After a few years of traveling to different countries and researching for freelance travel writing, I have gathered many travel tips. I would like to begin with what I feel is one of the most important and least talked about considerations of traveling well: How to be a more conscious traveler.
Consciousness: (noun) ˈkɒnʃəsnɪs/:
- The state of being aware and responsive to one’s surroundings.
- A person’s awareness by the mind of itself and the world.
Applied to traveling, a conscious traveler is aware of: 1. The language, culture and history of the people of their destination, 2. Their own energy and presence 3. How their presence, as a visitor, interacts with the local people, their culture and the Earth.
The following travel tips can help new travelers and seasoned globetrotters alike be more conscious on their next journeys, whether backpacking, sightseeing, jet-setting or seeking adventure.
Here are my travel tips that we can all integrate for more conscious travel:
1. LEARN THE LANGUAGE + HISTORY
We begin with language because it is the gateway of understanding between cultures. Everywhere I travel, I notice locals’ faces light up with joy when they see me trying, often blundering, to communicate in their native tongue.
As Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
Why learn at least the basics of the language? At the most basic level, language is essential to take care of yourself while you are traveling. Through language, you can both express yourself and understand others. Wherever you travel, remember you are the visitor, it is not on the local people to cater to you. You’ll be welcomed more warmly along your journey and your entire experience will be upgraded because you try to speak the native language.
There are so many free resources at your fingertips – apps, games, podcasts and more – that there is no excuse not to learn the basics. Each of my travel guide posts will feature language essentials. Why limit yourself?
It is also for your benefit that you take time to learn a little about the rich history and culture of your destinations. This knowledge will give depth to your entire experience. Once you understand the roots of the culture you are visiting, you will be able to better understand the differences. From this understanding, you can show respect for the local culture.
2. SUPPORT THE LOCALS
As more destinations are shared on social media and online, local cultures are quickly evolving in response to the increases in tourism. On one hand, the increase in tourism stimulates the local economy and on the other, it is often the expats and elitists who set up shop (or Airbnb) and benefit most from the increased revenue as they capitalize on the tourist market – especially in developing countries. Let’s remember that we still have more than half of the global wealth in the hands of the top 1% richest elites while the remaining 99% share the rest. The World Economic Forum ranked global income inequality among the top three of 2017’s Global Risks.
As more travelers become aware of their own impact, we can utilize our personal purchasing power to help.
So, when planning your next trip, invest your money in the local mom-and-pop shops, restaurants and bed & breakfasts as much as you can. You might be pleased to find the more authentic experience you were looking for, rather than the homogenous, trend-oriented version that caters to tourists. Find out where to buy gifts, souvenirs and other goods directly from the artists themselves and support co-operatives which give an equal share of profits to its workers. It will often cost you less and all your investment goes straight to the local economy.
3. HELP PROTECT OUR EARTH
With the rapid interconnectedness of the planet and a world fueled by capitalism, so comes the increase in waste. Some of the most beautiful destinations have become ridden with plastic, trash and cigarette buts. There are now entire mountains of trash the size of islands. The trash makes its way into the water and our sea life is dwindling in some of the most sought-after spots, like where I’m based, on the Mediterranean Sea. C02 emissions are at an all-time high, see these graphs from NASA – all while worldwide travel is booming.
We must individually commit to recycling, packing our trash and the trash we see and lower our carbon footprint. If we all commit to protecting the Earth every day, no matter where we are, together we can help bring it back to stability.
4. DRESS LIKE A LOCAL
Packing tip: When visiting cultures that are very different from your own, remember the saying, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, and apply this to general rule to outfit choices as well. Why is this important? Your choice in presentation introduces you before you even say a word.
One of the most helpful ways to approach what to wear on your trip is to research the culture and notice how people dress in that specific area. I have blog posts coming that are full of tips for how to dress in each of the destinations I’ve traveled to – stay tuned!
5. PHOTOGRAPHY: SOME HELPFUL TIPS
- OF PEOPLE: Remember that you are implanting yourself into someone else’s daily life – they are not there for your amusement. So if you want to snap a candid shot of someone, ask their permission with a smile (use gestures to ask, if you must). You might find that many locals are happy to take a photo for you, it’s a personal choice. If you get a landscape shot and someone happens to be in the frame who is not directly facing you, and if you are discreet, this is generally ok.
- IN PLACES OF WORSHIP: Some of the most beautifully designed spaces are temples, cathedrals and mosques. They are built to usher in a sense of the divine, and that can be an overwhelming feeling that many visitors may want to capture. Again, these are not made for upping your Instagram game. If you’re in inappropriae attire or are about to strike a bold pose, better to find another location. Inside, many places of worship have strict no photography rules and some allow it without flash. Be sure to check with each specific site you enter.
- SELFIES: I am not here to tell you when and how to capture that beautiful face of yours. I am here, however, to remind you to keep the selfie-ing balanced. Overdoing it can give a sense of arrogance and bring in a sense of unwelcome from the people around you. Also, when you are taking a selfie in front of a monument or sunset, be sure to limit your time so other folks can see it.
Whether you are in full vacay mode or getting down exploring the roads less traveled, one of the best travel tips is to make your self-care a priority. Consistent self-care while on your journey can be challenging, which is why I’ll have maaaany posts dedicated to self-care while traveling. It is the foundation upon which our finite travel experience builds. When we take care of ourself, we enter the world from a better place – we are more intentional with the energy we bring into the world. When we make the time to take care of ourselves, we are giving the world a better version of ourselves and we will be better at navigating all the challenges the journey will inevitably bring.
7. GIVE BACK
There is no one-size-fits-all formula for the best way to give back when you are traveling. It can be done in so many ways. Perhaps you’ll be struck by an issue while abroad and find an NGO that is working on that cause to donate and raise money and awareness for. Whether volunteering for a short or long duration, tipping generously, recommending places you stayed and encouraging friends to visit… find a way to give back in a way that makes sense to you. The only wrong way to give back, is not to.
Thank you for reading!
Do you have any tips to add for how to be a more conscious traveler?
Leave a comment below!