Responsible travel – Changing the way we travel post lockdown!

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?

After Covid19 should we all 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

Found a perfect reading spot in goa
Of Rainy days, old books, coffee refills and strong solitude! @Olaulim Backyards, Goa.

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

Read Barcelona protests again tourists!
Read: Citywide protests in Shimla asking tourists to stop visiting

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.

Read: Re-visiting the golden days of Kathakali at a 500 yr old feudal home

2. Choosing a stay option

At Olappamanna mana
With my host family in Palakkad, Kerala

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?

Read: How our hosts at The Bhuj House, Kutch helped us get unique and local experiences.

3. Mode of travel

train jounrneys are the best
Most favourite mode of transport! Photo by Josh Nezon, Unsplash

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

Learning spinning at the bhujodi crafts village kutch
Going back to basics @ Bhujodi crafts village

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

Spring markets of Alacati
Buying fresh local produce @ Alacati

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

North Sikkim - Lachung
Mist loomed mountains @ Lachung

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!

Non ethical tourism practices in Rajasthan
Photo by Annie Spratt, Unsplash

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

Slow travel in Thailand
Sailing on the Thalane bay, Krabi and discovering secret islands.

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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46 thoughts on “Responsible travel – Changing the way we travel post lockdown!

  1. I relate to the animal safaris and animal abuse, most people glorify elephant rides and horse rides in heritage properties of india. More than seeing animals in that sad state, I feel terrible that people glorify and normalize those acts as if it’s meant to be!
    Thanks for trying to create some awareness by writing this post

    1. It’s unfortunate that animal abuse has been a significant part of the tourism sector for a long time. I believe it’s important to talk about it. Once we think about these practices from an ethical point of view….its going to stop. No one wants to hurt animals unnecessarily.
      At least that’s the hope!

  2. I travel once a year with my family during my daughters summer holidays. We don’t have the luxury to do slow travel and also to do land journeys because of time. We usually have 10 days for vacation. Its a great post but do you have suggestions for people who travel like us?

    1. Hi Harsh, when I said slow travel, I dont mean just travel for months. Even if it is a 7 day trip, take it slow….do something different, take the offbeaten path, relax, spend quality time with your family and take time indugle in doing things together.
      I understand we can’t always avoid flights. All we can do is avoid them as much as possible, take shared transport or public transport locally.

  3. Very well thought article πŸ‘ŒπŸ‘Œ on post lockdown travel…. #Responsible Travel is the new norm

  4. I really appreciate the good content! Responsible tourism is necessary and it’s high time we realise it. Great job for bringing out some really good points like going to places that are off radar and animals that are tortured.

  5. I am right with you on this one, I do feel that we all have an obligation to be smarter.We have all seen, first hand, how hard we are hitting the earth, so lets be kinder πŸ™‚

  6. I agree with number 7. Tourist attractions such as swimming with whale sharks or riding elephants should never be glorified

  7. As possibly the last industry to start up again after all this, the travel industry is certainly going to be different in the future, hopefully for the better and less exploitative

  8. I love your tips and advice in on being a responsible traveler.
    I personally hate seeing people riding on the back of an elephant and using them to earn money.

  9. When I think of the global lockdown and the standstill of the travel industry, I can’t help my self to think about the impact on all those little tropical paradise that relies on tourism to thrive. It must be difficult for them at this moment in time.

    1. Same. Must be really difficult for them. We have to choose where we are going and staying more responsibly

  10. I will avoid traveling even after the lockdown is over. Until and unless it is extremely important, it is important to avoid travelling.

    1. I agree with you! I still don’t feel responsible enough to travel. I’ll wait till things settle down.

  11. I have tried to stay away from most animal attractions for many years in order to not support the abuse. I hope that someday they are able to do this in a way that is beneficial to the animals and to people.

  12. I wish everyone would follow the practice not to touch wildlife. I see kids and even young adults chasing the animals here sometimes and it’s stressful to me. I imagine it is even more stressful to them.

  13. It is super important to be a responsible traveler with everything going on now. This was a really interesting article.

  14. I think eating more plant-based and locally sourced food are good ideas! We should also look back at the memories that resonates with us during our previous travels.

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