How to travel responsibly — the fact that tourism makes up over 10 percent of the world’s GDP poses enough proof that tourism creates a major impact in the world. Travelers are not just individuals who go to places to sight-see. Travelers have an impact on the world in both social and environmental aspects.
How to travel responsibly: Understanding responsible travel
How to travel responsibly relates to a variety of complex aspects. A major piece of the puzzle is sustainable travel. But what consists a sustainable travel? Everyone has a different idea when it comes to this. Sustainable travel encapsulates a wide scope of discussion. Becoming eco-friendly and taking the eco-friendly approach is merely a fragment of it. But it is largely the popular approach to how to travel responsibly.
Keeping in mind that travel has both a social and environmental impact, the element that is still largely overlooked is the social impact. It is understandable as the social impact of travel is a subject that is somewhat less frequently to be breached upon. What is your approach to a sustainable, responsible travel? Start with yourself and start small. You can define and re-define this as you go.
How to travel responsibly: Everything begins in your daily life
The process to become a responsible traveler takes time. It’s not something that happens overnight. And it shouldn’t be. The easiest, as well as the most effective way to travel responsibly, is by starting in your own home. Minimize the use of vehicle where you can help it. It will minimize your carbon footprints. Walk more instead. The little things in your daily life are built up and will become a habit. And you will carry that habit wherever you go, wherever you travel.
Chose the most direct flight with the least transfer
It’s clear that transportation contributes to a huge portion of carbon emissions. It’s been noted that over 12 percent of carbon emissions relating to transportation is contributed by aircraft. Flying is often the only choice to travel long distances effectively, flying is often unavoidable. Therefore, you can help minimize your carbon footprint by flying with the least transfers possible.
Read more: Top 10 International Travel Tips
Sustainable travel: If you want to help, donate
Sure, seeing people begging in their strewn over clothes and sometimes barefooted pulls on your heartstrings. It may seem that giving things directly to the people who may be more visible to you feels more immediately rewarding. This would be especially apparent when you travel to less developed countries.
How to travel responsibly? Do not feed into the cycle of begging. Once you give something to someone, they will simply beg more. In many cases, children who get stuff from begging will tell other people about their ‘haul’. Then more and more people come expecting to be given money and stuff. Giving children who beg is not how you travel responsibly. You would also perpetuate the stereotypes that “all white people are rich”. By giving to someone who begs, you’re not helping them at all. In fact, it can even cause harm—even if it’s unintended. It will only impact the community in a negative way in the long run.
Instead, you can try to donate to a local organization that helps build the local community. If volunteering is one of the activities you plan to do during your travel, do it the proper way. Contact organizations that specialize in the cause you care about. Being specific about your cause helps a lot in narrowing down your search and gives you the opportunity to bring the most impact. Sometimes, organizations can help arrange for your social work visa.
Give food, not money
A very frequent phenomenon is that people, children, beg because they’re told to beg. This is the case with begging mafias. Don’t let your sympathy and generosity be exploited. Children learn early on and would clearly repeat the same pattern of behavior of begging. This is why you should not give to people who beg. And the worst thing you can give them is money.
Don’t give stuff that they can re-sell. Even when it’s something as harmless as a pen or clothing. The least destructive thing you can give them is likely food. They’re perishable, and the children can consume them anytime they got hungry.
Be aware of animal exploitation
This is another complex matter especially when you’re not in your home country. While many zoos in developed countries adhere to high standards of animal welfare, most zoos in the world don’t. This includes attractions such as riding an elephant, a prevalent animal attraction ins Southeast Asia. If you’re interested in the issue, you can take a look at the post The Connection Between Tourism and Animal Abuse in India and Tortured for Tourists. Both articles provide a glimpse to real life on how the tourism industry had fed on the demands of animals being molded to fit tourists’ needs.
If you’re visiting a zoo in your destination, then consider scratching it out of the list. In today’s world, tourism provides the biggest demand for animal exploitation. That’s not how to travel responsibly. Zoos are essentially created for the entertainment of humans. Visit animal welfare organizations instead if you actually care about the animals. Donate when you can.
Plastic’s always a problem
Most countries have not banned plastics. Moreover, plastics are still widely used virtually everywhere. A lot of establishments in many countries give plastic bags freely. Convenience stores, the supermarkets, and many others still practice this. Make sure to bring your very own bags wherever you go. Bring a portable, lightweight one that you can fold and stuff inside your pocket. Make it easy to bring it with you everywhere. This way, you won’t have any excuses if you forget to bring it.
How to travel responsibly? Eat local, shop local
Not just eating local gives you a much more authentic experience of the place you’re visiting, but it is often so much more affordable. Not to mention, you will be giving your money directly to the local community and families owning the business, instead of to a franchise.
Personal habit matters
Little things such as bringing your very own water bottle are something small that you can start with. And starting small is key on how to travel responsibly without quitting halfway. If you keep on forgetting bringing a bag so to prevent getting plastics, then start from there.
Know that the smallest of gestures makes an impact
It may not seem like much at first, but trust in the cumulative effect. The most important thing is to start from yourself and your own actions. It’s not just the cumulative effect you bring with your actions and choices. Chances are, other people are also putting in the effort to travel more responsibly.