Before we begin to travel again, we must reiterate some basics as well as direct you to more innovative ways to be a better, conscious traveller. By Rashima Nagpal

The fundamentals of being a responsible traveller are simple if you come to think of it. But more often than not, they are overlooked and ignored while we’re busy having a good time. This year, the pandemic has shown us new possibilities. With all human movement brought to a halt, nature reclaimed its paramount role. As travellers, we not only have the responsibility to help maintain the sanctity of the environment but also think of ways to make it better. So, before we begin to travel again, we’d like to reiterate some basics as well as direct you to more innovative ways to be a conscious traveller.

Leave No Trace

 

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If you’re taking a road trip, keep a garbage bag in your vehicle, and do not litter along the way. If you’re camping out in the wild, try to use as many biodegradable things as possible, and bring back the non-biodegradable waste home (rural/remote places do not necessarily have a proper waste management system in place). While staying at a hotel, no matter how well-equipped it is, make it a habit to carry your own toiletries (toothbrush, shower cap, soap, shampoo, etc.). Even if you end up using complimentary hotel toiletries, do not hesitate to bring the leftovers back; they’re better reused than disposed! Better still, join a trip that doubles up as a cleaning drive with an organisation such as Healing Himalayas.

Go Local

 

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No matter where you go, opting for local ways not only supports the economy of the destination but also allows you a rather genuine experience. From your tour operator and the accommodation options to the places you shop from and the restaurants you eat at, there’s almost always an alternative to everything. It might take some extra effort to hunt down these alternatives, but it’s often gratifying.

Less Is More

 

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It might seem that the people who embrace this philosophy might do it for ‘personal’ reasons. But there’s also a significant environmental aspect to it. Be it fitting into a smaller, more fuel-efficient car or not choosing to upgrade for all-you-can-drink wine, we need far less than we think. Plus, the efficiency that comes with travelling light cannot be stressed upon enough.

Befriend Animals, Not Exploit Them

 

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There’s no rational explanation for the likes of camel and elephant safaris, or dolphin ‘shows’. The purpose of interacting with fauna is anything but entertainment. Ditch the commercial ‘traditions’ for healthy, sustainable alternatives such as rehabilitation centres and shelter homes, such as The Agra Bear Rescue Facility and Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, that happily welcome volunteers.

Look For Alternatives

 

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In this day and age, with innovation being the keyword, there’s no dearth of choices. For instance, on your next trek, you could opt for initiatives like Green Travel that not only offer authentic experiences but also show you ways of giving back to the environment. Global Himalayan Expeditions works towards bringing solar energy access to the remote mountain communities by taking travellers on ‘Impact Expeditions’. Similarly, you can let your next snorkelling or diving session be of help to marine biologists and scientists. Organisations like ReefWatch in the Andaman show you how.

Walk The Extra Mile

 

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We often confuse sustainable travel with eco-tourism. While eco-tourism tends to the natural aspect of the environment, the former being the bigger bucket involves local people and communities in a big way. While simply interacting with the locals is a great way to learn and experience things on the ground level, there’s so much more that you can do. Consider signing up for full-fledged voluntourism programmes. For instance in India, Village Ways offers a programme with migratory shepherds in the Himalayas; Green People offers village-run homestays and organic farming opportunities; Kipepeo specialises in community-led tours in the tribal areas of the North East.

Related: Ishita Khanna Of Spiti Ecosphere Decodes The Pillars Of Conscious Travelling