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Advice Outdoors Travel Planning

Conscious Travel: 8 Tips for a Sustainable Vacation

Regardless of our personal opinions, one thing remains an irrefutable fact: our planet is facing an ecological crisis. The environmental changes we witness everyday are increasingly serious and some of them are irreversible. Still, we can try to help the environment with small, but meaningful actions. One of them is sustainable travel. It’s an expanding territory that has grown alongside our own consciousness about the world that surrounds us and awareness of our intrinsically wasteful society. Sustainable travel, in its essence, means being aware of and try to minimize the impact tourism has on the environment and local communities. Here are eight ideas to help you make an informed decision when you go on vacation, keeping in mind you’ll be using your leisure time to contribute to sustainability.

E.R.I.E: Ecological, Responsible, Impactful, Ethical

Four simple words to guide you as a conscious traveler. Ecological is as simple as enjoying the environment in its natural form with activities such as camping. Being responsible just means you have to be aware of how your individual actions can impact local communities. “Impactful comes down to spending your pocket money on helping locals, as opposed to adhere to regular mass consumerism. Ethical refers to your moral duties to respect the environment, animals and communities,” explains Fiona Hill, a lifestyle blogger.

Keep It Local

It’s common knowledge that tourism makes up a huge part of many different economies. However, in order to ensure you are financially contributing to the local communities themselves, it is important to choose local products and activities. Avoid gift shops and their mass market production by choosing local keepsakes instead. A local business will most likely invest its profit back into their community, which is the opposite of what worldwide-known franchise chains do.

Avoid Over-tourism

Popular destinations such as Amsterdam, Venice, Barcelona and Paris might seem like a good vacation option. The history and aesthetics of those places are a no-brainer. However, they do tend to be overcrowded, punching a big hole in sustainability. There are so many other destinations that would benefit from your contribution to their underrated economy. Not to mention that it will be less stressful for you if you’re not constantly surrounded by massive crowds of tourists! “Why not choose the Portuguese islands of Azores or Madeira? Or perhaps explore the Greek paradise that is the Skyros Island? You’d be surprised with the range of alternatives available instead of your standard vacation destination,” says Silvia Olive, a travel blogger.

Alternative Accommodation

Avoid hotels! They are some of the greatest culprits in damaging the environment, with outrageous amounts of food waste, toiletry bottles thrown away without being fully used and AC units on full blast.

Choose hostels, locally owned hotels that don’t belong to international chains, or guest houses.

Say No to Cruise Ships!

Cruise ships are a big no-no in terms of sustainable travel. They are horrendous for the environment and don’t benefit local communities whatsoever when they dock. They pollute the oceans, damaging marine life and they don’t avoid plastic waste and fish consumption.

Pack Light

There are several benefits in packing lightly for your travels. If you choose carry-on luggage with only essentials, planes will carry less weight and consume less fuel. Also, with less luggage to transport, you can opt out of getting a cab from the airport to your chosen accommodation and use public transportation instead. Don’t pack wasteful items like plastic bags, containers or bottles!

No Clue Left Behind

Wherever you choose to travel, ensure you don’t remove objects from their original environment. Don’t litter! Reduce your waste by recycling and packing reusable items. You can always find local recycling points when on vacation.

Choose Mass Transportation

Take small steps to contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions. Choose shared services like Uber and local transport as opposed to taxis. You can also explore cities by walking or being part of bike share programs.

It’s becoming more and more important for us to be conscious about our decisions. We are all part of this planet and have our roles to play, small as they may be. Even when you’re having fun in your vacation, you can make small alterations that will help the environment, as well as creating new experiences for yourself.

 

Advice Giving Back Tech What to Pack

Our Favorite Eco-Conscious Travel Accessories

Our Favorite Eco-Conscious Travel Accessories

We’re passionate about practicing “sustainable travel” here at Dame Traveler. The concept is certainly a buzzword right now in the travel industry. But we believe that in order to love and cherish the world and its many wonders, it’s important to explore responsibly. Eco-conscious travel is not a trend in our eyes, it’s truly a positive shift. What’s most amazing? Traveling sustainably isn’t all that difficult… it just requires some education and mindfulness. Today, we want to spotlight some small but mighty eco-conscious travel accessories you can pack on your next adventure!

