Funny thing about travel – we are almost always more responsible travellers than we are responsible citizens. As I see well intentioned posts about ‘ways to travel responsibly,’ I think.. the laws in Japan or Finland or America are in any case way to strict for a traveller to throw a wrapper on the street. But at home, in India, anything goes..
Where does the responsible come in travel then? We can’t do anything about the high carbon footprint we generate with all the flying. But can we refuse plastic packaged food/ earphones/ blanket on the flight? Maybe lobby to make airlines use eco-friendly packaging, disposables? Maybe opt for a walking tour instead of those stuffy coach rides. These are almost always lead by a local, they add so much more to your holiday experience and you might just earn some new friends.
You are now in Bali. After that fabulous walking tour around Ubud, you have polished off your snack-on-the-go and are now left with a plastic wrapper. Where are you going to chuck that piece of garbage? There is no way you will be able to spot the difference between a Wet Waste and Dry Waste bin if you are not practicing garbage segregation at home. Do you? Segregate garbage at home? Wet waste being veggie, fruit peals, etc. and Dry being paper, metal, plastic etc. If you don’t, now is a good time to kick yourself and start. And you have no idea about all the awesomeness it will bring you. To begin with it will give you fresh, monsoon smelling compost. Which will make you want to use that to make a kitchen garden. Which will give you awesome home grown veggies. Which will give you the best insta pictures and reasons to show off. The list is endless. And then when you travel to the famous Urban Food Street in Buderim, Queensland, Australia you can share your urban farming experiences too. That’s travel win-win and uber responsible.
The Great Barrier Reef is dead. RIP. Did you get that post? Were you also one of the many people who thought, “Oh how sad.” And that was the end of that? Out of so many conversations, it is only Yuktie, my sis who said, “One second. Shouldn’t we contact Australia tourism and ask them if we can do something to revive the reef? There are so many efforts in different parts of the world to regrow corals, surely we can do something.” – Now having that perspective means you are a responsible traveller.
Plastic bags and straw for example – you use it for 5 seconds. Literally. And then what happens to it? Ah you will meet it again on your next scuba dive where a fish has mistaken it as food and eaten, chocked and died trying.
That ride you just enjoyed on the back of an elephant or that selfie with a dolphin you got a hundred likes for – that is what removes responsible from travel. A circus chimp, a pony ride or even a caged, talking parrot – these guys are meant to soar.. fly high above us all, they are meant to explore the hidden depths of the oceans and jungle. So the next time you have wildlife on your checklist – make sure you go for something where the animals are free to roam, where you are merely the observer, marvelling at their freedom from a distance.
When we travel don’t we absolutely love basking in the shade of trees? Mesmerised by that magical view of the Kangra valley in Himachal or marvel at the emerald canopy as we zipline across the Chiang Mai jungle in Thailand? At home then, how often have you noticed trees chocked with tar? Ruthlessly cut off trees or worse, left neglected by the neighbourhood. And how often have you done anything to save it?
If you are the one making people travel i.e manage a travel blog, magazine, agency or represent a tourism board – I urge you to recognise this – our industry will be nothing without the wonders of nature. Showcasing conservation efforts in your country and highlighting volunteerism, indigenous cultures and local initiatives will for sure give you brownie points.
Oftentimes I feel we are blind to the magic around us, take it for granted aka are irresponsible to conserving what we have and then go about taking about being responsible elsewhere. Why do we do that? Doesn’t perfection come with practice? Responsible travel really begins at home.