We advocate for sustainable travel as much as we do for responsible traveling. After visiting many countries and spending months abroad, we’ve seen the downside of mass tourism, the downside to the locals and to famous cultural sides. We always try to respect the culture, the people and the environment during our travels. In this blog, we tell you how to be a responsible traveler and why this is so important for the environment and for the places you visit and the people you meet along the way.
To us, being a sustainable traveler is more focused on preserving the planet, reducing our (carbon) footprint, using less plastic and so on. But being a responsible traveler focuses more on the humane side of it. Let us tell you more on how to be a responsible traveler.
Respect the locals
You have to respect locals; and yes it sounds like the most common thing to do but for some reason, many tourists/travelers don’t act on it. You are visiting their hometown, places they grew up in and spent every hour of their day. Don’t act like you own the place but be polite, humane, and respectful.
Bargain with respect
We come from the Netherlands, and we are known as cheapskates around the world. So maybe the next one counts more for the Dutch people, but I guess we all did our fair share of bargaining. Please bargain with respect, don’t go in it too hard. Most of the locals try to earn an honest living in tourism, treat them with respect. In Myanmar, we had a cap driver who didn’t want our money as he was so happy with us visiting his hometown. A couple of hundred kilometers further we stepped into a taxi in Thailand charging us insane prices as he was the only one around so he knew we didn’t have a choice.
In most regions around the world, people are not used to dressing in shorts, tank tops or bikinis. Dressing modestly is showing respect to their culture and respect to their lifestyle. I’m not saying you can’t wear shorts when on holiday, but choose where and how. Visiting a religious or cultural place? Then it’s only polite to dress a bit more modest than when visiting the beach.
Learn the local language
The first thing we do when entering a new country is learning a few words of the local language. Super easy to learn; hello, good day and thank you. We’ve seen the biggest smiles when greeting someone in their own languages, it might have been our poor pronunciation that made them smile as well, but I’m certain it’s also because of the gesture.
Support the local community
A great way of giving back to the local community is staying at locally owned hotels. They are run by families and provide jobs to the local community. They often have a small restaurant together with the accommodation with the best food, or can give you advice on where to eat locally.
Having said that, it’s also great to book a tour operator that is run by locals. They tend to have the best insights on cultural experiences and natural sites.
Ask permission before taking a picture
Always, always ask permission before taking a picture of somebody else. Nobody likes getting their picture taken without being notified. Even without speaking their languages, you can sign to your camera if it’s okay to take the picture.
Say no to animal tourism
Don’t support animal tourism, including having a picture taken with lions |(they are not that calm, it’s the drugs that keep them that way), elephant back riding (they don’t like having tourists on the back). Even most wildlife sanctuaries are not taking proper care of their animals. As long as tourists are showing up, they keep the animals imprisoned. Do your research!
Be aware of greenwashing
Responsible and sustainable travel can be used as a marketing tool, so be aware of greenwashing. Do hotels/tour operators, etc act on their mission? Does the tour operator or hotel have a writing statement about sustainability or responsibility?, otherwise it might just be a marking tool.
This list can go on and on. But we believe this is the basics, easy to implement. We have not always lived by these points ourselves but after learning more about it, we definitely changed our behavior during traveling. Curious about our 10 easy steps for sustainable travel? Read this blog.
Curious about our shop? It’s filled with eco-minded products for your day to day life or for your (upcoming) travels.