The RISE Traveler: Unpacking Conversations of Sustainable Travel

Writing the World: Lily Ann's Journey as an Author and Traveler

December 04, 2023 The RISE Travel Institute Season 3 Episode 8
Writing the World: Lily Ann's Journey as an Author and Traveler
The RISE Traveler: Unpacking Conversations of Sustainable Travel
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The RISE Traveler: Unpacking Conversations of Sustainable Travel
Writing the World: Lily Ann's Journey as an Author and Traveler
Dec 04, 2023 Season 3 Episode 8
The RISE Travel Institute

Author and travel expert Lily Ann Fouts is dedicated to advocating for sustainable and culturally sensitive travel experiences that benefit both travelers and local communities. She was a participant in RISE's Flagship Program, where she earned her certificate in Sustainability and Anti-Oppression in Travel. Additionally, Lily Ann joined RISE's Experiential Journey to Guatemala in 2022.

During her conversation with host Amy Hager, Lily Ann reflects on the invaluable lessons gleaned from the Flagship Program. She highlights the program's comprehensive approach, and discusses how various facets of travel intertwine in complex ways. For instance, she elaborates on the complex balancing act involved in making travel decisions, citing certain examples of activities that harm the environment (eg. airline travel), also benefits the local economy.

Lily Ann also shares how she has reframed the way she thinks about being budget conscious when she travels. She now understands the value in compensating vendors fairly for the product they are producing or selling, and not trying to haggle down to the absolute minimum.

According to Lily, the Experiential Journey was an impactful experience, allowing her to immediately apply the course teachings to real-life situations. Her journey to Guatemala with the RISE Travel Institute provided a singular opportunity to engage with fellow students and foster meaningful discussions, and ultimately led to  practical applications of course concepts.

In addition, Lily Ann also delves into her current project, a guidebook centered on responsible travel in Latin America for travelers who seek longer-term Latin American stays  in order to nurture strong, long-term connections with locals. She provides suggestions on how to foster these connections in ways that make travelers feel welcome without inadvertently causing resentment or discomfiture within local communities.

Host: Amy Hager - Social Media Manager at The RISE Travel Institute
Video and Audio Editing: Kate Mulvihill - Video and Podcast Producer at The RISE Travel Institute
Graphic Design: Shirley Wong - Freelance Art Director
Music: "On My Way" Kevin MacLeod (License

Show Notes Transcript

Author and travel expert Lily Ann Fouts is dedicated to advocating for sustainable and culturally sensitive travel experiences that benefit both travelers and local communities. She was a participant in RISE's Flagship Program, where she earned her certificate in Sustainability and Anti-Oppression in Travel. Additionally, Lily Ann joined RISE's Experiential Journey to Guatemala in 2022.

During her conversation with host Amy Hager, Lily Ann reflects on the invaluable lessons gleaned from the Flagship Program. She highlights the program's comprehensive approach, and discusses how various facets of travel intertwine in complex ways. For instance, she elaborates on the complex balancing act involved in making travel decisions, citing certain examples of activities that harm the environment (eg. airline travel), also benefits the local economy.

Lily Ann also shares how she has reframed the way she thinks about being budget conscious when she travels. She now understands the value in compensating vendors fairly for the product they are producing or selling, and not trying to haggle down to the absolute minimum.

According to Lily, the Experiential Journey was an impactful experience, allowing her to immediately apply the course teachings to real-life situations. Her journey to Guatemala with the RISE Travel Institute provided a singular opportunity to engage with fellow students and foster meaningful discussions, and ultimately led to  practical applications of course concepts.

In addition, Lily Ann also delves into her current project, a guidebook centered on responsible travel in Latin America for travelers who seek longer-term Latin American stays  in order to nurture strong, long-term connections with locals. She provides suggestions on how to foster these connections in ways that make travelers feel welcome without inadvertently causing resentment or discomfiture within local communities.

