The days are getting longer + temperatures are rising. That can only mean one thing – it’s time to start planning your summer vacay. Whether you have kids, are a kid, or are in that weird in-between phase, you gotta love summer vacation. There is plenty of fun to be had in the sun whether you’re heading to Florida, The Great Lakes, or the tropics. No matter where you plan your vacation, be sure you are focused on ethical travel.
What is Ethical Travel?
Every time you take a trip, you have choices on where you stay + what you do. You choose which countries, hotels, and establishment your hard-earned dollars go to support. Ethical travel is making the best choices for how you spend your money to ensure you are supporting local communities + not doing harm to their environment. While this is largely an issue when considering international travel to underdeveloped areas in Asia, Africa, etc. You also need to keep in mind what you are supporting when you travel domestically. Ensure you’re considering ethical travel principles as you plan your summer getaways by considering the factors below.
Choosing Your Destination
When choosing a place to vacation, you want to think beyond the beauty of the area. Does the country have a history of human right violations? How do they treat their minorities or those living in poverty? Do they have any laws that violate your moral code such as death sentences for those found to be homosexual or that greatly limit the rights + autonomy of women?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you need to take a better look at this destination. While it isn’t a sure sign you shouldn’t go, it does mean you’ll need to be extra careful while you’re there + be sure to support businesses and communities that are not acting amorally or that help those who are oppressed/marginalized. These are currently the world’s most ethical travel destinations.
Ethical Travel Accommodations
For me, safety is the most important thing while traveling. That means I typically stay at an American-owned hotel chain. If you aren’t as lodging anxious as I am, try to stick to locally owned accommodations + Airbnbs. Choosing boutique hotels and apartments is a great way to add more money into the local economy + typically save yourself some money. You’ll likely get more entrenched in the city + have a better feel that everyone you interact with is doing so of their own accord.
Research is the most important part of this process. Do your research on who owns the place you will be staying + if they have a history of unfair employment practices or discrimination against certain types of guests. If you’re staying at hostels, check their reviews to see if they have any shady practices or crime reports lodge by other travelers.
Choosing Ethical Activities
One of the main tenants of ethical travel is to go as local as possible. By local foods and goods, use local touring companies + off the beaten path attractions. Try to avoid commercialized tourist traps as much as you can. I am a pretty touristy person, so I want to see the big sites. However, I love to utilize local suggestions for the best places to eat and shop. There is a balance between immersing yourself in local culture + immersing yourself in what US pop culture says local culture of that country/city actually is.
A huge thing related to ethical travel is how you treat the environment while you are there. Don’t litter. Clean up after yourself. Different areas have different ways they dispose of things. Some developing nations don’t have access to many recycling plants so you may want to limit your single-use plastic consumption. If locals say not to touch something, don’t touch it. If they say don’t feed it, don’t feed it. And for the love of God, avoid the animal shows. I think it would be dope AF to ride an elephant, but you know who doesn’t think that? The elephant. Most animals in tourist areas are mistreated + abused in order to behave in a way that makes their wranglers money. Research to find local rescues + organizations doing good for animals that will let you interact with wildlife in a healthy way.
Interacting With Locals
Remember that you’re the visitor + people actually live there. Show locals respect + not just in your first world, privileged way. Show them respect that means something in their culture. Every culture has different rules + social norms that speak subconsciously to others. In some cultures, refusing food is frowned upon while in others haggling is an insult to their craftsmanship. Do your research to know how to treat people + not accidentally send out the wrong message – this includes proper attire as well.
Also, don’t assume every hard-working person you see is someone to be pitied or rescued. That being said, in many areas, children will come up to you begging. Most governments + tour guides advise you not to give them money. At best, it encourages kids to skip school to earn money, at worst it goes straight to their traffickers. In any event, do NOT pull a Lindsey Lohan + try to “save” someone else’s child. Even in the least developed nations, you can’t just pluck kids up off the street.
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