What is responsible travel?
Updated: Sep 6, 2019
“When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?'” ~ Sydney J. Harris
Education at all levels is something we should be grateful for, and one that does not come easily to everyone in the world. However it's important to know that education goes beyond schooling, it is our conscious decision to better ourselves through opening our mind to information and learning from experiences. I've been lucky enough to have the support from my family to give me a fantastic education whilst I was growing up (albeit not appreciating this till I was older), however some of the most important things I have ever learnt have been through experiences. Admittedly I have grown up blind to a lot of things, and through travel I have gained an understanding of what responsible travel really means. How can we be culturally intelligent if we continue to make generalizations and pre judgment based on connecting facts that are of others opinions, media fueled that are bias or unreliable.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” - Nelson Mandela
Those of us able to travel, near or far are fortunate, and I believe it's our responsibility to make sure we are not making a negative impact on the world and the people in it. Deep down we all know that getting on a plane increases our carbon footprint in the world, however with countries and people relying on tourism, there are much benefits that come from our traveling, however it is so easy to have a negative impact or non sustainable tourism on a country by a visit, so its our responsibility to educate ourselves, why? Because we can!
Responsible travel is researching outside of the echo chamber that is created by our media, and allowing ourselves to understand the impact of our actions.
Responsible travel is not just about saving the environment as some would assume, it's about so much more. It's about respecting cultures, having a positive impact on both the environment and economy of a country.
In Control your Narrative, I talk more deeply into issues of voluntourism, and personal experiences that have led to my understanding of exploitation of vulnerable people.
However here are some small tips I have been fortunate enough to learn along my life journey, albeit some gained the harder way than just researching.
Top Tips to be a responsible traveller #travelenjoyrespect
- Orphanage Tourism - Did you know that Orphanage's are privately owned and some profit making businesses, and that 80% of children have a living parent or family member who could home them given support? Do not visit an Orphanage as part of your travel or holiday, you would not visit New York or London and as part of your trip go visit a home for children for the day or for a week.
- Traveling through a continent? Why not research reputable and safe bus options for travel, rather than taking in country flights. Save money, lessen your carbon imprint & get to see a local town you would have flown over and support that town with buying from local businesses.
- Do not take and post pictures of children and put it on social media without permission from their parents. You would not go into a school in your home town and take pictures of kids and put it on your instagram? Don't fall into the issues of double standards.
- Should you ignore beggers? No you shouldn't ignore someone pleading for money, because no matter what their reasons for being on the street is, whether honest or not, they are people! You should not give money as this fuels organised begging, but you can interact, and where possible offer food or drinks. Better yet you can research organizations in the area that support the help for street kids, provide education and health access or help fight against the exploitation of children and child trafficking.
- Ever wondered why a cruise ship is known as a floating city? Perhaps because it gives off the same carbon omissions. Cruise ships pollute the ocean with sewage, trash and fuel. Standing on a cruise ship deck is similar to being in one of the worlds most polluted cities
- Ethical Elephant tourism- Ever wondered why elephant owners have sharp sticks? Avoid riding Elephants at all costs, you would be funding cruelty, as they are usually mistreated, and elephant tourism should ideally be through organizations you have researched that have credible history of rehabilitating Elephants back into the wild.
- Prison or Sanctuary? How does a Tiger allow a human to hug and take photos? If you are close enough to a Tiger to hug and take pictures, that Tiger has been drugged. Even Tiger Buddhist sanctuaries have been seen to have their staff abusing the animals. You should never be in direct contact with animals or with a facility that allows that.
- If you are used to an all-inclusive holiday, why not try changing and staying with a local hotel, and eating out in the local community? Why not go further and find out if your hotel is owned or at least staffed by locals?
- Don't you hate it when their is rubbish on the beach? Why not take a rubbish bag in your bag so if you see plastic bottles and rubbish on the beach you could collect and put them in the bin. One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.
- Ever stayed in an eco friendly hotel? Why not?
- Respect others cultures, research where you are going and the cultural norms expected to avoid being disrespectful.
- Human's can't give birth to baby monkeys? So why do we see people on the street and in markets with baby monkeys on their shoulders and in nappy's. Generally these people are poaches who often have stolen the monkey from their mother or even killed the mother. Do not add to this tourism by giving money for a 'quick snap with a baby monkey"
- Feeding monkeys is bad! As tempting as it is to get that 'insta pic' with a monkey on your shoulder, however some species of monkeys become dependent on humans giving them food and can consequently , become violent and secondly forget their natural instinct to search for food in the wild and starve.