Responsible Travel - Go Green or Go Home

With all this talk about being environmentally friendly, traveling is always put in the spotlight. I definitely acknowledge that flying around the globe isn't the best for the environment, but there is a lot more to responsible travel than that.

What is responsible travel all about?

In my opinion, and it is quite a widely held view, traveling responsibly includes respecting the environment & the culture of the places you visit. It is one thing to think green when it comes to your carbon footprint but it is also important to preserve local cultures and learn about the place you are visiting too.

In this day-and-age, there are so many places in the world that turn amazing & unique surroundings into tourist areas that have literally turned an interesting Spanish village into a hot version of somewhere in Britain or the US.

So…is traveling all that bad?

I don’t think that traveling is all that bad when it comes to treating the global environment in a respectful way. It is a matter of how you travel. Those that exhaust local resources (environmentally and culturally) may not be deemed as responsible but those that take the time to investigate environmentally friendly alternatives while getting to know the local culture really are stepping up to the Responsible Traveller platform.

Why travel responsibly?

For me, there are many reasons on why I choose to travel responsibly. First, I love learning about new cultures and going off the beaten path. If I wanted to have the same experiences and go to McDonald's I would do that in my hometown. I like to understand what it is like to live and exist in these new surroundings. That includes eating the local cuisine, seeing some non-touristy sites and also talking to local people.

Another thing I enjoy doing is giving back to local communities. Whether that be by buying souvenirs made by local businesses and/or people or volunteering if I have the time. In most non-Westernized countries it means a lot to the economy and community when you do this.

Finally, it is important to me that I respect the environment I'm in. Realizing that just because something is OK at home, it may not be OK in the place I’m visiting. I try to understand local customs and environmental regulations so I can make sure I don’t offend or cause any detriment.

My experiences so far

In addition to generally taking care while I travel, I’ve done a couple of things where I’ve taken the time to get closer to nature and the local culture.

Late last year, I volunteered where I joined a communal community unique. The best part of the experience is that you work for your essentials (shelter and food). As a collective group, members and volunteers share resources and maximize use. From an environmental perspective, it is a positive step but it also is an interesting way to get to understand some of our roots. I found it to be an incredible experience and one I would even look to do again.

When I decided to head down under, I also tried to learn more about local cultures and traditions. As I was interested in finding more environmentally friendly ways to travel, I traveled mainly by bus – sharing transportation with a large group of people to maximize efficiencies.

Also, when shopping for my friends back in Canada, I invested in locally produced art from the Aboriginal people of Australia. During this time, I had a lot of opportunities to meet individuals with a different way of life and it inspired me to get closer to nature. I’ll always remember Australians as being extremely green in their approach, finding innovative ways to reduce their impact on the environment.

So…what does this mean to you?

Whether it’s trying out a volunteering scheme or getting up close with the Aboriginals of Australia, explore and respect the local culture around you to get the full benefit of your travels.
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  • Jeevan
    Jeevan April 14, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    That's beautiful narrative of Vishu and learning process of their practice of celebration.

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