by Debbie Ross
When we travel, we leave a mark. Here’s how to make it a positive one.
Travel roared back in 2022 after a pandemic hiatus. We jumped back in with a vengeance to make up for lost time. Some called it revenge travel. I prefer to call it Bucket List travel. As a result of increased bookings, airlines and hotels struggled to keep up with the demand. Crowds returned to popular tourist destinations and bad behavior reared its ugly head.
This is a good reminder to reflect on our impact as travelers for the coming year. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, where and how we travel leaves a mark on the destination and the people, and it’s our responsibility to make the mark a positive one.
To hold ourselves accountable, here are 5 rules for being a more responsible traveler beyond basics like minimizing single-use plastic waste or boycotting unethical wildlife experiences.
- Protect the most popular places by visiting off season.
Rome’s Colosseum, Venice’s canals, or the charming towns of Santorini. Of course, you want to see them in your lifetime, but doing so at their busiest cannot only be miserable, it can be detrimental to the places. You can avoid adding to the immense strain busy season puts on to the places by visiting in off season.
If you can only travel during busy times (i.e., school breaks), consider comparable alternatives to tourist epicenters.
2. Swap cars for walks and bikes.
If you’re flying to a destination, take public transportation to and from the airport.
Plan a trip to a place where you don’t need a car. Paris, Rome, and New York are walkable cities. Map what you’d like to do on your trip and book a place within walking or biking distance to most of your points of interest.
3. Spend money with local businesses.
The pandemic hit small businesses and the hospitality industry very hard. Consider this your reminder to support the little guy: bed-and-breakfasts, boutique hotels, artists and crafts people, neighborhood restaurants, independent tour guides and family-run businesses. Skip big chains and support the locals.
- Carry cash to tip.
Tipping is one of the best ways to show gratitude and support the locals. In an increasingly cashless world, most of us use cards to pay for everything. Don’t forget about the little guy. Tip sidewalk performers and musicians, housekeeping, porters, waiters, tour guides or an unexpected helping hand.
- Rethink Taking Travel Photos.
It’s become our instinct to take photos and videos of everything we encounter on a trip. But what happens to those photos? Do you put them in a photo album? Share them on social media? Will they never be looked at again? Our need to get as much travel content as possible can overshadow the actual travel experience. We can benefit greatly by unplugging more when we travel.
You can still take travel photos, but think about how the process impacts your experience, plus what you’re photographing and why.
When practicing Ethical Photography, you can make a photograph versus taking one. That means learning about local cultures before arriving and asking permission to shoot a stranger’s photo before you take it.
Before picking up your camera, get to know the people you are photographing. Having a conversation with them will result in a more compelling photo and a more memorable experience.
Learn more about Ethical Photography, watch our latest Travel Webinar.