How To Be a Responsible Traveler?
Responsible travel is the counterpart of sustainable travel, green travel, eco-friendly travel, which has become one of the stirring subjects of the travel industry. It is a broad concept that touches ethical issues while traveling like wildlife tourism, conservation issues, volunteer travel, and so on. Responsible travel includes the issues of how to protect and improve the world we live in and travel through.
Tourism is one of the major industry in the world, and as travel is becoming more mainstream and tourism is surging, it is important to know how to become a responsible traveler.
Being a traveler is more than being an admirer. It is our responsibility to leave the place as they were. It is estimated that by 2020, around 1.5 billion people will travel each year; the number itself tells the magnitude of effects in the environment. So, now is the time to realize our responsibility as a traveler and minimize the negative impacts.
While visiting any place, a traveler should try to make a conscious effort to be a responsible traveler and give back as much as possible. Being a responsible traveler doesn’t ask you much, it is the simple decisions you make while traveling like which accommodations you choose, where you decide to eat, or the activities you be a participant one.
Responsible travel endeavors on putting an active awareness about the effects of traveling on destination; its natural and cultural state. The concept also talks about your own impact as travelers; from the type of traveling agent to taking responsibility for your travel actions.
Putting a simple effect as a responsible traveler won’t take the full out of your travel, nor it is about creating any big impact. Responsible traveling is traveling with awareness, kindness, and mutual respect for the world around you, making a small choice with big impacts and attempting not to leave any traces of your wanderings.
Especially when you are traveling to another country, you will encounter a different array of cultures and practice. And, you can see small shops in those regions full of local products and souvenirs depicting art and culture.
Well, of course, you will come across those products in fancy shops in cities as well. But there is a difference in shopping locally as the money goes directly to the local people. Purchasing local goods, staying in a family-run homestay, dining in a local restaurant; these small steps help inject money directly into the local economy.
This way, you will get to know the real picture of the place and have an authentic experience, while aiding to make someone else’s life and community better.
RESPECTING LOCAL CULTURE
Culture is the best part of traveling; ages-old traditional practice unique and distinctive lifestyle, and the festivals and celebrations. The experience is just so fascinating and rewarding. It feels like a privilege to witness and be a part of such a culture. In the meantime, a traveler must heed that; the world has a diverse culture and the country you are visiting might be narrow-minded and a traditional one like Nepal.
Giving the example of Nepal itself, where, wearing shorts, calling by names, or even holding hands in public is taken offensively. So, take the help of your guide and learn about the local culture, so you don’t offend anyone.
SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL AND TOUR OPERATOR
As tourism is booming in the greater part of the world, travel and tour companies are growing like mushrooms. With tourism as the main industry, in Nepal as well, you will go through hundreds of such operators. The option is open and wide when it comes to travel companies for your dream vacation in the Himalayas or elsewhere.
There are several businesses which are now actively involved with local communities to develop the socio-economic scenario through local tourism. They also put the effort in environment conservation through community involvement. They hire local guides and porters, work with community focusing on active women involvement, and providing training to help improve their skills.
And, some companies even donate a certain percentage of their profit to such communities and establish schools, health post and scholarship programs to deserving ones.
Choosing the travel and tour operator that adheres to sustainable tourism concept you will contribute indirectly to nature and community.
BE REASONABLE WHILE BARGAINING
Bargaining is part of the culture in most of the local regions of the world. While you shop locally, try thinking of the bigger impact before making the bargain extreme. Especially when it is the local market, the commonplace for every item like foods, clothes, and souvenirs, bargaining prevails more strongly.
However, keep in mind that bargaining with these locals for a couple of rupees and paying tips with a service charge in a fancy restaurant; which of these options sounds nice and wise.
These locals produce the goods and carry them all the way to the market to sell, not to build the tall buildings or buy property, but to save some extra money for a crisis like health issues.
So, while buying products, do bargain with reasonable limits.
DON’T MELT AWAY FOR BEGGERS
This point might be inhumane and rude, but you must be clever and conscious, too while traveling. Whose heart doesn’t melt when someone with innocent and hopeful face asks for something? But, you must be strong and do not fall for that face.
Beggars mainly hang on to the foreigners because they think they have lots of money and gives away quickly. Well, if you give away to one of them, a whole horde will follow you, and that’s the problem.
To make things even worse, beggars (women) come with babies in their arms. But, make your heart strong and walk your way. However, you can help by buying food and water instead.
TRY MINIMIZING THE IMPACT
As there is a popular saying, Where there is a will there’s a way, meaning there is always an alternative for every problem. So, while traveling, you can always find a way to lower environmental impacts.
If you are going to someplace, let’s say to point Y from point X, then why to take a taxi and pay extra amounts. Instead, you can look for a public vehicle and reach the destination. Or better, you can go walking; better for health, better for the pocket.
Another perfect example is taking a water bottle and refilling in the way instead of continuously buying bottled water while trekking or mountaineering.
Trying to find ways to minimize the impacts on the destination is good for the environment, your traveling budget, and most importantly, your health.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR TRASH
One of the major problems of tourism is trash management. Obviously, the large group of people also calls for bags of trash and waste and traveling often contribute to this problem unknowingly.
The least anyone can do is to take care of their trash; throw them in their designated place. Also, opt for paper or cloth bags instead of plastic bags for shopping. Try having your food and drink right in the café than take it away. Always carry a reusable water bottle and refill whenever you get the chance.
As Nepal is largely visited for trekking and mountaineering, waste management in the Himalayan region has become one of the critical issues. Mainly in the Everest region, due to the high influx of visitors, the waste has piled up excessively.
So, taking care of your trash and endeavoring to minimize it is a part of being a responsible traveler.
VOLUNTEER SOME OF YOUR TIME
It doesn’t matter if you are traveling is for weeks or years, taking some days off your schedule, and volunteering will be worthwhile to spend. You don’t have to worry about the skills or specifications if you have a willingness to volunteer. You can find several organizations involved in social activities, who can always use an extra hand or two.
Depending on your background field and interest, you can get involved with the organization and help local communities in different way possible. And, if not, you can volunteer to teach English in remote schools.
EDUCATE AND AWARE OTHERS
We all are travelers; one way or another. Some might travel for years from country to country, while some might travel for a day to some destinations near home. In whichever, a category we fall, our responsibility remains the same.
Nowadays, travelers are quite known with “responsible traveler” concept, and they are already adapting to it. However, many are unknown about the consequences of their actions.
You can always take a step ahead by discussing first with your friends and family. If you ever come across a situation when someone is unintentionally doing something harmful to the environment or community and culture, then you can try talking with them in a friendly and polite way.
Not just that, you can start talking about “responsible travel” in your office, college or schools or the group you are traveling with. It is, ultimately, education and awareness that helps spread the benefits of Sustainable Tourism.
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