What is responsible traveling, you might ask?
Simply put, it is using your common sense while you travel and being aware of the impact you have on the place you are visiting. Every decision you make will affect it in one way or another. Therefore, it is your responsibility to detect beforehand whether it will be in a negative or in a positive way.
Being a conscious traveler starts before you even leave for your trip and does not end by solely returning to your home. It is much more than that, and in this article, we have prepared advice you can use before, during, and after your trip in order to enhance your positive effects on the place you are visiting.
Before the trip
Plan your route to minimize environmental impact. Ideally, you would be able to take the bus, train, or boat anywhere. But unfortunately, flying is inevitable in a lot of cases.
If you must fly, make sure you opt for direct flights as much as possible since they emit the least amount of CO2. Also, try using the “Eco” option on flight search engines such as Skyscanner in order to find the most environmentally friendly options.
Additionally, you can always choose to carbon offset your flight. It works in a way that you just pay an extra fee to the airline you are booking your flight with, which they later donate to a carbon offset scheme.
It is possible to do this with about a third of all the airlines in the world, which is pretty cool.
If you are traveling with an agency, demand to see their responsible tourism policy beforehand.
Consider Airbnb, HomeAway, or Couchsurfing
The sharing economy makes it possible for us to make greater use of the resources that we already have available. You should also consider renting out your home while you are away.
If you must book a hotel, remember to look for certifications so that you are sure that the hotel complies with rules on, among other things, human rights, working conditions, and waste management.
The four largest organizations for sustainable tourism are Travelife, Green Globe, Earth Check, and Green Key. You’re good to go if you choose hotels with one of these certifications.
Pack products that don’t hurt the environment
Check for eco-friendly labels before packing your toiletries. This refers to any cream, soap, or deodorant – especially if you are planning on bathing in seas, rivers, or lakes. It may seem excessive but remember – the goal is to avoid leaving ANY trace behind you.
Familiarize with the local culture
During the trip
Do not support activities involving wild animals
It might look adorable, but petting a lion cub, riding an elephant, or seeing a show with orcas is in no way ethical.
Just think about it! These are animals that have no domestic breeds, yet they are held in captivity and taught that if they don’t perform, they will suffer the consequences. Even though the abuse is almost never seen by the tourists, it is very much present.
Go local whenever you can
Whether it’s choosing where to eat, buying souvenirs, or hiring a local guide, it is important that the money you spend on your trip ends up supporting the local economy.
For eateries, pick street food stalls or markets where food will be better and more authentic, anyway. Buy souvenirs and handicrafts from shops where you can see them being made to avoid supporting mass-production in China.
Recognize the knowledge and experience of local people by booking local guides or hosts.
This point should already be a no brainer. No matter where in the world we travel and what kind of people we meet, we need to show respect.
Whether it’s about adapting to their culture, religion, or other norms – we simply have to adjust. This is where the research you have done prior to your trip comes in handy.
Pay attention to your waste
Use water and electricity sparingly, as if you were at your own home. Do not request the place where you are staying to change your towels after every use and do not request using the washing machine unless it is full.
It should also be a no brainer that we should not leave any garbage where it doesn’t belong. Unfortunately, a lot of people still do that with cigarette butts, to-go cups, plastic bottles, packaging from food, etc. It does not belong in nature, and it is especially disrespectful when you are a guest in another country.
Read up on The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace, which you can use anywhere and anytime, even when you return from your trip. That’s what responsible traveling is all about!
After the trip
Think about what you can do from home
Share your experiences
Share your experiences! This should be the most important takeaway from this article.
The thing about responsible traveling is that it is still a relatively new concept to a lot of people. Only by sharing our experiences can we become wiser about how we travel more responsibly.
Share which places actually took waste management seriously and which ones only wrote that they do. This way, you will help future responsible travelers make their choice.
If you have any feedback on how they could be more environmentally friendly, make sure to send it directly to your travel agency or accommodation.
If you encountered any serious issues such as human or animal rights abuse, make sure to contact the relevant authorities/organizations and speak up about it! In this day and age, it is our duty to use our voice and our social platforms to bring up problems in our world.
Promote things mindfully
Reflect on your trip
Finally, relax, enjoy all the good memories you made on your trip, and start thinking about where you could go next. Just remember to follow the rules of responsible traveling!