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In recent scenarios, traveling is so easy. In this era. You can move around the world and visit places that you never dreamed of 100 years ago. Through the ways we travel, the region we decide to visit, and the choices we make on how we spend our money and where it directly impacts our environment and gives a deep insight if we are conscious of being a responsible traveler.
So how do you travel in a more respectful way for the environment, places, and people?
What does it mean to be a responsible traveler?
At the core of it, being a responsible traveler means that you are conscious about your travel decisions and are always striving to make a positive impact on the places you visit. It’s about being respectful of local people, cultures, and animals, minimizing your carbon footprint, and in general just being a good human. Simple.
Here are 10 ways to help you become a responsible traveler.
Minimize your waste
Waste management can be a major issue in most developing countries, and we as travelers often unknowingly contribute to this problem. The education levels when it comes to recycling and minimizing waste in other countries may not be the same as what we receive back home, so it is important to take your own steps to help out the environment.
Bring a bag along with you. Say no to plastic bags from shops and instead put your items in a backpack or a cloth bag. Eat and drink in the cafe rather than going for taking away (or carry a KeepCup with you, which we always do). Say no to straw.
Carry a reusable water bottle with you and fill up from large water jugs that can be found in most hotels and restaurants. Or carry a water sterilization tool on your travels.
Choose sustainable accommodation and tour operators
There are thousands of options available to you when it comes to finding a place to rest your head, or choosing an operator to take you out on that unforgettable holiday experience. It is possible to find businesses that actively work with local communities or have practices that help protect the environment, and these kinds of establishments should be rewarded for their efforts.
They may choose to only employ local guides or workers from nearby villages, or provide extra training to help their staff improve their skills. Some places even donate part of their profits to charitable enterprises, or pay their local staff above-average wages, without you having to do any extra work! It may take a little bit more research to find these sustainable companies, but the benefits are worth the effort.
Become a slow traveler & lower your carbon footprint
Slow trips are becoming increasingly popular. More and more people decide not to take a plane and instead to move in a more authentic and sustainable way. The ease with which we can travel the world from one continent to another, between airports and hotels, has made the idea of travel less adventurous and interesting.
Here comes the idea of slow travel, by bus, train, bicycle, or even on foot. By being a slow traveler, you go beyond scraping the places and spots, instead, you live unforgettable and authentic adventures.
Respect the local culture
One of the greatest rewards we can have when we travel is learning about different cultures and religions. The world and its people are diverse and fascinating, and it is an astonishing feeling of being privileged enough to experience it. We must 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 dress sense, and wearing short shorts or singlets may be considered to be inappropriate. Take the time to learn a little bit of the local language (even if it is just ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’), just like you would expect visitors to your home country to do. Study what the customs are of where you are traveling to ensure you don’t inadvertently offend anyone.
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.
Besides creating a more authentic travel experience for yourself, you are also helping someone create a better life for themselves. Buying from a multinational corporation will only see most of your tourist dollars go straight into the pockets of shareholders and business directors.
Be a conscious tourist
One of the best ways to be a conscious traveler is by making sure that your travels will not cause harm, disrespect, or degrade fragile environments. Due to over-tourism, many places have had to place limits on how many people visit or enter certain destinations. Others have even had to completely shut down and close entrance to all visitors.
When possible it is best to avoid over-populated areas or places struggling with crowds. Explore off-beat places.
Reuse your bedding and towels multiple times before requesting a replacement. Opt-out of using single-use toiletries or travel-sized toiletries (complimentary items) from the hotel.
Volunteer a little of your time
Whether you are traveling for two weeks or two months, volunteering a portion of your time to worthwhile causes and with reputable organizations can make a world of difference. If you have a skill that may be useful in a developing nation, such as medical care experience, an engineering background or have worked in social care, 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. It may be possible to spend a few days teaching English in rural schools, or you can check out different animal conservation projects that are active in the places you are visiting.
Another great idea is to contact a local NGO and ask if they need any supplies brought over.
Respect the animals
Responsible travel also consists of supporting eco-tourism. Many places will harm animals in exchange for profits. I’m sure we’ve all seen the pictures of tigers being put to sleep all so people can pet them and take pictures with them… or riding elephants. These are horrendous forms of tourism and in my opinion, should NOT be supported.
Learn the basics of the local language
Another great way to be a responsible traveler is to learn the basics of a local language. I’m not saying you need to take a full course and become fluent, but at least learn enough to get you by during your trip. Simple things like hello, thank you, how much, and goodbye can get you pretty far.
I would recommend using apps like Rosetta Stone or Duolingo when trying to learn some basics of your destination’s most common language.
Educate others to be responsible travelers
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. If you see someone unintentionally doing something that is detrimental to the environment or to the local people and culture, perhaps mention something in a friendly way.