Traveling ethically is not complicated. All it takes is common sense, and twenty minutes of research online!
TIP ONE: Spread your money out and avoid corporate chains!
It can be hard when traveling to completely avoid spending your money at chains. The Holiday Inn! It’s right there, and we know it’s clean! McDonalds is just so convenient! But staying and eating at places like that doesn’t benefit the community in which you’re traveling. Do some research before booking. Look for bed and breakfasts, locally owned hotels and hostels, or Airbnb and VRBOs. Booking your stay through places like that will do more to benefit real communities.
When eating out or buying souvenirs, try to spend your money around. Don’t eat at the same place twice and avoid chain restaurants. At markets, try to buy souvenirs from a few different places as opposed to the same stall.
TIP TWO: You’re traveling, not visiting a human zoo. Photograph respectfully.
What if someone came into your workplace, your neighborhood, or your home and started taking pictures of you like you’re a spectacle? That would suck. Treat people the way you want to be treated, especially when you’re taking pictures. At the very least, ask first!
TIP THREE: Don’t exploit wildlife.
If you’re allowed to pet a wild animal something is wrong. Tigers are not domesticated animals, and neither are monkeys. If you’re interacting with an animal, do your research into how the animals are being treated.
TIP FOUR: Don’t litter. Seriously, how rude is littering. So rude.
Say you’re traveling in Laos. Laos does not have the same trash disposal services as other places. When you travel in a place like Laos, you need to be more conscious of the trash you produce. Bring a reusable water bottle. Bring your own spoon/ fork/ knife and avoid using disposable plasticware. Say no to plastic bags! Leave the places you visit the same if not better than when you came.
TIP FIVE: Do a little research on local culture before you travel.
Learn some key phrases before you arrive. Everyone everywhere likes when you at least attempt to speak their language. “Hello! Nice to meet you! My name is Emily! Yes please! No thank you! Where is the bathroom? May I please have some dessert/ beer/ wine?” YouTube is great for pronunciation.
Is it offensive to eat food with your left hand? Is it considered weird to shake hands? These are things you should try to know.
Represent yourself while travelling in a way that would make your parents proud. Or better yet, make your dog proud. We should all want to make dogs proud. Basically, don’t be a dickhead.
When I travel, I try to ask myself if my presence in an area is helping or hurting the people who live there. Tourism does not have to harm. Tourism can be a positive thing that benefits the region in which you are traveling. All it takes to travel responsibly is a little bit of research.