We recently asked Intrepid Express readers to tell us their best tips for being a Responsible Traveller – how they travel in a way that’s respectful of local people, the environment and local economies. The response was a deluge of ideas demonstrating that Intrepid travellers care and want to do the right thing when they travel. Here are the top 12 tip topics (try saying that quickly!) and some of our travellers’ suggestions:
1. Water, water everywhere – pack a stainless steel or sturdy plastic BPA-free water bottle and a purifying method suited to your destination – purifying tablets such as Micropur, or a purifying device such as a SteriPEN. Avoid buying wasteful bottled water.
2. Dress mindfully – choose clothes that are respectful of the culture of your destination community. Take less clothes than you think you will need, especially shirts, and buy local. If you are travelling to a less developed community, pack clothes in good condition that you are happy to leave behind – you will find someone who needs them more!
3. Learn the lingo - Hearts will be won by learning basic greetings – hello, thank you, goodbye – in the language of the country you’re visiting. Always take time to talk to local people. It broadens yours and their horizons and encourages cultural respect.
4. Walk the walk – it saves non-renewable fuels and reduces pollution. It keeps you fit and allows you to interact with the locals, take interesting side routes and savour the amazing experience of travel.
5. Culture vulture – learn and observe the local cultural practices, etiquette and traditions. Pack the right attitude – a glad heart, an open mind, embrace diversity, value authenticity and smile. Be kind, courteous and patient – especially when there are language barriers. Be an ambassador for your country. Help others when you can and express gratitude always.
6. Go local – support the local businesses, stay in locally owned accommodation, eat in locally owned restaurants. Whenever possible, travel like and with the locals: bicycles, public transport, or walk. Don’t just visit – commit to engage 100% with the local culture by eating local foods, shopping in local markets and enjoying local events.
7. Waste not - reduce, reuse, and recycle. Start with packing your own toiletries and avoid all those wrappers, mini bottles and half used shampoos going to land fill. Minimise consumption of water and energy. Take a bag for your shopping (and say ‘no’ to plastic ones) and of course don’t litter!
8. It’s all in the planning – do research and have an idea about the culture, traditions, etiquette, customs and dress codes of the places you’re visiting in advance – and demonstrate your worldly-wisdom! Faux pas are so pre-internet!
9. Shopping with intent – purchase gifts and souvenirs from local artisans and independent shops, rather than from the mass market and pay them a fair price, helping them earn a decent wage. Consider if it harms the environment (made from endangered timber or animals), is illegal (ancient artifact, ivory) or will be promptly discarded back home and just wasted!
10. Protecting kids – don’t buy items from children, or give them handouts or money. Share your time, a game, a song or some fun – and if you really want to give something meaningful for their future – do this through an established well run organisation.
11. Snappy & happy – get permission, verbally or non-verbally, before photographing someone. No one carrying out their daily routine should be made to feel like an object ‘captured’.
12. Travel-wise – choose to travel with an organization that has the same level of respect for people and land as you do. Now there’s this fabulous company called Intrepid Travel we can recommend!
The above tips were all from our travellers. For more on how you can be a responsible traveller check out the Intrepid website.
Photos: Scott Davey in Cambodia; Victoria Thorn in Kenya; Suzy Femger in Peru.