Traveling is a great way to gain life experience, learn about different cultures, and gain a new perspective on how the rest of the world handles everyday challenges. It does wonders for the soul and teaches us a great deal, but what do the locals really gain from our experiences? Some tourists come and go without knowing the impact they may cause. If you are wondering how to leave a positive impact on the countries and communities you visit, here are a few ways you can become a more responsible traveler in the future.
Immerse in local culture
The greatest reward of traveling is getting to learn about different cultures and customs. We live on a planet that is filled with fascinating people and we are fortunate enough to experience it. Just as our beliefs are important to us, the locals have their own beliefs that are just as important, which should be respected at all times. Some countries are conservative and require more modest attire, so dresses, skirts, or shorts may not be the best option. It’s best to respect the customs and cover up when necessary. Taking the time to learn some of the local languages, even if it is just a few words is another responsible action that shows you are interested in the community and respectful of their culture.
Respect the resources
Water is our most precious commodity and some of us are guilty of taking that for granted. While the taps may be overflowing at home, in some countries there is a major shortage of clean drinking water. Often times these countries will have water restrictions in place. Some may suggest two-minute showers while others may recommend using a water sterilization tool, whatever the rules are, every drop of water is precious. As a responsible tourist try to minimize water usage by making sure all faucets at the hotel are closed and only put towels and linen in the laundry basket after a few uses or when absolutely necessary.
Visiting the local market places is a great way to get locally handcrafted souvenirs for everyone back home. In some regions, it is not uncommon to bargain for products with the locals, but there is a big difference between getting a reasonable discount and haggling over a dollar. Before trying to get the product for next to nothing, take some time to think about how that extra money can benefit the person you are dealing with. We are happy to pay retail prices in department stores and the same attitude should be kept when dealing with a local who is selling their goods. Try to avoid bullying them out of a couple dollars because they may need it much more than we think.
Invest in the locals
When choosing hotels or guided tours rather choose businesses that are actively involved in helping the local communities. Look for businesses that employ local workers from surrounding villages and pay their staff adequate wages. Other companies to look for are ones that donate some of their profits to charities or have practices that help to protect the environment. It may take a bit of research but establishments like these should be rewarded for the effort.
It is easy to be a responsible tourist. It just takes a little consideration. Think before haggling, minimize waste, and support locals wherever possible.