8 Easy Ways To Be A More Responsible Traveller

8 Easy Ways To Be A More Responsible Traveller image
Responsible travel isn't about denying yourself unforgettable adventures, and it doesn't just apply to certain destinations or types of experiences.
Instead, it's about consciously reducing negative impact and raising positive impact on people, place, and environment.

In this article, Andrew & Emily from the travel blog Along Dusty Roads, share their tips for simple, impactful changes.
After such a sustained period of difficulty for tourism globally, there is a real opportunity to use this 'restart' to foster a more positive dynamic between destinations, local communities, and those who love to travel.
But how can we travellers turn good intentions and words into meaningful actions?
In this introductory post, we've shared 8 easy ways to help you get started on your journey to being a more responsible traveller.
1. Support Local
A little money goes a long way in some places, and choosing - more often than not - to put yours toward local businesses run by local people, helps to minimise the 'leakage' of tourist money outside of these communities, and recalibrate the dynamic between host and visitor.
And the good news? It will almost always make your trip more enjoyable.
Stay at family-run guesthouses rather than defaulting to generic Airbnbs or large hotel chains. Eat at little street stalls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Buy souvenirs from artisans. Engage local guides to show you around, and don't be too 'budget' in your mentality all the time.
Takeaway |  Try to direct the majority of your spend to local businesses and communities where possible.
2. Minimise Plastic Waste
One simple act that every traveller can do tomorrow is cut down on the amount of single-use plastic they consume or require on a trip.
A few daily bottles of water mount up quickly and, besides plastic having a limited recycling lifespan, the vast majority of these bottles will not be recycled or reused at all. Indeed, certain countries may not have the infrastructure to process all this additional waste from tourism.
Technology has thankfully fixed understandable concerns about clean drinking water, with practical and affordable filter bottles making water from any source safe to drink. Investing in these, alongside filling up a reusable bottle when a fountain, tap, or other clean drinking source is available, will keep you hydrated and save money!
Takeaway | Pack a reusable water bottle for all trips, and refill as and when you can. For adventures, invest in a specialist filter bottle.
3. Curious Respect
The opportunity to witness and experience a different culture is a big part of why we all love travel.
Naturally, this means exposing ourselves to another way of doing things, new approaches, and perhaps certain beliefs or practices with which we don't agree.
It would be madness therefore to expect travellers not to ask questions, to engage, and - perhaps - to feel the need to compare or contrast with home.
However, mutual respect is the cornerstone of responsible tourism.
By choosing to travel to a specific destination, we acknowledge that the duty is upon us as visitors to respect how things are done there - even if we do not agree.
For example, dressing in a certain way may be expected of all women. Couples may not be able to express their love for one another in the most normal of ways in public. The values of one society may not match perfectly with your own.
The interchange of ideas and worlds is a key aspect of what it means to go beyond your own borders, and the hope is that travel at least allows individuals to bridge cultural differences and view each other as equals.
Takeaway | Be culturally sensitive, be respectful, and be respectfully curious.
4. No Photography of Children
This is an area where our understanding and approach has evolved as travellers in the last six years.
Kids in remote places or off-the-beaten-path can often be naturally curious and inquisitive towards travellers. They'll ask questions, be cheeky or cute, ask to use our cameras or look at photos - and this is no bad thing.
However, we now very very rarely take pictures with or of kids we meet on our travels. The positive, friendly interaction doesn't have to be removed, but it simply does not feel like the right or responsible act to promote to the kids about how visitors (strangers) can act with them.
Takeaway | Interact, but don't think you always needs a picture with/of children to remember the moment. Otherwise, ask consent from a parent / guardian and question whether you really need to share it on social media.
5. Avoid Handouts To Children
Whilst we're on the subject of kids, there's one more straightforward but perhaps counterintuitive way to be a more responsible traveller.
In certain countries, it may be very common to see children begging in/around tourist sites or in touristic hubs. This is, clearly, a heartbreaking situation, and it makes sense that we want to help or contribute by giving that child something to make their life a little better.
Unfortunately, giving that child money may only serve to contribute to their hardship.
In short, a child begging from tourists is a child who is not in education. The more money he/she makes from well-intentioned tourists, the more viable the begging is as a source of money. Dependency upon begging becomes the norm and, rather than helping the child to escape from poverty and into education, they remain within the cycle.
Takeaway | As difficult as it may be, do not give handouts to children. Instead, donate to local charities or grassroots initiatives working to educate children or alleviate poverty.
6. Just Thirteen Words
Hello. Thanks. Goodbye. Numbers one to ten.
Wherever we roam, we set ourselves the little challenge of mastering just thirteen words in the local language. Aside from its practical benefits, it also goes a long way to showing respect and cultural awareness, and sometimes opens up the most wonderful interactions.
Takeaway | Spend an evening or two before you arrive trying to get to grips with some of the basics - it goes a really long way!
7. Wildlife vs. Welfare
A lot of progress has thankfully been made on this (particularly on tiger temples in south-east Asia), but the involvement of animals as a tourist attraction remains a big issue.
Many activities continue to be promoted by companies as big bucket list items - elephant riding, captive dolphins, 'wild' whale-shark or sting-ray swimming experiences - and there are a growing amount of businesses promoting their wildlife experiences as 'ethical' or as 'sanctuaries' when they are anything but.
As a responsible traveller, it's vital to appreciate the cruelty and mistreatment which underpins the existence and 'domesticity' of these wild animals - and that tourists being happy to pay for photo opportunities with wildlife directly contributes to exotic animal trafficking and ecosystem alteration.
Takeaway | Most animal-based tourism activities where interaction, touch, or riding is involved should be avoided - do research to ensure any sanctuary is legitimate.
8. Be The Example
The world doesn't need a minority of travellers acting perfectly; we need a majority doing their best to be better travellers!
By incorporating the above into your travel style today, you're directly helping tourism to have a more positive impact tomorrow.
Then what?
Empower other travellers to make the change too.
Take the time to do research before choosing to pay for certain activities.
Ask companies and operators about their approach before you buy from them - and support those that take responsible tourism, local engagement, and ethical travel seriously.
And, of course, remember to make as many amazing (responsible) travel memories as you can wherever you roam!
Takeaway | Research activities, companies, and destinations in advance, and consider how your visit can generate a more positive impact (or at least avoid a negative one).

Travel bloggers and photographers, Along Dusty Roads, will be doing a live talk at Destinations presents Travel 2021 at 9am on Saturday 8 May on 'Does 'Responsible Travel' Have To Be Boring?' - also available to watch On Demand 'til Sunday 16 May.

Register for your free acces here.