Who had imagined the world coming to a standstill? The lockdown is implemented in almost all countries, and this situation has affected each one of us in one or the other way.
Travel & tourism is one of the most affected sectors. As a traveller, it breaks my heart to imagine my favourite destinations now empty of tourists! The museums, libraries, the bustling markets, closed!
My heart goes to all those handloom weavers who now have no visitors, to those artists and local tour operators, to all those remote villages and the families dependent on travel/tourism as the primary source of income!
This, too, shall pass by, one day, we will all get back to our regular life, and we will revisit places. If not anything else, this is a time to reflect on how we used to travel and how we are going to change that after the Pandemic is over!
After COVID 19 should we travel just because we can?
Tourism has the power to change lives. It improves the livelihood of rural areas and indigenous communities, helps restore the heritage sites and preserve history, helps get infrastructure to most remote places, brings forgotten art the light it deserves, and much more.
And in the process, we also get experiences of a lifetime that are difficult to describe in words. Isn’t that why we all wish to travel?
Responsible travel adds a sense of purpose each time we travel. It’s not only the right thing to do but also so much fun-er, it helps immerse yourself in the local culture, lets you connect more with your inner self, and gives contentment.
So let’s not travel just because we can. Let’s travel more responsibly!
While there is no one way to travel responsibly, here are, a few responsible travel tips to keep in mind while planning your next trip.
Ps: I did not include trying to zero down the plastic usage in the below mentioned responsible travel tips. We anyways have to avoid plastic, whether travelling or not!
1. Offbeat travel
Most of the popular destinations suffer from over-tourism. Firstly those places have constant crowds everywhere, become commercial, most cafes and restaurants serve international cuisine, and the culture is staged. In one line, the quality of the experiences is deteriorated by over-tourism. On the other hand, over-tourism also contributes to the scarcity of natural resources, makes life difficult for locals, the real estate prices hike up and everything becomes so expensive that locals often move to the suburbs
So choose a destination that is off the radar.
Choose a place where tourism is required, so that the money you invest in the trip is indirectly put to good use.
2. Choosing a stay option
During my travels, I learned that most star hotels do not follow eco-friendly practices. They are commercial, the owner is not the one who runs the place, and the hotel is usually one of the many businesses. They give bottled water even in cities and towns with lousy waste management; they market hotels with bathtubs, even in desert areas with water scarcity. (I’m stopping the long list of rants here)
I know it’s difficult not to get tempted when that perfect 5-star hotel gives you 50% loyalty points redemption on your credit card. But that is where we have to be responsible…Ask questions!
Here are a few things you should check/ask before choosing a place to stay
- Do locals run the place?
- Do they follow eco-friendly and sustainable tourism practices?
- Do they support local businesses and source essentials locally?
- Do they help in uplifting the local communities? Do they employ and hire local guides, tour operators, and treat them well?
3. Mode of travel
Try making a land only journey if you can. If you can’t avoid flying, try to take public/shared transport for local travel.
It’s not only sustainable but also light on the pocket. Let’s splurge money on the right things.
Besides, Overland journeys within a country or a region are much more exciting and immersing. We shouldn’t trade that for planes that are worst for our planet.
4. Respecting local culture
Always remember that any place you are visiting is a home for someone else.
When we are visiting some else’s home, let’s try and accept things as they are. Let’s not try and fix things or preach how things are different and better back home. Let’s not be demanding just because we are paying for something. Treat locals and their culture with the utmost respect. Period!
Dressing: Wearing according to local tradition is a beautiful and warm gesture. When we are in someone else’s country, dressing modestly has nothing to do with ”my body my choice” principles.
”I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” – Maya Angelou
5. Eating more plant-based and locally sourced food
A couple of years ago, I learned how our food choices have a massive impact on the environment. The facts were shocking!
Green House Gas emissions from animal agriculture are higher than all the transportation systems combined.
Animal agriculture uses 33% of drinking water, 70% of the agricultural land, and is the leading cause of deforestation!
Try to eat more plant-based food, not just while travelling but also at home.
Also, food that comes from nearby areas/districts is good for locals and the planet. Imported fruits, veggies, and processed foods that are airlifted and cargo-ed have a way high carbon footprint.
6. Be mindful of the biodiversity
Most breathtaking valleys, mountains, cold deserts, untouched oceans are resource-sensitive. Responsible travel plays a significant role in conserving biodiversity.
For instance, We should not touch wildlife and only observe from a distance.
We should never encourage tour companies/agencies that operate huge ferries to attract mass tourism to remote islands or natural wonders. It affects the marine environment.
We also don’t want to pollute untouched beaches with our bodies nourished with chemical-based sunscreen. Come on – Tan is good!
We shouldn’t expect running hot water showers and flushes in a cold desert.
We shouldn’t leave our trash on remote mountains with no waste management. Instead, let’s carry our garbage back.
Watch Killing Ladhak, understand how Ladakh is witnessing a burst of growth that its fragile eco-system is unable to handle.
Read Shivya’s post about: Why use a Menstrual cup
7. Do not pay for something which is not ethical!
Most of the unethical practices in the tourism industry are normalized and glorified. The most common examples are animal safaris and zoos.
The saddest truth is animals undergo painful training for safaris and often abused in the most unimaginable ways. Think about them, that tiger on sedation we take pictures with, those elephants and horses we ride, the dolphins we swim with…none of them have chosen this life. Violating animal rights just for our amusement is not okay.
Even I realised this only a couple of years ago. Now I always question everything I do and everything I’ve been told. Pause and think if you are indirectly paying for/being part of something unethical.
8. Slow travel
Let’s keep Instagram, Facebook, and twitter aside for a bit while we understand slow travel. For a long time, I travelled with a checklist, clicking pictures at the famous places that I saved from the gram and rushing to the next place. What have we become? Why are we applying the textbook formula here and doing exactly what thousands of others are doing? Are we meant to travel that way? I feel not!
Try to stay in one place for a longer time. It’s the most sustainable way of travelling. I understand most of you might not have that flexibility and time. Even if it is for a shorter period, explore beyond just sightseeing, interact with locals, immerse in the culture, do what your heart wants to do even when it’s not in your itinerary.
So take it slow, soak in the place, experience the place like a local, learn something about the area that is not available on google, make a friend, create distinct memories, for you are at a place you’ve never been to and might not visit again.
End of the day, we remember experiences and interactions more than buildings and monuments.
Tags: Responsible travel tips, Sustainable travel guide, responsible travel tips for after covid19, travel after the 2020 lockdown
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