Travel has the potential to do incredible good in the places we visit, but it also has the ability to cause devastating and irreparable harm. No one’s perfect, and no matter how hard we try we’re all going to make mistakes along the way. But the ultimate aim when you travel should be to leave a place in a better state than when you arrived. Here are five simple ways to travel more ethically.
Support local businesses
It’s so easy to drop into a country and think that you’re helping out simply by being there and spending your money. Unfortunately, in many instances the cash that you spend could be going straight out of the country to overseas companies or lining the pockets of a big, faceless corporation’s investors.
A simple strategy to avoid this is to do a bit of research and try to spend your dollar with local businesses instead. Think family owned tour companies, locally run activities, and locally owned and run accommodations. This way you’ll be making a positive difference to communities and really putting in to the local economy.
Along the same vein, eating locally is a brilliant way to spread your cash out. It’s something we all need to do every day, so it provides multiple opportunities to do a little good. So take time to consider exactly what you’re gonna put in your gob and where you want to do it.
Rather than sticking with large, international restaurants and fast food joints, explore a little and discover where everyone else it eating. Give some street food a spin, head into a market to see what they’ve got, and ask around for recommendations on the best places that foreigners don’t tend to go to. Another added bonus is that you’ll probably discover far better grub at much more wallet friendly prices.
Consider the environment
It’s not only financially that you can travel more ethically. We’re all aware of the detrimental impact that travel can have on the environment, so take some steps to try and alleviate your own personal footprint.
Wherever possible, try to avoid flying and look at alternative, more eco-friendly ways of getting around instead. Reduce the amount of plastic you’re using by packing simple items like filter water bottles, solid toiletries and a canvas tote bag. And assess beforehand whether the activities you choose to do are going to benefit or harm the surrounding environment.
Respect the local culture
The whole point of travelling is to discover new and interesting things about the places we visit. But it’s so important to be sensitive and to respect the law of the land as well as local customs, regardless of where you are. Do some research on what kind of clothes are appropriate to wear. Take into account any religious conventions you may have to abide by. And generally try to behave in a way that won’t draw attention, and more importantly won’t cause offence.
Think carefully about animal tourism
There are many different types of encounters we can have with wildlife when we travel, some of them fantastic, others pretty horrific. And sadly, sometimes it’s difficult to even tell the difference. Unscrupulous, profit hungry scoundrels attempt to dupe unwitting travellers into thinking activities are OK when they really aren’t.
Where you draw the line with what you’re comfortable with is really a personal choice. But activities like riding elephants, cuddling tigers and swimming with captive dolphins have been shown time and time again to involve extreme and prolonged cruelty to the animals involved. Try to keep anything you do with animals out in the wild and avoid anything that interferes directly with them or their habitats.
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