Host: Amy Hager - Social Media Manager at The RISE Travel Institute
Video and Audio Editing: Kate Mulvihill - Video and Podcast Producer at The RISE Travel Institute
Graphic Design: Shirley Wong - Freelance Art Director
Music: "On My Way" Kevin MacLeod (License

Intro   
Hello and welcome. Wherever you are in the world today, thank you for joining us for The RISE Traveler, unpacking conversations of sustainable travel. We are here to talk to eco minded and socially conscious travelers, diversity and inclusion specialists, wildlife conservationists, environmental activists, and anyone using travel as a way to uplift and inspire. Together, we will go a step beyond the Instagram-ready world of travel, and take a look at how travel can be a source of growth and development for all people in all communities.
This podcast is an extension of the RISE Travel Institute, a 501c3 nonprofit committed to empowering young travelers through educational programs, research, study tours and scholarships. Visit risetravelinstitute.org to learn more. And now, here's your host, Amy Hager.

Amy Hager    
Today joining me I'm really excited to have Lily Ann Fouts, who is in her RV in Wisconsin. So thank you for joining me today, Lily.

Lily Ann Fouts   
Thank you for having me. This is exciting.

Amy Hager   
Lily, you took our Flagship Program. So that's where I kind of want to start our conversation today. But before we really dive into that, do, you just want to give a brief introduction of who you are and what you're up to in this world.

Lily Ann Fouts   
Oh, my goodness, who I am and what I'm up to.

Amy Hager   
It's sometimes a big question.

Lily Ann Fouts   
My name is Lily Ann Fouts, and I am up to all kinds of things. But right now I'm writing a book about responsible travel. And I kind of took a little bit of a break. So I've been writing this book for a little while now, I took a little bit of a break to kind of define my, my ideal reader. And I think I figured that out. So I Yeah, it's going to be a book focused on longer term travelers to Latin America, that's gonna be my greater focus, and all about how to connect with locals while doing that. That's kind of what I'm working on right now, in addition to about 1000 other projects, which we can get into if you want to, but that's probably the most relevant to today's talk.

Amy Hager   
I love it. I love it, that you're keeping busy and that you're really diving in. And we'll get a little bit into the book a little later in our conversation. But I think to kind of kick us off. Now that you graduated from the flagship program, you've done the Experiential Journey as well. What did you think about the flagship and going in taking a journey afterwards? Like, what did you gain? I think most from having the benefit of doing them back to back.

Lily Ann Fouts    
I thought it was hugely beneficial. First of all, I loved the course, I thought it was super comprehensive. It touched not only on environmental issues, which is often the first thing that comes to people's minds, when you talk about sustainability, they obviously think about environment, which is very important. But it also talks about all of these other domains out there. Aside from that, like the economic impact of travel, the social impact, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, humane treatment of animals, and so much more. It was very comprehensive. So there were a lot of things that I had thought about. But then there were things that came up that I hadn't thought about before. So it really opened up my mind to the whole aspect of travel. I liked that it was systems based as well. It showed how all of these different aspects of travel can influence each other sometimes in negative or positive ways. But something that might maybe be harmful for the environment, such as flying will get you to a place where you can maybe then support the local economy. So there's all of these factors that that are complex, and that you have to kind of evaluate when you're looking at travel. And then the fact that we took this Experiential Journey right afterwards was super powerful, because it let me immediately put into practice and see these things in real life that we had been learning in the course and talk about it with fellow students. It was it was really cool to see how you know, we talked a lot in the course about like indigenous cultures and how we can support the locals with the travel and not just the big corporations. And we did that with the EJ we were, we were in a place where we were very directly supporting local people through homestays, and through their traditional arts and, and textiles and those kinds of things. So it was it was super applicable. Loved it. Had a great time. I learned a lot.

Amy Hager    
Nice. And so then you talked about all of the things that you've learned. I'm curious, are there any practices or even habits that maybe you unlearned during this process?

Lily Ann Fouts   
Yeah, good question. Um, I think one of the things that hit home the most for me, and kind of was like a little jab at me was I, I've always been very budget conscious. And you know, there's nothing wrong with being budget conscious. But, you know, having grown up in much of my life with very little money, I was always thinking like, How can I stretch my dollar the absolute farthest and spend the absolute least amount of money possible while traveling and you know, the whole budget, backpacker mindset was very much the way I thought for for a long time. And this trip really brought home that, okay, it's good idea to not get ripped off, obviously, and for people to charge you fair prices, but at the same time, you shouldn't be trying to, like haggle down to the absolute minimum, when people are supporting their families and working and putting in hard, long hours for what they're producing. They need to be fairly compensated for their work. That really came to me for example, we visited a coffee plantation in Guatemala and talking about how, you know, the fair, the fairtrade coffee, you know, think paying the farmers properly for their for their work. And while that might cost us more as a consumer, it's the right thing to do, because people are being paid a living wage that they can support their family. So, you know, just all kinds of little things like that. came to mind as I was traveling, and thinking back to my younger days of just trying to get the most I could, for the least amount of money.

