April 16, 2020 | How To
The Ultimate Guide to Responsible Travel
By Mariah D.
Traveling is a wonderful opportunity to discover new cultures, reconnect with nature, stretch our boundaries and unwind. But there is more to the impact of travel than meets the eye. Individually, each one of our choices makes only a small difference in the big picture. But collectively, becoming more conscious about these little things can have a huge cumulatively positive impact on the Earth.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to responsible travel—the desire to appreciate the world without harming it—yet, you may be surprised how easy it is to minimize your impact and contribute to the environment in a positive way! So here are some ways to relieve that stress and enjoy your travels in a more responsible way!
1. Pack smart I know you’ve heard it all before, but seriously, pack light! Nobody likes the stress of rearranging your items 5 minutes before airport check-in in order to pass the weight limit. It will make your life 100x easier. Plus, you never know when you’ll be staying in a hotel on the top of a hill with 150 steps. (Thank me later) Pro tip: layers!
2. Skip the liquids Shampoo and conditioner bars will be your best friend (less liquids for your carry on bag + no spills!) I love the ones from Lush. No plastic packaging, and they last for months!
3. Reuse, Reuse, Reusables! Channel your inner VSCO girl and pack a reusable water bottle (I like the filtered water bottles from Brita, because they’re so amazingly convenient and clean), metal straws, a cloth shopping bag to transport purchases, utensils, and possibly a container or two for leftovers. Single-use disposables are so 20th century...
4. Choose souvenirs wisely Locally made crafts and souvenirs are not always cheaper, but purchasing them ensures that your contribution to the economy will have a more positive impact. When you buy directly from an artist, you’re not only helping them feed their family, but in many cases, you’re helping to preserve their culture. And they’re usually one-of-a-kind!
Note: But think twice before you buy any products made from any illegal or endangered species, including animal hides and body parts, ivory, coral, etc.
5. Bring your own washing machine I know, I know...but it’s easier than it sounds. Don’t waste your time finding coins, waiting for a washer to open up, forgetting to move your clothes from washer to dryer (someone ended up putting my soaking wet clothes in a trash bag). My friend brought the Scrubba Washing Bag and let’s just say it absolutely made the rounds in our tour group.
Bonus tip: Hang up your towels after each use, which is the universal sign that you’d like to use them again. You don’t wash your towels every day at home, so why do it when you travel?
6. Don’t be wasteful! Return maps, brochures, and other tourist info once you’re finished with them so that they may be reused by future travelers.
7. Live like a local Imitating the local way of life is the most respectful and responsible way to travel. Disconnect from the online recommendations and travel guide books (if people even read those anymore), and talk to the locals around you. Go to libraries, restaurants, shows, markets. Strike up conversations and get folks on the ground to give you recommendations. Chances are, it will be a unique experience, without the tourist crowds and prices.
8. Freebies Take any leftover shampoo, toothpaste, or soap from hotels with you. Unused portions are often thrown away, and you can reuse the plastic bottles in the future to ensure that you won’t run out of toiletries.
9. Lastly (and most importantly IMO): Respect the culture Do a little research before you travel to learn about the local cultural traditions and customs, so you can speak and behave appropriately. For example, folks in some countries don’t like their picture taken—they believe it captures their soul. So before you go snapping away, read up on the simple need-to-know customs for each area. Locals will appreciate it, and be impressed by your knowledge!
So before getting caught up in all the hustle and bustle of the big cities and Instagram hot spots, don’t forget that with traveling comes the responsibility to preserve and protect the environments we visit. Only in this way can we all continue to enjoy them for years to come.