Tourists With a MapIt’s been estimated that over a billion people travel each year, and this number is expected to climb in the future. With record numbers of tourists taking in other cultures, it’s time to talk about responsible travel. While there’s no one definition for this philosophy, responsible travel is about making a conscious choice to minimize your impact when you’re traveling. It’s more than sustainability though. You should be aware of the cultural and social effects when you’re not in your hometown.

Being Culturally Aware

Responsible travel is about showing respect to local traditions and customs. For example, some have called for an end to tourism on Mount Everest. This is largely due to the impact that tourism has on the locals. Too many Sherpas have been killed in helping climbers reach the top of the mountain. The peak is highly respected by the local people. It’s considered the home of the gods. However, most travelers don’t have the same respect for the mountain. They’re simply trying to reach the top of the highest peak in the world.

Mount Everest is not the only example that could be cited. At Kyaiktiyo Pagoda in Myanmar, women are not allowed to touch the Golden Rock. It’s a local tradition out of touch with today’s society. However, no matter how much this policy conflicts with your own beliefs, it must still be respected.

As a traveler, step into the customs and traditions of the place you visit. Travel from a place of respect, not indignation. You may want to ask the locals about how to dress and act when visiting special places, or check websites for information. Most places that expect certain behavior will make that information available.

Look for Sustainable Travel Options

Responsible travel isn’t about backpacking through a country or going on a low budget. It’s about making good choices with your travel budget. Spend a few minutes to make sure your hotel is environmentally sustainable. Look for grassroots tourist opportunities where you can interact with local residents instead of outside tourist organizations.

When you do book tours, ask the company about their environmentally sustainable efforts. Dig deep to make sure that what they’re saying is genuine and not a marketing gimmick. There is no globally recognized certification for ecotourism, but some countries do have local initiatives.

Take Pictures, but Make Memories

As part of your responsible travel efforts, remember to spend time making memories. Before you take your camera out, take in the moment. Think about how you feel. Balance recording the trip with living out the vacation.

Talk to locals. As a responsible traveler, learn a few key phrases of the local language that can help you break the ice. Not only will you learn more about the place you’re visiting when you talk to locals, but you will meet some amazing people in your journey.

Give Generously

Many sites where you visit only have a donation policy for guests. Make sure to follow the suggested donation to help the place stay open. It’s not cheap to keep a historical monument or church open. Any place that is open to the public has expensive bills for staffing, insurance, cleaning, utilities and maintenance. Your donation supports the activities that keeps the building open.

Responsible Tourism Takes an Effort

Individual travelers and tourism companies both have to make the effort to be more sustainable and responsible when traveling. But it can make the difference from just scratching the surface of the place you’re visiting as a tourist to being a real traveler who experiences the culture and traditions of the country.

Leo Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Responsible travel is about taking ownership of your own impact on the local culture and economy.

Category: Religion

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