We’ve all heard the old adage: take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footsteps. Nowadays, it’s even more important to take this to the next level: leave each place better off than when you arrived. The easiest way to do this is to let the area swallow you.
Learn how the natives live, eat, play and work. Learn what makes them tick, what makes them smile. Learn where they shop and grow.
Travelling helps both the traveller and the destination. Incoming tourists provide endless economic benefits to a community, but it doesn’t end there. There’s the culture, the landscape, and individual people to consider. Here are 7 ways you can support the local community whenever you travel.
1. Preserve the culture
When travelling to a destination much different than your hometown, the culture is bound to be different. The most important thing to do here is to accept and preserve the existing culture. We travel to learn about new cultures: to see how other people live, work and play.
Rather than expecting those native to your destination to change for you, try to change for them. Learn the language, learn social signals, and remember what is polite or unaccepted in each culture.
2. Buy local
Search out independent shops while travelling. Look for that hole-in-the-wall that most might miss. Stop to smell the roses, and discover that killer ma & pa shop around the corner. Rather than sticking to box stores or brand names that you recognize from home, choose the locally owned store right next door. This puts money in the locals’ pockets, rather than Walmart’s.
3. Respect the natives
While exploring your destination, or while perusing a recently discovered shop, stop to ask how the locals are doing. Thank them for having you. Being on the receiving end of tourists can be stressful work, so put a smile on a face by taking the time to say hi. The people at each destination are responsible for the snapshots you gain – return the favour!
4. Don’t buy bottled water
Bottled water is a huge contributor to worldwide waste. Most people think that the solution to unsafe drinking water is to buy excessive amounts of bottled water. This is not the case. You can buy specialty reusable water bottles that actually filter each refill, providing safe and refreshing drinking water regardless of your travel destination.
Lifesaver makes a great reusable bottle that is available online. The filtration system catches all waterborne bacteria, parasites, cysts, and viruses. Reusing these bottles not only ensures your safety, but eliminates plastic waste.
5. Reduce, reuse and recycle
Recycling is more than just bringing your own reusable bottles. Take the time to understand your destination’s waste collection system, at the same time as minimizing your own waste.
6. Participate in activities specific to the location
Each destination offers different experiences. Look into activities specific to the local culture. Some events might generate funds for local charities, or local projects. Other events may aid the local environment, such as tree planting. If you are visiting for an extended time, look for volunteer opportunities within the community.
7. Raise awareness about local issues
A big part of environmental sustainability is raising awareness. People are more likely to care about issues that hit closer to home, rather than ones that seem eons away. You can play your part by initiating a connection across cultures.
Take photos or start a dialogue to aid in a movement to strengthen cross-cultural understanding. The best way to return from any trip is as a better version of yourself. If you take the time to indulged in each destination, and support their local environment, you join a global effort towards sustainability.
You gain knowledge necessary to grow as a person; you gain relationships necessary to know compassion. The skills you learn may even translate to positively influence your own community. Make an effort to support a local community the next time you travel.