Sustainable travel is all about travelling to destinations without harming the area that you’re visiting. Specifically, it means that you, the traveller, will manage your resources properly so that your visit to an area won’t have negative a negative impact on the existing culture, environment, and general surroundings.
How to travel sustainably will have a lot to do with your destination but theoretically you can properly do this in an urban area or in a rural/natural destination as long as you are responsible as a tourist.
To travel in this fashion it’s important to first do research on your destination so you’re aware of the impact your travels will have and so you’ll know what to do and what not to do during your visit. This may not be as straightforward as it seems but there are things that you can consider and tips you can utilise while travelling.
Environmental Considerations During Travel
Before you leave on your trip you should research the environmental issues that are present in your destination. Certain regions may have ecosystems that shouldn’t be disturbed like beaches, coral reefs, wetlands, and similar natural features. If you research the area you’re travelling to and see that there are some of these environmental issues it’s your job as a sustainable tourist to ensure that you do everything within your power to keep from negatively impacting these areas.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t visit these areas; it just means that when you do visit these areas you shouldn’t disturb the natural elements by littering, removing things, or introducing foreign things to the area (spilling liquids, planting things, etc.). You should also make sure not to disturb the wildlife: keep your distance and refrain from using loud or motorised equipment in areas where there may be wildlife present.
You should also consider the destination’s water situation. If the area is known for water shortages you should make sure you don’t do anything to affect that situation. For example, take shorter showers than usual and carry a reusable water bottle.
Similarly you should look to conserve electricity on your trip by turning off electronics in a hotel room or hostel. Try not to turn lights, air conditioners, or heaters off when they don’t need to be in use. In general you should look to use as little resources as possible during your trip. You should also follow all local recycling procedures if they’re in place.
Consider using public transportation in order to decrease your impact on the local environment. You can choose to take trains or buses, walk when possible, or use a bicycle. This is especially important if you’re travelling to multiple destinations. For example, if you’re backpacking through a large region comprised of different countries you should try to limit your flying since air travel has a high impact on the environment.
If you’re worried about travelling with your belongings you can choose to have your baggage shipped through a baggage delivery service. Companies like FlyMyBaggage will pick up your belongings and deliver them to your destination for a flat fee. This will allow you to travel with less baggage than you normally would and can save you money in the long run.
Social Considerations During Travel
While you’re researching the environmental considerations for your destination you should also look in to the socio-cultural aspects of the area. Find out about the history, the political landscape, current events, religions, geography, cuisine, intercultural dynamics, and similar aspects. If you learn about the area you’ll be visiting you can keep yourself safe and act in the proper fashion as not to offend local customs.
When travelling in any fashion you should learn a few key phrases in the local language. By learning how to greet people in the local fashion you can have better interactions with the local population. You should also learn about local body language. For example, pointing your feet directly at someone in certain cultures is considered to be a sign of respect while other regions consider things like eye contact to be disrespectful.
You’ll also want to dress appropriately while travelling, follow local customs and avoid taboos, and be respectful when taking pictures (ask people permission before snapping a photo and make sure not to use your camera in places where it isn’t deemed appropriate).