Amy Hager   
Yeah, I love that. I love that shift. In you, in your capstone about the authentic connection. Um, you know, and I think you talked through a lot about supporting the locals and being more part of the local place of where you're visiting. Why does that why is that really important to you? Like, what does it mean to you to authentically connect with your own travel?

Lily Ann Fouts   
Well, I feel and I believe researchers is that when travel, like just having contact with another culture isn't really going to teach you much, it might teach you some. But if you have these preconceived ideas, and notions and and prejudices, merely traveling to another place, if you're staying in a resort or something like that, that's not going to change anything for you. Whereas, if you connect with locals, when you travel, it, it exposes you to maybe things that you would find surprising, or that you hadn't thought about before. And we you know, we might have these ideas about a specific place, that could be a little off the mark when you get there and actually start to talk to the people and, and connect. So I feel like if we really want to make travel, something that creates positive impact in the world, we really need to focus on how do we connect, because that not only does that give us a different perspective, it also it like, like we said, with the systems. Like it all connects, we're going to be more concerned about that person's economy, that person's environment, and so forth. If we know them as a person, if we've connected with them as a friend, then all of that that all of those domains are connected to that. So and I feel like we can, it needs to be equal, because a lot of times we go to a place and it's like, we're being served, where the tourist, they're the they're the employee and they're serving us. And whereas with a friendship, it's we're on equal footing, we're doing things together, we're playing sports together, we're playing games together, we're learning together. I'm not just learning about their culture, I'm sharing my culture too. And we're learning from each other. Like it's all equal. And I think that equal status contact is so important for authentic connection.

Amy Hager   
When that was the one section your whole capstone was amazing. That was the one section that I think jumped out to me as the most of wow, like alright, when I am traveling or when we are going to places how do we no longer be in that position of I think you said symbolic Oh man, I can't think of the term that you use, but it was so good. And making sure that you are on the same level instead of you being a status level or higher, because I'm the traveler, I am the tourists I'm waiting, people are waiting on me at restaurants, people are cleaning, or performing for me, people are selling to me. And, you know, I think the question that you proposed, and I know, again, this is gonna tie back to what we're going to talk about in your book. But imagine if you're moving into a new community, in your new home country, how would you get to know the people in your new neighborhood and really apply some of those same principles, and some of the ideas that you had was like, you know, maybe go work out the local gym, or go to restaurants that are more frequent by locals will, you're gonna see some of the same people that you that may be, quote, unquote, serving you. And I really, really loved that idea. It's like, you know, as simple as just getting a day pass at the gym and just interacting. It's such a, it's something that just didn't come easily or something that I was like, Oh, should I should be planning that in my trip? That's a really great idea Lily. So I really loved how you broke that down in your capstone. And I'm a little bit curious about sharing some of your backstory and your childhood because I think you have this, your worldview and your connections to Mexico as an American that happened, you know, younger in your childhood. So your relationship with Mexico now, you know, what, what is that? What was it like as a child? Versus is it like now that you're an adult and I know you own property, and home is Mexico when you're not being a digital nomad. So walk me through kind of that comparison of childhood now. And, and really what your relationship is with Mexico as an American.

