What it means to travel responsibly

My love-hate relationship with my own worldview and the Bandika Manifesto

me and baby Richie at a children's home in Nairobi

2008: With Richie, volunteering in Imani Children’s Home in Nairobi.

When I came to Kenya for the first time, I was 19 and had just graduated from high school. Both my German and Kenyan organisations had prepared me for the trip. Yet a certain amount of colonial baggage remained in my mind, a specific attitude and a way of looking at things, which took me years to become aware of.

I fell in love with the country and returned several times. Many Germans wanted to hear about my “adventures”.

So I filmed daily life situations in Germany in order to compare them later to clips I would take of daily life in Kenya. I wanted to proof that life in Kenya is not an adventure, it’s just life, too. I took the clips, but never got around to edit them.

Several years and long-term stays in Kenya later, a friend of mine sent me the German brochure “With Colonial Regards…” (scroll down for English).

It reveals the colonial influence that persists up to today.

Research on many blogs by German volunteers in the global South showed these reoccurring themes:

  • the superior feeling of the young volunteers over the global South
  • the exotication and romantisation of poverty
  • how racist and colonial ideas are unknowingly expressed in language and pictures
  • how stereotypes are reproduced, and so on
stepping on mud to make bricks

2010: Work camp in Anyiko.

When watching my own clips again, filmed with the honourable intention of showing “real life in Kenya”, I saw how I, too, had reproduced colonial stereotypes and held the camera with an unknowingly discriminative view.

After this revelation, I found organisations and websites presenting a different picture of Africa, beyond elephants, poverty and children playing football. (For a regular digest of those websites, follow us on Facebook.)

I slowly became aware of my own privileges and my role in the global context.

posing choir members in uniform

2012: Performing with the Narok University Choir

And that is why I started Bandika: to structure this process and help you become a responsible traveller – without the mess and ignorance I went through.

Responsible travel in the sense of Bandika Travel Connectors means a shift in awareness and a respectful attitude towards the people of the country you are visiting. It means to continuously reflect on global contexts, privileges and mind-sets.

manifesto simple upper

Click to read the whole manifesto.

And let me tell you: It doesn’t make things easier. On the contrary, feelings of guilt, uncertainty and being lost and powerless are on the daily agenda.

Yet it is worth to adapt this attitude, because it enables beautiful connections and interactions.

Traveling responsibly actually changes your entire worldview.

on the train to mombasa

2015: On the train to Mombasa.

It doesn’t erase all conflicts, but it empowers you to deal with them in a better way. It’s not all about carbon footprints, eco-labels, less bargaining and raising money for local charities – at least not for us.

Travelling responsibly means to humble ourselves, to appreciate everyone and sharing real-life experiences, in order to ultimately become a better person.

What are your strategies to travel responsibly? Let us know in the comments below!


If you want to read about a similar concept, check out Linger. They beautifully explain how by “Just Doing Nothing” you can travel responsibly.

Do you want to learn how to travel responsibly and change your worldview? Join the free email course.

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