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In today’s era, you can move around the world and visit places that you never dreamed of 100 years ago. With the pandemic ceasing and the world opening up, people have been much more open to exploring new locations. However, the ways we travel, the regions we decide to visit, and the choices we make on how and where we spend our money directly impact our environment and give a deep insight into how conscious we are of being responsible travelers.
In this article, Wego outlines how you can 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 making good choices and being a good human being.
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 and processes when it comes to recycling and minimizing waste in other countries may not be the same as what we observe in our home countries, so it is important to take your own steps to help out the environment.
You can opt for choices that create less clutter, like bringing a bag along with you, in which you can put your items as you move around, and say no to plastic bags from shops. Eat and drink in cafes rather than asking for takeaways. Say no to plastic cutlery, such as spoons and straws. Carry a reusable water bottle with you and fill it up with large water jugs that can be found in most hotels and restaurants.
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.
To shake up this notion comes the idea of slow travel, which can be done 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, experiencing the parts of the land you would’ve missed being stuck up in the air.
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. Being on the right page with locals can even give you access to lesser-known spots and experiences; awe-inspiring things that you wouldn’t find on the internet!
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 entrances 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, helping provide food or other services to the needy, 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. There are places that put animals to sleep just so people can pet them and take pictures with them. These are horrendous forms of tourism that only create a torturous environment for the animals. In our opinion, the best way to observe animals is in their natural habitat, which might require some safety precautions, but will surely be a sight to behold.
Learn the basics of the local language
Another great way to be a responsible traveler is to learn the basics of a local language. You do not need to take a full course and become fluent, but it is a great idea to at least learn enough to get you by during your trip. Simple things like hello, thank you, goodbye, or questions like what, where and how can get you pretty far.
We 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, do not hesitate to mention something in a friendly way.