Creating Awesome Nature Experiences

Creating Awesome Nature Experiences

Welcome to Eco Freelance!

 

We help good people create and manage experiences, venues and projects that support wellness, natural health, return to nature, conservation and education.

Retreats, ecotourism, self discovery and nature affinity are what we do, providing wise, contemporary and professional support for such endeavours to thrive.  We are Paul King and Merle Diekmann, welcome to our new website launched April 11th 2017.

These are types of projects we love to get awesome for:

  • Back to nature experiences
  • Ecotourism, sustainable & responsible tourism
  • Nature retreats
  • Outdoor & survival skills training
  • Meditation and yoga retreats & venues
  • Spiritual retreat centres
  • Wilderness adventures
  • Holistic health training venues
  • Wellbeing and wellness retreats
  • Environmental conservation
  • Spas & health resorts
  • Voluntourism & experiential tourism

Alternative ways of living are a massive interest for us, to explore different ways of relating to the world, working, contributing and growing.

 

For us it doesn’t have to be the standard way of doing things, in fact, the more different the better in our book.  To be mobile and adaptable allows us freedom to explore.  We like to ‘put down roots’ for interesting long term projects in beautiful environments too!

Our Mission Statement

The wellbeing of humanity and viability of earth and all its species is dependent on all people re-establishing a healthy relationship with the natural world.  To be eco-tourists and conservationists is not enough, we all must realise our interdependence with nature.

To this end we wish only to support and promote projects, individuals, groups and communities engaged in providing experiences and places to rediscover this affinity.  By contributing the skills, experience and dedication for such ventures to thrive. It is our work, our vocation and life.

Our Journey To Here

We love nature obviously, and exploring this big wide world.  Leaning towards the quiet zen like approach we are our happiest when in nature and being part of experiences that bring others into connection with the world around us and the deeper experience of self

We have travelled different paths encompassing: environmental work, wellness therapies, meditation, retreats, construction, project management, consulting, nature and survival skills, broad travel and cultural exploration, extensive volunteering and an innate connection to nature.

Our respective journeys of experiential research have shown us that we are here to support humanity’s return back to nature and self.

Custom Collaborations

Your project is unusual, it’s niche, extraordinary.  We know that projects, experiences and venues like yours are altruistic in nature and need support of a similar ethos.

Thus we are interested in collaborations combining:

  • hire payment
  • revenue sharing in onsite project collaboration/partnership
  • on project living arrangements
  • on-site project management
  • services and experience exchange and barter
  • community participation
  • project caretaking, short to long term
  • travel adventures

Please enjoy our website, follow the links for an Overview, Services we offer, About Us, Collaborate with Us.

Contact Us today to chat about your needs, your ideas and inspirations.  We look forward to collaborating with like minded folk!

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Practical Guide: What is Ecotourism?

Practical Guide: What is Ecotourism?

Ecotourism: What’s the story?

Ecotourism is a nature based form of speciality travel defined by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) as “responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people.”

In 2002, The International Year of Ecotourism, The Quebec Declaration was established, suggesting five criteria by which to standardize the definition of ecotourism:

  • nature-based product
  • minimal impact management
  • environmental education
  • contribution to conservation
  • contribution to community

The Global Ecotourism Network define ecotourism as:

Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that:

  • conserve the environment,

  • socially and economically sustains the well-being of the local people, and

  • creates knowledge and understanding through interpretation and education of all involved (including staff, travelers, and community residents).

It is also their view that

“The label ecotourism is often applied to tourism activities that fail to meet the definition and the basic principles behind it.”

and that Ecotourism is:

  • non-consumptive/non-extractive

  • creates an ecological conscience

  • hold eco-centric values and ethics in relation to nature

  • good for both visitors and visited

 

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) define sustainable tourism as:

Sustainable tourism takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities. Sustainable tourism should make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity; respect the sociocultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to intercultural understanding and tolerance; ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socioeconomic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.

 

Common Terms Confused with Ecotourism

The International Ecotourism Society furthermore define other terms that ecotourism is not, in the Ecotourism Fact Sheet of 2007:

Adventure tourism:  A form of nature-based tourism that incorporates an element of risk, higher levels of physical exertion, and the need for specialized skill.

Geotourism:  Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place-its environment, heritage, aesthetics, and culture and the well-being of its residents.

Mass tourism:  Large-scale tourism, typically associated with ‘sea, sand, sun’ resorts and characteristics such as transnational ownership, minimal direct economic benefit to destination communities, seasonality and package tours.

Nature-based tourism:  Any form of tourism that relies primarily on the natural environment for its attractions or settings.

Pro-poor tourism: Tourism that results in increased net benefit for the poor people.

Responsible tourism:  Tourism that maximizes the benefits to local communities, minimizes negative social or environmental impacts, and helps local people conserve fragile cultures and habitats or species.

Sustainable tourism:  Tourism that meets the needs of present tourist and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future.

 

There is a whole bunch of other definitions also, three of which below resonate the most with us:

 

Nature-based tourism that involves education and interpretation of the natural

environment and is managed to be ecologically sustainable.

Commonwealth Department of Tourism, 1992.

A sustainable form of natural resource based tourism that focuses primarily on

experiencing and learning about nature, and which is ethically managed to be

low impact, non-consumptive, and locally oriented (control, benefits and scale).

It typically occurs in natural areas, and should contribute to the conservation

and preservation of such areas.

David Fennell, 1999.

Ecotourism can contribute to both conservation and development and involves,

as a minimum, positive synergistic relationships between tourism, biodiversity

and local people, facilitated by appropriate management.

