Travel and culture go hand in hand. A resort or cruise can be fun under the right circumstances, but we don’t think you can truly experience a new place without getting to know the local people, food, and activities. It’s one of the reasons we love to travel. You can expand your horizon and become a more informed, empathetic person. Yet, when many of us travel, we still hit the most popular and Instagrammable places. It can be easy to miss the unique, the real, and the indigenous.
Traveling to the corners of the world where indigenous populations live is an eye-opening experience. Spending some time with the Maasai of Tanzania or the Sami of Finland or the Aborigines in the Outback is a multi-faceted education. You’ll come away with a renewed sense of the natural world and our place within it. And perhaps, you’ll force yourself to deal with the barbarism that is our history of colonizing indigenous populations the world-over to increase our own wealth. This is travel as introspection as much as it is about personal enlightenment.
Below is a small smattering of possibilities for spending a little time immersed in an indigenous community. Look at these travel options as a place to start a journey in a way that bucks the norm and embraces a culture you may have never even realized existed. While there are literally thousands of indigenous communities throughout the world, these communities are accessible and open to travelers. Others may not be, and thusly, their isolation demands respect. Lastly, indigenous communities around the world are often the most socio-economically oppressed. Tourism is a great way to take action and support these communities with your tourist dollars.
THE ABORIGINAL CULTURES OF AUSTRALIA
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The aboriginal cultures and peoples of Australia are some of the oldest civilizations in the world. People have been calling Australia home for over 60,000 years — deadly snakes and man-eating crocs be damned. Australia’s Aboriginal people are also amazingly varied with languages changing from group to group — often by simply crossing a river.
These communities can be found from coast-to-coast-to-coast in Australia, and they offer a glimpse into an amazingly old chapter of humanity, art, and food. You’ll also have the chance to hear the stories of centuries of British and, then, white Australian colonial rule and the dire consequences they’re still dealing with (from loss of land to severe health issues to access to basic civic necessities).
Visiting an Aboriginal community is getting easier and easier in Oz. Australia’s Tourism Board has a great guide to visiting and engaging in Aboriginal life across the continent on their website, Australia.com. Likewise, individual territories offer their own glimpse into the indigenous culture and provide guides for getting in and spending your money directly within Aboriginal communities.
THE MAORI IN NEW ZEALAND
Though seemingly close to Australia, the Maori of New Zealand are a wholly unique culture. The Maori are the seafaring cousins to the wider Polynesian people whose reach extends all the way to the Hawaiian islands. And the culture has an intensity to it that’s awesome. The powerful Haka — an amping up ritual — will get you ready for any obstacle. And the Maori tattoo culture is another facet of Maori life that’s hard not to love. Though, we highly recommend you sleep on it before you get a face tat.