How to be a responsible traveller...
We tour around a lot of places ear or far from the place we stay as tourists or travellers, or on business tour or travel for a family function or some celebration. We enjoy the majestic views and the breathtaking beauty of the place we are visiting, participate in some cultural activities and travel back with some amazing memories for a lifetime. We have amazing stories to tell to our families and friends and we enjoy narrating those stories as many times as we are asked for. And we also feel like visiting that place again. But sometimes when we visit some place that are dirty, monuments have people writing names or doodling something, we criticize about the people there and we come back with the memories that we never even want to remember and never wish to visit that place again.
Sit back and think for a second what’s going wring when you don’t feel like visiting a particular place again, you don’t even want to remember it. What is it that is making any particular destination so unpopular. And this is exactly what one needs to think and understand. Think what can be done to make any particular destination memorable for you and others like you. And this means that you need to be a responsible traveller. Many big and small steps you take towards responsible tourism would play a very important role a place worth visiting again and more memorable for everyone.
One needs to create an awareness amongst the tourists and other local inhabitants and promote responsible tourism. Responsible tourism is nothing but spreading a positive energy not only in the environment but also in the lives of the local people of the place you are visiting. It is not a very difficult task. Just make some big and some small changes in the way you travel and see the difference.
1. Research before you travel
Before leaving home, learn as much as possible about the countries you are visiting — the religion, culture, and the local rules and values. Read, research and learn as much as you can about the places you are visiting before going on a trip to understand the cuisine, people places, their culture and tradition, their values, local rules, etc. Talk to people who have already visited those destinations to know their good and bad experiences. You might not know everything, but you would get some insights about the place you are visiting. Read the rules and regulations well so that you don’t get into any trouble during your trip. This would be less taxing as a foreigner to explore a new land.
2. Learn local language
Learn the translation of ‘thank you’, ‘sorry’, ‘please’, ‘excuse me’, ‘good morning’, ‘hello’, ‘good night’, etc. in local language which you might use frequently during your journey. It will help you converse with people and get along with them easily. The locals will appreciate your efforts to speak in their language and they themselves would correct you on your mistakes and help you learn more words in their language.
3. Shop locally and smartly
When it comes to shopping, you should buy some local stuff, this would not only help the local business grow economically, but also take home some local souvenirs. Especially, when you are buying souvenirs like artifacts, fabrics, jewelry, buy them from the local stores or local artisans who actually produce these objects locally. This will help to keep the traditional business and the art alive. Also, avoid buying things that are made by killing animals and discourage the brutal killing of animals for business.
When it comes to eating, try some delicious local food at least once. You may also try your favourite food in the local cafes, restaurants etc. rather than going to a popular food chain. Shopping locally would help in supporting the economy of the country or the city you are visiting. Also, think before you bargain, think of the bigger picture.
Try it… it feels good.
4. Volunteer for some activities
If you are planning for a long stay at any location, you can always visit some popular big and small organizations like schools, NGOs orphanages, old age homes, etc. it does make a difference. There are many such organizations that need not only monetary help but also the man power to help them doing some odd jobs like teaching, cooking, housekeeping, etc. there is no other best chance to show your skills. Things that you can volunteer for may include:
Teaching at a local school
Teaching any particular art or craft at a local school
Teaching dance or music at orphanage
Help in cooking food at schools, old age homes, orphanages
Spending some time with people at old age home or an orphanage
Donate in kind or cash to such organizations along with your man hours if possible.
There are many such things you may do to volunteer and help people. Such things always give pleasure.
4. Respect and appreciate the local people, culture and tradition
While we travel to a new land, we get to know a lot about the place, its diverse cultures and religions. These fascinating aspects make the place more memorable. Hence, it is very important to respect the culture and traditions of the place you are visiting by dressing up appropriately while vising religious places, by being polite and not making fun of their traditions. Do not perform any such actions that would offend anyone r anybody’s feelings, traditions, culture or religion. Respecting people is also important. Greet people, say ‘thank you’ often. Apologies if it’s your fault and you will be respected equally.
Respect the place and its people, the culture and be open minded while you converse with people, follow the local customs and traditions, dress appropriately and have a great time. I am sure you will get back all the love and respect you give to others.
