9 Ways to Travel Responsibly

With summer underway, many of us are off to a vacation in far-off corners of the world. But how do your travels affect the places you visit? While tourism brings in lots of money to destination countries, it can also trample natural resources and history if we’re not careful. Early this month in Paris, part of the Pont des Arts collapsed because of padlocks tourists affixed to the bridge as a symbol of their love. We won’t tell you to stop going on vacation – but we will tell you to do so responsibly, to respect someone else’s home and leave it amenable to future tourists. Here’s how:

1. Support the local economy.

When we’re in foreign countries, it’s tempting to seek out chain stores and expat-run establishments in search of the familiar. But why go all that way for items you can buy around the corner? Support the local economy by buying locally made souvenirs from local businesses and tradespeople and patronizing local restaurants. You’ll meet more locals this way, especially if you gain their respect by learning a few phrases in the local language. You’ll gain a more ‘authentic’ experience by avoiding the tourist traps, and it will probably be cheaper to boot. Just be careful with your bargaining when you buy local – beware of travel scams, and offer prices that reflect the value of their work.

2. Respect local customs.

Before you travel, learn as much as you can about your destination to guarantee a safe and enjoyable experience. Familiarize yourself with potential health or safety risks. Pack appropriate clothes, especially if you plan to visit any religious sites. Learn what habits are considered rude and any unusual laws – remember, not knowing you factions are illegal won’t help you out of jail. You should also master at least a few phrases of the local language, even if it’s just hello and thank you. Don’t be that tourist who slowly yells in English at people who can’t understand you. Finally, don’t forget to follow these and any other customs during  your travels – obey all posted signs and refrain from taking pictures if asked. They might seem strange to you, but part of traveling is being open-minded and respecting the fact that you are a visitor in their homeland.

3. Respect the environment and wildlife.

The money tourism generates can be a boon to endangered habitats and wildlife – but you can do more harm if you’re not careful. Before you leave, do your research. Learn what areas and species might be suffering from overuse, and avoid them if you can. Check the WWF Buyer Beware Guide to avoid souvenirs made from endangered animals. If you want to see wildlife, make sure the facility you visit treats their animals humanely, and don’t believe everything you hear. Better yet, find an excursion that doesn’t disturb the animals from their natural habitats. Finally, follow all signs, like staying on trails and not removing shells from beaches.

4. Watch your transportation.

According to the Air Transport Action Group, airplanes produced 705 million tons of CO2 in 2013. Stay environmentally conscious and vacation closer to home, or offset your carbon emissions with a program like Climate Care. While in-country, travel by train, bus or boat for gorgeous views, cheaper fares and a potentially unique experience. If you must drive, see if you can carpool with fellow travelers. And travel slowly – not rushing from town to town allows you to see more of the country and is better for the environment.

5. Be careful with your resources.

2007 survey by ELEMENT Hotels found that most people abandon their normal environmental habits while abroad. Even when you don’t pay for it, your habits still impact the environment wherever you go. So don’t forget to turn out the lights, conserve water, save paper and be green while abroad. Bring a notebook to write down information instead of collecting leaflets, and bring a refillable water bottle instead of constantly buying bottled water. If you’re traveling alone, meet up with other travelers or locals to share resources. And don’t forget to recycle while abroad – for example, you could leave your guidebook behind for the next guest instead of tossing it.

6. Ask questions.

One surefire way to travel responsibly is to patronize establishments that treat the local economy and environment well. So don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. How does your hotel minimize environmental impact? Does a tour you go on employ local craftspeople and guides? tweetable]Ask questions so you can make informed decisions about where your money goes[/tweetable] – but it doesn’t stop there. You’re traveling to learn about the world, so don’t be afraid to ask any questions that might come up, including more tips on how to travel responsibly in a particular region. People love to teach others about their country, as long as you do so respectfully.

7. Be careful at home.

Responsible travel starts before you ever leave your house. Unplug any appliances before you leave to avoid using vampire power, and turn off the water main. If you’re traveling for more than a few weeks, suspend your newspaper delivery and internet service. Also consider emptying the fridge and switching to online billing.

8. Give back responsibly.

If you travel to a country where children beg on the streets, it seems heartless to ignore them. But by giving them money, you teach them that begging is worth it and perpetuate a culture that keeps children out of schools to beg (remember Slumdog Millionaire?). If you want to donate money to a cause you learn about while abroad, wait until you return home so you can properly research and find out where your money’s going. You can also look for companies with a social justice element, like NGO restaurants in Cambodia. Want to volunteer abroad? Make sure your admirable intentions aren’t inadvertently harming the community. For example, demand to work with orphans is so high in some countries that companies hire children from poor families to pretend to be orphans. Try working on farms, which often need extra hands –WWOOF or Help Xchange are good places to start.

9. Set a good example.

One person traveling responsibly won’t make much of an impact, but 100 people might. If you ever get discouraged, remember that some superheroes change the world by setting great examples. So travel responsibly and teach others to do so as well, and help the often-harmful tourism industry have a positive impact on economies and environments around the world.

Was this article helpful? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook or Tweet us @SuperheroYou!

