What makes Lebawit Lily Girma a Global Shaker?
Lebawit Lily Girma is a travel journalist and founder of See The Carribean, which aims to showcase an “authentic, green Caribbean” and encourage “future sustainable ways to explore through nature, heritage and community.”
Well-known by her Twitter and Instagram handles @SunandStilettos, Girma was recently featured alongside colleagues in a Forbes list entitled ‘15 Black Travel Writers To Read Now’.
One blog sets out her understanding of sustainable tourism, and principles to apply to travels — centred on the Jamiacan greeting, ‘Respect!’
“It’s a simple, yet powerful utterance. Respect for the person you’ve just met. Respect for the work a person does, or what he/she stands for. Respect when you’re being welcomed into a community, a country.”
For World Tourism Day 2020, Girma produced 10 Carribean Sustainable Travel Principles, a document to apply such principles to exploring the Caribbean with a “positive impact through nature, heritage and community, while reducing your footprint.”
This includes respecting knowledge, by learning about a destination’s history, geography and culture. Respecting the environment, by reducing carbon footprint, disposing of waste responsibly, and engaging with the outdoors during the stay. Similarly, there’s a recommendation to avoid man made wildlife attractions; choose tours offers by local guides and community groups (community-based tours); and choose tour providers that collaborate with locals and pay them a fair wage.
There are also tips for respecting history, respecting women and women-run projects; using energy respectfully to conserve water; and respecting local food — which includes a responsibility to shop for locally-sourced food, visiting produce and fish markets.
In an article for The Marriott Traveler, Girma explains that her journey with sustainable tourism began 12 years ago when she spent six weeks on holiday in Jamaica. “I was a burnt-our corporate attorney in need of rest, a change of scenery and a prolonged escape from the rat race.”
Her depiction of her time there is picturesque. “I spent days journaling by the Caribbean Sea, shopping at the bustling market in nearby Savanna-la-Mar, catching sunsets and contemplating the starry skies while the local peanut vendor’s cart whistled down the neighborhood streets.
“I didn’t realize it then, but that experience shaped the way I planned subsequent trips.”
She says this hankering for ‘slow travel’ is more relevant than ever. 2020’s lockdown has meant spending more time with families and going on long walks in nature. As we dream of travel, “we want to hold on to that renewed consciousness and apply the lesson we’ve grasped during this time — that wherever we go, the magic of life lies in mindfulness of our day-to-day experiences.” In short, we dream of slowing down, and diving into new and meaningful people-to-people encounters.
Girma holds a degree in French & Spanish from the University of Maryland, and a Doctor of Law from University of Virginia School of Law.
Before dedicating to sustainable tourism, she was a Language Staff Assistant at The World Bank, and an Associate Attorney in the Energy Regulatory Group at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom.Tags: Caribbean Islands, Ethiopia, publishing, Responsible Travel, Sustainable Tourism, USA
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