Connecting the World
In a world in which air-travel has become increasingly associated with the detrimental effects of climate change, the positive aspects that travel can have on the socio-economic fabric of the world risk becoming disregarded. In an interview with i-genius, Stephen Chapman addresses this dilemma, talks about the positive impact of responsible travel, and shares his hopes for his company Make Travel Fair.
Editor: What has inspired you in your career so far, and what drives you now?
Stephen: When I hear of people, or meet people who have realized a dream through perseverance and self-belief I feel inspired; the commitment and sense of purpose required to do that is something I think we all feel energized by. The world of entrepreneurship is full of these people.
We need to embrace the opportunities that come our way and do the best we can with them. I am driven by a strong desire to realize my potential, to appreciate all that I have access to and perhaps most of all, to do something that makes a difference to the world we're in.
I've yet to find a working arrangement that I enjoy or a job that I am passionate about so the best option is to create my own situation, on my own terms, around that which concerns me most. I have a strong desire to create a pure, organically grown business that I believe in whole-heartedly.
Editor: Why are you passionate about responsible travel? Have you always felt concerned about the detrimental effects that travel has on the environment?
Stephen: Responsible travel is about values that just make sense, it's about caring for the world, acknowledging our effects on it and showing concern for each other. It's about being humble, taking a back seat when we enter a new cultural environment, observing, interacting and not being judgemental. The revenue generated by the travel industry can support entire national economies sometimes, it is so important that we are all aware of the positive and negative effects our travel choices can have. I traveled for two years before attending university to gain a BSc Hons Geology and saw first hand how beneficial travel can be when done with the right concerns in mind.
It's only relatively recently that the environmental effects of travel have been formally acknowledged by the media and the government, and as a result only recently that they have become a mainstream concern. Most of us are at the mercy of the information we are fed by these two bodies, and consequently have to make our decisions based on that. The science behind environmental systems is complex and many of us do not understand the feedback loops and processes that exist, making it difficult to criticize seemingly obvious scientific proof. However, the evidence for human induced global warming is by no means as clear cut as we are told, and whether or not global warming is indeed due to anthropogenic effects seems to be a bone of contention amongst scientists. This isn't to say that we should not work towards reducing our carbon emissions, but we should think long and hard about the damage restricting our travel could do to other nations, socially and economically.
Editor: What initially prompted you to set up Make Travel Fair?
Stephen: The freedom that I experienced during my gap years spent traveling abroad, and the education that I gained from the adventures and cultural exchanges is what ignited my passion for travel. I setup Make Travel Fair to channel this passion into an ethical business that encourages the diffusion of knowledge on responsible travel practices, and works towards improving the independent travel experience.
Make Travel Fair is not about holidays to sunny resort beaches, shopping trips or group tours sold through travel agents but individual, educational journeys and the positive ways in which we can interact with the world. There is a distinct lack of responsible travel resources available at the moment so hopefully Make Travel Fair will fill this void and grow it's presence.
Editor: Can you explain a bit more about the work of Make Travel Fair?
Stephen: Make Travel Fair is about education, about connecting the world through responsible travel, encouraging a personal awareness of the impact we have on people and places when we travel. We consult with anyone keen to learn more about responsible travel and how they can improve their practices. Developing our understanding of the economies, cultures, and environments that we seek to experience when we travel is crucial if we are to begin to identify how our actions might impinge on the Social, Environmental and Economical aspects of our destination. Once we acquire an understanding in these areas we can begin to implement measures to harmonise our relationship with them.
In a nutshell Make Travel Fair aims to guide us in responsible travel, inspire, engage and educate on the potential it has to improve the world whilst enhancing the independent travel experience through services and products.
We have some very exciting ideas in the pipeline which have huge potential to improve the independent travel experience.
Editor: What does the term 'social entrepreneur' mean to you?
Stephen: Anyone developing ideas that rely on people and that enhance our relationships with one another is a social entrepreneur. The focus of their work is on creating businesses around our social interactions, through networking and connecting people with similar aims, or completely different aims but bringing them together with a common goal. They are a powerful force in helping shape a more socially responsible world.
Editor: What are your hopes for the future, both for yourself and your company, and for the environment and world of travel?
Stephen: I hope to grow Make Travel Fair into an ethical business that raises the profile of responsible travel, making it a common concern amongst travelers and the industry. I am currently working on plans to develop a unique service for the independent traveler and have good relationships with some other very exciting ventures such as Your Safe Planet, who are also pioneering new offerings in this sector. I hope that together we can inject some new life, excitement and accessibility into independent travel.
I hope that environmental issues remain prominent on the political agenda, but also hope that our concerns do not distract from the importance of travel.
I hope that the small but powerfully passionate group of people working on responsible travel initiatives will succeed in bringing it to the forefront of the travel industry. The world will be a much better place.
I hope that I have success with the work I am so passionate about pursuing.