After a decade of writing on this site, I have finally decided to codify the values that I stand for in all of the work I do. I hope this gives you greater insight into some of the recommendations and information you find here – and to think more about your own values as a traveler and what you can do to improve the world as you travel.
This is Native Land
If you’ve read any article here on Valerie & Valise, you’ve probably seen it: the grey box at the end of every introduction which states the Native groups whose land you’ll be traveling on if you visit the destination that post is about. This is called a Land Acknowledgment, and I write each and every one.
As so much of my site focuses on travel in Alaska, Hawaii, and the American West, every place I write about is a place that was once Native Land, and almost all of that land was forcibly taken from Native groups. When you travel based on my advice, you are on Native Land.
I learned from Indigenous BC that acknowledgment is the first step in righting the wrongs of our predecessors in their actions toward Native groups, and while there certainly are drawbacks to acknowledgments, they are an essential starting point.
My goal through having them on my site is to remind you that the places we travel and love only exist due to the stewardship of Native groups who came before us; we have an obligation to steward the land forward to future generations and to learn about/from Native groups when we visit their lands.
Encourage Equity in Access to Public Lands
I think we can all agree that America’s National Parks are great – I write about them a lot here on Valerie & Valise. Sometimes, I get feedback that by encouraging people to visit, I am “ruining” the place. Frankly, that’s bullshit.
More people don’t ruin a place – poor behavior in that place ruins it. (More on that below.) Discouraging people from visiting doesn’t save a place, it just makes people less likely to support the public initiatives and funding/taxation necessary to preserve that place at all.
Everyone has a right to visit and a responsibility to protect our public lands. This means providing high-quality and accurate travel resources that also encourage responsible and sustainable tourism, which is what I aim to do with all of my articles.
Reduce Your Trace
Speaking of sustainable tourism… If you’re not familiar with the “Leave No Trace” concept, it’s a philosophy and set of behaviors that apply to human impact on the wilderness. The goal is to leave no evidence of having been there; this takes many forms, but here’s a good guide.
I originally wrote “Leave No Trace” as a value, and then decided to change it: it is my goal through Valerie & Valise to encourage you to become more conscious in understanding how you “leave a trace” when you travel.
It’s only through education and behavioral change that we can eventually achieve a “Leave No Trace” standard in nature – so let’s start there, reduce the traces we leave, and get better together.
Protect Our Marine Ecosystems
As you can tell, environmentalism is an important part of my whole philosophy for Valerie & Valise, but I have particularly strong feelings about marine ecosystems – especially as I grew up in Alaska and know how critical this part of our environment is to our own species and how fragile it is too.
Life only exists on this planet because of water, and we (as a species) have an astonishingly cavalier policy about the most precious resource we need to stay alive.
From encouraging smaller-ship cruises (with lower footprints and less marine waste) to donating to marine non-profits through my 1% for Change initiative, I believe protecting marine ecosystems and species and encouraging sustainable freshwater technologies is crucial to having a planet to travel in the future.