You may know me from my responsible travel account, @missfilatelista, where I share my community-based tourism experiences from around the globe. Luckily, I’m not alone in these ethical travel practices that make a minimal impact on the environment while benefiting locals. I’ve asked some fellow conscious voyagers to share their sustainable travel expertise so that we can all become more mindful travellers and preserve our beautiful planet and vast cultural heritage.
Ellie and Ravi travel with conscience as they seek out journeys with lots of soul.
Around the world, more and more destinations are feeling the impact of tourism. Beaches are being closed due to over pollution, cultures are getting trampled on, and prices for locals are getting hyperinflated. It can seem that the problems are too big to make a difference–but each person that chooses responsible travel can make a difference! As travellers, we have the opportunity to clean up the impact of tourism now, before it’s too late. We should recognise the places that are making a difference, rather than criticise those who aren’t perfect in their sustainability efforts. There are so many wonderful initiatives taking place around the world to create positive impact through travel. Keep in mind that the term Eco is being overused–in many places, ecotourism means an outdoor activity. In some places, huge swathes of forest are cut down to make way for so-called Eco-activities. Be aware that Eco is not always environmentally friendly.
GivingWay directly connects volunteers with non-proﬁts on the ground for free so that non-proﬁts can clearly communicate their wishes, and volunteers can direct their contribution where most needed.
GivingWay turned the voluntourism industry on its head by ensuring that human and financial capital are driven directly and ethically into local communities. Most local communities and NGOs heavily value and rely on the skills of volunteers and the profit from tourism to support their projects. The more a volunteer is able to connect directly with the local community, the greater the impact they can have. Truly impacting local communities in a positive way is the real benefit of responsible volunteering. Become immersive in your travels by connecting to the culture, language, and history of the people and support the local communities you are visiting. Responsible travel ensures part of the money you are spending is going into the hands of local businesses.
Misty is a socially-conscious traveler who makes a positive impact as she explores the world’s most amazing destinations.
Travel isn’t inherently sustainable. Flying is terrible for the environment and over-tourism is destroying the integrity of some of our world’s most ancient sites. If we all traveled responsibly we’d be able to preserve some epic places so that others can continue enjoying them. There’s this idea that responsible travel is too confusing or hard. It’s not but it does require thinking a bit more critically about your choices. Do research so that you can understand the history of a destination, the cultural etiquette to follow, what the political climate is like, and what organizations are helping folks who need it the most. Responsible travel is for everyone. Choose accommodations and activities that are creating a better world. It’ll make you feel more connected to your travel destination. You’re a guest when you travel to another country. Treat a destination like you would want someone to treat you and your home.
I Like Local is a responsible travel marketplace allowing travelers to directly connect with locals and book authentic stays and experiences. 100% of the money asked by local hosts is paid to them offering locals a sustainable way to earn money and provide travelers with in-depth travel experiences.
Giving local people and communities access to a worldwide travel market allows people from different cultures gain a mutual understanding through cultural exchange. Mindful travel works when it shows clear benefits to travelers and is offered at a competitive price. A tiny effort can shift mountains–do your best to reduce your negative impact through changing your choices. Buy local as this reduces the need to import goods and empowers locals. Avoid plastic bags and bottles by bringing your own reusable items. Use plastic free toiletries like shampoo bars, soap, deodorant, etc. Reduce your travel footprint by taking direct flights. Make bookings with eco-friendly accommodations, booking platforms, or travel agencies.
Sara is a wildlife photography enthusiast who’s always finding the most ethical ways to see animals in the wild.
Any effort towards being a more responsible traveler should be applauded. We should be celebrating people’s efforts, not attacking their mistakes. If you’re traveling responsibly by booking locally owned accommodations, local tours, and eating at local restaurants, the benefits go directly to locals. Being responsible often takes some planning to make sure the things you do in your travels are in fact ethical. Join ethical travel groups on facebook that are a great resource, like Women for Ethical Travel. Start making changes that you can easily do; bring a metal straw and bamboo utensils to reduce your waste in your travels, research to see if the hostels you are staying in have eco-friendly efforts, book travel experiences find yours led by locals and aren’t harming animals. Nobody is perfect, even the influencers you see on Instagram promoting responsible travel. We all started somewhere, and so can you. Just start making a change.
Bret and Mary are passionate about having transformative travel experiences as they explore the world’s nature, wildlife, history, and indigenous cultures.
