Traveling is an amazing thing. It takes us to beautiful places, opening our minds, allowing us to learn about different cultures and connecting us to unique people we would have never otherwise met.

Luckily, today, it’s easier than ever to travel! New low-cost airlines are propping up every year, flights are now available to almost every corner of the world and all kinds of alternative accommodation options exist for those of us who can’t afford a 5* resort (although I know we secretly all wish we could afford one sometimes).

But there’s one hard truth we all have to face about traveling: it’s simply not the best way to treat our planet. Globalization (despite all of its wonderful advantages) is contributing to the extinction of local cultures and erasing precious traditions and languages. And don’t even get me started on climate change! It’s real and it is having devastating effects on our planet, its unique species and places.

As much as we can try to reduce our carbon footprint and do our part to help preserve our planet and its unique cultures back home, taking just one long-haul flight can often undo all of our well-intentioned efforts.

The good news, though, is that there are plenty of ways you can be a responsible traveler – one who not only doesn’t harm our planet, but actually actively contributes to making it a better place.

Does that sound like something you want to do? This responsible travel guide will help you travel the world without killing it…

Goodbye, McDonald’s. Hello, delicious street food!

The tourism industry is a huge part of the economy in many countries. International tourists often bring in big bucks which can then be used by those countries to invest in their own development.

But is that really where your money is going? If you’re eating every day at McDonald’s while traveling through Croatia, your money is likely not going into the local economy. Sure, you’re supporting the employment of Croatians at McDonald’s, I’ll give you that. But there are much deeper investments you can make in Croatia’s local business scene.

And why is it important to invest in local businesses? Because (as opposed to huge multinationals, which are often headquartered outside of the country you’re visiting) small businesses pay taxes to the national government. This means a part of the money you pay them goes into the country’s economy and this can then be used to further the country’s development.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL TIP:

Consider eating at local restaurants or shopping for fresh produce at the local market so you can cook in your self-catering apartment. Stay at locally-owned apartments, hotels or hostels. Book your tours with a local travel agency. Shop for souvenirs at local shops. This will take a little more research and planning on your end, but that’s what us bloggers are here for too! 😉

local food in Dubrovnik

Nothing beats local food with a great view!

Go All In

There’s no better way to invest in a local culture than by (literally!) investing in it. Yes, that means spending your money. And I know that sometimes our money is counted to the T when we travel. But if your travel budget doesn’t leave some room to invest in the local culture of a place, it’s really for the best to stay home until you’ve managed to save up a little more.

Getting to know different cultures is one of the main reasons why we love to travel. That’s why it’s so important to invest in experiences that value a local culture and its traditions. Dancing lessons, cooking classes, art exhibitions, museums, churches and temples – all of these incredible traditions and places will only remain alive if we show our interest in them.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL TIP:

Make that donation at the end of visiting a temple in Thailand. Visit a local art exhibition in France. Purchase tickets to a traditional belly dancing show in Morocco. Take a cooking class in China.

Go all in: immerse yourself in the local culture and show your appreciation.

Elephants on a safari in Kruger Park, South Africa

An experience like this is worth every penny!

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: find out what it means… when you travel!

There are many places in this world that are protected from people for special reasons. Sometimes they are natural havens that need to be sheltered from constant human traffic. One example is The Wave in Arizona – only 20 visitors are allowed to visit the site per day!

Other times, they are pieces of art that can’t be subject to flashing cameras – or worse! – human contact. That’s the case when we visit art museums but also when we’re viewing beautiful buildings and statues.

It’s up to us as travelers too to help preserve these natural and man-made wonders by heeding to the warnings and following the simple rules laid out for us.

I know this often sounds like such a simple thing to do, but you won’t believe how many people forget to be respectful of these restrictions when traveling!

RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL TIP:

Follow the rules, buddy. It’s really just that simple!

Beach rules in Mozambique

Alright, these rules aren’t too hard to follow 😉

Be your eco-friendly self everywhere!

Back home, you recycle, you bike to work, you buy organic, you make sure to turn off all the lights before you leave the house. When you’re traveling, though, it’s easy to slip into some lazy (and harmful) habits.

You start taking unnecessarily long showers, leaving your hotel room with the A/C on and avoiding bikes like the plague. Now, I know that you know that being eco-friendly is important wherever you are. Sometimes, this might be more difficult. (For example, recycling is not a common and structured practice in all countries.) But it’s our duty to do our best.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL TIP:

Stick with the same eco-friendly habits you already keep up at home! That doesn’t mean you can’t relax or enjoy yourself while you’re traveling – being mindful of our planet isn’t so much of a hassle when you consider we’re preserving it for ourselves too!

Beautiful natural lake in the Algarve, Portugal

Let’s help preserve places like this!

Girls, we love traveling. But to continue visiting beautiful places and getting to know unique cultures, we need to do our part in preserving them. So here’s to us traveling all around the world – without harming it!

Have you tried responsible travel? What did you find most challenging? Do you have any other tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!