Lily Ann Fouts   
Okay, I have a fairly complex relationship with Mexico. If you're old enough to remember when they put pictures of missing kids on the milk cartons, you might have actually seen my face or and or my sister's face. We were the victims of parental kidnapping. And we actually were in hiding in Mexico when I was a child. So that is why we were in Mexico. And because we were in hiding, we interacted very little with other Americans, because we didn't want anybody to recognize us, and so forth. So we lived very much like locals among the local people of Mexico. And we were in regular neighborhoods, and all of our friends were locals, we did not have any American friends down there. So I had a very Mexican childhood, I felt very Mexican inside, after several years of living in Mexico, I, I had this interesting perspective, when I did come across Americans, when I did observe Americans coming down traveling, being tourists or whatever, I kind of saw them from the point of view of Mexicans. And it, it gave me this sensitivity to how we are perceived as Americans traveling in other countries, living as a child talking to my Mexican friends about other Americans. And I have to say, I mean, there were so many times where I was disappointed that my light skinned complexion because I've physically and I look very, like the stereotypical American. And a lot of times I was embarrassed by their behavior, what it came across as superior. And it's, you know, entitled, and very, very much. Like they thought that other people should serve them. It's kind of how we perceived that in many cases. So it was, it's very interesting, because ever since then, I have had this sort of extra sensitivity to how foreigners are perceived in other lands, and especially in Latin America, because that's what I'm familiar with, especially in Mexico. So these days, as I'm down there, I very much try to live like a local. Yeah, I shop where they shop, I eat where they eat, and I don't expect them to make special accommodations for me. And, and so I very much try to just be as soft of a person and as productive as a citizen as I can and not not come across as somebody who expects them to or do more for me maybe because I maybe have more money or anything like that.

Amy Hager   
Knowing that you spent a majority of your childhood there. And even though you're American, do you consider yourself more of a local, because of the amount of time that you spent

Lily Ann Fouts   
in Mexico. In some ways, that's, that's funny because I'm, I don't feel like I'm American, I don't feel exactly at home in the United States entirely. And I would say that I feel more at home in other countries, including non Latin American countries, in many cases than I do in my own country. I just feel like, I'm used to being a foreigner, so to speak. And so that is comfortable to me. So but I do feel like, and I've had a lot of conversations with my friends. And in fact, it was just a couple of months ago, one of my friends in Mexico said, I don't see you, as a foreigner, I see you, as one of us, I see you as a local. And I, one of the things I struggled with, because we recently did buy a house down there. And I, of course, I'm very conscious of the privilege I have of maybe more access to money than the average, Mexican, and the fact that my fellow Americans are buying houses down there and driving up the prices for everybody else, like I'm very conscious of that, and I don't want to contribute to the problem. So I had a lot of conversations with my local friends about, you know, is this a good idea? Like, should I be doing this? And, and literally, they were saying, Lily, you're one of us, you know, you respect us, you speak our language. You don't, you're not disrespectful, you know, you belong here, you're one of us. And so I feel like, if you can, as much as possible fit in, you will be accepted, as with open arms. And I've seen that of other people who are they might not be as fluent as I am in Spanish, but they still make an effort to be respect, respectful, fit in learn the language, and they are welcomed with open arms, it's the ones that come in with this attitude that are resented.

Amy Hager    
I know, I think that you had mentioned in your capstone that I am kind of curious as learning how to sit with the discomfort. And yeah, you just kind of explained a little bit of a situation for it. But I'm curious if there's anything else that you can expand on a little further, like there was a little discomfort in this decision of Do you buy knowing that it could contribute to the raising prices and locals being not able to afford homes. And you know, the typical American coming in and raising the price, it seemed like you you kind of sat in discomfort, but you got curious and asked questions. Really, really beautiful step to it. But curious if there's any, any other ways or any other examples, you can expand on a little bit more about sitting in that discomfort?

Lily Ann Fouts   
Oh, I mean, I think it's something that we have to learn to do on a daily basis when we travel, if we are interacting with locals, I think this is one of the reasons that so many people avoid interaction is because it is uncomfortable there is this, this perceived chasm between our cultures, we've kind of feel guilty that we have all the all of the resources that maybe they don't have access to, in terms of our ability to travel around our ability to, you know, buy more things, whatever it might be. And I think we have to consciously set that, you know, just live with that discomfort. And reach out anyway and make friends anyway, despite the fact that maybe we're not on the same socio socio economic level, maybe our languages aren't exactly the same, you know, like we have trouble communicating, but learning to just sit with that, and find ways to reach out and have a friendly exchange of friendly. You know, have a meal together, play games together, do things together. And become friends despite those differences. It is uncomfortable, but it's so important. Yeah.

Amy Hager   
Well, and I know we've I've referred quite a few times to your capstone in you have a website that people can dive in and get more or get the actual video of your capstone presentation. What is the land use for that?

