Ecotourism Research in Flores, Peten, Guatemala

This May I worked on a team of four undergraduate assistants and collected over 1,000 surveys of tourists in the Peten region of Guatemala, where the Maya Biosphere Reserve is located. Our places of collection were the Island of Flores, Mundo Maya airport, Tikal National Park, and the Peten bus stop. This is a development economics project related to willingness to pay for certain touristic amenities; and we will also be collecting demographic and preference data as well.

This project has made me much more assertive when dealing with conflict and rejection, and much more comfortable talking to random people. In addition, I have gotten and will continue to get lots of experience working on a team for the first time in a non-classroom academic setting. After being in a remote region of Guatemala for a month with barely any Americans, I realized that the US may seem like the entire world nowadays, whereas the reality is that the US constitutes only a small percentage of the world’s population, and our country as a whole is egotistical and selfish. This may seem like a dark realization, but it only gives me an increased drive to make our country a better global citizen and steward of the environment.

I realized these things through my interactions with Guatemalan, Spanish, Canadian, German, Irish, and Honduran people. For example, a Honduran couple I met was trying to scrape together enough money to get to the American border during the family separation crisis. Meanwhile, the Irish guys I met were astounded that one doesn’t pay for plastic bags in the United States. I always used my reusable bags before this anyway, however I am now a strong advocate for steep prices for plastic bags. Dead whales washing up on shore have hundreds of pounds of plastic in their stomachs. I got so exhausted over simply agreeing with the Canadians, Germans, Spanish, and Guatemalans, about the harm our current president is causing to our shared planet.

This change is significant to my life because I have a much more cultured perspective on America’s role in the global community. I will be graduating right as Trump (hopefully) leaves the Oval Office, which I hope will mean that there are much more jobs for environmental economics majors to undo the harm that he has inflicted. I continue to encourage others’ day-to-day actions to be more consistent with their thoughts and feelings about our world.