Natural, Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Turns out, many mainstream sunscreen brands are using ingredients that are killing our precious coral reefs. That’s right! 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in coral reef areas annually, resulting in some horrible damage to the ecosystem that’s already struggling to survive. Make the switch to organic, biodegradable and proven reef-safe sunscreen. You’ll be saving the environment while also treating your skin better.

We’re fans of Stream2Sea and Goddess Garden Organics reef-safe, biodegradable lotions!

Solid Shampoo & Conditioner Bars

By eliminating the plastic containers for shampoos and conditioners, you’re wasting less and saving more room for liquids in your carry on. Win-win situation, if you ask us!

Check out these shampoo and conditioner bars.

Hydro-Flask Or Canteen

One major wasteful move travelers make is constantly buying overpriced plastic water bottles while on the road. Eliminate your waste and excessive spending by bringing along a Hydro-Flask or other reusable water canteen.

Reusable Shopping Bags

Reduce your impact on waste while traveling by packing small, reusable shopping bags. These totes come in handy in many ways! Not only do most fabric bags carry more than disposable ones while you’re out shopping, but they also can be great places to stow away wet swimsuits or dirty laundry. Our favorite? Apolis’s customizable market tote. It’s a sturdy, weather resistant bag that can handle any grocery trip and it ends the cycle of poverty. The female artisans who handcraft your eco-friendly bag receive Fair Trade wages, annual profit dividends, and a retirement fund. Amazing right?

Our Favorite Eco-Conscious Travel Accessories

Deet-Free Bug Repellent

Sure… Deet is the go-to remedy for those pesky mosquitos. But, many environmentalist urge to stray away from using the harsh chemical. Deet is known to irritate the eyes and impair the nervous system. And, in our opinion, that can’t be great for the environment either! Choose a deet-free bug repellent instead. We like BugBand Deet-Free Insect Repellent’s spray.

Microfiber Towel

Although many hotels and beaches offer free towels, the amount of water wasted on washing them really add up. Instead, pack your own micro-fiber, reusable and quick-drying option.

Reusable Silverware & Drinking Straws

You probably don’t think about silverware while you pack for your next adventure, but reusable silverware and drinking straws are two extremely meaningful eco-friendly travel accessories. At this point, we’ve all heard about the catastrophic effect of plastic straws on the environment. By packing these reusable items on your adventures, your committing yourself to a sustainable lifestyle… and the earth will thank you for it.

We’re fans of eightysix straws made by nature itself, they are grass that already grows in a straw like shape and they actually work! They don’t get soggy like paper straws and they come in a perfect envelope that’s light and easy to carry/pack.

These  portable silverware sets that have their own handy travel box also come in handy.

Bamboo Toothbrush

Three cheers for less plastic in our health-care rituals! By packing a bamboo toothbrush, travelers can feel good about caring for the earth. It’s the little things like this that add up to a big impact.

Solar Power Banks

By choosing to harness the power of the sun, our natural provider of energy, we’re able to eliminate our reliance on electricity. Packing a durable, waterproof solar power bank is a great option for campers, but also for travelers anywhere! Many of them serve as lanterns and can charge multiple devices.

Refillable TSA-Approved Bottles

When sitting down and beginning the packing process, it can be overwhelming to plan what toiletries are needed. Instead of buying travel-sized options, use your favorite products and place them into reusable, refillable TSA-Approved Travel BottlesYou’ll get the perks of having your favorite items for self-care while on the road while also improving the health of our earth.

Recycled Journals & Plastic Pens

If you’re sitting down to reflect on your adventures, why not do it in an eco-friendly way? Recycled journals and plastic pens are two simple travel accessories that can eliminate waste while also being super cute!

Some Other Simple Things To Keep In Mind While Traveling

While the idea of sustainable travel can seem daunting to travelers, we’ve found that the first step  is through education. Once travelers are mindful of their impact on the space they visit, they are able to make conscious steps toward eco-friendly travel.

Here are some really simple things to do while on your next adventure.

  • Shop local – avoid big name-brand companies
  • Cut down on at least one non-recyclable item a day
  • Eat in instead of takeaway
  • If you can, travel slow!
  • Use digital media instead of paper for maps, books, etc.
  • Book eco-conscious hotels
  • Volunteer for a local community resource
  • Spend an hour picking up trash in green areas, like on the beach

You can find more ideas on sustainable travel right here on the blog!


Have you ever packed eco-conscious travel accessories on your adventures? What are your favorite products that contribute to sustainable travel?

