There was a time when traveling was the privilege of the few. Over the past few decades, though, the economic and technological changes have made every spot on the earth accessible by many – and, boy, aren't we all taking advantage of this!! As our photo albums flood with new memories, the so-called "hidden gems" become less mysterious, and the borders dividing people fade out thanks to our enhanced cultural understanding, we are faced with the urgent need of a mindset shift. To ensure the well-being of the planet that we are so eager to explore, bequeathing a legacy worthy of our humanity, we are called to transform from mere tourists into responsible travelers.
This change often appears to be overwhelming, especially when, while on holidays, we want to be carefree and follow no rules. Still, there are a few easy ideas one can implement. On their own, they seem insignificant – like a drop in the ocean – but, when we all combine forces, our small actions can make a difference. Here are some suggestions:
1. Choose to travel offseason
It makes sense to take our vacation during the summer months or the official holidays. However, choosing to take some of our trips offseason comes with significant advantages both to us and the places we visit. Besides enjoying lower prices and better service, we also have the opportunity to spend more quality time with the locals, learning from their stories and experiences. Most importantly, we are helping a local economy to thrive all year round, achieving better use of resources and less pressure on the ecosystem. Don't think twice about it: traveling off-season is the new vogue!
2. Carry smaller bags
The fact that our flight tickets often allow for 25 or 30 kg of luggage does not mean that we must use all of it. Rarely do we need more than 15 kg for a one-week trip unless we carry special gear. Although a varied wardrobe feels essential during the holidays, it is worth remembering that these extra kilos of t-shirts, dresses, shoes, and bags (which may not be worn at all) come at a high cost. Let's all try to pack wisely and efficiently, finding the balance between what would make us happy as a person and proud as a global citizen. Oversized bags are really not cool anymore!
3. Support the local initiatives
We travel to learn of new places and connect with new people, and, yet, we often tend to gravitate towards what already feels familiar. Global brands seem to prevail, not because they are better, but because they are predictable. However, every place is full of small, unknown initiatives – be it restaurants, cafes, artisan shops, or small industries – that deserve our attention and support, not only for their financial survival but, above all, for the ongoing cultivation of innovative ideas. Let's venture into peculiar shops and try exotic tastes: ultimately, they are the secret ingredients that keep our traveling experiences authentic and unique.
4. Eliminate single-use plastics
This is an ambitious goal and, given the packaging of so many products that we use, it almost seems unattainable. Still, we can start with baby steps, avoiding plastic straws and utensils, single-use bags and water bottles. In the beginning, it takes a bit of effort to remember to say "no" and carry our own multi-use gadgets, but as the practice turns into a habit, it becomes easier. You can rest assured that, soon enough, most companies will react to this consumer trend and, then, we will have managed a decisive victory against the plastic invasion. What do you think: can we do it?
5. Conserve natural resources
Travelers tend to use more resources (food, water, fossil fuels, etc.) than locals, while they also leave more garbage behind. It is not only the trails and the beaches that get littered: even the trash disposed of by hotels and lodges, the thrown-away food, or the unnecessary use of cars is something worth pondering. Our traveling impact has not been appropriately priced yet, and, thus, it is not fully included in the fees that we pay. Let us all be mindful and treat each place as our home. We will not regret it.