Traveling is a rewarding experience that can transform your life. Still, aside from the fact that it’s fun and allows you to discover new sights, it can also impact the communities and the environment of your preferred destination. Whether it’s a positive or negative impact depends on how much of a responsible traveler you are.
This is a guest post by Lucile Hernandez Rodriguez, a Registered Yoga Teacher, Travel and Wellness Blogger, and Mindful Business Advisor. She shares actionable tips on Yoga, general well-being, mindful living, and making sustainable choices on her blog – Lucilehr.com
By the way, what is responsible tourism?
Responsible travel or responsible tourism is being mindful or fully aware of the choices you make when you travel. These choices should positively impact the economy, environment, and culture of the place you’re visiting. It’s not about dropping all your travel plans. Instead, it’s about making small but meaningful changes in your lifestyle so you can give back to the community and the planet while still getting the same satisfaction from traveling.
The truth is, not a lot of travelers have a clear understanding of what it means to travel responsibly. The common misconception is that you have to put in so much effort and that it’s unrealistic to practice responsible tourism. It’s not – and this article will give you concrete tips on how you can travel more sustainably and enhance your experience.
Fly by plane responsibly
Flying may be the only convenient way for you to get to that destination on your bucket list. Still, the truth is – this mode of transport dramatically contributes to global warming through carbon emissions. This, however, doesn’t mean that you should avoid flying altogether.
There are several ways on how you can travel sustainably by plane. For example, you can organize your trip so that you’ll be visiting places that are close to each other. Another is to take the direct flight as much as possible since the plane consumes more fuel during landing and takeoff. Also, spend as much time in a chosen destination instead of catching one plane after the next just to visit as many places in less time.
The critical thing to remember is to minimize your carbon footprint as much as and whenever possible. If you plan to do a staycation or travel close to home, avoid domestic flights and consider taking a trip by land. You’re not only reducing your carbon footprint, but you’re cutting expenses in the process. If you need staycation ideas, check out this article.
Respect other people’s culture
Traveling lets, you meet all kinds of people from all walks of life. And that said, you should learn how to respect their way of life or how they do things. Sure, their lifestyle may not conform to your standards; at times, there may be local practices or customs that are not in line with your principles.
What every responsible traveler should keep in mind is that they are guests, and they are traveling to enjoy the experience – not to preach about their own culture and fix someone else’s.
This can be applied to clothes as well. In some countries, skimpy outfits may be offensive, especially when visiting historical sites. So, if you plan on going to one, dress accordingly. Take some time to learn about a country’s culture before departing.
Make traveling a lot more meaningful by supporting local businesses and seeking out local experiences. This means ditching the fancy coffee shop that you could find in your home country and going for brews made by locals.
Need some souvenirs? Don’t head to a big souvenir shop. Instead, find local communities that make souvenir items. Many of these people consider sustainability when making their products, making them more expensive than the mass-produced ones in commercial shops. But when you support these local businesses, you pay for an authentic, sustainable development and support people’s humble livelihood.
If you need to eat out, don’t go to the favorite restaurant you can find back home. Instead, go to family-owned shops that may give you an even more authentic taste of local food. Plus, you might just get to hear stories about their humble beginnings.
Spread the word
At some point, you will meet fellow travelers who might question your choice of traveling responsibly. Take this opportunity to spread awareness on the subject. The good news is that people are more open to the idea, but they just don’t know how to start. Someone who’s passionate about sustainability and who’s willing to educate them might just be what they’ve been waiting for.
Be mindful of your waste
The sign “do not litter” maybe so primary, and kids can be told to follow that, but unfortunately, even adults tend to miss that and refuse to do so. And it’s sad to know that there are travelers who do not throw their trash properly. Not only is littering disrespectful, but we know how trash affects the environment. If you see locals do it, don’t take it as an excuse to do the same thing. Be the better example, in this case.
If you don’t find a trash bin nearby, you can just keep your trash with you until you find a bin where you can dispose of it. This should be a reminder for all travelers, especially when visiting off-beaten paths, where you won’t likely find trash bins around.
Practice zero-waste lifestyle
To minimize your waste as you travel, it’s a good idea to lead a zero-waste lifestyle and minimize your plastic use. This is one of the best ways to practice sustainability – not only in your travels but in everyday life. Practicing zero-waste is not an overnight thing. It takes a mindset shift and doing simple swaps of items that you usually use every day.
In the case of traveling, you can bring your own water bottle – one that is of excellent quality so that you can bring it anywhere. This way, you don’t have to drink through plastic straws, a single-use plastic that harms the environment.
If you fancy coffee and would like to taste brews from every location you visit, it might be a good idea to bring your collapsible coffee cup. Getting your own cutlery is also another way to avoid plastic cutlery given away, especially when eating out.
If you need more ideas on zero-waste swaps, you can check out this article.
Be mindful of your purchases
The key takeaway from this is never to support wildlife products. Sure, you might spot designs that are cool and unusual but consider asking where it’s sourced from. Most souvenir shops do this: sell items made from fur, skin, shell, beak, bones, and animals’ hooves. This industry continues because they do get support from people who buy them.
If you buy these items, you unknowingly support the hunting and killing of potentially endangered animals.
Interact with locals
Language barriers may get in the way you interact with locals, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are now various apps that can help you connect with locals in your chosen destination. You can also learn some phrases that might help you converse with locals in non-English speaking countries.
Interacting with locals gives you the best authentic travel experience as you see the country from their perspective. They can even give you some exciting stories that you can share with people back home. Talk to strangers, make a friend, be open-minded, curious, and ask questions.
An important reminder is to always ask for a local’s permission should you want to take their photo. This is a sign of respect that some travelers often overlook.
Get around via sustainable transportation
Use public transportation when getting around a city to minimize your environmental impact. You can take the train or bus, which in some countries are running on biofuels. A much better option is walking whenever possible. This lets you explore the area at your own pace, and who knows, it might just lead you to exciting places. If not, you can always rent a bike to explore the city. Walking and biking can also double up as your forms of exercise while traveling.
Follow the off-beaten paths
Mass tourism does hurt a particular place, so consider visiting lesser-known destinations. Doing so allows you to discover unique places that not many people know about. You’ll get to enjoy the location to the fullest because you won’t get to see hordes of tourists. It can be a peaceful, quiet time for you.
You’ll also get the chance to meet locals and interact with them. At the same time, you are supporting local communities instead of paying for commercialized tourism spots.
Traveling responsibly doesn’t stop when you vow not to use plastic straws or throw your trash around. It’s more than just making sure you’re contributing to the planet. It’s also thinking about how you can give back to the people and their community each time you visit their place.
While choosing to travel responsibly is not hard, it can take time to get used to the practice. Just be mindful of everything you do – whether you’re traveling close to home or distant places. The important thing is to have an open mind, give respect, and strive to learn something new.