My first visit to the archaeological site of Ek Balam was as a tourist in 1999. I was met by a rather self-possessed local boy who had decided to show me around. Excavations, he said, had begun relatively recently and archaeologists were thrilled about what they were finding. It was becoming clear that the ancient city had been an important governing centre, older and more powerful even than Chichen Itza.
I could not have imagined that in 3 years I would be living in the shadow of this incredible site, building a small eco lodge in the boy’s village of 400. How one day can change the trajectory of a life!
In 2002 “Eco” was not yet a tired marketing buzz word and my vision for Genesis Eco-Oasis was as an alternative for visitors who eschewed the contrived consumption-based experience provided by Cancun and Riviera Maya. Small “t” tourism was no match for Caribbean beaches but I was convinced there were enough people like me seeking meaningful connection with this remarkable land and its people. I hoped to act as bridge between visitors and locals through respectful, mutually beneficial interactions. Integration with the community would occur naturally on an equal footing through interactive tours and intercultural exchanges that promoted local skills and the gift of friendship and partnership.
Ultimately, I believed that local “Eco-cultural tourism” would attract people interested in other cultures, people generally caring, respectful, curious, aware and humanitarian. I am still convinced that this kind of tourism helps us all live our best lives.