David Wick's advice on international travel
Center for Sustainability
A vegetarian for nearly 35 years, a bird watcher, an avid hiker and camper, Dr. David Wick constantly engages with nature. His lifestyle inherently revolves around being sustainable, but his journey to support a more just future extends beyond his personal life and into his work as SCU’s Director of Study Abroad.
Dr. Wick knew he wanted to engage in higher education since a young age. Both of his parents are teachers, so working in the educational field seemed only natural. After earning undergraduate degrees in French, German and dance, he went on to pursue a graduate degree in teaching and a doctorate in educational leadership for equity and social justice. Dr. Wick felt working with study abroad programs rather than in the classroom allowed him to not only teach, but advise and mentor students, encouraging them to pursue social justice and equity in a more worldly setting.
Dr. Wick recognizes that travel is inherently unsustainable, yet emphasizes that the value of leaving one’s community to observe and explore other communities can make the not-so-environmentally friendly journey worth it. Approaching travel in a humble way marks the first step into ensuring a sustainable trip. Many times, we are the 500-pound gorilla in the room. Stepping off a plane into a new environment and making our way to the familiar fast food restaurants to rest our feet in perfectly maintained, globally branded hotel rooms does not define a fortunate traveler, but rather an unsustainable one. Instead, Dr. Wick recommends travelling with the host community in mind. They are not there for your entertainment; rather, they are a community we must engage with conscientiously for mutual benefit. This approach may lead to enlightenment, personal education and community empowerment. Engaging with local communities when we travel begins with supporting local shops, restaurants, artists, natural areas, and hotels. Instead of flocking towards familiar signs, be brave and ask locals where to find the best eats or where the nearby hostel may be.
Study abroad is often seen primarily as a travel experience which, while not the worst concept, fails to positively impact either community. Dr. Wick, instead, views study abroad as a high-impact educational opportunity for students to “open up [their] capacity to see different ways of solving problems.” Studying abroad can have enormous social, economic, and environmental costs, but they can also bring about even larger academic, personal and professional benefits. Engaging in a study abroad opportunity as if it were a relationship rather than a personal gain can help students reveal the many layers of value that must be brought forth in order for travel to become a sustainable activity. Exploring cultures outside of America help students blossom; many return feeling more creative, adaptable, and confident. One of the most gratifying changes Dr. Wick sees in those who study abroad is an increased level of pride in personal identities and a commitment to working toward social justice. Learning to navigate a new culture independently fosters growth as a more flexible student, with an increased global network and sense of self-worth. Wick sculpts SCU’s study abroad program into one that skims over the consumeristic drive of travel and jumps into the realities of global connections.
Dr. Wick highlights that as students in a different country, their mindsets must shift away from the American way. While not necessarily bad, our familiar practices may not be the most effective outside of our country. An approach that uses local resources--from professors to classrooms--will provide the most beneficial experience, for both the host country and the visiting students. Traveling is not about the place in which you land, but the people with whom you engage and how you engage with them. Wick finds that this encapsulates the attitude that must be present when abroad. Keep it not in the back of your mind, but at the forefront of your actions.
David’s Tips for sustainable travel:
- Eat, shop, and stay locally & responsibly
- Bring your reusables: shopping bags, water bottles, Tupperware, etc.
- Use local transit: it may be foot, bus, train or bike. Whatever you may see, it may be!
- Bring purifying tablets and filters to avoid drinking bottled water when possible.
- Learn basic language to politely communicate with locals.
- Explore & support the culturally relevant sites such as museums, natural parks, etc.
- Dress appropriately. Remember: what is culturally appropriate in America may not be elsewhere.
- Be ethical and conscientious about photography.
- Consider your impact, be it social, environmental or economical.
Contributed by Allison Carmody ‘17, Sustainability Intern for Food & Dining