As our Uber’s tires crashed against each pothole in the road, so did the excitement in my heart. Two friends and I spontaneously decided to set off on a journey to visit the Bobiri Forest and butterfly sanctuary. We already had a delicious lunch and somehow convinced our Uber driver to accompany us on this excursion. Drawing nearer to the location, the setting immediately shifted. What was once fresh produce and smiling faces became a slippery deserted road.
“You guys are really lucky to have me. Could you imagine if you had a taxi drop you off? You all would be stuck in area without any civilians for miles” our Uber driver mumbled as he struggled to keep the car horizontal on the uneven road. We all looked at each other and joked about him playing gospel music because we definitely need prayers to ensure we would arrive in one piece. As we finally reached the destination after about 6 miles of putting the car into many different gears to not get stuck in the blood orange mud, a building with the beautiful landscape and shrubbery appeared. Our phones quickly jumped out of our pockets to capture an environment that resembled a postcard. We talked to a man for a few minutes and gave him a ten Cedis to start our tour. To our surprise, the tour guide was twelve years old and pretty shy. We couldn’t help but smile as he took us through the forest, showed us different species of butterflies, and only gave the most basic information. We met the boy’s father and he exclaimed about how great of a tour guide the boy was.
After the tour, we made our way back to settle into how long of a journey we had left. I put my headphones in to distract myself; however, I came to a powerful thought that disturbed my conscious. I thought deeply about how as a tourist I was feeling exhausted whilst, people in Ghana have to maintain these sights for economic stability and their livelihood. Why was I the one feeling tired when a boy as young as twelve years old was out trying to bring money home to his family. I began criticizing myself for making myself a victim of tiredness in this situation when it should have been the other way around. Being Ghanaian, I’ve heard many stories about how it is hard to make a sustainable living in the country and ensure there is always a meal on the table. I knew I had to challenge myself to appreciate everything around me and understand my privilege. Being a Ghanaian born in the United States is a completely different identity than being born in Ghana. Although there are some similarities, I had to confront my privileges and opportunities. Just because the butterfly sanctuary was a beautiful sight for me to capture did not mean there wasn’t a large amount of labor and sacrifice put into making the space accessible to tourists.
As our car geared closer to back home, I knew that a transformed perspective would be the best decision. I want to ensure that during my time here in Ghana I recognize even though tourism is an economic booster, there is an array of other negative factors that accompany the practice. Thinking deeper about my position within the space helps me to better understand how I can be culturally sensitive to the area. It is crazy how seeing beautiful butterflies at a sanctuary can make you see the painful side of marveling at a sight.
Below are a couple of links that show the benefits, downfall, and reality about tourism.