Don’t Travel unless you can Travel Responsibly

When I was in secondary school, teachers would often reprimand us for littering or allowing dirt and dust to settle in our classroom.

“Would you throw this candy wrapper on the floor at home?”
“Your classroom is your home at school!”

Most of the times it gets shrugged off, because guess what? We’re not at home. And we were kids.

But that’s the kind of thing that follows you into adulthood. If you never learn to treasure your surroundings, you end up treating the whole world as a trash can.

It’s far worse for tourists and travelers to have that mentality though, imagine going to a new country and forgetting that what is a novelty to you, is a home to others.

How do you travel responsibly?

TREAT THE WORLD AS YOUR HOME

And here are a few simple tips:

1. WHAT’S THEIR CULTURE? RESPECT THEIR LAWS & CUSTOMS Before going to a new country or even booking that ticket, do your research. Watch a movie to learn their habits and study their colloquialisms.

Our world is filled with a colorful tapestry of customs and traditions. It’s always good to be prepared.

In other words, you can choose to be a person who does fine dining like a barbarian or as a refined human being with the proper etiquette. That choice is clearly yours, but it would be nice if we can extend respectful courtesy to our international brothers and sisters, which, in turn, makes the world a more welcoming place.

2. RESPONSIBLE WILDLIFE TOURISM – YES, IT’S A THING I never knew about this until I starting working for Project Orangutan and I was a self proclaimed animal lover.

Zoos used to be a favorite of mine. Then I discovered that zoos are the worst place you could possibly go to see any animal. It’s up there with circuses, elephant rides, tiger selfies and other exploitative industries including wildlife trade.

If you’re paying money to interact with an exotic creature, it’s generally a warning sign. This is because wildlife should remain wild, feeding them or getting too close might alter its natural behavior and we don’t want that.

3. YOU’RE NOT A SPOILT CHILD, SO PLEASE DON’T ACT LIKE ONE You’ve seen the news reports and you’ve turned your nose up in disgust. From the ‘ugly Americans’ syndrome in the 60s to the rise of its Chinese counterpart in recent years have people scrambling over themselves to draw a thick black line to distinguish travelers from tourists.

The truth is, everyone has a natural tendency to be self-centered. It is only human. But this may lead to a sense of entitlement; wanting what you want when you want it, kicking up a fuss to get your way.

  • I have been on the receiving end of senior citizens who expect youths to treat them like the kings that they are and allow them to cut queues, amongst other things.
  • I have seen an elegant man quibble condescendingly with his waiter over his meal and I’ve learnt to watch how I treat the waitstaff, for it shows the kind of person you really are.
  • I have also witnessed parents watch as their children desecrate public areas without batting an eye.

No, the world does not belong to you.

Tread gently and live lightly. Our time is borrowed and this planet shared. Let us leave the world as we found it and don’t, for goodness’ sake, be a hindrance to others.

Have any other tips to add? Please don’t keep it to yourself, share it below! 😊

27 Comments

  1. Well said and your post should reach out to everyone, not just those who likes travel. We should treat the outside world, be it another country or another cities, just like our home. If we don’t know about their culture, then try to understand and learn from them. Care the environment, jungles, forest, shopping center, just like our home, then this world will be a better place for us and for the next generations.

  2. Thank you for this post! Your comment about candy wrappers really struck me – I was just in Bhutan, a country that prides itself on protecting its environment. Everywhere there were trash cans with slogans written on them about how important it is for us to protect the earth. And on those same trails that the trashcans lined, I picked up countless candy wrappers that had been dropped by careless hikers. It made me so angry! I hope your post will reach many people…

    1. Isn’t that just disgusting? It would have been understandable if there were no trashcans around but when it’s just a few steps away and people can’t be bothered, it really gets a rise out of me. Furthermore, almost everyone has a bag nowadays. How hard is it to stuff their trash into a compartment until the next time they come across a rubbish bin?

  3. Yes, I feel very strongly about responsible travel as well. It reflects very badly on tourists if they misbehave and act rowdily in foreign lands and it may have severe ramifications on the local population who will have to tolerate unpleasant living environments.

  4. perfect. I really like your post and your intention. Just because I am in a place for few hours my responsibility does not end taking a beautiful picture and posting it on Instagram. that place is someone else’s home just like my own.

  5. I live by those points since i am an environmentalist by profession and write on similar lines thanks to my sustainable travel blog. I feel happy that more and more travelers are being sensitive about ethical traveling and making efforts to spread this amongst others. Kudos to you and hope you continue to inspire others 🙂

  6. Wow, this is very well written and a great idea to let us read, since there are a lot of irresponsible travelers around the world. I as well agree with all you amazing points here. Will surely share this as well to my friends cause it is very informative and a great reminder to all the travelers. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  7. I worked for the Zoological Society at London Zoo and not all zoos are bad places. The species housed at reputable establishments may be the only examples of the species as they are extinct in the wild and going to be reintroduced in the future, zoos educate visitors who may never experience any wildlife in their lives and also the funds raised are used to protect and monitor thousands of species worldwide. Unfortunately, unless every human can afford to live in harmony with all the world’s species, zoos play a vital role in the survival of the most threatened and critically endangered animals and plants.

    1. Hi Annie, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I understand where you are coming from – sanctuaries are vital to the survival of wildlife, but many zoos make a profit off their animals with shows and selfies, which is not ideal for their well being. I worked at a wildlife center and learnt that without the necessary funding and rehabilitation experts, no captive animal would ever survive a release back into the wild… Especially not one that was bred in captivity or a species that hasn’t been well-researched. It’s quite sad, really – your comment about harmonious living. One day, perhaps the only time we’ll ever see an animal is in a zoo.

  8. Such a thoughtful writeup. It is more important now than ever to travel responsively. Since the cultural as well as the eco balance of many parts of the world are at stake. I would like to add every traveler should also educate others about responsible travel, like you did.

  9. Well covered – it shocks and horrifies me when I see rubbish in particular left at amazing world landmarks. There was so much when I went to everest base camp. I don’t understand how people can think this is ok

  10. I love that topic. I have too many negative examples in mind of people acting differently abroad than at home. That’s not what travel should be about. It can be a bit painful to do research to ensure we’re choosing responsible activities, but it’s fundamental for me so I can enjoy my visit. When I travel with a group, I often remind people that one dollar doesn’t make a difference for us but it may be a great help for a local person, so they keep that in mind when negotiating.

    1. That is so true! I used to be one of those hagglers who want the biggest bang for my buck, but I was told to take a moment to think about how it is their livelihood and I should be kinder. The world needs more people like you and my friend, who remind each other gently to be good and decent.

  11. I fully agree with your assertions here. It is just basic commonsense after all, but sadly commonsense isn’t so common anymore.

  12. “No, the world does not belong to you.” Truth! I can’t say this enough and so many need to read this. It is so annoying to witness people act so rudely to customs they are visitors to. Definitely sharing this on my social.

    1. Thank you, Zee! I appreciate your effort in raising awareness because I believe that more people should know and recognize the simple fact that we are here on borrowed time.

  13. I completely agree. We as travellers and bloggers should do more about this and help educate people to travel more consciously and responsively. So I follow up what Meha says here and I also agree with Annie: not all zoos are bad. Some do an extraordinary work in remote areas where wildlife is threatened by caring and protecting endangered animals.

    1. I suppose there is some merit to the comment, but the big difference between zoos and sanctuaries is that one runs off profit while the other runs on donations and sponsors.

  14. This is very nice article. And I totally agree with you. I hope all travelers are responsible enough to do their part (to help not burden) as visitors to other places.

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