Travelling sustainably and ethically: tips & tricks
Today I want to talk about travelling sustainably and ethically, since I think these are two of the most important things if you want to keep travelling and enjoying cultures/natures.
So much can be learnt through travelling. It is meaningful and wonderful and gives us the opportunity to explore other ways of thinking, other cultures, other perspectives on things and not to mention a great variety of beautiful ecosystems. It is easy to assume that the way we do things here is the right way, that how we live, is how it should be, but travelling can totally mess this idea up, in a good way :). However, tourism can also put great stress on other cultures and ecosystems. Whole societies can change and disappear if tourism is performed in an unsustainable way. In this day and age in which travelling is so popular, easy and cheap, it is therefore very important to travel sustainably to sustain a place and its character.
So what makes travelling sustainable? Many ideas and opinions exist about this, but I think it comes down to focussing on these things: respect, ethics, eco-tourism. Again, these terms can be interpreted in multiple ways of course haha.
Respect is one of the main things if you want to be accepted into a culture, but also preserve a culture. Respect begins with researching the country you're visiting. This means looking into the culture, the rules, the unwritten rules and sometimes even the language if you're up for it. Getting to know a culture before you see it (by reading, watching movies/documentaries, researching the internet) can already increase your respect for it. Even though you might already think you are respectful, understanding exactly what and why will help you to act on it even better! And, it's also great fun to know so much about a culture. You can talk to local people about it, or explain things to other tourists which in turn helps them to travel more sustainably as well.
Being respectful and being ethical has a lot in common. However, being ethical to me means that you are aware of what you do and how you do it, and that you really try to limit any negative impact you can have on cultures/environments. This means that for everything you decide to do, you do some research on how, why, where and by whom. So if you want to visit a local village for example, how is the trip conducted, what are the real reasons behind the trip (making money or supporting the local industry?), where are you going (what kind of village is it? Are they real local places, or are they places set up for tourism and making money?) and who is conducting the tour (is it local, what do they spend the profit on? etc). Of course, some of these things are really difficult to find out, but by trying to dig deeper than just booking the first cheap option, you might really have a positive impact on local cultures and help in preserving them. The same can be important for animal/wildlife shelters.
Ecotourism, a term defined by the World Conservation Union as "Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples." As you can read In ecotourism a big part of the money made by tourism is usually put into conservation practices, like tree planting, preserving lands or helping animals. This goes hand-in-hand with cultural conservation. It's all about minimising your impact on the environment and being aware of what you can do (through tourism) to preserve the country you're visiting. Again, you can do research on the impacts of certain things you want to do. You can also find out which place you should and shouldn't visit by reading reviews for example. For example in Thailand, elephant riding can be a very popular activity for tourists, but it is terrible for the elephants. If you do want to see an elephant though, or maybe even be super close to one, you can visit an animal/elephant shelter where the elephants live that were rescued from these terrible circumstances. Often, you can also volunteer at these places which helps them in taking care of the animals and sheltering more animals.
If you want to know more about eco-tourism, check out this page for example: http://www.ecotourism.org/news/browse-region
Well, I think it's all about pre-reading, which is also a fun way to prepare for your travels. Learning about a country can help you in making sustainable decicions. Travel in a local way, eat in a local way and sleep locally, this can all help in preserving nature, food and whole cultures. If you have more suggestions, let me know! Good luck with planning your sustainable travels :).