Responsible travel removes the pressures of mass tourism, provides sustainable forms of revenue to local communities, funds the preservation of wildlife and the ecosystems they inhabit, and lead us to be more informed, educated, and empathetic travelers. Ecotourism adventures conserve the environment and improve the well-being of local people. When local communities aren’t given a voice in tourism, there’s a resulting rise in anti-tourist sentiment. Responsible community-based tourism can be the antidote to the problems of mass tourism. All of us as travelers can make a difference in the choices we make. Greenwashing is everywhere, and being truly responsible requires asking a lot of questions and doing research on hotels, tour operators, etc.
Ladies Leaving Footprints features women of all backgrounds traveling and living sustainably.
Travel is a huge privilege and all travelers have some sort of carbon footprint due to emissions from transportation. It’s extremely important for travelers to be as sustainable as possible. The benefits of traveling responsibly include making friends with locals and learning from them, experiencing fantastic nature, and connecting with people who truly care about other people, animals, and the environment. Find a like-minded community to support you in your efforts. Find people to clean beaches with and to vent to when you see other travelers around you taking advantage of local communities. Ask a ton of questions. Whether you’re asking yourself, or someone in the tourism industry, just keep asking. Ask why the clothing you’re about to buy abroad is so inexpensive. Ask why there are chains around the ankles of the elephant ‘sanctuary’ you are visiting. Ask yourself where you think your trash goes when you ‘throw it away’.
Jazzmine has been globetrotting with her 40L pink backpack for over 5 years while practising responsible travel.
The travel industry has the ability to empower communities economically, socially, and environmentally. Responsible travel isn’t a competitive edge–it’s the future of the industry and every traveler and travel organization worldwide is responsible for the damage that’s been caused. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, for every $100 spent in a developing country by a tourist, only $10 remains in destination. That’s 90% tourism leakage! By choosing accommodation, restaurants, and activities developed and led by locals, you’re bringing more sustainability to the destination. Think of how you currently travel and where you can start to make more mindful choices, like bringing a coffee canteen with you, refusing to buy products that are wrapped in plastic, or staying at locally owned hostels. Responsible travel is when every decision you make considers the impacts on the community through a social, economic, and environmental lens.
Valeria is a plant-based yogi, social entrepreneur, and risk-taker.
I visit eco-friendly and soul-enriching places as I travel the world to not only acquire a vast knowledge of different cultures, green design, and exotic plant-based cuisine but to also connect deeply with nature and protect it. Responsible travel pushes me outside of my comfort zone. We all have the power of making a difference and having a positive impact simply by changing our habits and decisions a little, even while traveling. Choosing eco-friendly hostels that have our planet and people in mind reduces our negative footprint and introduce guests to a world that is unknown to most. A world of magic, connection, bliss, and respect.
Charlie is a green traveler who supports local people, culture, wildlife, and the environment through community-based tourism activities.
Sustainable travel should be the only way we travel. Our world has finite resources yet mass tourism threatens much of the world’s natural ecosystem. Excessive air travel releases harmful CO2 emissions and package holiday resorts destroy habitats of local wildlife. Responsible travel preserves our environment and wildlife, people and culture, and buildings and history. As a responsible traveler, I’ve been able to do so many incredible things and feel good for being able to spend my money supporting local people, businesses, and projects. I’ve been to peanut butter making workshops run by locals, learned about water filtration social enterprises in Guatemala, taken cooking classes in Thailand, silver-making classes in Indonesia, and so many other great responsible travel experiences.
Alex is a mindful mermaid who makes sustainable choices in her daily life and during her travels.
We need to use the $7.6 trillion tourism industry as a catalyst for change and development. Tourism can be a force for good by providing sustainable employment to locals and helping to spark conservation efforts. Responsible travel does take more effort and research, but it always pays off with more immersive travel experiences. You don’t need a massive budget to travel sustainably–many of the things that I do to travel more sustainably have actually been extremely affordable. To become more responsible in your travels be sure to research before visiting a destination. Consider how you interact with not only the environment but locals and wildlife as well. Always be mindful and respectful of local cultural customs.
Wendy is passionate about culture, natural wonders, local communities, and sustainable travel.
We, as travelers, need to make a positive impact wherever we’re visiting. Responsible travel is staying in locally owned accommodation, learning the basics of the native language, and eating at a family operated restaurants. When we make responsible decisions while visiting places around the world, we’re ensuring that we make a positive impact on the local community and environment. Try to see places that are off-the-beaten-track. A benefit to being around local families and guides is that they’re so open to sharing their culture.
Emily is a nurse and Aaron is a teacher–they’re both passionate about volunteering abroad ethically and ethical off-the-beaten-path travel.
