Learn how to travel the world with better impact with these ethics Travel advice.
Travel is such a destructive force that I don’t understand why the issue is not on the main agenda of all elections and public debates around the world.
It’s staggering when you look at the number of people crossing borders now compared to previous centuries. 1.6 billion people will travel in 2020, compared to 25 million in the 1950s, and this number is growing rapidly.
The numbers that tourism is bringing to the most sought-after destinations are having a huge impact on local life, environment and infrastructure.
Effects of overtourism
There are already destinations that have literally stopped tourism, such as Thailand’s famous Maya Beach (from the movie: The Beach) and Boracay in the Philippines.
Other destinations such as Venice are imposing fines for simple behavior such as sitting in non-designated areas, and Komodo Island will be closed to tourists in 2020 in an effort to revitalize the island and improve the conservation of the Komodo dragon.
However, travel is good for our society, if everyone in the world had the opportunity to travel the world at some point in their lives, I have no doubt our society would be better off.
Even famous travel guru Rick Steves wants all Americans to leave the US.
We have to “learn” how to travel and make a positive impact or else the benefits of travel will be overshadowed by the negative impact.
How travel can be socially good and not bad for our planet
Hopefully in the future, we will see “how to travel” courses for all students integrated into our basic education.
Until then, we can do our part and learn and share best practices for a healthy travel society. And for this, one has to think in both directions: on the environment (reduce impact) and on society (be neutral or positive).
1. Choose the right destination
In today’s information age there is no excuse for unknowingly visiting a place plagued by over-tourism. Many destinations are just being affected by too many people.
Our trip through Cat Ba Island to Ha Long Bay was disappointing, to say the least. One can easily see that the island’s infrastructure is not able to cope with so much waste.
This is why Boracay stopped tourism and recently reopened with restrictions.
But there are many places in the world where hardly anyone travels. Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia were places we traveled with other tourists.
You don’t have to travel to popular destinations where everyone else goes. In fact, choosing more off the beaten path destinations can provide a much more fulfilling travel experience.
A great business idea would be to create an online website that can monitor these impacts and direct people to less crowded areas.
Such a resource would anger most capital-driven governments, but it would help the planet and local populations who simply want to continue their lives in a sustainable way.
Research your potential destination and look for red flags of excessive tourist activity. Local complaints, waste management problems, skyrocketing prices etc
If you really want to mitigate your footprint, transportation is the most effective decision you can make. The main reason for this is the carbon footprint of the flights we usually use to travel.
If you have a week or two off and want to travel to another continent, there’s not much you can do to avoid flights.
But there are a few things to consider when deciding on your flight connections and airlines
- If your trip is less than 1000 miles, consider train/bus instead
- Use direct flights as much as possible
- Look for airlines that have carbon offset add-ons
- Failing case 3, buy carbon offset credits from providers
3. Choose green housing
Another important decision you can make is where you spend your night. Eco-logging is everywhere now but we need to be careful about greenwashing.
Use reputable sites
- There are some lodging search engines that specialize in carbon-conscious businesses, such as Book Different.
- Another option is to use AirBnb’s feature called Unique Houses and look for more friendly options.
Green Key certification is one of the most important certifications that provide some confidence that you are making a good decision, look for their stamp.
Book eco-friendly lodging options, but check to make sure their claims are real
4. Ethical travel activities
When choosing your activities at your destination you have some considerations that can be less impactful:
- Choose Natural Outdoor activities (also good for health) to promote good conservation of nature
- Look out for eco-tour operators (double-check demands)
- Use pollution-free transport (electric or just bikes)
Choose activities that don’t exploit local wildlife or culture. Many people think swimming with dolphins is fun, but they are captive animals. If you want to swim with dolphins, go to the ocean and swim with them in their natural habitat.
Make sure tour operators do not chase or guarantee wildlife sightings. It is just as important as you to speak up when a tourist does something unethical on a tour.
5. Waste reduction
Plastic is a huge contributor to destroying our planet. Travelers should be aware of the impact their plastic has on the environment. Don’t buy bottled water, pack your own water bottle instead.
If you’re worried about clean water, pack a 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
Like the slow food movement, slow travel is all about giving yourself enough time to deeply enjoy your travel experience, allowing you to spend that extra time planning ahead and mitigating your impact.
If you travel at a slower pace, you can visit a local market and explore the local food and people in their purest form.
Slow travel is a mindset, it changes your approach to your trip and it will allow you to plan better and proactively make the next recommendations.
7. Eat local
Eating local can be divided into two categories: cook your own food or in a restaurant.
The more you eat local food and shop at local markets, the more you learn about local culture and the more you support the local economy. Going to local markets helps local people.
When you buy your own food to cook at home, eat street food and stay longer, you’re really helping local producers and business owners.
Also, it’s fun to go to the local market, get that special crazy looking fruit or dark looking vegetable and give it a try.
A good resource for local cuisine is the excellent Taste Atlas.
8. Buy direct from local businesses
We need middlemen in our society, but there are middlemen who take advantage and use and abuse local producers. That’s why we need beings like us Fair Trade or BCorp Try to ensure that this does not happen.
We, as consumers, have a powerful tool to help local businesses and that is to access them directly.
Also, if you travel slowly and stay in one place for a long time, it is easier to find local guides and operators. One of the best things you can do to help the local economy thrive and at the same time get in touch with the real local culture is to go straight to the source.
9. Respect local culture
One of the hardest things about traveling is culture shock. Local cultures can be so different that we may be tempted not to follow or even disrespect them. But this is a big mistake.
We have to remember that we are their guests, we are going to their country and we should follow their local customs and dress.
When in doubt, watch and follow what the locals do. But do your research and check the etiquette and customs for each country you visit.
My personal example
An interesting but simple example was while in Thailand playing soccer with the locals.
There is no guilt or punishment except always laughing with each other. I mean there are fouls, but instead of a free kick you send the ball back and restart the game, same goes for penalties.
It drove me crazy for the first games, but I tried to understand their conventions and now it’s normal.
Make an informed decision
We do not live in a perfect world, and there are no perfect solutions, but we do live in an age of information sharing and hence the benefit of this article.
Maybe we have touched some points here which you have never considered and now you will always be aware before doing anything.
Traveling involves making many important decisions and other small decisions while you are on the road.
Be aware of what you decide and accept in situations where the perfect option is not possible for you.
Enjoy traveling and good work.
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Joao Been on the road for 8 years now, and his life has changed a lot. What started as a simple round-the-world trip with no particular plan or purpose has now become a lifestyle. She is committed to becoming a greenpreneur and has already co-founded a startup in Brazil to promote ethical products like a green Amazon and is now building her own online zero waste travel brand. www.nofootprintnomads.com.
Becoming a digital nomad and being able to travel the world without a footprint has become her new reality, and when she’s not researching new ways to travel with less impact you can find her harvesting greens from her garden for her favorite green juice. After morning yoga.