Caribbean Guides Reviews

An Old Soul’s Dream: Cuba With Conscious Cuba

For centuries, Cuba’s greatest resource has been its people. – Pico Iyer

I can’t quite put into words how Cuba made me feel but I’ll do my best to try.

I had the pleasure of visiting this beautiful piece of the world with Conscious Cuba just a few weeks short of Obama’s visit. His visit means a lot of things but one thing is for sure, Cuba will endure major change. I feel very blessed to have visited before these changes and I am already planning my next visit. I hope the changes will increase the quality of life for the Cuban people and I hope tourists will be respectful towards the country.


As an American, traveling to Cuba has been a long time dream and although I had few expectations before going, I was already emotional and nostalgic about a place I had never been before. I fell in love with Cuba long before I set foot on land.
You may be wondering how it’s possible for an American to visit Cuba. Currently, you must visit with then intention of traveling for educational purposes and not just tourism. Travel to Cuba must also be organized and provided by a certified tour company such as Conscious Cuba and a Cuban tour guide will accompany the group during your time there along with your American guide. Conscious Cuba did an incredible job of planning and sorting out the paperwork required to visit Cuba as an American! I was truly impressed by their itinerary and loved every experience of each day during my time there.
Photo by Pura Soul Photography

Cuba is a hub for creativity. Art can be found not in just art galleries, but everywhere you turn and in the homes of some very talented Cuban artists. Everything is art in Cuba. The people, the ways in which they’ve been able to enjoy life without much, the tiles on the house fronts, the colors, the iron work on doors and windows, the food, the architecture and most importantly, their passion for love.


Photo by Pura Soul Photography

The people of Cuba have had to make use of what little they have and they’ve done it well. Nothing goes to waste. Old toilets and bathtubs are turned into plant pots, old typewriters are the finishing touches to gardens and patios and leftovers are fed to the oh so adorable street dogs and cats. We even came across a restaurant known for it’s tiny window where cats wait for scraps of food on a daily basis! It was hilarious watching the huge crowd of cats and kittens patiently waiting for their dinner. It was quite inspiring to observe the resourcefulness coming from a country full of excessive waste.

Cuba simply cannot be compared to any place in the world. It is special in every way possible. It came with so many surprises behind every door, behind every smile. It is the people that make Cuba SO special. Passion and love are what make Havana feel so alive. I can’t count the number of times I heard love songs sung in the streets and observed beautiful couples effortlessly embrace one another. Passionate conversation (who knows what the topic was but the intensity was incredible) were the norm. You just don’t see these things everywhere else around the world because we’re all so caught up in the distractions of life and all the things we accumulate.

Day 1
After a quick 45 minute plane ride from Miami, we arrived to Cuba and got through customs with some much expected delay but hey, we’re on Cuba time after all.

Our first stop was a quick glimpse at the Plaza de La Revolucion. Sure, it’s a giant parking lot facing a couple of buildings with faces on them but this is no ordinary parking lot. Thousands and thousands of lives have been affected by the speeches that took place here. As I walk the cement, step by step, I try to grasp just how it would feel to be affected by the decision making and influence of people such as Fidel and Che. I couldn’t.

As we made our way to the hotel, I observed the streets and wondered what it would be like to live here. That’s the beautiful thing about entering another world. You become a more empathetic person with each experience you have under your belt.


We arrived at the lovely Hotel Parque Central where we checked in and got ready for dinner.

Conscious Cuba sure knows the best places to dine. Dinner was at of the best restaurants in Havana, set on the outdoor terrace of a vintage home complete with mismatched china and mood lighting. The conversation was great, the mojitos were strong and the night was young.
Day 2
Excited to start the day, I woke up early and couldn’t wait to get out and explore. We visited two very different artists back to back and the contrast struck me. We were invited into the first artists’ home and his work made me feel happy, light and inspired.



The second artist which was an unplanned visit, made me think deep and hard about life and maybe even about what comes next in the after life. His art was dark. His demeanor was dark.
The contrasts just made me realize how our different perspectives shape our own inner worlds.
We went for a long walk around Habana Vieja where we roamed the streets in the evening and learned about Cuba’s past, present and future.
One of my favorite dinners was set in the most beautiful old dilapidated mansion. We went back a couple days later to experience it during the day. It was just as magical as it was in the evening and I even made friends with the construction workers who then serenaded me with the most beautiful song I ever heard. *sigh* Oh Cuba…

Day 3
We woke up bright and early to roadtrip to the quaint little town of Matanzas. The town is known as the Athens of Cuba due to its significance in the sugar and slave trade in the 18th century.
We had the opportunity to watch a show by Callejon de las Tradiciones a community  project that preserves the Afro Cuban culture and music and since Matanzas is the birthplace of Rumba music, this project keeps it alive.


