Responsible travel is having an awareness of the global community in which we live and employing this awareness on a local scale. It is a type of travel that involves an ethos of being culturally aware and environmentally responsible, as well as conscious of the economic factors that we contribute to as travellers.
Taking part in a volunteer project is a fantastic way to help make your travel more responsible by giving a little something back at the same time. Whether you choose to get to know a community or help out with a cause you're passionate about, there are also some extra steps you can take to help make your travel experience as ethical as possible!
1. Be conscious of cultural difference and respect local customs
Make sure to read up on the country you're visiting before you leave and do a little research on its cultural traditions. It would be quite embarrassing to start your big trip only to end up offending the locals with your rudeness; pointing with your finger instead of your thumb in Malaysia for instance is quite likely to cause upset!
2. Buy local
By buying local and at a fair price, especially in developing countries, you'll be being responsible by helping support the local economy. This is also a great chance for you to get to know more about where you're staying as your explore the exotic markets and bazaars and try out new and exciting local produce.
3. Ask before taking someone's photo
Wherever you are in the world, remember it's always polite to ask before taking a photo - especially in some places where people believe a photograph steals their soul! If there's a language barrier, a simple gesture to your camera can be enough.
4. Respect your environment
There's a famous saying that goes 'take only pictures, steal only time, leave only footprints' that sums up responsible travel. When travelling, be sure to respect your environment: keep to walking trails, try not to damage coral when scuba diving, and don't remove anything from its natural environment.
5. Reduce your use of plastic
Just like at home, it's vital to reduce your use of throw-away packaging, especially in places that don't have recycling facilities to handle the waste. Where possible use reusable containers like refillable water bottles, either topping up from clean water dispensers or using water purification tablets.
6. Use water carefully
Water can be scarce in many countries around the globe which makes it incredibly valuable. Try to waste as little as possible by not leaving taps running or taking long showers. Being aware of water wastage shouldn't stop once you return home however, as reducing our use of water also helps to reduce pollution and increase energy savings.
7. Make informed purchases
Think carefully when buying any souvenirs and try to make sure wherever possible your purchase won't be supporting any damaging activities to the environment. You can also avoid supporting illegal actions by not buying prohibited items such as ivory, endangered animals or hard woods, or ancient artefacts.
8. Reduce your carbon footprint
This can be done by travelling as light as possible to reduce the weight and subsequently the pollution of the plane you travel in. Once you arrive at your destination, exploring by public transport or walking will help you both travel green and have a more authentic experience.
9. Learn some local language
No matter where you're travelling learning simple phrases such as 'hello' and 'thank you', no matter how badly pronounced, will get you a smile from the locals!
10. Get involved
Get involved as much as possible when travelling to really make the most of your experience and help create the memories that will a lifetime. Whether you choose to get involved by volunteering abroad, or simply joining in with local events, getting involved with help you meet more locals and other travellers alike.
Maria Sowter is Online Content Editor at Frontier, an international non-profit volunteering NGO that runs 320 conservation, community, and adventure projects in 57 countries across the globe. She can be found blogging on Frontier's Gap Year Blog or posting on the Frontier Official Facebook page.