ARE YOU A SUSTAINABLE TRAVELLER?
Are you a sustainable traveller? If you are unsure, here are a few ways that you can become one. I am a very passionate person (as I hope you have already gathered) and strongly believe that giving back is the most important thing in this world.
Sustainable travel is something we all can do! There are so many problems facing today’s westernised society; terrorism, political upheavals, racial diversity and more. Although on the other side of the world there is extreme poverty, environmental degradation, extreme hunger and inequality like never before.
When we travel the world, we do so in a way to escape from our reality. But unfortunately, many of the residents of countries we visit don’t have the ability to escape theirs. Something you and I can do to make our travels more respectable, sustainable and world changing is some of the following:
It has happened to all of us. We have been loured into a touristy shop where we spend 10x more than we need to. We could have walked down the street and seen a very similar product from a local store that has been locally sourced and handmade. It will happen to literally every one of us.
So start saying no to touristy shops! Buying locally will strengthen the economic base of the community while supporting those in need whilst shopping from a nationally owned brand will do much the opposite. We should buy products that are sourced in an environmentally friendly way, do your research and help the locals out!
SAY NO TO ANIMAL EXPLOITATION
Supporting tourist attractions that are contributing to the exploitation of animals is the number one way that you will destroy the lives of the local (and not so local) animals. There is absolutely no need to see them living in hell – Especially when you can see them in their natural habitat.
Although it can be tempting and an amazing experience to have a selfie with a tiger, it is really not right. Resist the urge to ride that elephant… Instead, take a trip to Africa and go on a Safari. It will be 10X better trust me.
BE CAUTIOUS OF BEGGARS
As tempting and heartbreaking as it is, please reconsider your choice when giving money to children on the streets.
In many places around the world, giving money to beggars is something that will contribute to a world of problems and potential danger. Despite your best intentions, child beggars are more likely than not, being forced to beg for their parents or organisations that are seeking your money.
Children are a soft point for many tourists (and people in general) and contributing to their misfortune stops them from getting an education and living a life like a child should. Rather they will be spending their lives on the street, getting money for their families and in some cases, their bosses. You will know when it is right… When someone with leprosy is begging on the street or someone with no limbs is dragging themselves along the ground with their mouth, it’s more than okay to give them your money.
Just make sure you’re not doing more harm than good!
RESPECT CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
Travelling is about experiencing the culture. The way you dress is a sign of respect, modesty and tradition. We are visiting their country, so respect the way they live. There are many cultural differences that may be unknown to you, so it is wise to do your research! Cover the parts of your body that are required, don’t show public affection where it is not welcome and act respectfully to the people that are welcoming you into their country.
We are invading their land, we don’t want to disrespect them! We want a world of love; where we respect one another and allow each other to experience each other’s culture as we please. Don’t ruin it by acting more superior.
DON’T DAMAGE THE ENVIRONMENT
Regardless of your whereabouts, littering isn’t okay! Caring for the environment is something that should be done no matter the situation. In third world countries, the bins and waste management are not the highest of standards; finding a bin is not the easiest thing to do.
Take your rubbish with you so that you know it is being disposed of in the correct way. There is absolutely no benefit to throwing your rubbish on the ground. Just because the locals do it, doesn’t mean you should too. You are showing them that what they’re doing is okay, instead of teaching them how it should be done.
TRAVEL WITH SUSTAINABLE TOUR COMPANIES
If you are someone who likes to travel with tour companies, do your research! Make sure that the company you choose to venture with, is sustainable, reliable and trustworthy. You don’t want to choose a company that supports the downfall of the country. That contributes to the exploitation of animals, poverty or that is completely money driven. There are many companies that give back to their society.
There are many that hire locals, reduce water and energy waste where possible, support local projects and simply care for the environment. Some that I would recommend are Responsible Travel, Intrepid, Peregrine, G Adventures and National Geographic.
Volunteering is an amazing way to give back to organisations that are supporting the growth of their country. There is no better way to show you want to change the world, by donating your precious time to help those in need.
It’s incredibly important that you gain knowledge on the many volunteer abroad programs and how you can make your experience the best for both you, and the people you’re intending to help. Taking away the locals jobs is damaging, so if you choose to volunteer, do so by partaking in the jobs that locals may not be able to do – Work behind the scenes, do the jobs that desperately need doing… Not the ones that look good on social media!
There are so many places that I would recommend to volunteer; schools, animal welfare, charity organisations and more. The possibilities are endless.
But regardless of your choice, make sure your intentions are right!
RESEARCH BEFORE YOU DONATE
Although I just said to volunteer, there has been a lot of speculations on the authenticity of some orphanages in third world countries. It has been known that children are taken from their families to fill orphanages, and gain money from tourists. So… before you do your part to donate, do your part to research too.
You don’t want to be caught giving money to an organisation that is doing more harm than good.
REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
Getting to and from your destination is one of the major causes of global warming. I need to take my own advice on this one. Travelling by aeroplane releases a drastic amount of CO2 into the air. It is something that is very difficult to manoeuvre around.. and I hope one day we can work something out to reduce our carbon footprint.
In the meantime, when your destination is reached, try travelling by boat, train, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, bike or simply walk. Try out the local modes of transportation. Travelling by bicycle rickshaw was one of the most fun things I have done, and there are no environmental dangers involved in that. This is a hard one, but try your best!
LEARN FROM THE LOCALS
Eat where the locals eat, speak like the locals speak and fit in like the locals do. It’s as simple as that.. steer away from tourism! The industry can change, and I truly believe that. We really can change the world by how we travel. Give money to the people in need, show the world that we have respect for one another, and show appreciation to the locals.
Travelling the world is a gift. Something almost half the worlds population has never had the opportunity to do. So let’s have respect for the world. We as travellers are no better than the locals… Travel sustainably, it is the least we can do!
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