One of the highlights of the day was visiting the Museo Farmaceútico, dating back to 1882, its one of the oldest pharmacies in the Americas and is incredibly preserved in its original setting. The details were incredibly beautiful, I could get lost in that space for days.





Our last stop was a local book publisher founded in 1985. All of the books are handmade and one of a kind. We even had the opportunity to watch the locals put the art pieces together.
Day 4
Unfortunately, I missed out on an entire day due to a stomach bug but it was a blessing in disguise.

Staying at a Casa particular has its perks. Case in point, Cuban local, Maira. She was the kindest soul and without hesitation, whisked me to a charming bedroom where she offered to take my shoes off and instantly rushed to the kitchen to whip up fresh malanga and green tea to help sooth my tummy. Naturally, the best medicine is love. I healed quickly after this kind and generous treatment from a woman I’ve never met  before. I was touched by her kindness and even though there was a language barrier, I felt a loving connection with her and her husband and I will never forget what they did for me!

Photo diary
Shopping at a local market


Old books in Habana Vieja





Friendly shopkeepers at a ration store



He saw me walking the street with a camera so he stopped traffic and posed for me! Ha, I love Cubans.











Photos by Nastasia, see more on Instagram.

Photos of me by Pura Soul Photography

It’s safe to say experience with Conscious Cuba is one that I will never forget.

If you’re interested in traveling to Cuba and aren’t quite sure how to go about it, feel free to visit Conscious Cuba’s website for more information. They are a great help and will make the process smooth and easy for you.

I hope you enjoyed this post and hope you will visit Cuba someday. Cuba instantly became one of my favorite places in the world and I’ll always reserve a special place in my heart for it. I hope you will love it as much as I did.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.

I was invited as a guest to experience Cuba by Conscious Cuba. All opinions are my own.

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Lifestyle Reviews

Items Bringing Us Joy During Social Distancing Summer

It’s a strange time, isn’t it? Since many of us have been in quarantine and practicing social distancing, it’s truly the little joys that make this difficult time more manageable. From making sweets in the kitchen, to trying a new bottle of wine or cracking open a warm and nostalgic book… it’s the little, simple things that can turn any day into a sunnier one.

No matter what way you look at it, our lives as we know it have all completed changed from the wake of COVID-19. Today, we’re sharing some of our favorite items that are bringing us so much joy and happiness during quarantine.

Face Masks By Artisans

Buying a face mask seems all too normal nowadays. But why not invest in one that can help an artist through these tough times? We love these 100% cotton masks made by Project Runway Alum Jennifer Diederich. Made in NYC, these masks are playful, feature a pocket for a filter and a bendy nose piece to mold the mask to your face. Plus, Jennifer’s mask profits go towards more materials for donated masks!

Items Bringing Us Joy During Quarantine

Closet Additions That Support Black Businesses

Without a doubt, this unprecedented time has made us evaluate where we choose to spend and the power that lies in our wallets. We’re focusing on supporting black businesses in all avenues right now – apparel, accessories, restaurants and more. Making it a priority to support and increase the visibility of incredible black creators, designers and entrepreneurs is something we will be continuing to do in the months ahead. Nía Thomas’s eco-conscious apparel line has us swooning. Each piece is crafted intentionally with sustainability in mind. We’re obsessed with this handwoven cotton jute skirt, paired with this azul colored ceramic bra – the perfect pairing for hotter days ahead. And you can bet that on any given day we’ll be strutting our stuff with Nia’s lightweight silk and cotton palazzo pant with side slit and attached cross body bag in one! Each piece feels incredibly special and bolsters our confidence with their bold design.

Items Bringing Us Joy During Social Distancing Summer

Fun Bamboo Plates For Summer Picnics

With social distancing measures still in place this summer, we have one thing on our minds… outdoor picnics! Times spent outside in the beautiful warm weather is meant to be treasured – especially after a long quarantine. This set of light, bamboo plates have the most adorable terrazzo pattern and are the perfect size for salads, desserts or whatever you’re serving. We’ll be packing them up in our bags to meet up with our gal pals in the park as much as possible!

