The “Rules” of Rural Manitoba

Recently, I came across a terrific post by a Dauphin resident Tash Ryz. She was responding to an email she had received which provided information about a different set of “Rules” of rural Manitoba. I am not sure which version she received, but I did Google up Rules of Rural Manitoba, and found one edition. I can see why she did not agree, and wrote her own version for Dauphin, Manitoba based on her upbringing and personal experiences. These are so well-written, positive, and embrace the spirit of not only Dauphin, but much of rural Manitoba, that I wanted to re-post them here. This is about how to “experience” Manitoba, here in the Riding Mountains. I’d love to see us develop experiences that live and practice these 12 “rules” for both travellers and local folks alike. Well done Tash!

The “Rules” of Rural Manitoba

May 27, 2012 at 11:35am

I was recently forwarded an email about the “Rules” of Rural Manitoba.  I didn’t agree, so I wrote my own version of how I see Dauphin, Manitoba based on my upbringing and personal experiences.   Please add your own comments and awesomeness!

1. We wear what is most comfortable in the prairies. T-shirts and jeans for work? Absolutely.  Pajamas at the mall? Sure.  Rubberboots at the grocery store?  Why not? From ski-pants to hot pants, we wear what we want, when we want.  We encourage you to do the same!

2. We drive many different vehicles in the prairies. It is perfectly acceptable to drive a car, grain truck, tractor, snowmobile, dirt bike, golf cart or even a riding lawn mower to get around.  If you are walking somewhere, you will be offered a ride. If you are stuck, someone will stop to help you push.

3.  Our license plates say “Friendly Manitoba” for a reason. Expect strangers to wave and say hello, because we live by the slogan “a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met!”

4.  No plans for dinner?  No problem, we always make more food that we need, so please stop by for a visit.  We always have an extra place for a new friend!

5.  We like to eat meat and fish that we have hunted and processed ourselves-without added chemicals or preservatives.  The pickerel is delicate and lovely; the garlic deer sausage is spicy and ridiculously good.

6. Don’t eat meat? No problem.  Our backyard vegetable gardens are massive and the hot summer sun helps us to grow the best tomatoes and strawberries you can imagine! Furthermore, most of us have apples trees, raspberry bushes and other berries growing right in our backyard.  Please help yourself!

7. Expect to be put to work- either helping in the kitchen, shovelling snow, picking stones in the field, helping move a truck or lifting something heavy.  We all take care of each other and try to lessen the load when we can.  As a side effect, your body will feel good, your mind will be clear and the food will taste even better!

8. Please turn off your cell phone. Enjoy the open sky, smell the fresh air, listen to the stillness.  We enjoy face-to-face conversations and like to take things slow.  Please pay attention and listen to the person you are with.

9. You will get dirty- either dirt biking through the mud, running through a field or riding in the back of a pick-up truck.  But you will have so much fun that you won’t even care!

10. Our thunderstorms are fierce and energizing.  Enjoy the show, but watch out if your hair stands on end!

11. Our lakes are abundant and we take full advantage of them-  in the summer we swim, boat and fish.  In the winter, we drive our vehicles right on the ice, set up shack villages and then fish, drink, visit and go sledding with our friends.

12.  We love to laugh, to sing and do silly creative things.  We don’t take ourselves too seriously, so please join in and have some fun!

 traditional Ukrainian braided bread

Welcome message symbol – Ukrainian braided bread

In rural Manitoba, our hearts are a big as our open fields and our minds as expansive as the never-ending sky.  We welcome you to our land!

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The business case for sustainability, an interview with Bob Willard

The Business Case for Sustainability – What’s in it for you?

Bob Willard PresentationI recently attended the Manitoba Conservation Districts Annual Convention in Brandon.  The Conservation Districts are doing some great work on the conservation and sustainability front.    I attended a session on the Business Case for Sustainability and had the opportunity to meet Bob Willard, author of several books including most recently The Sustainability Champions Guidebook (How to Transform Your Company), The Next Sustainability Wave,The Next Sustainability Waveand The Sustainability Advantage.

Bob’s presentation was straight-forward.  If you can get an opportunity to see his presentation, do so.  It is well worth it.  I went twice, to both of his presentations, because the information was so compactly presented and in a way that over 200 farm producers and rural folk were able to understand.  That’s really good, because this is a challenging topic no matter what your profession or experience is.   The ability to connect the dots and clearly communicate about the risks, responsibilities and rewards or benefits of becoming a more sustainable enterprise is something that has been needed for a long time.

I interviewed Bob right after his presentation, because I was inspired by what he provided, and interested in his perspectives about sustainability and tourism.  Grab a coffee, or a juice and put your feet up.  This guy has some really neat ideas.  Check out his website Sustainability Advantage. In particular, see the 90 second video introduction from Bob personally.  Well done!

Interview with Bob:

Bob has helped me to articulate  a framework that helps me to bridge my passion for tourism with the business case for sustainability.  I hope that this interview will help you to shift your business towards sustainability.  The planet needs you to do it.  Climate change needs us to act in more innovative ways.  And, wouldn’t it be great to be able to do it in ways that actually increase your profits.

