5 ways to be a better backpacker

We’re going deep today and touching on a few ways in which you can travel more responsibly and sustainably. A globetrotting adventure is an opportunity of a lifetime, but there are ways to do it without causing harm to people or your environment.

Here are 5 ways to be a better backpacker.

Avoid captive and interactive animal experiences

For many, connecting with animals is an enriching travel experience. But it should be done in their natural habitat, where they are free to come and go as they please. For example, seeing a wild elephant on safari in Africa is a world away from riding one in captivity in Thailand.

Naturally, any activity that involves cruelty or exploitation should be avoided. But sometimes it’s not so easy to spot, so always ask questions and do your own research. Exceptions, of course, can be centres that care for injured or orphaned wildlife that would not otherwise survive.

Be mindful about dark tourism

Visiting places of inhumanity such as the killing fields in Cambodia, concentration camps in Auschwitz or the Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam are on many backpackers’ travel itineraries. And that’s okay.

Learning about and remembering past tragedies is important for ensuring they are not repeated. But pay attention to why you want to go. If your intent is to gawp or take selfies, you shouldn’t be there. Talk quietly or not at all and check it is okay before taking photographs.

Choose the right volunteer opportunity

If you are planning to volunteer during your travels, do your research before signing up for a project. Be sure that the work you are doing isn’t taking jobs from local people, that you are doing it for the right reasons and that the impact will be felt long after you leave.

And check whether the help you are offering is in collaboration with the local community and not something being imposed upon them. For example volunteering with children in poor countries is recognised in particular as doing more harm than good.

Ethical souvenir shopping

Bringing a physical reminder of our travels home with us is something many of us do. But before your next purchase stop to consider the supply chain of your keepsake. In many places in the world, cheap imports have taken business away from local craftspeople.

Always ask questions and be curious about how and where the product was made. Animal products and anything from our oceans are more obvious no no’s. And never buy anything on the black market from ancient ruins such pieces of The Great Wall of China or Angkor Wat.

Reduce plastic pollution

Much of our plastic consumption these days makes its way into the oceans. This is especially true of poorer countries that do not have any waste management systems. Unfortunately, these countries are often also the places where water is unsafe to drink.

One of the biggest things you can do to reduce plastic consumption and do your bit for mother earth is to not buy single-use plastic water bottles. Instead, opt for one of the many safe water filter bottles on the market to take with you on your adventures.

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