Lily Ann Fouts    
Yes, my website lilyannfouts.com/rise is where people can go. You have to get the replay. It's the whole rise conference, I think is on the video. But the replay starts that the link that I put in that on that page starts right at my presentation. And the slides are also available. And as well as another presentation that I did about Guatemala, which is where I traveled with the RISE Travel Institute.

Amy Hager   
in for our listeners who may not be in front of the computer, or maybe not not able to Google you really quick. How do you spell Lily Ann Fouts?

Lily Ann Fouts   
It’s L-I-L-Y-A-N-N-F-O-U-T-S.COM

Amy Hager    
Awesome. Well, um, you also have mentioned you're, you're writing a book. And it's really focused towards longer term travelers or expats who are living in Latin America. And again, continuing to go with the theme of when you move into a place, you know that people are welcoming you, and they're happy to have you there. Dive in just a little bit more on the book and what you'll be focusing on what you'll be helping people uncover.

Lily Ann Fouts    
Yeah, it took me a while to come around to this because it was initially kind of a responsible travel book, which is very general. And and so it's like, okay, what do I focus on? And yes, people who are considering or currently living in Latin America or wanting to travel there for longer term, I personally am nomadic, I will spend longer periods of time in each place when I do travel. And so this book is really focused on on those people that that have an opportunity more so than the average vacation or to connect with the locals? And how can you do that? So I really wanted to make the focus of this book, how can you move into a place in a way that the locals just want to welcome you with open arms, and they're happy to have you and they're in, they enjoy becoming friends with you, rather than resent your presence, which is, like I said, something I'm really sensitive to having grown up in Mexico is like, when there's resentment, I sense it. And when there's welcoming, like genuine positive vibes, I sense that and so I want to help people get more of those positive vibes and less of the reason

Amy Hager   
I love it. In so then has, are you sharing some of your own personal stories in this book? Because I really think your experiences are vast and amazing to be sharing.

Lily Ann Fouts    
Yes, absolutely. I'll share experiences, obviously, Mexico, which I have a lot of both as a child and as an adult, but also, sometimes several months in Ecuador, and have traveled also throughout several other Latin American countries, as well as other countries of the world. I think this applies to really anywhere in the world, but my focus is going to be Latin America, because that's what I know best.

Amy Hager   
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Well, Lily, this has been a great conversation today. Is there any last remarks that you want to leave for our listeners?

Lily Ann Fouts   
You know, I think the big, big important message that I kind of feel like I've always wanted to leave with people is go make friends with people who are different from yourself. I think whether that's in your own country, you know, finding somebody who may be of a different religion, or a different race, or a different political party or whatever, somebody who's different from yourself, make friends with them, really have conversations with them, have fun with them. And I think that is going to make a huge difference in our world. If more people did that. Just go out. Put your differences aside and sit with that discomfort and make friends. I think that's a really important thing to do. And if anybody wants to read my book, it's not out yet. But if you sign up at lilyannfouts.com/rise, you'll be on my newsletter, you can unsubscribe if you want to. But when that book comes out, I will be letting everybody know.=

Amy Hager    
So we're excited to see it. And thank you for spending time with us and really diving in with your experience with the RISE Travel Institute's Flagship Program and the Experiential Journey and just your life experience. So Lily, it was great to meet you.

Lily Ann Fouts   
Thank you for this opportunity. It's been great. Thank you.

Amy Hager   
And that brings our journey to an end today. So if you've liked what you've heard, and you want to hear more, please subscribe, like or comment. You can follow us at RISE Travel Institute on Facebook, or Instagram, in Facebook or Instagram or on Twitter @bearisetraveler. And just remember here at the RISE Travel Institute, we believe travel is a powerful tool for positive transformative change. And so if you are planning to maybe study abroad as a college student, or thinking about a gap year or really anyone who is looking to travel the world in a more sustainable way, I do encourage you to head over to risetravelinstitute.org For more information on our educational courses, and on the Flagship Program that Lily and I talked about today, so we will be back soon with another episode but until then, keep roaming, keep learning and continue to be a RISE traveler.

Close   
This podcast is an extension of The RISE Travel Institute, a 501c3 nonprofit committed to empowering young travelers through educational programs, research, study tours, and scholarships. Visit risetravelinstitute.org to learn more.