Nov 13, 2013

Travel Talk- How to be a Responsible Traveler?

Responsible Tourism

Take home great memories and leave only the footprints ...

One of the campgrounds in California displayed this quote. Most of the times it is applied to hiking and camping in the wilderness. How about following it in all the cities, towns, villages, trains and bus stations too? And how wonderful if we all in India followed that thought! I feel so sad when I see overflowing garbage roadside, mineral water and liquor bottles in the lush forests, plastic and rags floating in the lakes and rivers. Though I cannot personally join the people who are working for clean-green cause I definitely contribute by not littering. Plastic has become a difficult-to-eradicate weed.

Tourism has become such a popular industry that even every remote part of the globe is a hot summer/winter destination. Everywhere resorts and budget hotels are mushrooming up. Transportation has become available and cheap to any possible destination. And so, everything is in everyone's reach which is good! And hence some responsible tourism becomes a must. And littering becomes a habit if not controlled. Recently I heard about 'Egg Warning' in Death Valley National Park, California! Wonder what is it? Well Death Valley is extremely hot and dry place that an egg gets fried! So, people started frying eggs on the ground! This resulted in egg litter- fried egg, shells, and cartons. Sometimes, a tourist attraction becomes a victim of its own amazing characteristics.

What is Responsible Tourism? How to contribute to a plastic-free-world or pollution-free-world or litter-free world? How not to influence and disturb local culture and natural environment? 

Use a stainless steel water bottle and refill- Six years ago I bought this stainless steel water bottle when BPA-free frenzy was going on. But, I was not in favor of refilling because drinking tap water always brought me fever. But, now-a-days you find water water filters in restaurants, lodges, museums and other tourist attractions. I buy mineral water only when it is very much necessary.

Reuse whatever possible- I carry a lunch box, spoon, ziplock bags, a cup so that plastic/paper disposables are used at minimum at least by me. Whenever possible I get food packed in my own lunch box. 

Always carry your garbage- Many a times I see people in trains throw food, wrappers and left overs under the seat and complain about the railway department's irresponsibility when they see rats and cockroaches in the coaches. I even saw one young and healthy woman trying to wash her hands after lunch under the seat, that too in 2-AC compartment. Why can't they accumulate all their garbage and throw away when they find a bin?

Use public transport wherever whenever possible- It is a safer way when you are traveling solo in a foreign land! Well, we all understand the benefits of using public transport- that it reduces fuel consumption, reduces carbon footprint and also congestion on the roads. It also helps the host country's economy.

Stay in locally run hotels- I do not book accommodation in chain-hotels. In fact, I never book accommodation or transportation in advance. I am a spontaneous person and I need flexibility. Even if I do, I look for something which is locally run so that tourism helps local people. 

Obey the local law, customs and cultural traditions-This is most important for your safety and sentiments of locals. Most of the times tourists get into problems when they offend the locals by being unaware of the local traditions and laws. It is always not very wise thing to disrespect the religious sentiments of any region. As tourists we need to know the universal truth- respect is mutual. If you respect locals they respect you. By obeying you take better memories home and leave behind a better opinion about your own country!

Never give money to beggars- Whoever visits India I request you not to give money to beggars! How much ever you find that old woman cute or you may feel bad for a skinny child! By paying money you might be promoting begging industry! If you feel so very bad and want to find some instant gratification give them food and clothing if you have.

Shopping and Souvenirs- Never buy wildlife souvenirs. Not only they may lead you to trouble but also will disturb local wildlife and ecosystem.

This is my list. Well, there might be much more to consider. Do you have any more suggestions?

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