I’ve been lucky enough to do a little travel in my time, and I have more travel on the horizon for this year, and whilst it is definitely an amazing thing to do, it can have a detrimental impact on both people & places if we aren’t careful. Today I wanted to share some tips for more responsible and ethical travel, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions as well!
These tips are relevant no matter where you are travelling in the world, but they are particularly important if you are travelling to developing nations or off the beaten track. The good news is that following these types of tips doesn’t stop you from having an awesome travel experience, in fact it can often result in an even better one than you could have imagined!
1. Be conscious of how & where you spend money
One of the best ways to promote more ethical travel is through careful thought on how and where you spend your money while travelling. This simply means choosing accomodation, food, day trips and the like that directly support the local community rather than big companies. The great part about this is that you then get to have a more authentic experience in many instances – eating where the locals do and seeing the city and towns through their eyes. One of the best experiences I had on a trip to Vanuatu I did a few years ago was on a day-trip to an island that was only accessible on that tour, and every dollar went into helping the local community grow & send their kids to school. Knowing that made the day even better!
The other side of spending money is with regards to shopping whilst travelling. Again, it’s important to support locally produced goods and whilst haggling is definitely part of some cultures it is important to keep in mind a fair wage. In the end the dollar or two you might be haggling over is probably more vital to someone in a developing nation! Be careful not to buy products made of endangered species or plants either, no matter how pretty the product might be!
2. Be respectful of local customs
Before heading on a trip it is a great idea to read up on the local customs to ensure you can avoid doing anything that might be untoward in that country. This may include the clothing you need to wear, not taking photos in certain locations or of certain people and a whole host of other cultural norms and customs. It’s also important to learn about places that you shouldn’t visit due to local customs or beliefs, such as spaces that are sacred to the indigenous people. The more respectful you can be of these elements whilst travelling the better!
3. Learn a little of the language
Now, becoming fluent in the language of every country you want to travel to is obviously not feasible, but picking up a little of the language before you go somewhere new is definitely a great step towards more responsible and ethical travel. Focus on key phrases that will allow you to be polite, ask key questions and apologize for not being able to say more. Being able to order food or drink never hurts either (especially if you need to ask for specific types of foods!).
4. Travel with an open mind
One of the reasons we often travel is to experience new things, but sometimes while we’re in the midst of the travelling we can forget this and get caught up on all the things that are different from home and the challenges this can produce. Remember to keep an open mind to these new experiences, including sampling local foods no matter how interesting they might look! This also means going off the beaten track and heading away from touristy spots to experience life like a local and visiting things like food markets, local events and using local forms of transport. It really is an excellent way to get more out of your travel, whilst still ensuring you travel in an ethical way. Don’t forget to ask the locals for suggestions and ideas as well, they’ll be sure to have some pretty excellent suggestions.
5. Be careful with resources
Being careful with the resources we use at home is important and it is equally important whilst travelling! This just means simple things like being careful not to waste water or electricity in your accomodation, not using too make towels and the like. The more mass-transit you can use (local buses and trains for example) the better as well, and whenever possible consider carbon-offsetting any flights you take.
One way to ensure your travel is more ethical is to consider paying a little extra for tours, accomodation and the like that are run in an environmentally conscious manner, such as an eco resort or a day-trip focussed on conservation. Just be sure that they actually do what they say they do so you don’t fall prey to green-washing.
6. Be aware of your surroundings
In a similar vein to being careful with your resources, another way to ensure you partake in more ethical travel is to be aware of your surroundings as well. This simply means things like respecting and not disturbing local wildlife and natural ecosystems, ensuring that you don’t create too much waste (and definitely don’t litter!) and showing respect for the local people and their practices.
One other thing to be very aware of is tourism related to animals, and the detrimental impact it can have on them. Please avoid any forms of tourism that contributes to the exploitation or harm of animals for entertainment or profit, or that interferes animals in their natural environment. Research any wildlife attraction you plan on visiting beforehand to ensure it meets recognised standards and is contributing to conservation efforts and treats their animals ethically. You can read more about the worst offenders here if you’re interested, but simply put walking with lions and posing with tigers should probably be off your to-do list.