I like to think that I am a responsible traveler. I throw my trash away, I pick up after myself, I don’t litter, I try to leave places better than I found them, and I generally take the easiest route or the road less traveled to minimize on carbon foot print. However, is that enough?
Since this pandemic has had us at home for the last 6 months or so, and now that traveling is starting to resume, I have been thinking about this question a lot. What are some easy ways to be a responsible traveler? How do I ensure that I still get to travel (my passion) and leave the planet still in good shape?
In my post, Why traveling is good for your mental health, I discussed 8 ways as to why that is. The reason I bring this up, is this: being a responsible traveler is as good for your mental health as simply traveling. Think about it; does leaving the place you just experienced better than it was before, make you feel good? I know it makes me feel good. Just as good as the adventure.
You may be saying, what is the point if we all don’t do this? But I say, yes I may only be one person, but one person doing something is better than no one. What if, we all thought this way and made the planet the best that it can be? That is the goal!
This world is way to big and way to beautiful not to leave it better for those who come after us!
#1 BE A GOOD HUMAN
You would think that this wouldn’t have to be a topic, but here we are. I think we can get so wrapped up into “I, I, I” that we forget about those around us. It really is simple, treat others the way we want to be treated.
#2 EAT AND SHOP LOCAL
Why would you go all the way to Indonesia to buy something that was imported? After all, didn’t you go there for the experience? No matter where I go, I love to try the local food and shop in the local markets. Who knows, maybe you will have a new favorite food or trinket, with a fabulous memory to go with it.
#3 SLOW DOWN AND ENJOY THE MOMENT
When we go on holiday, we want to see as much as we can in the short time that we have. What if, you just sat in a cafe on the street and observed the locals instead of going from place to place to place for hours on end? Do you think you would be just as happy, or would you be disappointed? For me, I love doing this. Especially on the first day or two of being there. This is when you learn about the culture and see things from a different perspective. It’s incredible, really.
#4 LEARN A FEW OF THE LOCAL LANGUAGE BASICS
More than likely where are going, people will speak English. However, what if you were able to start off the conversation with the language of where you were? You’ll be amazed at how their eyes will light up at the fact that you put in that effort. In turn, they will put in effort to speak English with you.
#5 LEAVE NO TRACE AND WATCH YOUR WASTE
The most important is to leave no trash; take out what you carried in. Of course, walk on the paths, respect the wildlife, and don’t deface the property. As for the plastic, no matter where we are, we should be mindful of this. Take some reusable bags with you, a reusable water bottle with a filter, and bring your own metal straws. Just be a good human and leave the location better than you found it.Also be sure to only get what you are going to need. For example, when you go to the market only buy what you think you will need for a couple days; you can always go back to market when you run out. What you don’t want to do is buy too much and have to throw the remainder away.
#6 BE MINDFUL OF YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
This may seem counter productive, being that you probably have to take a plane to where you are going. But, there are ways to at least lessen the effect. Take direct flights to the location and pack a carry-on, use public transportation, and walk as much as possible. If you must take at taxi or uber, use them as little as possible.
#7 RESPECT THE CULTURE AND CUSTOMS
Before going to your location, do some research. What should you wear if you go to the Mosque or church? What about just walking around town? Do you need to bring something if you go to a local’s house for a gathering? It is important to know this information because you don’t want to look, well, ignorant. What is the culture norm in Japan probably isn’t the same in Lebanon; don’t assume.
#8 SUSTAINABLE ACCOMMODATIONS
Google sustainable accommodations and you will immediately want to take a trip! This no longer means “roughing” it in the woods. This simply means, eco-friendly and there are so many world-class accommodations around the globe that I can’t wait to explore.
#9 TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
Yes, those places that “everyone goes” are gorgeous and there is a reason that we all want to experience those locations. But, why not try a city or a town that is less known and possibly 20 times as beautiful? I personally love wandering and finding hidden gems and going to the places that aren’t so touristy. Not only am I experiencing something new but then I get to share that with others and inspire you all to go out and do the same. When we take the road less traveled, we see the less ordinary and forge our own path.
#10 USE LOCAL TOUR COMPANIES
Why would you go somewhere new and use an international company? Sure, you will probably have a good tour, but wouldn’t your experience be much better being led by locals? The locals are the ones with all of the knowledge and you are helping the economy. Win, win!
Do you think of yourself as a responsible traveler? What are some things you do when you travel to leave a positive mark on where you have been?