Becoming an Ethical Traveler3 min read
Travel doesn’t only allow you to see attractions in different parts of the world; it’s also an opportunity to grow as an individual, create new memories, and learn about another culture. And, more and more, it’s a chance to try to make the world a better place.
Ethical travel, also known as ‘mindful travel,’ has been gaining traction among those who embrace their wanderlust and want to improve the communities they’re visiting. By encouraging people to be aware of the ways in which travel impacts the world, the idea is that travelers can reduce their global footprint by either restoring or maintaining the destinations they visit. Acknowledging that hotels often use an astronomical amount of energy and limited resources, for example, might move you to stay at an accommodation that embraces sustainable practices.
Additionally, the non-profit organization Ethical Travel (aptly named, I know) releases an annual list of the most ethical places to visit based upon factors including sustainable practices and human rights efforts. The list highlights destinations that travelers might want to visit and support.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. In addition to traveling to these places, you can turn your relaxing vacation into one that others can benefit from by:
Buying Local: Instead of staying at a chain hotel or dining at a franchise restaurant, consider doing business with locally owned ‘mom and pop’ shops and accommodations to keep small establishments thriving.
Researching the Destination: From current events to cultural traditions and taboos, learn as much about the local area as possible. This will help you gain a sense of the safety situation and how to best interact with the local community. Remember, some gestures or phrases that are normal in your home country may not be accepted in other places—and vice versa. By respecting the cultural norms, you’ll make life much easier for yourself and those you encounter during your trip.
Not Giving Gifts to Children: Although it might seem like a kind gesture, avoid giving gifts such as crayons and coloring books to local children. Instead, give them to parents, teachers, or other community leaders. This allows the adults in the community to determine how to best distribute the gifts.
Learning Key Phrases: In addition to learning about the culture and current events, take the time to learn basic phrases in the local language, if you’re not already familiar with it. Phrases to learn include greetings such as please and thank you, numbers, and other common expressions. Doing so will not only make it easier for you to communicate with others, but it’ll impress the locals as well.
Being Fair: When bargaining, it’s important to remain fair and understand the economic circumstances of your destination. Although haggling is an accepted part of many cultures, you don’t want any person involved in the exchange to feel exploited.
Curbing Anger: Westerners in particular are known for being prone to anger during conflict. However, this can quickly deter locals from respecting you and resolving the issue in a timely and pleasant manner. Patience is important no matter where you travel.
Photo from Green Global Travel.