How do you travel responsibly in an era where everyone seems to have the wanderlust syndrome?
Whether you are traveling for the pure love of visiting a new country, learning about different cultures or capturing beautiful pictures for social media, it is important to incorporate sustainable travel while enjoying yourself.
We live in a checklist society and I’ll be honest – during my first few trips abroad, I wanted to check off well known tourist attractions and inhale as much as I could of a place quickly versus taking the time to slow down and really appreciate the city I was visiting. Unfortunately slow travel isn’t possible for most of us because travel is expensive and we all have work and family commitments not to mention very little vacation days. There’s also the fear that we may not get the time or the opportunity to travel again. Bouncing from one place to another in a short amount of time is the only way to see a bunch of places.
I’ve changed my approach to travel now. While I realize I may not be able to travel to ALL the countries I want to, the ones I do decide to visit I want to take the time to enjoy myself and not be a hurried or harried traveler. There is no wrong way to travel but I’ve learnt a lot from my trips, listening to other seasoned travelers and my takeaway is that we can all be a little more informed and responsible when we do travel.
Here are 10 ways to be a more thoughtful and sustainable traveler
1. Budget your trip :
This should be the first thing you do. Very often, we either overshoot our budget while traveling and make a run to the money exchange (guilty!) or underestimate the added and sometimes hidden costs associated with traveling. We try to cut costs maybe by haggling with street vendors or not tipping well (a lot of people tip their tour guides/ hiking porters poorly) and instead go full steam at gift shops for souvenirs that might not add value to the trip. Whatever you decide make sure you also have an emergency fund should the need arise.
2. Plan your itinerary:
I’m all for winging a trip and I’ve done it too but you need to have some kind of itinerary unless you are planning a relaxed slow travel over the course of a month or two. Having an itinerary saves you unnecessary worry and ensures that you have confirmed accommodation at the hotel of your choosing and tickets to popular attractions like museums etc.
3. Stay in Local Hotels :
Book your stay in a local hotel which gives you a more authentic vibe of the place you are visiting and avoid big chain hotels that you can find in your own city. If you’re lucky, your Airbnb host might give you great tips for sightseeing. There are a lot of eco-friendly hotels popping up. I haven’t tried any of them yet but I would like to in the future.
4. Support the local community during your stay:
Shop local and dine in the local restaurants for authentic food.
5. Reduce and Recycle waste:
Tourists accumulate a lot of trash and so its important to be mindful about disposing it properly. If you are hiking or camping, use biodegradable products. Treat the city you’re visiting as you would your own. Follow easy hacks like reusing your towel in hotels and conserving electricity. Avoid buying plastic as much as you can and carry a water bottle with you.
6. Use Public Transportation:
We’re already doing a lot of flying. Use public transportation wherever possible to reduce your carbon footprint. It’s also a much more interesting way to see a new place!
7. Interact with wildlife ethically:
Don’t subscribe to the popular trend of wanting to ride or bathe elephants in Asia. You are not only endangering yourself but also the animals. Most places domesticate the elephants through cruel methods which aren’t visible to tourists. Do your research and visit sanctuaries that are dedicated in preserving these beautiful animals in their natural habitat and not let them be used as a photo-op. Similarly use your best judgement while on safaris. Respect wildlife and their habitat.
8. Be a low maintenance traveler and immerse yourself in the local scene:
Read up on the place you are visiting or learn one or two phrases in the local language. Even learning basic words like please and thank you go a long way when you are talking to the hotel or restaurant staff. It gives them a feeling that you are trying to communicate in their language even if your accent or pronunciation is off. Also be mindful of any traditions followed in the country you’re visiting so you don’t accidentally offend anyone.
9. Spread awareness :
We are all responsible for this planet and need to take care of it. Use social media wisely and bring attention to towns or cities that need help or wildlife or environmental issues that require a call to action. This is on my list of things to incorporate in my travel going forward.
10. Learn something new:
This one is a doozy. You are always going to learn something new and amazing about the place you are visiting and more importantly you’ll discover something surprising about yourself whether you are traveling with family, friends or solo. I’ve found that I always return from a trip stronger,happier and lighter (my purse not my waist) and am filled with gratitude and a better appreciation for both the city I live in and the city I just visited.
I want to hear from you. Do you have any suggestions or tips for an enjoyable and sustainable trip? Do you follow any or all of these tips when you travel?