I agree that it may sound much better when we say that we, the people are saving the planet instead of admitting that we actually are repairing the damage that we’ve caused to the Earth.
How to be a responsible traveler? The things you’ll read about further will tell you how responsible are you when traveling to foreign countries and vacationing.
Simply we should feel better whenever we do the right thing. So, in essence, there shouldn’t have to be so many mistakes in the history of our existence. Since we are not perfect and don’t have the answer on this, it’s always a good thing to remind ourselves of some of the attitudes or things we should do that are good for us and the planet.
Traveling sustainably means considering your impact on the environment, community, and culture.
Before you go a little bit of prior research of the destination, nature and culture won’t do any harm. You should check the companies before you use their services and how sustainable are they in their work. If they’ve won any rewards or are supporting any kind of sustainable programs. There are a lot of eco-friendly companies and eco-certified hotels that provide an excellent type of accommodation. Besides, people that care for the environment, firstly care about people which means you’ll be treated right as a guest in a kind and respectful way. Look for the labels and probably you won’t encounter any fake smiles when you arrive there. Planning is good.
When thinking about how to be more responsible when traveling the thing to consider is the mean of transport you gonna use depending on the length and distance to the desired destination. Since airplanes are most polluting flying is the best option for long distances and whenever possible take the direct flights. For the shorter ones traveling with trains or buses is another option.
Use of eco-friendly transport like trains or public transport at the destination is a great choice, but if you are in a smaller city a cycling and walking would be even better. Also, we should avoid driving cars, especially alone, for short distances and instead walk or ride a bike.
Unless you are strongly attached to some food that you eat at home, I guess you’d look for locally fresh, seasonal products and shop in the local markets simply because in the essence is always the best choice. Besides, buying seasonal fresh groceries will save you on your budget too.
In general, for every cooked meal the basic ingredients include vegetables and meat. When done with seasonal fresh products they taste much better. If the food you are going to eat will be mostly of local products, like fish or shrimps, vegetables, and fruits, bread maybe or cheese you’ll have an opportunity to sense a slice of the delicious organic and native products of the country and land you are visiting.
But, this doesn’t go only for the food – shopping locally. When traveling and visiting other countries you’ll probably buy at least one souvenir, a handmade product or even organic products, such as cosmetics or handbags are great too. Besides, most of the time the vendors are the ones that made those items, so you’ll meet them in person and that’s really something good. Although you’ll buy something nice that will be worth every penny, your money will certainly help those people to improve their lives and livelihood. Remember to pay a fair price and to not overdo it when haggle. Actually, it’s better if you can pay the full price or at least the price that you think the product is worth.
Keep in mind though that we shouldn’t buy products made of protected or endangered animals, to buy products with recycled package whenever we get a chance and finally, we should use biodegradable, reusable bags for shopping instead of plastic bags.
PEOPLE & CULTURE
I agree that we may forget ourselves when we are on the tropical island or somewhere relaxed vacationing, thinking everything is ok just because we are there chilling on the beach. So, when we see a local child with a smile all over his cute face we may wanna give him something thinking he is poor and we want to help because he needs that.
In general, when we travel to destinations and countries that are developing or they would need an extra help for further development if we really like to help we should turn to the organizations that accept donations and give that money where most needed at the present time or by supporting community projects. Most of the time, if not always it depends on the circumstances, but if you see some cute kid and you would like to give him something unless you don’t know his parents or you are a friend or related in some kind of way with the family it’s not good to give the child a gift regardless of our best intentions. In fact, it’s never a good thing to give a child a gift if his parents aren’t present or asked in front.
Otherwise, when we do give money or a present to a child just like that, on the street, that same kid will start begging in the future for gifts or money and expecting to receive something in the same way again from other visitors, which is wrong and not good at all. Every kid needs that chance to live a nice life and if he starts begging that will certainly drive him in a wrong direction.
Hire a local guide to walk you (literally) through the history and culture of the best attractions or whenever available the biking tours are another great option.
Before taking photos just ask, especially of the locals. We should put ourselves in their shoes for a sec and think how their side looks like. They live in the place where millions of new people, some of them may be regular ones, but most of them are new, coming and leaving all the time and every one of them takes dozens of photos. Probably, with all the selfies these days, they feel like on a photo session most of the time. It can be exhausting. Except, not everyone likes to be photographed so be considerate and ask before you take a picture of someone, and try not to make the locals live in fear when constantly put in a position of avoiding cameras.
Casual dressing is very much appreciated when traveling, but not too casual like pajamas or tracksuits for every occasion, I suppose. We should show some respect too. Try to follow the fashion trends when traveling to foreign destinations.
We are visiting another culture and some of the traditions and way of life, beliefs may be different than ours. The best advice is to be kind and avoid to be funny. Humor is good but if you speak a different language than the language of the country you are visiting you can be easily misunderstood and someone may unwillingly get offended. It’s always a very good thing to learn a few phrases and words from the country’s official language that you gonna visit.
If you are invited to someone’s house as a guest, you should get familiar with the customs or ask for advice to avoid making inappropriate mistakes. Gifts are accepted everywhere widely, as far as I know, so you can always bring a gift without thinking twice. Except, the gift itself has very wide meaning too, and there may be some rules regarding the type of the gift or color, to whom to be given etc.
NATURE & WILDLIFE
The saying is that we should care for the country that we are visiting, the surroundings and the nature in the same way as we do at home. But, the thing is that some of the people don’t show appropriate behavior in their homes either and the one that is shown outside, the same from home, is the unwanted one. So, we shouldn’t encourage them to do that, because some people don’t dispose of their garbage properly even at home, and someone else is cleaning after them.
We should always dispose of our trash properly wherever we go and if there aren’t any cans near, to take it with us. Also, we should reduce the use of water and electricity. So, avoid leaving any light on when unnecessary and you don’t really need it. Don’t touch or take anything from the oceans and water, even the beach, like corals or shells since in most of the countries it’s even illegal.
Be an animal-friendly traveler and avoid feeding, or provoking the wildlife. It’s no good. Always try to keep a reasonable distance from the animal not to disturb it in any way. Stay on the designated trail when in nature and follow the signs. Ask a local if you are not familiar with something or don’t know the way, and avoid exploring alone. We are guests in those countries we are visiting and every local feels that responsibility as a host. So, never hesitate to ask a local about anything.
Finlay, when you come back home share your positive experience of the trip and the good memories of the place, visited.