Items Bringing Us Joy During Social Distancing Summer

Boy Smells Candle

There’s nothing more special than a candle that makes you feel oh so calm and collected. Especially during a crazy situation as this! We’re obsessing over Boy Smells’ LES Scented Candle – inspired by NYC’s eclectic and cool Lower East Side. (We miss being able to explore your every nook and corner New York!) With scents of blackcurrant, peach blossom, pear and cedar – we’ll be lighting this candle to get a whiff of the outdoors when we can’t be outside in the springtime air!

Items Bringing Us Joy During Quarantine

Fashion That Gives Back

Our wishlists on our favorite online shopping stores are ever growing nowadays. But, we’re always happy to know our money is going towards something really important right now. We’re obsessed with Industry Standard’s special edition cotton NYC tee with our custom embroidery because 50% of all sales go to the NYC Fund for Public Health in their efforts fighting COVID-19. There is really nothing more special than knowing our money is going towards supporting public health organizations that have saved endless lives.

Items Bringing Us Joy During Quarantine

Plush Cotton and Bamboo Towels

It feels like the little things really help us through social distancing and being cooped up at home. For example, treating ourselves to a long, warm bath at the end of the day! No spa-like experience is complete without plush towels, right? That’s why these plush Egyptian cotton hand towels with bamboo rayon are our go-to in our bathroom! They’re absorbent as they come and are thick, plush and can handle any sort of self-care product that crosses its path! We love how thick and luxurious they feel!

La Colombe Cold Brew Coffee

What’s a girl to do without her daily run to the local coffeeshop? We’ve discovered that having the perfect, smooth blend of cold brew in the fridge fills that void! La Colombe’s Cold Brew Coffee is our absolute favorite coffee to have stocked up. Silky, strong and totally convenient… their cold brew chilled cans are fresh-roasted and double-filtered for the smoothest, cleanest sip. Quarantine mode won’t have us un-caffeinated – that’s for sure! PS we’re giving away coffee and Dame Traveler books to healthcare workers. Click here to nominate your healthcare heroes!

Items Bringing Us Joy During Quarantine

Olive & June’s Manicure Kit

Quarantine’s got nothing on our mani game with Olive & June’s adorable Everything Box! Inside is literally everything you could ever need for a killer manicure or pedicure at home. From six of their beautiful nail colors (that you can choose from!), their iconic universal polish bottle handle, cuticle cream, nail polish remover pot, brushes, clippers – this box will get any gal’s nails back in tip top shape. It’s the little things like this that make us happy right now!

Items Bringing Us Joy During Quarantine

Observation Journal

While in quarantine and practicing social distancing, we’ve all had to face unusual circumstances and difficult changes. For many of us, keeping in touch with our inner dialogue and the world around us is one way to practice self care and mental wellness. We couldn’t love Baronfig’s Observation Journal more for its open-ended prompts that encourage us to set aside time to be present, reflect and observe. Made in collaboration with artist Shantall Martin – this journal is filled with 375+ bite sized prompts that get us thinking, make us appreciative and really check in with ourselves and the world around us right now!

Items Bringing Us Joy During Quarantine

Blue Light Filtering Glasses

It seems like social distancing has made us more and more reliant on our screens, hasn’t it? Between Zoom conferences, FaceTime happy hours and scrolling social media – it’s time to protect our eyes from the strain that comes from blue light. Our eyes simply weren’t made to handle this amount of screen time! We’re always excited to grab our cute Felix Gray Blue Light Filtering glasses. They protect us from headaches, blurry vision, tired eyes and trouble sleeping and we love that the lenses are anti-reflective too!

Items Bringing Us Joy During Quarantine

Classic Tennis Sneakers

Whether you’re meeting up with friends for a social distance picnic outdoors or going on a daily solo walk around your neighborhood, slip on a pair of classic tennis sneakers to look effortlessly put together! Superga’s Cotu sneakers are chic for any sort of small excursion you have in mind. We love these Italian-made, beloved rubber-soled sneakers worn by Europeans everywhere. There’s a reason they’re called “the people’s shoe of Italy” – they’re easy to wear, sporty, comfortable and wear-resistant too! We may not be able to hop on a plane to Italy right now, but slipping these on make us reminiscent of our time there!

Webcam Cover

With the rise of people staying home to social distance, unfortunately comes with a rise of cyber security issues. Keep yourself safe by keeping your web cam discretely covered when you’re not Zooming with co-workers, friends and family.