The little choices you make while traveling–where you stay, what you buy, how you interact all add up to big consequences for the places you visit. Responsible travel is fun! It’s not about telling you all the things you can’t do, but rather opening up a world of possibilities for authentic, unique, life-changing experiences. Travelers should seek out adventures that truly support the place they’re visiting, rather than whatever gets the coolest photo. Responsible travel is good for the places we visit because it supports their economies, respects their residents, and preserves their ecosystems. It’s good for us because we’re not trapped in the same cookie-cutter experience that everyone else has had before. Nobody is a perfect responsible traveler. Everyone is learning and doing the best we can. Sometimes you mess up and forget your bamboo utensils or end up on a tour that treats locals with disrespect. Give yourself some grace and do better the next time.
Nat and Zin are a duo of travelers sharing community-based and offbeat destinations in Sri Lanka and beyond.
Sustainable travel environmentally, socially, andfinancially benefits a destination. If we destroy the environment and the life of local communities, what is left for us to experience? It’s the beautiful nature and local culture that attract us to a place. Traveling sustainably not only protects the environment but helps the local culture to be preserved. Take public transport as much as you can to help reduce your carbon footprint. Aim to contribute to local communities during your travels. You’ll be exposed to their culture and help preserve age-old practices. After all, it’s the people who shape our experiences more than anything else.
Christine and Jules get the most of their adventures while protecting this gorgeous world for future generations of travelers.
Sustainable travel opens up so many awesome adventures that have a positive impact on the local people, animals, and environment. It’s so important to protect the beautiful destinations we love so future generations of travelers can experience them as well. Off-the-beaten-track destinations have become overrun with tourists which results in serious issues like pollution, beach corrosion, and displacement of local people. Responsible tourism isn’t a boring or restricting way to travel. It will actually make your travels more fun. Anytime you’re thinking of doing a tour that involves animals, local people, or the environment, take a moment to consider the implications of the activity and whether it will have a positive or negative impact.
Kiona shares a completely honest, funny, and fresh perspective on places to go, what to do, and what not to do. Don’t be basic.
As a responsible traveler, it’s important to recognize that travel and politics are inseparable and that we must decolonize travel. Choosing the proper people to do tours with is one of the most powerful steps we can take with our tourism dollars. In addition to respecting the people, we must also respect the land we walk on. Be respectful of animals by not touching them and giving them their natural space. Respect the environment by not exploiting a country’s resources. This planet does not belong to us. We’re here for a short moment in time with the privilege to see all it has to offer. Every time someone stands up for what’s right it causes a chain reaction of people reflecting on their own decisions. Being a responsible traveler isn’t immediate or all-encompassing. Every decision made to be more responsible matters. It’s an evolution to be more aware of the impact we leave on the planet, so every little step counts.
Daniele and Elena are exploring the world by bicycle–they’ve pedaled 25,000 km from Europe to Asia across 23 countries.
Unlike non-human-powered vehicles (trains, planes, buses) transportation by bicycle puts travelers in close contact with the road, the landscape, and the people. Tourism can be good for local economies, but only if it’s done in a responsible way. Otherwise, it might destroy cultures, environments, animal habitats, and small business. The benefits of responsible travel are huge–from being more in touch with the local culture, learning about the country’s history and politics, to experiencing local traditions. Travelers should try to understand if someone or something is suffering in order for them to have fun. If you want to be sustainable maybe get yourself a bike!
Bianca shares inspirational stories of responsible tourism, fair trade, and community development from around the globe.
I’ve always been mindful of the impact I have on others and the planet. Sustainable travel provides the opportunity to connect while making a difference, two of the fundamental importances of life. The experiences where I eat dinner in the home of a Hmong family, wake up to the sounds of wild Gibbons in the jungles of the Gunung Leuser, learn the art of stamp making in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, sing karaoke with locals in a remote island somewhere in the Philippines are the most unforgettable because of the humble cultural exchange where we’re all equal. Responsible travel benefits the communities we choose to visit, the earth we live on, and also ourselves. Being a responsible traveler is just another term for being an educated, compassionate person who likes to roam the earth.
Cherene is on a mission to gallivant around the globe in a responsible manner.
We’re guests in other countries and have the responsibility to leave it as it was when we came and not worse off because of our visit. Community-based tourism ensures that the money you spend reaches those that actually live where you’re traveling. Find companies that are owned by and employ local people. I’m still learning all the time–I’m not a perfect responsible traveler. The downfalls of responsible travel are that not all accommodations that call themselves “green” actually are. Some still will have individually packaged toiletries for example, which clearly isn’t very green. I recently stayed at an ecolodge and at times had no power or hot water. Making ethical travel decisions can sometimes be a step out of one’s comfort zones.
Brianne is a communications consultant who works with non-profit organizations and social enterprises so she’s naturally incorporated sustainable practices into her travels.
