How to explore responsibly, something we should have been doing all along! Below are principles we should have always followed and guidelines we should have always adopted. But, it took a pandemic to realize how we impact the land, how our interactions can be detrimental to communities, and how to respect others while following our own motivations.
Below are some guidelines for how to explore responsibly after Covid-19 and beyond.
How to Explore Responsibly
Show respect for everyone and everything you encounter by respecting the personal space of animals and fellow humans! Both animals and humans don’t want you sneaking up on them, walking close behind or beside them, and neither want to pick up your trash. Make some gentle noise to let others know you’re in the woods too.
Take Initiative & Educate Yourself
Do this before visiting a destination- whether it’s a state park, national park or even a beach! Regulations change, state to state and country to country. It’s important to respect these guidelines for your safety, others’ safety and to avoid fines! For example, if you’re heading out to camp in the backcountry research whether or not you can have a fire where you intend to camp and try to find any other regulations related to the land you intend to visit.
Follow Public Health Directives
If you’re sick, stay home! This should be considered How to Explore Responsibly 101. Avoid being in public spaces and touching public surfaces when you aren’t feeling well. Especially on flights, National Park shuttles and other modes of public transport.
Be sure to follow the destinations health directives, as they will be different from your homes! This is especially important as we enter flu and cold season in the coming months.
This world is full of beautiful spaces, untouched outdoor preserves and parks and cultural icons. Help preserve these by:
- Staying on designated trails
- Camp in designated spots
- Properly put out your fires, especially in the backcountry
- Don’t pick flora and fauna
- Follow LNT principles
- Reconsider geotagging a location on Instagram
- Don’t exploit a culture, always ask to take photos beforehand- of people and their shops
- Respect local culture and customs
- Use reusable water bottles and coffee mugs
You might also enjoy this Ethical Travel blog post.
Avoid big box stores, chains and fast fashion by purchasing goods, souvenirs, food, coffee and anything else along the way at local shops. Your tourist dollars help keep those communities alive when you directly support them. Shout it from the rooftops! Let your friends and family know about your favorite places to shop, get coffee and dine in a destination.
Leave reviews on Google, Yelp and their websites. Email them or direct message them to let them know about your positive experience and hospitality. Give them a good old fashioned phone call to let them know how appreciative you are of their service.
And, actually learn about the shop and shop owners story! The image below is of a very popular rug shop in Cappadocia, Turkey. When I visited in 2017 I had the chance to chat with the owners. They told us stories of their beginnings, how they’re helping their community, and stories of how people would enter the shop just to take a photo of it and then leave. Without saying anything. This lead to the shop owners charging tourists to snap photos in their space- and I don’t blame them for it. When did it become okay to disregard artisans work for a photo op?
Another example, I used to only go to Starbucks when I traveled for my Americano with coconut milk. And honestly, sometimes I still do. It’s a habit I am trying to break by supporting local coffee shops, when I can, instead.
The detrimental impact of Covid-19 to small communities is obvious with so many shops and restaurants closing. Now is the time to shop local. What ways can you help the community you’re visiting?
Wherever you are in the world, take a day to learn about the place, the land and its people. What are their origins? How did the land come to be what it is today? Learn about local customs and cuisine by taking a guided tour by a local company. If you don’t have time for that, research before your trip and learn about the local culture so you can celebrate them once you’re on the ground.
If you’re visiting a National Park, learn about the origins of those lands. Are there Indigenous reservations? Hieroglyphics left in the rocks from civilizations past? Celebrate the cultures of the world through learning about them.
Lead By Example
Don’t be afraid to call people out for not following the LNT principles. Encourage your companions to shop and dine local rather than heading to something familiar. Educate others through sharing stories of the local people and cultures. Pick up trash on trails and outdoor spaces (even sidewalks) when you see it. Be a role model in your community.
Simply put: be a good human and other humans will follow! Share these responsible travel practices with your fellow travelers, friends and family. But, don’t just save them for the road. Adopt them at home too! How do you explore responsibly?