A Quick-Reference Guide to
by Adventure Center Team
Handcrafted masks in Michoacan
What does traveling responsibly really mean? Driving a Prius instead of a Corvette? There are as many possible interpretations as there are travelers, but to most people traveling responsibly has to do with the impact they have on local cultures and economies.
The further off the beaten track you go, the more of an impact you’re likely going to have. Imagine a 30-passenger tour bus disgorging camera-happy tourists on the same small, remote village, week after week. Care to imagine how long villagers’ culture and happiness will remain intact? On the other hand, a very occasional minibus of tourists that engage on a personal level with villagers proud to display their traditions will have a more positive impact.
You might think that the most responsible thing to do is not to travel, pure and simple. No carbon dioxide emitted, no cultural impact. But remember that tourism is also an important source of revenue to many countries. And travel—especially traveling with an open mind and a willingness to share and discover—has the ability to delight, enlighten, and even to change lives. If you’re like me, the desire to discover and appreciate other cultures is almost irresistible.
The following are some suggestions that will help you to travel more responsibly. If you do it right, you should leave your destination a little better than you found it, and perhaps get even more out of your vacation!
A little preparation
• Background check-–Before you go, find out about your destination: the culture, the language, and any pressing issues that the area is facing, especially tourism-related. You might also consider looking into local conservation or social projects that you can visit on your trip.
• Language basics—Learn a few words of the language to be polite and to show that you are trying. Even locals that speak English appreciate it when you speak their language first! A small dictionary can work wonders if you have time, but the best way to converse on the fly is to write down key words on a cue card. Here are the 10 most common words and phrases: Hello, goodbye, please, thank you, excuse me, how much, where is, when is, my name is, what is your name. If you can master these, sign language will work wonders for the rest!
• Carbon reduction—Think about offsetting the carbon footprint for your flights. There are several websites that can provide this service for you, allowing you to zoom through the air with a clear conscience.
Spending your money
• Buy local—When you stay at a big chain hotel, some of the money you spend trickles down to the employees, but most of it ends up in the hands of large corporations. The same goes for restaurants, retailers and other businesses. See if you can’t buy local and support native businesses first.
• A better bargain—While spirited bargaining is the norm in certain cultures, for example the bazaars of northern Africa, in others overly aggressive bargaining can drive the price down below subsistence. Many small vendors would rather go home with some money for the evening meal, even if they take a loss. A good rule of thumb is to pay what you think the item is worth, no less.
• Watch what you buy—just because it’s for sale doesn’t mean it’s legal to sell or good for the environment. That display case of beautiful butterflies for sale in Cuzco may be lovely, but you can bet there are fewer fluttering about in the wild as a result. The same goes for shark fin soup, tortoiseshell combs, scorpion belt buckles, piñon fire sticks and other trophies of the natural world!
• Think about where you give—It’s always tempting to put some change in the hands of street children. Consider supporting the community through a local school, clinic or development project rather than giving right on the street. It might take a bit of research, but it’s worth it. Cultural interaction
• Appropriate behavior—What’s considered acceptable in California is not necessarily so in Saudi Arabia. Learn what's appropriate in terms of speech and body language at the destination of your choice. Dress respectfully with an awareness of local standards. Pay particular attention to your dress at religious sites and check what swimwear is suitable for pools and beaches.
• Get in there!—Part of the fun of travel is delving into other cultures – the tastes, sounds, traditions and things that they embody. When you buy locally made products from traditional artisans, you help keep traditional crafts alive and the local economy humming.
• Get permission—Ever had a total stranger stick a camera in your face and start shooting? You might be surprised to learn that this happens all the time…in places other than the U.S. To most, not doing that kind of thing is just common sense, but it bears repeating: always ask first before photographing or videoing people. Offering to send them back copies helps make it a two-way exchange.
• Keep it clean—If you tuck that sticky plastic bag away for proper disposal instead of throwing it out of the bus window, your fellow passengers might think you’re crazy. But there are some worthwhile lessons that others can take from our own culture. A little education goes a long way, and there’s no better way to teach than by example. Try to take out everything that you take into areas away from cities, use alternatives to plastic and say 'No' to plastic bags. Market bags aren’t just useful at home; they’re also great for trips!And remember...
Smile! You’re on vacation. When you’re enjoying yourself and having a good time, people like to know about it. Show them that you’re enjoying their country, that you appreciate them and that you think they’ve got a good thing going!
The Adventure Center Team is a group of consultants that are intimately acquainted with the trips they represent. They travel extensively, so they've “been there, done that.” They'll give you the depth and breadth of knowledge you would expect from true adventure travel experts on any question you have from polar voyages to African safaris, and from walking in Tuscany to exploring Egypt.
To discover more about how they can add the thrill of adventure to your life you can call them at 1-800-228-8747 in the USA or visit their Web site at http://www.adventurecenter.com