Summer is here and the season of travel is upon us. Families, couples and solo travellers alike pack up their bags and head for the mountains, beaches and cities across the country, continent and globe to get a dose of our planets beauty and diversity. You guys know that I am big fan of travel, I have made it my mission to incorporate it into my job and there is nothing I love more than exploring a new country, city or culture. In honour of this, I wanted to share a few quick fire tips to help you travel more responsibly this summer:[ A quick disclaimer before we get into these tips, I am very aware that regular plane travel is not a sustainable choice. It is always better to choose another form of transport. However, travel is still extremely prevalent in the developed world and doesn’t show signs of stopping. So if we are going to travel, I would like to share some advice on how to do it a little more consciously and responsibly.]
- In general: a great guideline is to follow the Leave No Trace principles when you’re in the outdoors.
- Be ocean savvy. Use reef safe suncream if you’re swimming in the ocean to avoid damaging the ecosystem. Never ever touch coral or fish, never take shells from the beach or ocean.
- Eat & shop local. Try to use your money to support smaller local businesses, cafes and artisan shops rather than larger chains. The community will thank you.
- Do not engage with animal-based tourism activities. The vast majority of these are based around exploitation. For example: elephant riding, horse and carriage rides, snake shows, sea lion shows, swimming with dolphins in captivity, etc.
- Find non-profits. Research ones in the area you’re visiting and help in any way you can – for example eating at restaurants who employ staff of all backgrounds and abilities or volunteering at a wildlife sanctuary. Every little helps.
- That being said, research volunteering opportunities well. Try not to do ones which take away from local jobs or focus on foreigners experiences, this should be about benefiting the local community not taking from it. Successful volunteering is that which empowers a local community to grow from within, and offers your unique set of skills to help them achieve that goal – not to swoop in and “fix” a place. Corruption in the “voluntourism” industry is not uncommon.
- Try to use local tour companies rather than global ones when you can, even better try to use ones which gives back to the local community in some way. For example there are some really positive homestay programs in rural communities.
- Shout about it. When a restaurant, hotel or tour organisation is doing good things such as paying staff fairly or supporting environmental protection – tell your friends and recommend them online through platforms like trip advisor.
- Reduce your waste. Bring your own reusable bottles, coffee cups, bags and cutlery. Worried about the tap water? Bring a lifestraw bottle which filters it. Don’t litter, even if the locals do.
- Be conscious with your consumption of local resources, such as water, food and electricity. These are extremely valuable. For example switch off the lights, don’t have long showers and try to avoid food waste.
- Respect the local culture and dress code. Dress modestly if it is custom. Always ask before you take a photo with/of a local, better still – take some time to get to know them first. Always try and learn a few key words in the local language out of respect, they will appreciate that greatly.
- Don’t bargain too heavily, remember that the person who you are buying from needs to make a living. You can barter but be sure to pay fairly.
- Stay at an eco-hotel if you can. If you cannot, then feedback to the hotel manager ways their hotel can be more eco-friendly. Definitely mention it in your trip advisor review (this always gets a response).
- Try to travel to a destination by train, car or an alternative to flying when you can. If you are flying long haul then try to tick off a few destinations while you’re there to make it worth racking up the miles. Be sure to carbon offset whatever travel you do.
- Don’t be afraid to explore the beauty of your own country or destinations on your doorstep. You will be amazed by what is a short train ride away!
- Be a nice human. Wherever you travel, it is so important to be kind, be patient and be respectful.
There are so many more responsible travel tips where those came from. Hopefully these are a great starting point and enable you to think more consciously about how you explore the world!