When travelling around the world we can encounter some incredible sights and meet some wonderful cultures, full of some of the happiest people who survive on so little. While back home many of us may be more concerned about having the latest smart phone and the top brands these humble people are more focused on their everyday survival. Though we are only tourists we can still make a difference and impact people lives and environments as responsible travellers.
Responsible Travel means looking at our impact on the environment and local cultures and economies while travelling and acting to make that impact as positive as possible.
Some Ideas on how you can become more of a Responsible Traveller:
VOLUNTEER SOME OF YOUR TIME
Whether you're travelling for a year or a couple of weeks you may find offering even a small amount of time to a worthwhile cause can make a world of difference.
When it comes to spending your money overseas it can have a massive impact on the community. Though when we are at home we think about supporting our local shops this can still be true when overseas, look at having dinner at the small local restaurant instead of the Hotel, or purchasing a trinket from a street vendor over a souvenir store.
THINK BEFORE YOU ACT WITH WILDLIFE ACTIVITIES
Though whenever we think about Thailand we often imagine riding an elephant but wildlife tourism like this are often more harmful than we realise. Make sure that if you are looking at visiting a place where there is wildlife that they are a reputable organisation and they practice animal protection and safe practices. Next time you travel look at visiting an elephant rescue park over riding one.
RESPECT THE LOCAL CULTURE
One of the greatest experiences when travelling is the local cultures and religions but we need to make sure we are respectful when travelling. Many countries dress more conservatively than we are used to, so it may mean covering up more to practice their local customs and traditions. Even learning a greeting or a few common phrases can be a great way to show respect when you are travelling.
MINIMISE YOUR WASTE
In many developing countries awareness of waste management may not be as widely educated as back home, and on holiday we can become more slack with our good practices. But when overseas we should be more respectful of retaining the beautiful environment, so eat at a local cafe rather than going for takeaway, and use a reusable water bottle when you can to reduce your waste.
CHOOSE SUSTAINABLE ACCOMMODATION AND TOUR OPERATORS
It's possible when looking at accommodation and tour operators to find businesses that work actively within their local communities or have practices that help protect the environment. Do some research and pick the local tours that pay their staff well and donate to charities
LOWER YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
To minimise your carbon foot-print look at alternative transport methods, use the local trains or buses when getting around cities over taxis. Or even look at walking over taking the buses those few stops down the road. Or maybe if the area offers it, look at renting a bicycle to enjoy the local landscape as well as getting from A to B.
LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICTURE WHEN BARGAINING
In some regions of the world, bargaining is common practice and part of the culture when you have to buy off street stalls and vendors. But it's important to thing about the bigger picture when bargaining the price down, though it may not seem like a lot of money to you, for the local people those extra $2 dollars can go a long way. So just be aware when you fighting over a price, that this is their source of income, while for you it may just be a trinket or tee shirt.
DON'T GIVE TO BEGGARS
Now this one can be especially hard, and may seem like it goes against your ethic to not give to people less fortunate than yourself, but of lot of times you are just encouraging local people to pretend they are worst off than they are in order to get money off tourists. Especially when the local children are sometimes pulled out of schools to beg on the streets, and in worst cases are part of a larger network run by adults who take all the 'profits' of the begging.
EDUCATE OTHERS TO BE RESPONSIBLE TRAVELLERS
Though a lot of these ideas may seem natural to some, others may need to be better educated or just don't have general knowledge of the impact that their actions are taking while they are travelling. Talk to people you meet, start conversations and spread the word about being responsible when you travel.