How to be a good responsible traveler?
The tourism business has seen a meteoric rise in the past few years with the advent of social media. The boom in the tourism industry has uplifted the living standard of numerous poor countries. Moreover, tourism plays a major role in determining the GDP of a country. Social media has greatly contributed to the immense growth in tourism, and as with all things, there is both a bright side & dark side. The bright side we have discussed, but the negative side is that it destroys the originality of such a site. I’m not quoting that all tourists are bad but time and history say otherwise.
So, what can we do to reduce the negative impact on the planet, and what steps can be taken to repair the damage that has been done? Along with tourism, a new concept called Responsible Traveler has taken birth.
So, what exactly is a responsible traveler, and what is the role that it plays?
In a simple sense, it means contributing to the growth and development of society through community services or other activities. The methods of responsible travel changes per countries, but the concept remains the same. Here are some ways through which you can also be a responsible traveler:
Give Back to Society by Volunteering
Even though you’re visiting a country for a week or a year, it is always a good idea to spend some time volunteering. Even if it is for a day, your contribution to society can make a whole lot of difference. If you possess special skills like medical care and engineering, then it will be very helpful. Villages in developing countries lack such skills, and your contribution will be very helpful.
If you do not possess such skills, then it is nothing to worry as you can head to a local school and teach English to the small children. If you want to go all out, then you can even donate them some necessary supplies. However, if you want to volunteer, then do it through the established organizations as numerous scams are going on.
Purchase Local Items
This is one of the most convenient methods of being a responsible traveler. During your time abroad, you’ll want a new experience. The best way to make an impact is to purchase locally grown products. For instance, during your stay in Nepal, you can buy locally made products like clay dolls, Thangka paintings, and carpet made from straw.
If you want a tasty snack, then instead of a regular burger why not taste the local momo or sekuwa. They are much cheaper and extremely delicious. In Nepal, try the local food in the streets of Thamel and Basantapur. Some places are famous for items like carpet and wooden handicrafts. Purchasing stuff from the local people will help the local business as well.
Respect the Local Culture & Traditions
The most important thing that you can do while traveling is to respect the way of life of the people of that place. Some time they do may seem pretty strange to you, but that is what diversity is all about. For instance, in some countries, beef is strictly forbidden, and in some parts, women are not allowed to wear revealing clothes. It is your duty as a traveler to not question these practices but to follow it. Before traveling, take some time to learn simple phrases like Hello and Thank you. Although it's not much, it leaves a good impression among travelers.
Control Your Wastage
Like with many countries, waste management is an epidemic that does not discriminate. Especially in developing countries where there are not appropriate machinery to recycle waste. Travelers either knowingly or unknowingly have made a significant contribution to the increasing waste in society. While going on trekking or hiking activities, you can carry a huge paper bag and collect the waste that you found. You can also minimize the waste you create by not using plastic bags and using degradable paper bags. Use the water bottles that can be recycled and always collect your trash.
Choose Sustainable Tour Providers
There are a plethora of travel operators and service providers in a country, but as a responsible traveler, you have to choose the one which gives back to society. After doing a bit of research, you can easily find business organizations, which work with the local communities and play an active role in the growth & development of the society.
These companies hire local guides and porters from a certain village, and these companies provide training to them as well. Some companies donate some of their profit to the village for charitable work.
Don’t Donate Unnecessarily to Beggars
This may seem a bit selfish and unrealistic as our hearts cannot handle the look on the face of a small child when we don’t give him money. You should remember the fact that begging in some countries is an organized syndicate. There is a boss, which controls a certain area, and small children & handicapped people are their biggest asset. Instead of giving money to these people, you can donate money to a registered INGO or NGO. There are situations in which you may have to use your expertise. In such cases, you can buy the person food or water rather than giving the person money.
There are some sites which have been adversely affected by over-tourism. Due to that, some sites have been closed permanently until further notice. Over tourism simply means that there are just too many tourists. During such time, the streets are very crowded, and the local sites are also filled with people. This has caused the natural site to degrade, and the price of rent also increases. To combat over-tourism, you can visit the less visited sites which will maintain the balance. Not only will this make the locals happy, but it will also provide you with an enjoyable experience.
Be Careful When You Indulge in Wildlife Activities
While traveling wildlife is a major attraction. Some people dream of swimming with dolphins or riding on the back of an elephant, exploring the deserts on the back of a camel, or taking photos with tigers. Although these activities may look good on the outside, in reality, they do more harm.
Some tour operators to earn a profit, do not treat the animals properly. Some tour operators drug the animals to click photos. Some animals like the white tiger are bred exclusively for tourists, and the animals born are riddled with diseases. If you are keenly interested in the conservation of wildlife, then you can do it through a registered NGO.
It takes time and effort to be a reasonable traveler, but it reaps maximum gain and benefit.
You can always make an impact so why not make it a good one?