Learn how to travel the world with greater impact with this ethic Travel Tips.
Travel is such a devastating force that I can't understand why the subject isn't high on the agenda of all elections and public discussion around the world.
If you look at the number of people crossing borders now compared to past centuries, it's staggering. 1.6 billion people will travel in 2020, compared to 25 million in the 1950s and the number is increasing rapidly.
The sheer amount that tourism brings to the most sought-after destinations has a huge impact on local life, the environment and infrastructure.
Impact of Overtourism
There are already destinations that have completely shut down tourism, such as the famous Maya Beach in Thailand (from the film: The Beach) and Boracay in the Philippines.
Another destination like Venice is imposition of fines for simple behaviors such as sitting in unspecified areas and Komodo Island will be closed to tourists in 2020 for at least a year in an effort to rejuvenate the island and increase Komodo Dragon conservation.
But, travel is good for our society, if everyone in the world at some point in life had the opportunity to travel the world, I believe our society would be much better off.
Even the famous travel guru Rick Steves want all Americans to leave the US.
We need to “learn” how to travel and create positive impacts or otherwise the benefits of traveling will be overshadowed by the negative impacts.
How travel can be socially good and not so bad for our planet
Hopefully in the future, integrated in our basic education, we will see “how to travel” courses for all students.
Until then, we can do our part and learn and share with others best practices for a healthy travel society. And for that, two sides need to be considered: the environment (reducing impact) and society (neutral or positive).
1. Choose the Right Destination
With today's information age, there's no reason to go to a location beset by the consequences of over-tourism without knowing it. Many goals are crushed by too many people.
Our visit to Ha Long Bay via Cat Ba Island was dismal. One can easily see the island's infrastructure is not capable of dealing with so much waste that is created.
This is the reason why Boracay was closed for tourism and only recently reopened full of restrictions.
But there are many places in the world that people rarely go to. Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia are the places we have visited with hardly any other tourists in sight.
You don't have to travel to popular destinations that other people are visiting. In fact, choosing more unconventional destinations can offer a much more fulfilling travel experience.
A good business idea is to create an online website that can monitor this effect and direct people to areas that are less overwhelmed.
This kind of resource would piss off most capital-driven governments, but it would help the planet and local populations who just want to get on with their lives in a sustainable way.
Research your potential destination and watch for red flags of over-tourist activity. Local complaints, waste management issues, skyrocketing prices, etc
If you want to truly reduce your footprint, then transportation is by far the most impactful decision you can make. The main reason is the carbon footprint of aviation that we are used to for our travels.
If you have a fortnight's week of vacation and you want to travel to another continent, there isn't much you can do to avoid flights.
But there are some considerations when disconnecting your flight and airline.
- If your trip is less than 1000 miles, consider the train/bus instead
- Use direct flights as much as possible
- Look for airlines that have a carbon offset add-on
- If 3 fails, purchase carbon offset credits from a provider
3. Select the Green Lodging
Another important decision you can make is where you spend your evenings. Eco-logging is now everywhere but we have to be careful greenwashing.
Use Reputable Sites
- There are several lodging search engines that specialize in carbon conscious businesses such as Different Book.
- Another option is to use an AirBnb feature called Unique Homes and look for a friendlier option.
The Green Key certification is one of the most important certifications that gives confidence that you are making a better decision, look for their stamp.
Book eco-friendly lodging options, but check to make sure their claims are real.
4. Ethical Travel Activities
When selecting activities at your destination, there are a few considerations that may have less impact:
- Choose natural outdoor activities to promote good nature reserve care (good for health too)
- Look for ecotourism operators (check claims)
- Use non pollutant transportation (electric or only bicycle)
Choose activities that do not exploit local wildlife or culture. Many people think that swimming with dolphins is fun, but they are captive animals. If you want to swim with dolphins, go out to sea and swim with them in their natural habitat.
Make sure the tour operator is not chasing wildlife or guaranteeing sightings. It is just as important for you as a tourist to speak up when they do something unethical on a tour.
5. Reduce Waste
Plastic is a big contributor to harming our planet. Travelers should be aware of the impact their plastics have on the environment. Don't buy bottled water, but pack your own water bottle.
If you're worried about clean water, pack the Steripen. It purifies water in seconds.
Straws are one of the worst environmental hazards, so just say no to them and avoid plastic forks and spoons.
How to travel and have a positive impact
6. Slow Travel
Just like slow food movement, slow travel means giving yourself enough time to fully enjoy your travel experience, giving you extra time to plan ahead and reduce your impact.
If you travel slowly you can go to a local market and explore local food and people at their purest environment.
Slow travel is a mindset, it changes how you view your travels, and it will allow you to better plan and actively act on the next set of recommendations.
7. Eat Local
Eating local can be divided into two parts: cooking your own food or in a restaurant.
The more you eat local dishes and shop at local markets, the more you learn about the local culture and the more you support the local economy. Heading to the local market helps the local community.
When you buy your own food to cook at home, eat street food, and stay longer, you are actually helping local producers and business owners.
Plus, it's fun to go to the local market, get some crazy looking fruit or dark looking vegetables and try them out.
A great resource for local food is a great one Atlas flavor.
8. Buy Direct from Local Businesses
Intermediaries are needed in our society, but there are middlemen who exploit and exploit and abuse local producers. That's why we need an entity like Fair Trade or BCorp trying to make sure this doesn't happen.
For us, as consumers, we have a powerful tool to help local businesses, namely by accessing it directly.
Plus, if you're traveling slowly and staying in one place for a longer time, it's easier to find local guides and operators. Going to the source is the single best course of action you can take to help the local economy thrive and at the same time experience true local culture.
9. RESPECT THE LOCAL CULTURE
One of the most difficult things about travel is the culture shock. Local cultures can be so different that we may be tempted not to follow them or even to respect them. But this is a big mistake.
We must remember that we are their guests, we are visiting their country and we must follow their local customs and dress.
When in doubt, just see what the locals are doing and go with it. But do some research and check the etiquette and customs for every country you visit.
My Personal Example
An interesting yet simple example I had while living in Thailand was while playing soccer with the locals.
Apart from always laughing at each other there is no fault or punishment. I mean there are mistakes but instead of free kicks you just send the ball back and start the game again, same with penalties.
It drove me crazy the first game but I worked my way into their habits and now it makes sense.
Make Informed Decisions
We don't live in a perfect world, and there are no perfect solutions, but we do live in an age of sharing information and that's what this article is for.
Maybe we touched on some points here that you never considered and now you will always be aware before doing anything.
Traveling involves making many important decisions and other small ones while you are on the road.
Realize what you have decided and accept the situation where the perfect choice is impossible for you.
Happy traveling and doing good.
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Joao has been on the road for 8 years now, and a lot has changed in his life. What started as a simple trip around the world, with no specific plans or goals, is now a way of life. He is committed to being a greenpreneur and has co-founded a startup in Brazil to promote ethical products, such as a green Amazon, and is now creating his own online zero waste travel brand in www.nofootprintnomads.com.
Being a digital nomad and being able to travel the world without a footprint approaching is her new reality, and when she's not researching new ways to travel with less impact, you can find her harvesting vegetables from her garden to juice her beloved greens just after morning yoga.