Ross & Wall, 1999.

What do You think?

 

We feel that the GSTC definition is perhaps the most all encompassing definition, while acknowledging that it isn’t a definition for ecotourism as such, and is rather cumbersome.

The Global Ecotourism Network definitions are certainly very workable and to the point, and we quite like Fennell’s definition.

With the plethora of definitions and perspectives certain questions arise:

  • Is ecotourism actually ecologically sustainable?
  • Is ecotourism a conservation oriented movement, a philosophy, or a product with excellent marketing and branding strategies?
  • Is ecologically sustainable tourism realistic or achievable?
  • How can ecologically AND economically sustainable tourism exist or operate where foreign ownership prevails?
  • Who or what is the actual driving force behind ecotourism development and who actually benefits?
  • Can ecotourism be truly ethical?

We feel that ecotourism is possible and that it can be ecologically sustainable yes.  BUT we feel strongly that parts of the ‘industry’ could be seen to be guilty of ‘green washing’ in many respects and that authentic ecotourism, that is, completely ecologically and economically sustainable at the local level, is not the norm.

Do we have all the answers and solutions to the questions raised?  No of course not!

But we do have some suggestions and these will form the basis of an additional post in the not too distant future.

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Amazing Facts About Nature Connection

Amazing Facts About Nature Connection

The Power of Nature

We humans are a part of all the natural life on this planet, we come from nature.

Throughout evolution we have always been in and with nature, in fact we are inseparable from our environment.  No organism can exist without an environment.  We rely on our environment, nature, for food, water, air, shelter and energy.  Without nature, we can not exist.

But the modern lifestye has distracted us from a healthy relationship to the natural world and our consumption habits and addictions are altering and destroying our environment, the nature on which we rely for our existence. Most of us are never without our smartphones or far from an internet connection

We are seemingly more networked and connected with each other than ever before, but are we really?  Instant access to information is prevalent in modern society.  But information is not neccessarily knowledge, or wisdom.

It is clear, and there is plenty of research out there to demonstrate it, that our preoccupation and distraction with information technology and modern consumerism are major factors in our diminishing relationship to the natural world and thus ourselves.

This diminishing affinity with nature has serious effects on our health, wellbeing and happiness.

Nature Deficit Disorders

American author Richard Louv says in his book The Nature Principle, people living in high-tech societies often suffer from what he calls “nature deficit disorder.

As described by Louv, this is not a medical diagnosis, but a description of the human costs of alienation from nature. These costs include: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.

Benefits of Being in Nature

During the last two decades more and more research studies have demonstrated the benefits of reconnecting with nature.

Here are some of them:

  • Walking in nature may reduce the risk of mental illness.

Participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment […] showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment.

Source: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567.abstract

  • Experiencing nature decreases rumination and anxiety and improves cognitive abilities.

Nature experience produced clear benefits for affect (e.g., decrease in anxiety and rumination).

Nature experience produced some benefits for cognition (complex working memory span task).

Source: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169204615000286

  • Certain microbes present in soil may increase serotonin production, making you happier and relaxed.

Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier.

Lack of serotonin has been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar problems. The bacterium appears to be a natural antidepressant in soil and has no adverse health effects.

Sources: “Identification of an Immune-Responsive Mesolimbocortical Serotonergic System: Potential Role in Regulation of Emotional Behavior,” by Christopher Lowry et al., published online on March 28 in Neuroscience.

And: http://discovermagazine.com/2007/jul/raw-data-is-dirt-the-new-prozac

  • Nature contact may enhance the wellbeing of individuals experiencing chronic mental, emotional and physical health difficulties.

Evidence demonstrates that separately, physical activity, social connection, and contact with nature enhance human health and well-being. The case example illustrates how ‘active’, ‘social’ and ‘adventurous’ contact with nature may be combined within a treatment intervention to protect and enhance the health of individuals experiencing chronic mental, emotional and physical health difficulties.

Source: Health and well-being naturally: ‘contact with nature’ in health promotion for targeted individuals, communities and populations. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16916314

  • Spending time outdoors is associated with greater vitality.

Being outdoors was associated with greater vitality, a relation that was mediated by the presence of natural elements.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494409000838

Excerpt from our work with Nature Schooling Ireland:

With the rapid and all encompassing emergence of consumer technology in the last 20 years, many disturbing childhood trends have also appeared: obesity, attention disorders, behavioural problems and depression are rising fast.

Research clearly indicates that Nature Connection is essential for children to develop physical, mental and emotional health.

Howard Gardener, Professor of Education at Harvard University developed the theory of 7 multiple Intelligences in 1983 and recently added the 8th, ‘Naturalist Intelligence‘, which he calls “nature smart”!

Nature School is transformative and transferable as it engages multiple intelligences, and therefore offers each learning type opportunities to grow and shine.

The Author, Mentor and Tracker Jon Young also talks about “nature smart” in a You Tube clip from his own experience over 30 years working with children and youth in the wilderness.

He also points out that Nature Connection is the foundation of a healthy and vibrant Culture as it is really through Nature Connection that we can deeply connect to ourself and then others.

Another good reason why Nature School is so important in our time of uncertainty and climate change is to build resilience and resourcefulness into our children so they can react and adapt appropriately in different circumstances.

And finally Nature Connection develops love and respect for Nature, the realisation of our interconnectedness and our role as humans to take good care of it to secure our future on earth.

Some additional very helpful resource links:

http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/90720.html

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/01/call-to-wild/

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