Your bags are packed and your tickets are burning a hole in your back pocket. It’s time for a holiday in the tropics. Looking to do as the old platitude says: take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints? Check out these five super simple steps you can take towards more responsible travel.
1. Carry a Water Bottle
In a tropical destination like Bali, Thailand or Sri Lanka, staying well hydrated is key. Since tap water is not safe to drink in these destinations, huge amounts of plastic bottles are discarded every single day. Local communities are struggling with waste management problems and producing new plastic bottles also uses ridiculous amounts of oil.
If you carry a reusable water bottle with you, you can fill it up at your villa or hotel and refuel along the way once you’re out and about. Responsible travel really can be as simple as bringing your own bottle.
In Bali, you can use Refill Bali to locate the nearest refill station (usually a restaurant or cafe). In Thailand, you’ll find water refill stations lining streets – you can fill up a one-litre bottle for just 1 baht (USD $0,03).
2. Think Twice Before Visiting Animal Attractions
Back in the day, posing with lions or riding an elephant used to be the stuff of bucket list gold. In recent years, more and more people are turning their backs on animal attractions – and with good reason. Activities where animals are made to pose or interact with humans are usually very stressful and even painful to the animals. In 2016, Trip Advisor stopped selling tickets to attractions that allow direct contact with wild animals – an important step towards more responsible travel.
Training animals for entertainment often involves painful “breaking in” practices and cubs are routinely separated from their mothers. By refusing to spend money on animal entertainment, you’re also guiding local communities towards more responsible travel practises.
3. Say No to Straws and Plastic Bags
Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are drowning in plastic waste. Surfers have been known to paddle out to a sea of garbage. You can help tackle this problem by saying no to single-use plastic products that you really don’t need. If your drink doesn’t come with a straw, don’t reach for one. If you’re shopping for small items, refuse the plastic bags that are routinely handed out with every single purchase in destinations like Bali.
These might seem like small potatoes, but according to Ocean Conservancy, the most collected items from beaches are everyday debris like bottles, food wrappers, bottle caps and straws. In locations with poor waste management, even if you personally dispose of the products correctly, changes are they will end up chocking the rivers and oceans.
4. Eat and Shop Locally
One of the best ways to make a positive impact on the local community is to shop and eat at locally owned businesses. Sure it’s nice to lounge by a resort’s pool, but also try to slip in a visit to a small local shop or a family run eatery. This could be as simple as buying fruit from a local stall instead of a supermarket or shopping for souvenirs at a local night market.
When bargaining for prices (a common practise in most Asian countries), keep it friendly and don’t lose your hair over a few extra rupiahs or bahts. Paying an extra dollar or two won’t make a huge difference to you, but it might be huge for the vendor and their family.
5. Remember You’re a Guest
In the end, it all comes down to what your parents taught you: Mind your manners. Travelling is a wonderful privilege, so act accordingly. Have the same mind-set you would when visiting someone at their home. They might load the dishwater differently or always leave the toilet seat up, but hey – it’s their house.
Don’t get upset if people don’t speak English. Don’t photograph people without asking for their permission first. And just because something isn’t explicitly forbidden, doesn’t mean you should do it. This could mean anything from topless sunbathing in Thailand to careless driving in Bali. Most importantly, keep a smile on your face and if things do go a little sour, at least it will make for a great story to tell back home!
What are some of the steps you have taken towards responsible travel? We’d love to hear from you – share it in the comments below!