A Beginner's Guide to Conscious Travel
As well as being one of life's great pleasures, travel can be a wonderful tool for teaching us about the world and giving us fresh perspective on ourselves and our lives. Through visiting new places and meeting new people, we can discover completely different ways of being in the world and have the opportunity to admire the incredible beauty crafted by people and nature.
Travel offers us so much. But in the past our impact as travellers and tourists on the destinations we visit has often been ignored or distorted. In many cases, the impact we make is not so positive as what we take from our travels.
Increasingly conscious of the mark we make on the world around us, we now want to have a positive impact when we are away from home too. A growing movement towards conscious travel is developing, encompassing sustainable, eco, green and slow tourism. Still, in our world of rampant consumerism, the mainstream travel industry remains tightly bound up with wasteful practices and inequalities.
This means that while more sustainable and ethical options are increasingly available, it can be hard to know where to start if we want to travel in alignment with our values. Making good choices in an unfamiliar environment is not easy, so mindful research and a few simple adjustments can be a good place to start.
Be mindful about transport
It's probably not desirable (or even feasible) to avoid flying entirely until green planes become a reality. But rather than simply feeling guilty about your carbon footprint, there are ways to minimise it without staycationning forevermore:
- Often you can get just as much from a trip closer to home than to a far-flung destination (minus the jet lag). Why not skip the airport and choose a more environmentally-friendly mode of transport, like a romantic train journey, instead?
- When you do take a plane to venture further afield, try to avoid subsequent short-haul flights during your trip.
- However you travel, consider carbon offsetting.
Seek out sustainable accommodation
Thanks to rising demand, sustainable accommodation is becoming more and more widespread, catering to all tastes and budgets.
Take a zero waste travel kit
Simple things like packing a reusable drinking bottle and tote bag can save a lot of wasted resources on your adventures.
Trying to visit everything in a short amount of time is a surefire way of getting caught in the wasteful (and often destructive) tourist trap.
Slowing down to experience a destination like a local can give you a deeper and more meaningful experience, and helps you make a more positive impact on the local environment and communities.
Strive to support the local economy & culture
The purchasing choices we make while traveling have a significant impact on the life of local people. Thinking deeply about how you spend your money and investigating beyond what is generally presented to tourists can make a real difference.
Simple things like eating in authentic local restaurants, buying fair trade goods and not bartering on prices can be a good starting point.
Leave nature & wildlife as you find it
We all know not to litter, but sometimes the activities proposed to tourists can harm the environment in less obvious ways. Don't hesitate to ask questions, dig deeper and trust your intuition.
Image by Adam Wilson via Unsplash