In general, travel helps to make the world a smaller place. But traveling responsibly and sustainably makes it both smaller and better.
If you’ve ever traveled far from home, you’ve probably been personally impacted by the experience of seeing a new part of the world. When we travel, we meet new people, experience new cultures and come to understand that– despite distance, circumstance and lifestyle– we’re all a lot alike. That realization can really change the way you view the world.
But what if we also focused on changing the world while we change ourselves? Responsible travel allows us to experience the powerful, personal change within ourselves while also doing good things for the people and places we encounter along the way.
Responsible Travel can take many forms, including volunteer vacations, traveling slower and doing our best to have a positive impact on the places we visit. Travel is an incredible thing to experience, but it shouldn’t be all about our own experience. It should also be about making the world a better place as we go.
Here are 7 ways that Responsible Travel makes the world a better place…
We form relationships with new people.
We have the ability to affect the lives of everyone we meet. Those people have the ability to affect our lives, too. When we travel responsibly and open ourselves up to the people we meet in these new places, we can form relationships across borders, countries, and even languages. Those relationships humanize the people that otherwise wouldn’t have been a part of our relationship with the world.
When we refuse to engage with the people who live in the places we visit, we’re closing ourselves off to the potential to learn from people whose lives and world views might be drastically different than our own.
By meeting and forming relationships with new people as we travel, we come to understand the diversity and similarities of people everywhere. And we learn to treat everyone like they were our neighbor, rather than someone who is distant and disconnected from our world.
Volunteer vacations are an excellent way to travel responsibly and meet new people in the places we visit.
We get involved in different communities.
By connecting to not only individuals but the communities in which they operate, we develop better understandings of our own.
By participating in local communities through activities like volunteering at local schools, helping out with community gardens, or donating our time or money to communities during difficult times, we demonstrate the power of coming together to do good in the world. We become a part of the communities we interact with, and we form overlapping communities of our own.
We reduce our carbon footprint.
Seeing the world is something so many of us want to do more of, but the environmental impact of travel can be troubling if we don’t maintain responsible habits along the way.
Responsible travel can help us reduce our impact on the world as we explore it. We can reduce our carbon footprint by traveling closer to home and limiting the number of long-haul flights we take. When we do have to fly, we can take direct flights, pack light, and purchase carbon offsets.
Additionally, responsible travelers should try to reduce their consumption and reuse their resources whenever possible. Things like plastic water bottles and takeout containers add up quickly on the road.
By traveling responsibly and being aware of these things on the road, we raise awareness of these issues for others as well. We set a good example for those around us, and we become more sustainably responsible at home, too.
We get closer to nature.
Appreciating the natural resources and landscapes of the places we visit is a big part of travel. It’s important to understand the effect that the environment has on the communities they foster.
Responsible Travel involves not only getting out into nature, but doing so in a way that leaves it untouched. Carrying all of our garbage out and sticking to trails when hiking are just two of the many ways we an show respect to nature when we travel.
It’s easy to become captured by the beauty of a foreign place, and to take special care of it when we visit. Then when we return home, that appreciation stays with us, and we can take better care of the natural resources in our own environments.
We get involved with different causes.
It’s easy to find ourselves in a bubble back home, and to only consider the issues that affect our day to day lives. When we travel, we’re exposed to issues — social, economical, financial, etc. — that we may have never known about otherwise. We also meet the people who those causes effect, and develop a deeper understanding.
This kind of exposure to the people and the issues they face in the rest of the world, motivates many to get involved with those issues themselves.
We’re happier when we return home.
If you love to travel, then you’re familiar with the feeling of fulfillment and relaxation that often follows you back home at the completion of a trip. Travel is a great way to reduce stress and recharge, especially when it’s a well-planned trip.
Participating in responsible travel allows us to be very conscious about the way in which we travel, which can lead to better planning, and less stress on the road. It also allows us to experience a place more thoroughly and have positive interactions with locals. Doing good things for other people and the planet is a great way to boost your happiness, and doing so while traveling might be just what the doctor ordered.
Returning home with the memories we made of the beautiful things we saw, the people we met, and the positive impact we had by traveling responsibly is a great way to spread that happiness to the people in our lives, and encourage them to travel responsibly, too.
We set examples for others along the way.
When you go back home and share photos of that time you helped bathe an elephant in Thailand, friends and family can’t help but want a piece of that experience for themselves.
Social media now helps us to share the experience of responsible travel in ways we could never accomplish with hard copy photo albums and slide shows. We can reach more people in more formats than ever before, and when we share how we travel more responsibly, we can teach others how to do so themselves.
Sharing our experiences with friends and family is a great way to make travel less scary and responsible travel less daunting. If they see that you can do it, they’ll feel better about whether or not they can do it to.
So snap those pictures, share those status updates, and spread the word about how to become a more responsible traveler. Every person we reach with our stories helps to make the world a better place. –Britany Robinson
BIO: Britany Robinson is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her works appears in BBC Travel, Mashable, Green Global Travel, and more. Her blog, Travel Write Away, shares advice and musings on travel writing. When she’s not planning her next big trip, she’s scoping out Portland craft beers and local hikes.