Here are some old and new practices I will be adopting and continuing to do during my travels and which I sincerely hope others will be inspired to consider too in order to make a positive impact on the places we visit.
We can all help make a big difference by simply being more mindful and educating ourselves to make the right decisions when travelling and being more ethically conscious.
1. Learn more about the destination beforehand
When planning for the next big trip, alongside researching the top places to visit, take the time to learn and understand more about the destination you’re visiting, for instance, reading up more on historical sites before you visit them, or learning more about the culture and learning a few words in their local language.
Watching documentaries are my favourite way to do this and I usually find a few on YouTube or record them on TV if they happen to be on. This really helps put into better context to what to expect and leads to a better experience when there.
It also means a lot to the locals as you have taken the time to learn about what is important to their history and culture and are able to converse with them a little better. Don’t go abroad expecting locals to always speak to you in English.
2. Buy directly from local stores and support local businesses
If you are looking to purchase snacks whilst away, pop into local shops rather than big supermarkets where possible. Its so much nicer knowing that the money you spend in these small stores are going straight into the pocket of the locals.
When choosing restaurants, adopt a similar approach and try and dine in locally run restaurants and cafes. This also has the bonus of being more authentic and you may try new dishes, ingredients and and have amazing experiences closer to the local way of life.
I particularly love visiting food markets when abroad as well as other markets, and they are a fantastic place to find great artisan produce as gifts for family and friends too.
3. Clean up any rubbish you come across
Whenever you happen to spot any trash dumped on beaches, hiking trails, roads, in buses, trains, cars etc do try and make it a point to pick it up and dispose it in appropriate bins wherever possible. Just because its not your rubbish don’t leave it lying there. Every little bit makes a big difference.
In 2o19, I will be packing cloth bags in my suitcase to fold into my handbag and take with me to be able to do this and then dispose off the rubbish responsibly.
4. Researching extensively before booking a tour
When booking tours in 2019, I will be making an extra effort to find those which have additional benefits of directly supporting local communities and that promote sustainable, non-exploitative practices.
TripAdvisor reviews are a great place to start as any horror stories are usually documented here.
5 Avoiding and reporting Animal exploitation
This is very important to me and I have written a blog post on Being mindful about animal exploitation and animal welfare when travelling.
I urge you to avoid booking:
- Any trips which visit zoos or wildlife parks without researching their authenticity beforehand. Some places may make claims that they are “sanctuaries” but they are principally tourist attractions where the animals are held in captivity with the purpose of attracting visitors.
- Wildlife performances, animal rides, the use of animals as photographic props, swimming with dolphins or sea lions or cuddling and playing with wildlife.
Whenever I find these activities being offered I will be reporting them and you can do this here. https://www.bornfree.org.uk/report-animal-suffering
6. Give positive feedback
If you’ve booked with a local business, eaten at a local restaurant or come across some great community initiatives, be sure to leave positive feedback as publicly as possible. Where possible I try and leave a nice TripAdvisor comment as it leads to more business for the local places.
7. Be careful what you buy.
Avoid buying products made from endangered species or ancient artefacts. Shells and coral should be avoided too.
8. Reduce waste
When preparing for your trip avoid printing paper tickets and use mobile boarding passes. If you’ve bought new products to take on your trip, remove the packaging beforehand.
Always turn off the lights at your hotel room when leaving the room and turn down the thermostat. Where possible, reuse towels and take a re-usable water bottle rather than using the plastic bottles provided in the room.
Check if the hotel toiletries are bio-degradable and if not use your own.
Straws are a big one and I will be purchasing bamboo and paper straws and keeping a stash with me and asking for my drinks without straws where plastic straws are clearly in use.
9. Research the local customs.
To avoid any cultural faux pas and to be more respectful, learn about the destination’s cultural ways so that you can adopt them when there, such as how to make eye contact, how to greet people, how to express gratitude and how to dress appropriately.
10. Research and avoid slum or orphanage tours
When travelling I have seen an increase in ‘slum or orphanage tours’ being offered. Please remember that the people living in these slums are humans with feelings and so even though you may be curious about their way of life, it can be extremely demeaning for the people who live there and they are not a tourist attraction or exhibit.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some genuine tours on the other hand sometimes available where a portion of the tour cost goes towards the people so if you really want to visit a slum, try and book a tour where the money goes back to the people living in the slums.
I feel the same about orphanage tours unless you are visiting them to give gifts or to volunteer your time. I urge you to research them in advance for authenticity as I have read about cases where fake orphanages have been set up to get donations from tourists and the kids are actually mistreated. One such case is in Cambodia which you can read about here.
Those are my suggestions of being a more responsible traveller. If you have any to add to my list be sure to comment!