Traveling is usually a very enjoyable and enriching experience. Traveling gives us an opportunity to not only travel to new places but also gain knowledge about the different and unique cultures, wildlife, cuisines and people and many more. One important thing that we should all keep in mind while traveling is that we should all be aware as tourists.
All our actions impact the environment in some ways and as tourists and citizens of this world we should all try to not negatively impact the environment. In a nutshell, responsible travel is about being socially and culturally aware when we travel, understanding the effects of our travel on the places we visit and trying to have a positive impact.
Being a responsible traveler is about considering our own impact and that of the travel providers we choose, and taking responsibility for ensuring that every step in our travel, from the transport we take, the places we stay, the way we interact, and the companies and governments we support, are as sustainable as possible.
Being a responsible traveler however does not mean we have to make drastic changes or take all the fun out of our travels. We just have to be a little aware, kind and have mutual respect for the world around us while traveling and make small choices with big impacts.
11 Simple ways to be a Responsible Traveler
Shop and eat from local run shops
We all tend to buy gifts or souvenirs for back home when we travel to new places. A small way how we can be responsible while traveling is to avoid the supermarkets and explore the local markets of the place. You will be surprised to find how much more variety you will get of the local handicrafts and souvenirs that too at a much lower price!
Same with eating local. You will be able to get the authentic taste of the local cuisines which the branded restaurants often fail to duplicate. These local shops and eateries are also less crowded and are not overpriced. This is a good way of supporting the local run family businesses and getting to know the native people. It might not be a big thing for us but it will certainly make a huge difference to them.
Say no to plastic
Using plastic should be avoided not only while traveling but at all times as much as possible. However, while traveling we tend to use more plastic products like bottles, straws, containers, bags, cups, plates, etc. Plastic products are undoubtedly very easy to use and dispose but its effects are extremely harmful to the environment.
To travel responsibly we must start using the alternatives to plastic.
Make sure to pack reusable bottles, straws, cloth bags, and cutlery. Going plastic free will also be beneficial to your health. It is very important as a traveler to not pollute the environment as we are guests in somebody’s land.
Reduce Carbon Footprint
Carbon Footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide released in the atmosphere due to our activities. Most of our daily activities like using electricity, using cars, eating choices, etc. all effect the emission of carbon dioxide. Things which we can do to reduce our carbon dioxide while traveling is using less flights. If it is not possible to use alternative ways of traveling like trains then we should fly less frequently, take direct flights and avoid flying business class. While on vacation try to use public transport like buses or shared cabs.
Walking or cycling are also good ways to reduce carbon footprint and an adventurous way to explore a new place. Have plant based food and avoid red meats.
Respect Local Culture
Being respectful and considerate towards the local economy, culture and customs is a very important part of traveling responsibly. Many places in the world have dress codes for women and men, especially religious and sacred countries. We have to make sure that we don’t offend the local people by not following their dressing rules. It won’t really affect us in any significant way but it would mean a lot to them if tourists respect their culture.
Beauty of traveling is found in discovering and exploring the religion, language, and customs that make up our world, and respecting each of these for their individuality is key
Respect the Local People
Not only should we be respectful to the culture but also the people. It is okay to mix with the locals and get to know them but always respect their privacy.
Be careful not to take their pictures without permission.
You can try engaging in conversation with them so that it becomes easier for you to ask for permission before taking your cameras out and capturing them. You might not have a bad intention but the local people might get offended.
Learn the Local Language
Learning the local language of the place you are visiting will not only be helpful for you as a traveler and take you a long way but the people will really appreciate your efforts for trying to learn their language even though you are a visitor. You don’t have to completely learn a new language but we can all learn some basic phrases like “Hello”, “Thank You”, “Please” and “Sorry”.
A little kindness never kills after all.
Stay in Villages or Homestays
Ditch the luxurious hotels for once and stay in villages and small homestays. You will definitely fall in love with these types of accommodations if you try it once. Of course you won’t get all the luxuries you get in a 5 star hotel or resort but it will definitely give you a memory of a lifetime if you choose to be a responsible traveler and live in local places and locally owned homestays. It will also bring you closer to experiencing the local culture, traditions and the people.
Avoid Animal Tourism
To become a more responsible traveler it is important to stay away from activities and tours that involve the use of animals.
Wildlife tourism is very profitable and most operators are not interested in the well-being of animals. Avoid participating in elephant riding, selfies with tigers, swimming with dolphins or dolphin shows. These activities cause lots of harm and suffering to the animals. If you plan to take a wildlife tour or go scuba diving, make sure these packages does not encourage touching or feeding of the animals and adheres to sustainable and responsible practices that are in the best interests of the animals and merely not for entertainment and profit.
Choose the Correct Tour Operators
Do a thorough check of the companies with which you will be associating on your travel. Ask a lot of questions and try your best to pick a company that works with the local communities, provides them with jobs, and respects the environment and does not include unethical animal tourism.
Keep Nature Clean
Whether traveling or not always engage in practices that will help keep nature clean. Our world is already overloaded with waste and very few people dispose off waste in proper places. While traveling make sure you don’t add to the waste already present in the environment.
Use trash bags to collect any paper or plastic waste and dispose of it in proper places later to keep your surroundings clean.
Do not throw anything on the ground even though it might seem to be the easier option.
Help Others Be Responsible Tourists
Do your best to be a responsible traveler yourself and also don’t forget to spread the word.
The more people join hands in becoming responsible travelers the better it is for our community, wildlife and environment. It might seem a little difficult to be responsible but our actions have a great impact on our surroundings and it is truly worth it for us to make that extra effort!