This post is a contribution from guest blogger, Rebecca Brown. We are keen to encourage more travel bloggers to reflect on their travel experiences while providing suggestions and tips for future GOOD travellers. If you'd like to share a travel reflection that you believe incorporates GOOD values and practices, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to sharing more guest posts like this one!
Travelling has a positive impact on all of us. It helps us relax and forget about daily stress, and it has the potential to increase our cultural understanding, helping us become open-minded.
But travelling also has a great impact on the places we visit. As visitors, we can influence the economy of the countries we go to, as well as their inhabitants' lives. Think about those who work in the tourism industry, for instance.
Unfortunately, our influence is not always positive. Travel can also increase waste, pollution, as well as fossil fuel usage. And that's not all. There are many destinations that receive more tourists than they can handle. So, travelling sustainably is something we should all think of.
If you want to clean up your vacation habits and become a GOOD traveller, here are some questions you should ask before your trip.
1. How to Choose an Eco-friendly Destination?
The first thing you have to think about when you plan to travel sustainably is to find a destination that is either committed to sustainable choices or doesn’t get too much tourist traffic. For instance, Sweden, France, and Switzerland are three European countries famous for their hard work to preserve the environment. And if you want something more exotic, Algarve, Portugal’s natural wonder is a great choice.
2. How to Pack?
Making eco-friendly decisions when you are visiting a new place is important, but to do that you must be well prepared. And packing the right items is a great way to begin. Think about those moments you buy your groceries, and you don’t have reusable bags.
Besides reusable bags, you might also want to add a water bottle, a reusable straw, a reusable coffee mug, and a microfiber towel to avoid using the hotel one and save some water, especially if you spend only one night in a place.
3. How to Choose Your Hotel?
Unfortunately, most hotels have a huge carbon footprint. A lot of waste comes from the incredible amount of water and energy used to run a hotel. So, trying to find hotels committed to sustainability is crucial.
For instance, look for hotels that have refillable bottles instead of small toiletry containers, that use room keys to power electricity, and have on-site recycling bins. And when it’s difficult to find eco-friendly hotels, support the destinations’ economy by choosing the small local establishments instead of international chains.
4. What Kind of Transportation Should You Use?
When travelling sustainably, transportation is also important. Though it’s not always possible, try to use a train or a bus to reach your destination - they save up to seven times the gas emissions compared to planes.
And when you plan a trip to faraway destinations, it’s advisable to opt for eco-friendly airlines or airlines with strong sustainability policies.
5. How Will Your Stay Affect the Local Ecosystem and the Economy?
Your presence in a place will have an impact on the local ecosystem and economy, and how positive this impact is, depends on your actions.
So, try to reduce your food and plastic waste, as well as limit energy use and conserve water. You can do this by being careful with the number of items you buy, using recyclable containers, and taking shorter showers. Also, support the local economy, by choosing local shops, hotel, restaurants and tour companies. Your money should go into the community you visit, instead of the international chains.
6. What about Animal Welfare?
There are many animal lovers out there who are not aware of how touristic activities that seem to be taking care of animals are actually harmful.
Also, make sure you don’t disturb wildlife in any way. This means you shouldn't touch or feed wild animals because you might be part of altering their natural behaviour. Purchasing souvenirs that are made from animals is also something to avoid.
7. How to Be Respectful?
If you are interested in travelling sustainably, you should also think about the relationship you have with local people. Sometimes, there are things acceptable in your country, but they might be offensive in other places.
Nobody questions your good intentions, but a little bit of research doesn’t hurt. So, before visiting a new place, learn about “the manners” in that specific area and find out what is appropriate and what is not. For instance, there are certain places, and touristic attractions where covering your shoulders or legs is mandatory. If you know before you get there, you can pack proper clothing and avoid being disrespectful.
I believe these are the most important things to ask about a destination if you are looking to travel sustainably - if you have additional ideas, please share in the comments below. Though it might seem difficult at first sight, the truth is that all it takes is a bit of research. And, to be honest, there is a lot of information online, and when you can't find what you are looking for in the articles and blogs posted by other travellers, you can always join Facebook groups and forums dedicated to sustainable travelling - or contact GOOD Travel. Research might be time-consuming, but it is worth it because you will be contributing to the well-being of the destination you are visiting, and of our world.