Chic Loungeware

There’s nothing like slipping on a beautiful little something while lounging around at home. No offense to our favorite sweatpants, but it’s time for something a little more refined. This chic, ivory slip dress with scalloped edges has the perfect, relaxed fit. We’ll be popping it on while relaxing at home or dress it up with summery wedges and accessories for picnics and outdoor seating at restaurants!

The Dame Traveler Book

Covid-19 has completely disrupted the world as we know it across all industries – travel being one of the most impacted. As travelers, we certainly are going to miss adventure this summer while practicing social distancing. So, what’s a girl to do? Take part in armchair exploration! We’re very proud of our very first hardback cover book filled with the brave, courageous women in our community around the globe. Dame Traveler: Live The Spirit Of Adventure” celebrates the diversity and bravery of women from around the world who are not afraid to think (and live) outside the box. Inside you’ll find endless inspiration for trips around the world, inside tips, beautiful photographs and safety tips too!

Items Bringing Us Joy During Quarantine

Stay Cool with this Vintage Fan

As the summers get hotter and hotter, there’s nothing like a cool looking fan to keep you cool while social distancing indoors. We absolutely love this powerful and gorgeous, vintage inspired fan.

Self Care Products

We might not be out and about as much as we used to be before Covid-19, but that doesn’t mean that beauty and self-care isn’t a priority! We’re obsessed with Indulge Craft Kit by äz Craft Luxury Haircare products. Each are luxurious upgrades to the essential items we love using day in and day out. Between the shampoo, conditioner and the Remedy Restorative masque (our fave!) these hair products have our locks feeling nourished, strengthened and cared for.

Items Bringing Us Joy During Social Distancing Summer

Coconut Water Mist

Sulfate free and plant-based ingredients for less scalp irritation and a healthy moisture to get your hair through the humid days without having to use hair styling tools, reducing the heat exposure to your hair. Just spray this inexpensive and natural coconut water and go!

Small Yet Mighty Hair Dryer

Our favorite Harry Josh Pro Tools Ultra Light Pro Dryer has feeling light as a feather and ready to go (even if that means we’re just heading to the closest park this summer)! This ultra light hair dryer is faster, lighter and quicker than any other hair dryer we’ve ever used. Weighing in at less than one pound, it’s ergonomically designed and whisper soft – perfect for a packing once we’re at a safer place in the world too! We love that it features 12-heat and speed setting for all hair types and its ion technology for frizz-fair, shinier hair.

Items Bringing Us Joy During Social Distancing Summer

Improve Gum Health

I don’t know about you but I’ve been living and enjoying the slower pace of life lately and since I have more time, I decided to add another product to my routine. The PerioSciences AO Gel is an incredibly unique and useful tool that helps improve the appearance and health of your gums . It’s a natural product with essential oils and anti-oxidants but the best part? No harsh chemicals. It also comes in a Oral Care System!


Here’s hoping that these items bring joy to your quarantine and social distancing summer. We’re wishing you all health and happiness during this difficult time!

Featured Giving Back Sustainability

How to be a Better Traveler in 2020

japan people crowds kyoto

If we have learned anything from the year 2020, it’s that we need to do better. WE ALL NEED TO DO BETTER. But in particular for travelers, now is an especially crucial time to be aware and self-cognizant about how we fit into the global ecosystem. Travelers today need to recognize that the way we travel deeply affects the world around us and impacts future generations to come.

There are ten easy steps that you can begin implementing into your daily travel routine that can positively impact both the communities you visit AND your community at home. You don’t have to do all of them at once, but slowly incorporating at least a few will have a bigger influence than you may think!

Recognize your privilege

If you are traveling for leisure, YOU HAVE PRIVILEGE. Travel is a luxury, and one that the majority of the world does not have. Travel privilege is not inherently a bad thing, but it is something to keep in mind. Recognize that you are healthy enough to travel. That you are financially able to travel. However, travel privilege comes in various other forms as well. Depending on your passport, you are able to travel to more places. You may be treated better than others, even locals. Depending on your gender or skin color, you may be harrassed in the streets unprovoked. If you are able to travel, you have some degree of privilege, so acknowledge it and always stay humble.

girl red wall china

Do What You Can

You may have heard this one, but do what you can to be a more sustainable consumer. I’m going to break it to you slowly, but travel is not good for the Earth. BUUUUT, neither are a lot of things. Some people may choose to transition to a Vegan lifestyle to offset inhumane meat industry practices while others choose to campaign and donate to ethical livestock organizations. In the same way, there are many ways to make travel MORE sustainable. Don’t beat yourself up about not saving the planet all by yourself. You shouldn’t feel bad about not doing everything – but try to do at least one thing. Find something that is easy to implement, and then do it! It can be as easy as just swapping out your travel products for sustainable alternatives, or donating to a carbon pollution reduction program every time you take a flight! Small steps. That’s all it takes.

