I acknowledged how my travels had only ever pushed me to become a better person throughout my life, I knew I had to begin giving back somehow to the inspiring communities that I get the pleasure of visiting.
Although I do not alone have the influence to change the ways developing communities grow or the ways travel companies operate, I believe that knowledge can empower us to take more meaningful action. And I believe that no matter how big or little their impacts, our voices and our choices can make a difference.
So I will ask questions and voice any concerns I have to local travel companies I work with going forward, and I will support local businesses keen on contributing positively to their environments. But will you join me?