There’s a perception that sustainable travel is sacrificing quality or “roughing it.” It’s often associated with budget travel, when in fact, you can have ethical luxurious travel experiences. There’s a full range of sustainable options that are available to travelers of all budgets and styles offering one-of-a-kind experiences that genuinely benefit local communities. With responsible travel you’ll have much richer memories and literally be helping to put food on someone’s table or send someone’s child to school by supporting local businesses. Sometimes you may be paving new ground. Often there are no Yelp reviews for street food vendors so you need to be comfortable with a certain amount of risk. Support local artisans by purchasing something special directly from them or through a collective–no haggling if it’s made by hand!
Katie and Ben are married wanderers dedicated to adventurous responsible travel as they backpack around the world, volunteer on organic farms, and live in a campervan they built themselves.
If each person makes small changes, this world would be a much better place. Travel in a way that is better for the environment and the communities you visit. There are little changes you can make right now that will help you travel better. Being a mindful traveler means you’ll be more aware of the negative sides tourism can have on this world–natural wonders destroyed because of tourism, towns where a rich culture has been replaced with souvenir shops, and traditional manners that have been forgotten as drunken tourists wander through town. These are the very real side effects of tourism, and each day there are towns around the world and pieces of nature that are being tainted. This is why traveling responsibly is so important. If we don’t, our world and its beautiful cultures and natural masterpieces will disappear.
Irine strives to inspire people to take care of our precious planet and adopt an eco-friendly way of living by showing them new places, cultures, and local handmade products around the world.
The foundation of sustainable tourism is to reduce, reuse, recycle; protecting cultural and natural heritage; and providing social and economic benefits for local communities. Sustainable travel sets programs in motion that protect the land, culture, and people while building resources that will help maintain responsible tourism for future generations. At home in the Indonesian islands, the effects of climate change are apparent including rising water temperatures and ocean acidification, and unprecedented levels of coral bleaching. Always opt for community-based tourism which enables travelers to discover local habitats and wildlife while respecting traditional cultures. The community will be aware of the commercial and social value placed on their natural and cultural heritage through tourism, and this will foster community-based conservation of these resources.
Natasha works in International Development with NGOs managing a variety of projects addressing women and youth empowerment, sexual and reproductive health, hygiene, water, and sanitation.
My work naturally impacts the choices I make to ensure that my tourism directly supports the local people and the economy of the country I’m visiting, is environmentally friendly, and culturally appropriate. Tourism can have immense benefits if managed in the appropriate manner, such as inducing economic development involving local communities and promoting decent jobs. It can be quite overwhelming trying to make sure you’re always doing the right thing. We all make mistakes (I know I have) but as long as we learn from them and don’t make them again it’s OK! Start with something that you’re passionate about and is close to your heart. If it’s the environment, look into how you can offset your carbon footprint; if it’s animals, make sure you have done your research to ensure the welfare of the animals is considered. What may seem small can have the biggest impact.
Gondwana Ecotours promotes travel that is educational, authentic, and beneficial to local communities, ecosystems, and economies.
There is a growing interest in authentic travel experiences which can be leveraged to make tourists interested in responsible travel experiences. One benefit of responsible travel is being able to have meaningful cultural exchanges with people from all over the world. It is very gratifying to learn different ways of life. Travelers can spend tourism dollars in a responsible way while helping protect cultures and ecosystems. Consider the environmental, social, and cultural impact of the trip you’re taking. Keep in mind that sometimes businesses are greenwashed to seem environmentally friendly just to make more money. Responsible travel is putting the well being of the local people, nature, and culture in the forefront of your travel experience.
Ariel and Ron are vegan vagabonds who’ve been traveling full-time for two years in their camper van.
We travel to soul see. Having the realization of how connected we all are and how our actions have far-reaching implications globally on other people and the planet spurs us to live more sustainably. We should all strive to reduce our footprint by purchasing carbon offsets when we fly or rent a car, it’s an easy way of contributing positively while traveling. Travel that supports local culture, people, animals, and habitats benefits everyone. Always ask more questions. Does the safari tour practice any carbon emission reduction? How are the elephants at the zoo trained to be near humans? Does your hotel have water conservation policies? Don’t get caught up in the glitz and glamour of travel without paying attention to the impact that glitter may have on the ocean once it finds its way there.
About the author:
Lola Méndez is a travel writer and full-time traveler sharing her adventures on Miss Filatelista as she adds to her collection of passport stamps. She travels to develop her own worldview and has explored over 50 countries. Passionate about sustainable travel she seeks out ethical experiences that benefit local communities. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.