One must travel to learn. Mark Twain’s affirmation lingers in our consciousness and motivates us to hit the road, immerse ourselves in different cultures and experience the unfamiliar. It drives us to continually learn and, most importantly, it influences an evolution in how we travel and to be more understanding of our own impact on the world.
There is no questioning the value of travel as an activity that enlightens personally, improves connections among disparate cultures and broadens horizons. But, according to the UN World Tourism Organization, a record 1.32 billion international tourists traveled abroad in 2017, a volume that has unfortunately had a discernable impact on local environment and culture of destinations.
So, how do we act more culturally and socially aware when we’re on the road? The answer is responsible travel, a concept that is simpler than you might think.
What is responsible travel? And, won’t that add more stress to my travel experience?
The basis of traveling more responsibly is simply being more respectful of the environment, societies and people that we encounter during our travels. We aren’t talking about living out of a backpack, avoiding showering for weeks on end, giving up on luxurious amenities or avoiding travel by car, bus or airplane. All that is required are small adjustments to your travel approach. If anything, these changes will greatly enrich your travel experience.
The following are some examples of how responsible travel can actually improve your adventure while also benefiting the destinations that you visit.
There is an increasing availability of eco-friendly lodging choices like the Cardamom Tented Camp, which is replete with stunning luxurious amenities. Not only do these eco-friendly lodging choices minimize their footprint on the local environment, they contribute to real conservation efforts in their communities. Located in Botum Sakor National Park in Cambodia, Cardamom Tented Camp began as an initiative to prevent a sizable 18,000-hectare parcel of wilderness from falling into the hands of loggers, poachers and sand dredging operations. The camp coordinates with wildlife ranger patrols, a task that camp guests can participate in, while also serving as a model for sustainable tourism practices.
As a responsible traveler, you’ll not only be pampered by luxurious appointments and world-class food offered by eco-friendly lodging choices like Cardamom Tented Camp, you’ll be instrumental in assisting local conservation efforts, limiting your footprint on the environment, gaining a deeper understanding of these efforts, while also being able to enjoy a natural habitat that you’re actively helping to preserve. That’s a win-win for all involved.
Limiting Waste by Avoiding Single Use Items
Plastic waste has reached epic proportions worldwide and the impact on environment and wildlife is readily evident. News coverage of marine life that perished due to consumption of plastic bags or waterways littered with plastic refuse is becoming all too common. The impact of plastic waste is plainly visible in otherwise pristine landscapes around the world.
While the solution involves an evolution to manufacturing processes, packaging technology and our consumer-oriented society, there are interim steps that each of us can take to minimize the amount of plastic waste that we generate.
As an example, ATJ provides an option for its travelers to India that involves equipping its vehicles with 20-liter food-grade containers topped off with filtered, clean drinking water. Each guest is also provided a steel water bottle that includes a LifeStraw filter (a brilliantly designed straw with a filter built into it.) It’s estimated that on average, this prevents 5-6 plastic water bottles, per traveler, from being thrown away per day.
In addition, ATJ also provides reusable, multi-purpose tote bags to our travelers. Convenient for use during daily excursions, impromptu grocery runs and toting souvenirs, these reusable bags are more durable than plastic bags.
Every traveler can take easy steps to minimize adding to the stream of plastic refuse by using water bottles that can be refilled more than once and relying on reusable bags. These strategies can also be adopted in every-day life for greater impact on the environment.
Volunteering at Your Destination
There isn’t a more immersive and authentic travel experience than volunteering. Donating your time during traveling isn’t just about doing good. It’s an opportunity to connect with locals, gain an understanding of their challenges and give back to destinations that you enjoy.
Depending on your destination, there will likely be a number of volunteer opportunities available for travelers. These may include opportunities for ecological restoration, environmental clean-up and conservation, or even tutoring.
Ultimately, this is a great way to not only help the communities that you’re enjoying, you’ll travel more deeply by truly gaining an understanding for their challenges while also being part of their solutions.
While responsible travel is most associated with limiting environmental impact and supporting sustainable travel businesses, the groundwork for traveling more responsibly begins with you.
Understanding that your presence during travel does have an impact on people is the first step in ensuring that your influence is a positive one. Attempting to learn a bit of the local language, talking to residents, respecting the local culture and simply taking a moment to enjoy the scenery and environment before taking a photograph or selfie all go a long way toward traveling more responsibly and deeply.
ATJ recognizes its responsibility for ethical and sustainable travel practices. Through our ATJ Foundation, we invest in relief and grass roots assistance initiatives to help support and assist the very destinations that have given us so much. Our travel experts specialize in planning customized journeys that are responsible, ethical and sustainable, while also providing our travelers the opportunities to directly support conservation efforts. We invite you to immerse yourself in local culture, amazing sights, food and friendly locals. Let ATJ plan your next adventure.