Photo Credit: marfis75 via Compfight cc

Written by Sasha Graffagna

With summer underway, many of us are off to a vacation in far-off corners of the world. But how do your travels affect the places you visit? While tourism brings in lots of money to destination countries, it can also trample natural resources and history if we’re not careful. Early this month in Paris, part of the Pont des Arts collapsed because of padlocks tourists affixed to the bridge as a symbol of their love. We won’t tell you to stop going on vacation – but we will tell you to do so responsibly, to respect someone else’s home and leave it amenable to future tourists. Here’s how:

1. Support the local economy.

When we’re in foreign countries, it’s tempting to seek out chain stores and expat-run establishments in search of the familiar. But why go all that way for items you can buy around the corner? Support the local economy by buying locally made souvenirs from local businesses and tradespeople and patronizing local restaurants. You’ll meet more locals this way, especially if you gain their respect by learning a few phrases in the local language. You’ll gain a more ‘authentic’ experience by avoiding the tourist traps, and it will probably be cheaper to boot. Just be careful with your bargaining when you buy local – beware of travel scams, and offer prices that reflect the value of their work.

2. Respect local customs.

Before you travel, learn as much as you can about your destination to guarantee a safe and enjoyable experience. Familiarize yourself with potential health or safety risks. Pack appropriate clothes, especially if you plan to visit any religious sites. Learn what habits are considered rude and any unusual laws – remember, not knowing you factions are illegal won’t help you out of jail. You should also master at least a few phrases of the local language, even if it’s just hello and thank you. Don’t be that tourist who slowly yells in English at people who can’t understand you. Finally, don’t forget to follow these and any other customs during  your travels – obey all posted signs and refrain from taking pictures if asked. They might seem strange to you, but part of traveling is being open-minded and respecting the fact that you are a visitor in their homeland.

3. Respect the environment and wildlife.

The money tourism generates can be a boon to endangered habitats and wildlife – but you can do more harm if you’re not careful. Before you leave, do your research. Learn what areas and species might be suffering from overuse, and avoid them if you can. Check the WWF Buyer Beware Guide to avoid souvenirs made from endangered animals. If you want to see wildlife, make sure the facility you visit treats their animals humanely, and don’t believe everything you hear. Better yet, find an excursion that doesn’t disturb the animals from their natural habitats. Finally, follow all signs, like staying on trails and not removing shells from beaches.

4. Watch your transportation.

According to the Air Transport Action Group, airplanes produced 705 million tons of CO2 in 2013. Stay environmentally conscious and vacation closer to home, or offset your carbon emissions with a program like Climate Care. While in-country, travel by train, bus or boat for gorgeous views, cheaper fares and a potentially unique experience. If you must drive, see if you can carpool with fellow travelers. And travel slowly – not rushing from town to town allows you to see more of the country and is better for the environment.

5. Be careful with your resources.

2007 survey by ELEMENT Hotels found that most people abandon their normal environmental habits while abroad. Even when you don’t pay for it, your habits still impact the environment wherever you go. So don’t forget to turn out the lights, conserve water, save paper and be green while abroad. Bring a notebook to write down information instead of collecting leaflets, and bring a refillable water bottle instead of constantly buying bottled water. If you’re traveling alone, meet up with other travelers or locals to share resources. And don’t forget to recycle while abroad – for example, you could leave your guidebook behind for the next guest instead of tossing it.

6. Ask questions.

One surefire way to travel responsibly is to patronize establishments that treat the local economy and environment well. So don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. How does your hotel minimize environmental impact? Does a tour you go on employ local craftspeople and guides? tweetable]Ask questions so you can make informed decisions about where your money goes[/tweetable] – but it doesn’t stop there. You’re traveling to learn about the world, so don’t be afraid to ask any questions that might come up, including more tips on how to travel responsibly in a particular region. People love to teach others about their country, as long as you do so respectfully.

7. Be careful at home.

Responsible travel starts before you ever leave your house. Unplug any appliances before you leave to avoid using vampire power, and turn off the water main. If you’re traveling for more than a few weeks, suspend your newspaper delivery and internet service. Also consider emptying the fridge and switching to online billing.

8. Give back responsibly.

If you travel to a country where children beg on the streets, it seems heartless to ignore them. But by giving them money, you teach them that begging is worth it and perpetuate a culture that keeps children out of schools to beg (remember Slumdog Millionaire?). If you want to donate money to a cause you learn about while abroad, wait until you return home so you can properly research and find out where your money’s going. You can also look for companies with a social justice element, like NGO restaurants in Cambodia. Want to volunteer abroad? Make sure your admirable intentions aren’t inadvertently harming the community. For example, demand to work with orphans is so high in some countries that companies hire children from poor families to pretend to be orphans. Try working on farms, which often need extra hands –WWOOF or Help Xchange are good places to start.

9. Set a good example.

One person traveling responsibly won’t make much of an impact, but 100 people might. If you ever get discouraged, remember that some superheroes change the world by setting great examples. So travel responsibly and teach others to do so as well, and help the often-harmful tourism industry have a positive impact on economies and environments around the world.

Was this article helpful? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook or Tweet us @SuperheroYou!

Photo Credit: marfis75 via Compfight cc

Written by Sasha Graffagna

  • Comments