Sharing

What are some suggestions that you have about improvements in your tourism business that have led you forward on the pathway to sustainability?   I would be really interested in hearing your suggestions or examples, so that we can help our entire tourism industry to begin taking the small steps toward sustainability.

Travel and tourism will be tremendously affected by the outcomes of the Copenhagen Climate negotiations, as well as by forthcoming cap and trade legislation that will be passed both in the US and subsequently in Canada.  Not IF, but WHEN.  I think that it behooves all of us to start building in a smart, small-steps approach to sustainability into our annual business plan for our tourism companies.  What do you think?

Canadian elite athlete sees culture as a key element in “the travel experience”

The person who sat beside me could be called a “celebrity”. After all, she is one of three elite athletes in Canada – a Canadian junior Pentathlon competitor. In 2008, she was the Junior National Champion, Senior Provincial Champion and represented Canada at the Junior Worlds in Cairo. The Modern Pentathlon website provides a more comprehensive insight into this gruelling event – five sports in one day. Competitors earn points for their performances in each of the five disciplines: pistol shooting, epee fencing, swimming, riding (equestrian show jumping) and cross-country running. Rachael is the recipient of the 2007 Stacey Levitt Women and Sport Scholarship.

Rachael Gardner, at once humble and wistful, smart and gracious consented to my request to ask her a number of questions about her global travels, and how those experiences have helped her to travel experiences, as a Canadian. After all, we had seven and a half hours from Montreal to Zurich….we were travelling. She to take part in a fencing competition in Budapest. Me, as a Canadian representative going to Austria to present a workshop about experiential tourism in an OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) tourism seminar in Bregenz, the capital city of the province of Vorarlberg. You can download an excellent paper “The Impact of Culture on Tourism” here.

“Culture is the reason I like to travel.” Well, that opening line was amazing…because I was travelling to an OECD seminar, where I would be contributing to a discussion about the links between culture and tourism. “I like seeing the way people do things.”, she continued. ” I love the way people greet each other…In North America, a handshake. In Switzerland, three kisses, alternating cheeks. The French, two kisses, and in Mexico, one kiss.” Taxi drivers are amazing. They have stories to tell.” Listening to Rachael was both an exercise in being pragmatic and hopeful.

She loves travel, and understands and is concerned about the planetary impacts of travel. She shared some of her observations about sustainable practices in different countries, from low flush toilets to eating locally. “We are going to have to find a new source of energy for travel. I can’t see people stopping travel. There is no turning back. We will either disintegrate or make it (travel) sustainable.” That statement stopped me coldly. Pretty much it!

What are three things we can do immediately to travel in ways that emit less carbon, I wondered aloud?  Rachael suggested the following:

  1. When travelling locally in a foreign country, take public transit. Don’t rent a car. 
  2. Carry a water bottle (stainless steel) rather than buying plastic bottled water (where it is possible), a bowl, and spoon to eat locally. Go to the market and find local foods. Don’t buy packaged goods. 
  3. Take every means to go self-propelled. Go for a walk in the market. Seek out self-propelled experiences. Rent a bike. Walk, hike, canoe, take a gondola. . 

As she looks back at her country, through her eyes as a modern Pentathlon athlete and Canadian resident, she looks forward, with finger on her chin, and muses……”Travel makes me feel I know my own country better. We are polite. We are tolerant. We have pride in our toughness to our cold weather. We are hospitable to others. I have a disillusionment with conventional tourism. What I remember are marketplaces, not resorts. I love the taxi rides. I’t s not about the pyramids; it’s the Cairo feeling. I admire Europeans for their capacity to learn and be fluent in so many languages……South Americans are very friendly. Always, in travel, it’s the small things that I remember.”

As tourism leaders in Canada, let’s keep practising what Rachael suggests above. It’s who we are. It makes us authentic in the eyes of travellers. Let’s not get caught up in “selling stuff”, “selling hotel rooms”, or listing things on websites. As tourism business leaders, can we ask ourselves …”What’s the Toronto feeling? What’s the Riding Mountain feeling? What’s the Canadian folk music feeling? What’s a walk in a Canadian forest feel like? How does it feel to walk on water (snowshoe) or put one foot after the other on a beach at night on the north shore of Prince Edward Island?”

The Canadian experience is about feeling Canada, not selling stuff. The quicker we realize this, the quicker we will find guests travelling to Canada for the right reasons, to the right places in Canada, and for the right reasons. By integrating responsible tourism practices into every aspect of our business, we will be a world leader in sustainable tourism – that’s good competitive positioning as well! Download the Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s (TIAC) Green Business toolkit now to find out easy steps to take to make your tourism business a green business leader.

Thank you Rachael, for your company on the plane flight. Thank you, also, for helping me to focus on making sure that I keep finding ways to keep “the Canadian experience” alive in every aspect of my tourism operation. I feel that we have a great representative for Canada, for the voice of youth, consciously making choices that opt for sustainable travel.

Earth Rhythms offers customized travel experiences in all seasons for travellers into Riding Mountain National Park.  We find ways for our guests to enjoy the Canadian experience in Manitoba.  Sustainable golfing, behind-the-scenes learning to make cane furniture, making Easter Breads with the Babas in Dauphin, or snow-shoeing off trail to track elk, moose, wolves, coyotes, and sometimes the ghostly traces of wings from owls or ravens.