Travel is a luxury that brings great joy. Setting foot on unexplored land can create unmatched feelings of wonder and excitement. Learning about new cultures, people and environments is a life changing experience for those who travel. But that exchange of knowledge is best accomplished when done respectfully. Local residents and native lands should be observed with the utmost care. Here are three ways to travel respectfully.
Do Your Research
Before the wheels of your plane ever touchdown on the runway, you should first learn all you can about your destination of choice. Study the people, the terrain and the cultural differences. If you are visiting a foreign country where most residents speak a language unfamiliar to you, study it. Learn common phrases to help you communicate greetings, directions, travel questions, and niceties. Check the weather and make adjustments to your packing list with climate in mind. The goal of researching and preparing in advance is to lighten the burden on your fellow travel companions, the residents of your destination and the environment. Asking questions will always be a great way to seek information. However, people are much more open to offering assistance to those who’ve put in at least a little effort to assimilate. Instead of expecting everyone to do the heavy lifting of keeping you informed and safe, take the initiative by coming prepared.
Follow the Rules
When researching your destination, you most likely will encounter a few do’s and don’ts. As tempting as it is to downgrade hard-and-fast rules to mere suggestions, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Many places around the world have both implied rules, as well as outline laws that prohibit certain actions. As a guest, it’s your job to adhere to both. If signs say to stay on the marked path, do so. If the local custom is to leave nature untouched, keep your hands to yourself. As simple as this sounds, many tourists still behave as if they are allowed to discard whichever rules don’t fit their desires. Don’t be that traveler. Lastly, remember to give the same level of courtesy you’d give at home. Ask for permission before taking pictures of strangers, don’t stand too closely to others and mind your p’s and q’s.
Respect the Environment
Protecting the environment, the last tip of traveling respectfully, often goes overlooked. Understandably, some people struggle with this concept abroad because they struggle with it at home as well. As global citizens, it’s our job to honor and nurture the planet we call home. Each of us is responsible for taking care of our little corner of the globe. However, as travelers, that responsibility follows us wherever we go. Whether lounging on the beach, exploring the backroads, or hiking the peaks, we must be mindful. Be considerate about the amount of water, electricity and other raw and natural resources you consume. Tread lightly, limit your contribution to air, noise and water pollution and remember not to litter. Do your best to leave your destination in a better state than you found it – if that’s not possible, leave no footprint at all.
(For more information on environmental impacts, click here)
The rule of respectful travel is to be on your absolute best behavior. Be a worthy representative of your hometown and leave the locals feeling happy you visited. Think of the impression you leave as the determining factor of whether tourist like yourself should continue to be welcomed with open arms. Use the three travel tips above to exercise humility and gratitude. Set an example for other visitors by being the gold standard of respect.