How to travel mindfully
Travel for the experiences. Connect with locals. Contribute to the local economy in a positive way. Respect the environment. Leave only footprints behind. For a mutually rewarding experience where you get to combine an overseas vacay with the opportunity to give back to a local community, volunteering and ecotourism is an increasing popular way to holiday around the world. Whether you go for a gap year or a short break, here’s how to travel mindfully and, in the words of Michael Jackson, make the world a better place for you and for me.
Living in Australia, it’s inevitable that we’ll need to fly to get anywhere. And that means mucho emissions in the air and on the ground. Airlines, such as Qantas and Virgin Australia, offer certified Fly Carbon Neutral programs that allow you to offset your share of carbon emissions – the impact of one tonne of emissions can be offset with the purchase of one carbon offset. Carbon offsets are generated through tree planting and renewable energy projects.
Go green on the road
Cycling is not only good for your health, it’s great for the environment too! If you’re not keen on negotiating through rush hour on two wheels in Asia’s megacities or on the other side of the road in the US, do as the locals do and take public transport. Hop on a bus or boat for the scenic ride, or head underground for a quicker trip around town. You’ll see way more than sitting in traffic in a taxi, have plenty of people-watching ops and it’ll be heaps cheaper too.
The best way to get to know a country is to connect with the people and experience life as they do. The volunteering possibilities are endless; from teaching English in Nepal, helping to build simple housing in Kenya, and caring for kids in Cambodia to panda conservation in China. If you have skills in teaching or sports, or have an interest in working with children or animals, look at reputable companies like i-to-i Volunteering and Real Gap Adventures for all-inclusive packages.
Everyone wants to take the road less travelled, but there’s price to pay for the damage to fragile environments from increased tourism. Help to protect pristine environments like the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon rainforest by booking your tours and travel with companies that operate with sustainable and ethical practices. G Adventures has established its own non-profit, Planeterra Foundation, to ensure the communities directly receive the benefits of tourism in their areas.
Most hotels will remind you to reuse your towels and switch the lights off when you’re out of your room as part of their environmental commitment, but the fact remains; keeping those sheets bright white takes a lot of energy and resources. Other than using those energy-saving practices you use at home on holiday, you can also opt for homestays, guesthouses and B&Bs or go camping for a greener stay and to ensure your money goes directly to the local economy.
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