21 Jan 2018 10 years since our first experience took off!
On 21st January 2008, ten years to the day, the first ever Ethical Travel Portal experience commenced in the The Gambia. I led seven travellers on a journey that showcased the dream of delivering custom tailored responsible tourism journeys around the world. The first ever journey was to go into the innards of responsible tourism in a country. Was it a Myth or a Reality?
Solveig Sletner and Charlotte Freiberg were students at the time and wanted to learn more and delve deeper into the topic of sustainability. They saw this as an opportunity to experience it first hand. Their memories are still fresh, 10 years on.
"An amazing trip where we got to experience the real Gambia. Everything from nature and “jungle", to eco lodges and adventures along the coast. An experience I often think back on with great memories."
– Charlotte Freiberg, 10 years after
A few months before the trip, I met Vigdis Jordal at a “Women Fair” in Oslo where she had stand with her own Hjertebank. We talked about engagement, philanthropy and I mentioned the trip to her. In a split second she said, “I am in”. Three months later she sat on the flight with the rest of us.
My travel to The Gambia ten years ago today was a «gamechanger» for me. I have passion for adventures and to meet people. With Linda and Ethical Travel Portal, I came closer to local people’s life, struggle, their nature and culture. To stay, eat, buy, laugh, and listen to stories from individuals in different ages, schoolchildren, mothers, farmers, craftsmen, fishermen – I got a deeper and more meaningful experience.
I still can tell details from this responsible visit, the smell of spices and sunlotion, the sound of drums, ocean and shouting, the silence of beautiful smiles, gratitude and nature. My first trip is not my only travel to this country. I got friends for life and I have been back many times”
- Vigdis Jordal, 10 years after. hjertebank.com
Vigdis has has been involved in several projects supporting children and women through the organisation, Heartlift and on her own initiative through Hjertebank. In 2010 she collected money and engaged people in Norway to help Momodou to come to Norway do a life-needed heart surgery.
Christmas 2007 an e-mail landed in my inbox. It was from Rolf Sørby. He had read our small advertisement in Aftenposten and wanted to join our trip to The Gambia. The advertisement was a Christmas present from my parents that year, so we can say ETP got Rolf as present and a supporter of what we do ever since…!
"From being a normal tourist who booked my trips through “ordinary travel agencies” I finally got an opportunity to see and experience the value of responsible tourism. Not only as a traveller, but also how responsible tourism contribute into the local community. The local people met us with big smiles from the very first minute we arrived. All the activities we participated in gave local insight and supported the community."
– Rolf Sørby, 10 years after
Rolf has been back to The Gambia a few times. He played a huge part in supporting and helping Lamin Bojang to complete the Gunjur Village Museum that opened in October 2017.
Stine Borgersen had already been running Akevittruten for a few years and wanted to see her entrepreneur-college set off on her first trip!
"It was exciting to join Linda on the first Ethical Travel Portal experience. I had been working with Linda before, and as co-entrepreneur I also wanted to support her on the kick-off of her journey as an entrepreneur. + I was looking forward to do a travel experience out of t he ordinary, to a country I knew very little about. I had a fantastic journey, learned a lot and it exceeded all my expectations!"
- Stine Borgersen, 10 years after
“I am in” said Fredrik Pettersen. The artist and photographer were ready to embark a new adventure in life and it did not take long to convince him! He enjoyed the experience so much that he signed up for a trip with us to Nepal the year after!
"As time is passing – we forget a lot, and only the true memories will remain. This is one of them. What makes these trips so special and different from the “regular holidays” is the local interaction and knowing that you contribute into the local communities. One of my best memories is the overnight trip to Brefet village where smiling people met us with a hospitality we don’t experience back home. Everyone we met in The Gambia was fantastic and I hope to be back one day! In 2009 I did a second journey with ETP, to Nepal. If you want a special trip that will give you great memories, I recommend ETP!"
– Fredrik Pettersen, 10 years after, fredrikpettersen.com
The last participant on the journey, was my sister Siv. She was curious to figure out what her sister was up to… She is now a board member of The GreenBox, our charity, and is supporting ETP as much it is possible to do!
"Thank you for an experience of a lifetime! I learned a lot and the memories are as fresh as if it was yesterday. One day I will be back!" – Siv Veråsdal, 10 years after
Siv on the beach, captured by Fredrik Pettersen
8 brave people embarked that flight to The Gambia that early morning. In the afternoon we were met by our partner, Daouda Niang – at that time Manager of ASSET – Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism, now Director General at Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute. Daouda and I brainstormed the trip and he organized it on ground, which was also the starting point of many other projects we have done together.
"Spreading the tourism benefits to the local communities in remote areas has always been something myself and Linda believed in, thus our shared interest in Responsible Tourism. I am so proud of the community excursions we started together from Banjul to Brefet as well as the many other livelihood initiatives from Gunjur to Basse such as cotton trail. This has no doubt demonstrated that tourism can be differently and responsibly while impacting positively on the lives of the local people."
- Daouda Niang, 10 years after
The week continued with one experience after the other. Several small-scale projects were visited as the Paper Recycling Skills Project; Gambia is Good farm with focus on connecting small scale farmers with accommodation providers and offering quality products. Sandele Eco Retreat had just opened and we got an insight to this beautiful retreat at the southend of The Gambia. Makasutu Cultural Forest we had a very special our and insight to the history and their efforsts in protecting the nature. ...some of the group also visited a fortune teller and tried the art of climbing the coconut tree. We were lucky to be the first group visiting the newly started Institute of Travel and Tourism of The Gambia and the third graduation ceremony of the University of The Gambia as special guests.
One special visit was to Alagi MBye, a kora musician who has been touring in Scandinavia several times. He has started a music school for children in his neighbourhood to give them an alternative to “do nothing”. The school is in his courtyard and since then he has fostered many good musicians. After our visit, Daouda also introduced him to functions where a great musician as Alagi was needed.
All experiences came with a learning approach on how they operate.
For many in the group, the overnight visit to Berefet Cultural Camp was the highlight of the journey. A community-based camp where experiences are rooted in the local community, their every day life and as a joint effort between the families. We were greeted by the village with music and dancing!
A huge thank you to Charlotte, Fredrik, Rolf, Siv, Solveig, Stine and Vigdis who were brave to embark this journey and everyone in The Gambia who made it happen!
You lay our first milestone – and today we celebrate 10 YEARS of providing tailormade respinsible experiences around the globe!
The Present Day
Today, ETP continues on this journey, offering enlightening and inspiring custom trips in several other countries, each promising to be as memorable as that first ever journey. It’s a proud moment as we cross this threshold of ten years! Do you want to be part of our journey?
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