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On our mission to make travel meaningful there’s so much we try to do as a tour operator, but every traveller can play their part in minimising the negative impact of tourism. Just a few small behavioural changes can go a long way. Below are our top tips on how to travel with meaning.
A great way to inject money directly where it’s needed is by buying from local shops and eating at local restaurants. It’s also a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the local culture and have a more enriching experience. There’s nothing quite like being the only Westerner shown how to tuck into a masala dosa with your hands by an Indian family!
One school pen
It often feels like you’re helping when you give money or items to children, but sadly it can encourage begging and truancy. You can make a real impact by donating money to local charities, taking your gifts to a local school instead or buying hand-made souvenirs. Buying something someone has made boosts self-esteem and worth as well as the economy rather than just giving handouts.
We all know we should ask permission before we take someone’s photo, but sometimes we get a little shy. It’s important to remember though that some cultures, or just people, have very strong beliefs about this. But also that you can get some even better photos and experiences if you ask. Showing someone the photo you just took builds cultural bridges and who knows, you might end up exchanging email addresses and have a new pen pal!
Before you go, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the local culture, customs and dress code. When you book with us we’ll send you a Know Before You Go document with all the details. Not only will you avoid causing offence but you’ll also feel more like you’re part of it. When you also take your shoes off at the local Buddhist temple you make a connection with the local people.
Sadly, human trafficking of adults and children does exist. However, you can help prevent it just by noticing. If you believe that someone is being forced to work against their own free will, are being abused or if you see something that doesn’t look right in a bar, a hotel or a restaurant, report it. Together our actions can make a difference in preventing sexual exploitation and forced labour.
Wildlife and fauna
The killing of protected wild animals and the illegal exploitation of plants and forests are crimes that have a devastating impact on the environment, local livelihoods and biodiversity. You can help stop it; just think twice before buying or consuming something made out of an exotic tree, plant or wild animal, including photo propping, as you may be contributing to their extinction or exploitation. You can find more information here.
Cultural objects such as traditional carvings, pottery and antiques make attractive gifts, but be sure you are not unwittingly buying stolen or illegally excavated or looted artefacts. Every day, countless sites and monuments across the globe are pillaged, robbing people of their past. It doesn’t need to be like this; when buying an antique make sure it has a documented and legal history, isn’t stolen and can be legally exported/imported.
In the UK we have an abundance of many resources, but this is often not the case when we travel to far-flung destinations. Remote destinations in particular, such as Bhutan, often suffer from a limited supply of water. You can help by being a little careful about the amount you use, which will also help reduce your carbon emissions – two birds, one stone!
Keep it beautiful
There are so many stunning locations around the world, together we can keep them that way. You can play your part by taking your litter away with you, leaving plants and rocks where they are and setting an example to locals and travellers alike. We’d all hate to be that traveller that accidentally burnt down half of Chile’s Torres Del Paine National Park by being careless with their cigarette. Awkward!
By far the most meaningful way to travel is to really throw yourself into the destination. Talk to local people, explore, ask questions and try new things. You may never develop a taste for that Cambodian Tarantula, but it’s sure to make a great story!
We often talk about travelling with meaning, but what do we mean by that? Watch Jennifer's talk from The Holiday and Travel Show - Destinations Show.