Most travelers can describe in great detail the exact moment a particular travel experience changed their perspective on life forever. It’s the moment you become hooked on exploring the great big world we call home and officially became a ‘traveler’. Some stories involve overcoming a simple language barrier while others are more triumphant in nature. They are moments that come after accomplishing a personal goal like summiting a mountain or crossing that the elusive 7th continent off the list. These experiences humble us, they make appreciate the details while reminding us to focus on the bigger picture.
Being a traveler also comes with responsibilities. It requires us to ask questions and make choices. Where is your next adventure? Who will you spend your money with? How small do you want your trip’s carbon footprint to be? How can you give back to the causes that are important to you? The choices we make are important. Last year over 1.1 billion people traveled internationally, and our collective choices have a direct impact on the places we visit. It is up to us travelers whether we want that impact to be positive or negative.
1. Who should I travel with?
The big one. Which travel companies you support with your hard earned cash matters and you want that choice to reflect your personal values. Do your research when you’re booking a tour and select a company based on more than just discount and style of travel. Pick an operator that reflects your personal values, one that has strong responsible business initiatives and sticks to them. If you’ve got questions on their policies and practices: call and ask or hop on their Live Chat. If their team can’t provide you with adequate answers or help you find the answers, be careful.
2. How do I support causes I care about?
It’s hard to get a firm figure on the sheer number of charitable organizations out there. Current estimates say around 1.5 million registered charities are eagerly awaiting your donations. The United States has one charity for every 274 people in its population (Australia has one for every 444 people). That’s a lot of choice when it comes to how to give back.
We take sustainable travel seriously. It’s the reason we started our own not-for-profit way back in 2002 (The Intrepid Foundation) and the reason why, until December 20, 2016 we’re donating 10% of every trip booked to global community projects. You can read all about it here, or you can donate to projects like Pollinate or Blue Dragon any time, whether you’re on the road or not.
3. Make ethical choices on the ground
These days, it’s relatively easy to integrate sustainable practices into your daily life. You can use reusable coffee cups environmentally friendly cleaning products, energy efficient appliances, of course, responsible travel for your upcoming adventures. And there are a number of little things you can do on your travels to help the environment. The first one is to cut down on plastic water bottles (carry a canteen instead, along with some water purification tablets). The same for plastic bags – just pack a canvas bag or tote before you travel. You can also avoid unethical practices, like orphanage tourism, elephant rides and snake charming.
At the end of the day, it’s all about making the right decisions and sticking to them. It’s about coming to terms with the fact you are going to be part of the solution and not the problem. It is about choosing to be a responsible traveler.
Choose a better way to travel. If you live in North America, book any trip before December 20 and we’ll donate 10% of the trip cost to Intrepid Foundation projects.