Plain and simple, travel is amazing, so it’s no wonder millions of us love to do it! The world is travelling now more than ever before - we’re becoming more adventurous, destinations are becoming more accessible and travel is becoming more affordable. Now that many more people are travelling compared to years ago, the best thing we can do is travel right and consciously make an effort to leave a positive impact on the places we visit.
Here are some ways you can be a better, more responsible traveller.
1. Learn some of the local language
Learning a few useful simple key phrases of any local language is totally doable and can make all the difference! Not only will it make your life easier when it comes to navigating around a foreign country, but just by making an effort to learn the language, you’ll notice a big difference to how the locals treat you - they’ll be more willing to help you when you need it, you’ll get many more smiles, and who knows, you may even make friends along the way! Think about how much you would appreciate the effort if it was the other way around. Be more than just a tourist that only cares about taking a great Insta pic, a little bit of effort goes a long way!
2. Get to know your destination
Get to know the place you’re visiting - it’s history, people, customs, quirks, traditions, passions and dislikes. You’ll get so much more out of your trip if you do your research and learn about the destination, like what makes the people tick, what you should do and why you should do it. Having a good understanding of the place and its people will end up giving you a much greater appreciation for where you’re visiting.
3. Dress to the local standard
It’s as simple as, do as the locals do. Take notice of how the locals dress. Do they dress conservatively? Do they cover their knees and shoulders? At the end of the day, you’re on their turf, so whatever they’re wearing, you should too, it’s all about being a respectful traveller.
4. Embrace difference and keep an open mind
One of the best parts about travelling is the variety of people, places, cultures, beliefs, traditions and experiences we come across. Difference is inevitable when travelling, you may not always agree with someone’s beliefs, traditions or views, but being a better traveller is all about embracing this difference, respecting diversity and keeping an open mind. The world is a diverse place, full of many differences, but that’s exactly what makes it such a wonderful place to explore!
5. Go local
Instead of going to the most well known restaurant on the tourist strip or shopping at the largest chain supermarkets, one of the best ways to support the city or town you’re in is by going local! Explore the narrow streets and small neighbourhoods, find a family-owned restaurant or cafe, shop at the markets and use the public transport. You never know what hidden gems you could come across! Staying away from the large tourists spots will give you a more authentic experience, you are more likely to engage with the locals, and the best part, you’ll avoid those tourist prices! Plus you can feel good knowing that you’re supporting a range of local businesses and people in the places you’re visiting.
6. Avoid animal tourism
Say no to elephant rides, cuddles with koalas, swimming with dolphins and posing with tigers. You may think all you’re doing is getting that “cute” pic with a koala, but really, you’ll actually be supporting an industry that forces animals to be held in captivity and behave in a way that’s in no way natural to them. As a rule of thumb take a “look but don’t touch” approach with animals, and if the animal is doing something they wouldn’t typically do in the wild, then it’s more than likely they’re being exploited and mistreated.
If you’re keen to involve animals in your trip, then be sure to do your research! Instead, support animal sanctuaries, animal conservation and rehabilitation efforts, and organisations that rescue and protect animals. Engage in efforts that help them rather than harm them.
7. Leave only footprints
Sadly, it’s not uncommon to come across big issues with pollution and rubbish in the streets and waterways of many large cities and developing countries. Rather than adding to a destination’s landfill and pollution issue, do your bit to reduce your carbon footprint by cutting down on waste and carbon emissions as much as possible. Ditch the plastic bags, refuse unnecessary packaging, recycle, take public transport, ride a bike, and of course, don’t litter! Better yet, go that one step further and pick up that bit of rubbish you spot on the beach or out in a park, every little bit helps! Leave places in the same, if not better condition than when you arrived.
8. Share the love and go off the beaten path
Like many travellers, it’s a given that you’re likely going to want to tick off all the New Yorks and Tokyos of the world. But with these popular tourist destinations becoming busier and busier every year, it’s a great opportunity to share the love and go somewhere more off the beaten path. When planning your next holiday, ease the strain of these popular tourist hot spots and consider alternative destinations, such as Cambodia over Thailand, Montenegro over Croatia, Guatemala over Mexico etc. There are so many cities and countries out there that really value and appreciate tourism, many even rely on it for their economy. Not only will you have a more affordable trip skipping those pesky tourist prices, but you’ll also end up feeling much more welcomed by the locals too.
Doesn’t mean you can’t still go to the New Yorks and Tokyos of the world, but when going to these iconic places, try consider staying, eating, shopping and exploring away from the main tourist strip - uncover the lesser known neighbourhoods and support the local businesses.
Try something new, get to know the locals, be creative and discover the many hidden treasures a new destination has to offer!