As a globetrotter, it has been an adventure to explore, witness, and understand the different set of cultures and lifestyles sustaining in our world. And, over the years of living a nomadic life, the concept of being a responsible traveler and being an advocate of sustainable tourism has become clearer.
Simply put, responsible traveling shows us that the way you travel, the regions you decide to visit, and the places you choose to spend your money can have a positive impact on communities and families in need, around the globe.
However, you don’t need to be a full-time traveler to join the sustainability league. There are plenty of ways that you can make a big difference when you travel; even if it’s just for a couple of weeks or merely a week long travel.
It’s all about being more mindful and educated about the decisions you make, both big and small, while overseas. Follow these guidelines, and you will be well on your way to becoming a responsible traveler:
1. Volunteer while you travel
Whether you are traveling for two weeks or two years, volunteering for a portion of your time with reputable organizations for worthwhile causes can make a world of difference.
If you have a skill that may be useful in a developing nation, such as medical or social care experience, there are a whole multitude of avenues you can pursue to help put your expertise to good use.
But even if you are not highly qualified, you can still find beneficial ways to volunteer — a practice that’s referred to as “voluntourism” in the travel sphere. It may be possible to spend a few days teaching English in rural schools, for instance, or you can check out different animal conservation projects that are active in the places you are visiting.
You can check out VolunteerForever or Volunteering Solutions to get some ideas.
2. Engage in local shopping
When it comes to eating, sleeping, and buying souvenirs, choosing where you spend your money can have a massive impact on the community.
By having dinner at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, staying in a family-run guest house, or purchasing a trinket from a street vendor, you are helping to inject money directly into the local economy. Aside from creating a more authentic travel experience for yourself, you are also helping someone create a better life for him or herself.
3. Choose how you act with the wildlife
A lot of people have exotic dreams of riding elephants, swimming with dolphins, or having their photos taken with tigers — but these irresponsible activities often do more harm than good.
If you are really interested in visiting a place that houses and protects animals, make sure you contact one that is a registered NGO. Alternatively, you can always search for a volunteer project dedicated to animal welfare and conservation in the city you are planning to travel to.
4. Respect the local culture
The world and its people are diverse and fascinating, and it is an astonishing feeling to experience the wonder. We must always keep in mind how important it is to show respect to those local customs and traditions when we travel.
Many countries are more conservative with their wardrobe sensibility. For example, if traveling to India, you should do a thorough research about what to wear, as wearing short shorts may be considered inappropriate.
Also, learn a little bit of the local language, even if it is just “hello” and “thank you.” Study what the customs of your location of choice are to ensure that you don’t inadvertently offend anyone.
5. Whenever possible, take the bus
There are a lot of great ways to lower your environmental impact when you are traveling. Unfortunately for us, travel is an activity that puts a lot of carbon in the atmosphere.
This isn’t to say we should never travel, just that we should be thoughtful about the way in which we travel. The most carbon efficient way to travel (aside from walking or biking) is by bus.
Not only is it good for the environment, but also for your health — and your budget.
6. Educate other travelers
I am assuming that each one of us has seen and know what a ripple effect is. Being a responsible traveler might come naturally to some, but others may just not be aware of the implications their actions can have when they are abroad. And if that’s the case, it may be on you to show them the way.
If you see someone unintentionally doing something that is detrimental to the environment, or to the local people and culture, consider mentioning something to him or her in a friendly way.
Start discussions about responsible travel with people who are in your hostel, in your hotel, or on your tour. It is only through education that we can help spread the word about sustainable tourism.
Our actions, while traveling, can have a huge impact on the environment, which makes it our moral duty to keep a check on them.
Let’s make a positive impact, let’s be responsible travelers!