How to be a More Responsible Traveller
Most people would say they are responsible adults when travelling. Are most people responsible? We are in 2017 already. We are supposed to be evolved humans by now!
Yet- – we look around us and we still hear of embarrassing situations.
Hikers reaching the summit of a sacred mountain in Malaysia – – and celebrate this achievement by removing off all their clothes and videotape each other dancing naked.
A man in rural Canada gets out of his car to hand feed a wild black bear he spotted by the side of the road – putting himself and the bear in great danger.
Safari visitors bribe their driver guides to speed up and chase wildlife in African nature parks.
Can we discourage or prevent such incidents? Yes, absolutely.
1. We can serve as role models of good behavior in front of our children and other people.
2. We can encourage our friends to act more responsibly when they travel.
3. We can report problems to the authorities instead of turning a blind eye and walking away.
At the New Year it is a good time to make resolutions. Here are 10 simple resolutions everyone can take to be a more responsible traveller.
Respect the Local Customs. For example, don’t sunbathe bare-breasted or in the nude on the beach…or get drunk in a bar and pass out….even if it is socially acceptable in your home country. You are not at home.
The “Perfect” Photo or Selfie is Not Supreme. Everyone likes to take pictures by camera or using a selfie stick when on holiday, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, travellers have been hurt or even killed when they do not pay attention to where they are standing when photographing and end up too close to the edge of a mountain cliff or too close to dangerous wild animals. The pursuit of the “perfect” photo is not worth losing your life!
Stay on Marked Hiking Trails. Trails are marked for your pleasure and as well as for your safety. Do not go off them and get lost or hurt.
Clean up After Yourself. Litter is bad for the environment. If you can’t find a waste disposal or it is already full, simply wrap up your garbage and carry it with you until you can dispose of it properly. Many travellers now pack collapsible reusable water bottles and utensils for their trip.
Keep Respectful Distances from Wild Animals. Do not feed or leave food for wild animals. They will associate people with food and become nuisance animals that may have to be put down.
Avoid Tours that Cause Harm to Animals. Do not take rides on domesticated elephants or go with dive boat captains that chum the waters to attract sharks and fish. Whale watching excursions should maintain a clear distance from the whales and not chase them.
Admire Coral Reefs but Do Not Touch. When diving or snorkeling keep aware of the coral reefs below you. Do not stand on them, swipe them with your gloves or flippers, or bump your camera or other equipment against them. Coral damage happens in an instant but takes decades to repair.
Do Not Give Food or Money to Beggars. Begging is common in poor countries. It is especially hard on one’s heart when the beggars are young children. But resist the temptation to help. You do not know where your money or food goes, and it might surprise you that often it ends up in the hands of child abusers or drug gangs. Every country has legitimate charity organizations for the poor that you can donate to.
Keep an Open Mind. Taste foods that are new to you. Learn a bit about other religious beliefs and be respectful when visiting places of worship. Exchange a polite “hello” and “thank you” in the local tongue if you can. Buy souvenirs from vendors in small village markets rather than fancy shops in the major cities. Bargain for price if that is the local custom, but do not be unreasonable.
Be Aware of Body Language. You may be signaling an insult without intention. Do not stand too close or touch people, even to shake hands, or stare, especially with foreign women, until you learn what is acceptable according to the local custom. Often a smile and nod is enough to show your appreciation. However, in other cultures even strangers greet with big hugs and cheek kisses.
The world is a big place. One of the joys of travel is to be far from home and challenge what you know. Just be respectful and responsible wherever you go.
Also you can purchase and download this low-cost ebook about Ecotourism from the same author here.