Responsible TravelBe a citizen of the world rather than a consumer
To travel responsibly is to be aware of the level of impact you and products and services you use, might have on the places you visit. The impact might be social, cultural, environmental or economic and in all likelihood are a combination of these things. It requires you to make conscious decision about how to limit your negative impact and optimise your potential to create a positive impact on local people and the environment.
It can be confusing; spending money might help the local economy but paying a local company to go on elephant ride is harmful to elephants.
YOU need to be a conscious world citizen not an unthinking consumer.
Responsible travel starts when you begin to plan your gap experience. Here’s what you can do.
- How ever much of a traveller you are, you are also a tourist and a guest in another country.
- Take time to research the country you visiting, it’s customs and history.
- Where are the tourist hot spots, what are the alternatives?
- Programmes on offer in that country: Why are they needed? What impact do they have?
- Ask these questions of any company with whom you are thinking of travelling.
- Year Out Group members sign up to a code of conduct and they should be able to answer all of the above questions.
Think about what you buy
- Make a list of what you think you’ll need when travelling-now try to half it.
- Think about what you can buy locally rather than taking it all with you.
- Don’t take any excess packing with you and ensure the items you do take can be re-used, recycled or disposed or appropriately.
- Buy environmentally friendly products-toothpaste, toothbrush, suncream etc. You don’t want to pollute their water,soil or leave a plastic trail.
- Buy good quality gear that will last your trip and hopefully many more years to come.
Observe and engage.
- Learn some key phrases and a bit of the place history-make sure you share your knowledge
- Look up, down, sideways, backwards and listen to take in your surroundings
- Try to blend in, rather than drawing attention to yourself
- Engage people before photographing them (doing so safely and respectfully is a given)
- Show respect in the way you dress, behave, communicate and consume
- Support local businesses that you feel are themselves behaving responsibly
- Ask questions about local culture, share a bit of your world, celebrate common experiences
- If you want to offer your time to a good cause, make a real effort to find out where you best make an impact
Voluntourism & ethical travel
There are a number of issues to be mindful of when travelling and in particular if you considering volunteering and there are sources that you can research:
Year Out Group members commit to developing their volunteering projects in partnership with local communities. Projects should empower local communities rather than create a dependency on volunteers from overseas or lead to a situation where local people are deprived of a living by foreign volunteers. If you are told you filling a skills gap then the project should help to train local people not just bring in volunteers.
The impact of projects should be measurable and it should be clear to what extent the skills or goodwill of volunteers are essential to the task in hand. It should also be a meaningful learning experience for the volunteers who should feel they are there to gain insight about the community and it’s people. They should learn from local people and in return their enthusiasm, time, skills (however limited) and goodwill can be of valuable assistance to local people in their efforts to improve conditions for others in their community, the environment or wildlife etc.
You can talk through all these matters and more with your chosen provider. To avoid disappointment on all sides if expectations are ill-matched by the experience be sure you make that call.