For far too long, tourists have gotten a bad rap for arriving in droves and ruining the local way of life and environment. Don’t be that guy/ gal; it’s not polite, sexy or respectful. Here are a few quick and easy ways to be the kind of traveler locals love, and to have the trip of a lifetime while you’re at it.
Eat, drink, shop and stay local.
Without a doubt, the best way to both support local communities and to the reduce environmental impact of traveling is to do all things local. If you’re drinking wine, pick a local one to support the local winemaker and reduce the need to ship heavy bottles across the world (ie. don’t order French wine in Ecuador, order French wine in France). It’s not only the responsible traveler thing to do, it also makes for far more fulfilling and enjoyable travels.
Behave like a guest.
Remember: you are a guest, and you are to respect the culture you’re visiting- it’s you who should adapt to the local way of life, not vice versa. Wear clothing that is accepted by the local culture, even if it means dressing more modestly than you’re used to. Yes, even if it’s really hot and humid. Be aware of people’s sensitivity to being photographed; always ask first. Observe local customs and follow them as much as possible- there are many different concepts of time, personal space, communication etc. do you best to remind yourself that there is no wrong or inferior, just different. Act as an example for fellow travelers and be an representative of your country.
Leave it better than you found it.
Yes, countries you visit may be less “clean” than home; littering may be more accepted, and places to dispose of litter may be hard to find. In this one way, don’t mirror the local way of life and just clean up after yourself. This doesn’t mean you need to be a trash collector- just leave your little corners cleaner than you found them.
Conserve water and energy.
Sure, you’re not paying for the water and electricity at your hotel or airbnb, but someone is, and not just monetarily. In many parts of the world, electricity isn’t as basic as you may be used to, and clean (warm!) water is a real luxury. Be conscious of lights and turn them off when not using them, turn the running water off when you brush your teeth, and wait till you get home to stand under the shower for 30 minutes and ponder the meaning of life.
Know the limits of haggling.
In certain parts of the world, bargaining for products is a part of the culture. And as a visitor, it can sometimes feel like local shopkeepers or taxi drivers are trying to take advantage of you. By all means, do stand up for yourself and bargain- it can be a great way to interact with locals and even make friends. But please keep in mind the bigger picture when bargaining- it’s easy to slip into intense negotiations over a mere $1. Think about how far that small bit of cash can go for the local you are purchasing from. Consider that the fair market price of any good or service is what is it worth to you, not the furthest you can possibly drive the price down. Remember-- if you don’t think twice about splurging on a nice hotel or enjoying a tasty cocktail by the pool, then stop trying to bully the local out of a couple of dollars.