There’s nothing like getting away from your daily life and heading somewhere beautiful, exotic, or both. And there’s no denying it traveling is one heck of a blast. But with each trip comes the potential for guilt. After all, you left home thinking you were going to have fun, right? But what about the locals who live there? Or the natural world surrounding you?
How to Be a More Responsible Tourist
Maybe you’re guilty of overindulging in alcohol or food during your travels. Maybe you’re guilty of not using sunscreen. Or maybe you’re just simply guilty of not considering the impact of your actions before you leave. No matter where your guilt lies, it’s time to take responsibility for changing your ways.
Here are 11 ways you can become a more responsible tourist.
1. Take Responsibility for Your Money
You want to explore a foreign country, but you don’t actually need to spend any money at all. There are plenty of free activities to try out without emptying your wallet. The same goes for eating. In many areas worldwide, restaurants offer incredible value.
Even better, most places will let you order and pay for food in cash. This way, you won’t put extra stress on your budget by having to use credit cards. Plus, you’ll save yourself from paying exorbitant fees for international transactions.
2. Respect Local Culture
When visiting another country, make sure you learn about its customs and traditions. For example, it may seem rude to ask someone to dance at a party, but in many cultures, this is completely normal. If you really aren’t sure whether something is considered okay, just ask locals directly. They know best!
Also, keep in mind that different countries have different rules regarding tipping. Some countries only allow tips for services rendered (like taxi drivers), while others expect them regardless of performance. So, always check first before leaving a tip.
3. Understand What You Buy Matters
If you’re shopping, think about the environmental impact of the product you buy. Try to find eco-friendly alternatives whenever possible. For example, buying fair trade coffee will help support small farmers and their families. Buying organic products means you’re supporting sustainable farming practices.
And, in general, look for items made locally wherever possible. When you go hiking through nature, you’ll see much less litter and trash than you would when walking down the sidewalk in a big city. Also, try to avoid purchasing souvenirs made of endangered animal parts. These products often come from illegal hunting.
4. Consider How Your Actions Affect Others
While you’re traveling, remember that you’re probably not the only person affected by your decisions. Oftentimes, tourists end up trampling flowers and plants as they walk along the streets. This makes the landscape a lot dirtier and affects native species’ growth patterns.
So, stay aware of your surroundings and never step off the path to snap photos of wildlife. Instead, opt to visit these animals in captivity or via guided tours. The same applies to many locations throughout the world. For instance, don’t go snorkeling near coral reefs because doing so destroys the ecosystem. Instead, book a tour with a dive shop to experience the underwater world safely.
5. Support Sustainable Tourism Practices
Try to support the tourism industry responsibly. Look for hotels and attractions that focus on sustainability efforts. Many companies already do their best to preserve the beauty of the places they operate. However, sometimes they still fall short. To ensure full transparency.
You can search online for certification programs offered by respected organizations such as Green Seal and the International Ecotourism Society. Additionally, look into volunteering opportunities in tourism destinations. Not only does this give you the chance to work with the local community, but it also helps conserve important habitats and resources.
6. Remember Where You Came From
Before leaving, take a moment to reflect on the origins of your trip. Did you travel long distances to reach your destination? If so, did you drive a gas guzzler? Now might be a good time to start looking into carpool options.
In addition, take advantage of public transportation whenever possible. Using buses, trains, or bikes instead of driving puts far less strain on our planet.
7. Learn About Environmental Issues Abroad
When you arrive, research environmental issues that affect the location you plan to visit. You can easily access information about climate change, deforestation, water pollution, and many other topics through Google Earth and other tools.
Then, once you begin exploring, read about environmental concerns that could arise in the future. For example, if you plan to hike in an isolated area, you should research if there are poisonous snakes present.
8. Don’t Waste Water
It’s tough to imagine now, but before widespread plumbing infrastructure, Americans used to consume huge amounts of water. People needed to store drinking water in large jugs or barrels, and cooking required gallons upon gallons of water per meal.
Today, thanks to improved technology, we don’t waste nearly as much water. Still, it’s easy to waste water while showering, washing dishes, and cleaning clothes. Fortunately, modern detergents and fabrics require far fewer gallons than older ones.
But perhaps the biggest culprit of wasting water is air conditioning. Most buildings in America run their AC units continuously, despite the fact that the average office worker sweats heavily due to heat. By turning your AC unit off when not in use, you can cut back significantly on wasted energy.
9. Get Involved With Other Travelers
One of the easiest ways to become a more responsible traveler is to meet fellow travelers. Join an organization that promotes responsible tourism. One great option is called Impactful Trips. This program offers trips led by professional guides who teach participants about the history, culture, ecology, geography, and economy of the place they visit.
The group also focuses on helping communities improve their lives. Each year, Impactful Trips sends hundreds of volunteers overseas to build schools, hospitals, and wells.
10. Stay Healthier While Traveling
Traveling doesn’t automatically expose you to germs. But if you’re planning to visit areas with lots of sick people, it’s smart to wash your hands frequently and wear masks.
To prevent sicknesses, drink lots of fluids and stick to healthy meals. Avoid raw vegetables and fruits unless they’re washed thoroughly. Wash fresh produce under running water and scrub the peel with soap until it feels clean. Then, dry well with paper towels or cloth.
11. Help Make the World A Better Place
As you travel, you might notice that certain places aren’t as nice as others. Or you might discover that people are suffering from extreme poverty or disease. Either way, you can contribute toward making the world a better place.
For example, Volunteer International can connect you with volunteer positions across the globe. Or, Lonely Planet recently launched Hello Spring, a campaign to raise $100 million dollars to fund projects in developing nations.
Plus, there are countless ways to donate to causes near and dear to your heart. Just follow your heart, then look for a local nonprofit that needs your help.