6. Dress appropriately
Dressing is the most important thing you always need to be careful to respect the place and the people there and to be safe. While you travel to any particular destination, read about its weather conditions, dressing restrictions, suitable dressing, the activities you are planning to do etc. before you pack your cloths. Wear clothes that are comfortable and appropriate to a religious place, an event a beach, a party, a pool or a local sightseeing location. It is always a good idea to keep a scarf and a cap in your handbag which you can use quite easily whenever required. Dress in such a way that you don’t grab unnecessary eyeballs on you and put yourself into trouble.
7. Minimize carbon footprints
Environment being important for you, me and all, it’s very important that we take some actions in creating more awareness and protecting it as well. While travelling, carbon footprints can be minimized by travelling by train or bus rather than taking a flight. Walk as much as possible rather than taking local public transport. Avoid machine or fueled activities, buy locally manufactured products, avoid packaged food and drinks, cycle around for sightseeing if possible, se water smartly, use electricity as less as possible, go for environment friendly accommodation, reduce use of paper, use reusable utensils etc.
8. Take care of the waste
One of the most important thing to always remember is ‘Do not liter’. In fact, instead of managing your waste, it is wise to reduce creating it. Yet, while on the go, always carry a bag to dump all the trash and throw it away in the dustbin when you halt or get off for a break. Waste management is an issue for every tourist destination. Prefer using recyclable and bio degradable things that would reduce the waste overall. While you go for shopping, carry a cloth bag to avoid and discourage the use of plastic bags.
9. Donate to the locals
While travelling to a destination, there are many ways in which you can support the locals in some or the other way. Food, cloths, snacks, stationery, books, anything you feel like. It is not necessary you need to carry it along with you. You can pick some stuff from the local shop and donate it amongst the needy. Also, on the way back home, you may give away a few things that you may not need later and reduce some luggage load.
10. Take care of the natural habitat
Environment and the nature around the place is probably the reason why you are visiting that destination. It could probably be a wild life sanctuary or it could be a campsite in the woods or up the hills or on a beach or on the riverside resort, or anywhere amidst the nature. Hence, it becomes very important to take care and respect the nature. A few tips would be as follows:
Do not litter
Carry a bag or a box to collect all the garbage you create
Do not pluck flowers and leaves unnecessarily. They look more beautiful on trees
Follow the rules and instructions
Do not smoke
Don’t mess with animals, they may be dangerous
Use resources wisely
Take steps to the mother nature for the betterment of all
11. Educate co-travellers
Being a responsible traveller, it is our responsibility to tell people about the good and bad things and actions while travelling while you narrate your wander tales. Some travelers have these instincts naturally but some need to be made aware of their responsibilities. It is always a good idea to spread a word. Talk to them about the people, their culture, the rules and regulations, etc. in most passive ways. Take up the job as a friendly gesture rather than a formal presentation while you tell people your exciting travel stories. It is one of the ways you can spread a word about responsible tourism and most importantly your actions would have a great impact on others while you travel. 12. Take permission before you click
You should always take permission before you click a picture of anyone or anything, be it on your mobile phone or be it on your digital SLR. Talk to people, know about them and then ask them if you can click their photograph. This picture would be the most memorable one. There are a few places where photography is prohibited. So kindly respect the authority and keep your cameras shut. There would be some reason why those people have put some sort of restrictions on photography. When on a group tour and if you have promised someone to send pictures later when the tour ends, don’t forget to drop them a mail [don’t forget to take their email address]. 13. Promote the place and its local business
Spread the word to as many travellers and people as possible. Any destination is unique because of its people, its culture, art, handicraft, textiles, cuisine, music etc. In today’s age, social media is one of the best platforms to promote any destination and its unique aspects. Try to promote local businesses, both big and small. Stay in touch with the local entrepreneurs and find a way out to sell their products and services. Gain some goodwill and some blessing too and you will always feel better to see good about some people you know. Many promise, but not all come back…
14. Don’t forget to give a feedback
Let it be a hotel, tour guide, tour agency, resort, homestay, a person or a local – don’t forget to give your feedback. Take up the job yourself and let all the people who were involved in the operation of your tour know how was your overall experience. Good or bad both, feel free to tell them but always politely and in a positive way. It is better you give a feedback rather than gossip about what you didn’t like to others. Your feedback would help these people improve their services and provide a better service to other travellers. After all, it is all about giving the best. Be kind, happy and responsible towards the place you are visiting and the people you are meeting there. If you are already a responsible traveller, thanks a ton. All these are just a few things I could think of. If you think more can be done, you are free to start taking actions.
It our responsibility to be a ‘RESPONSIBLE TRAVELLER’. Join hands and spread a word to support and encourage people towards ‘RESPONSIBLE TOURISM’