More Suggestions on Sustainability:

  • Sustainable Products for Travel
  • Tracking and Offsetting Your Carbon Footprint
  • Sustainable Travel Hacks

Respect signs and rules

At the expense of sounding like a grouchy boomer, RESPECT THE LAW. And I’m not just talking about the police, because, obviously you should respect the local law enforcement. But I’m talking about etiquette rules and social practices of the place you are visiting. One of the big ones – STOP TRESPASSING FOR THE GRAM. It doesn’t matter how cool the vantage point looks. If getting to it includes trespassing, just stop. The likes and shallow clout aren’t worth it fam. When it comes to the outdoors, this applies as well, because the signs are there both for your safety and the safety of the plants and animals around you. Every year, hundreds of people fall to their deaths at natural sites and parks because they ventured too close to the edge, usually for a picture. Don’t add to the statistic. Oh, and don’t trample wildflowers.

Take a Deeper Look at Your “Mission Trips.”

Volunteering abroad is great. In theory. You and a group of like minded individuals set out to a less fortunate place with the intentions of helping them. Your group will usually assist in building houses, babysitting orphans, or constructing roads. Again, all good intentions. But, before you sign up, ask yourself. Is your presence necessary in that position? Are you REALLYY an asset to the effort, or will you likely be taking a project away from a local company that could do the same job more efficiently?

Have you heard of the term, “white savior complex”? Ignore the ‘white’ part of the term, as it can be applied to anyone from any nationality or ethnicity. The term stems from more privileged people going to less privileged communities, making charm bracelets at an orphanage, and then posting on social media about how many lives they helped. Good intentions, but even these superficial acts can have long-standing negative effects on the local community. First off, short-term orphanage visits can cause developmental damage to young children and upset their emotional well-being, creating separation anxiety and unhealthy attachments.

These communities use resources to support volunteers that could be put to more sustainable use by reinvesting the resources into themselves. Volunteers are also (usually) inexperienced, and again, the community must use time, energy, and money to either train/teach/chaperone the volunteers, or to redo their unstable work entirely. Plus, it can take away jobs from local labourers. That said, not ALL volunteering trips are bad. Just be sure to take a deeper look at the who/what/when/where/and HOW of the trip. If you wouldn’t do the same task in YOUR community, why do it in somewhere else? Ask the trip leader if perhaps donating the money (instead of your time) to the program would be more positively impactful.

Reevaluate Animal Encounters

While on the topic of ethical engagement – let’s talk animals. Unfortunately, animals are one of the most abused and exploited groups in the world, in EVERY country. The reason, simply, because people love animals. This dynamic creates and industry that thrives on tourists’ demands to experience an animal up-close, with little regulations on if these experiences are even ethical. There are a lot of grey areas when it comes to animals, so just use your best judgement. Here are some red flags to look out for:

  • Elephant Riding. BIG NO NO. Don’t ride elephants. AT ALL. Elephants are tortured for years in order to break their spirits enough for elephant rides. For more information on elephant abuse, refer to this article.
  • Chains on animals
  • Taking pictures next to normally-dangerous animals like lions, tigers, bears (they are often drugged out of their mindsss)
  • Overworked labor animals. Like horses, donkeys, mules, etc. These are animals bred for labor, but keep an eye out for any signs of mistreatment or malnourishment.

elephant

Decolonize Your World Perception

This may come as a shock to some, but history books are not unbiased. They praise certain historical figures chapter after chapter, but leave out the parts about slaughtering indigenous communities, exploiting resources, pillaging unarmed villages, and downplaying the enslavement of an entire continent. Today’s current global society is a painfully calculated result of colonialism. Recognize that. When you travel, make an effort to learn about the local culture of the region and the history from their perspective. How did World War II impact Korea during Japanese occupation of the region? Why is Cuba viewed as a dangerous country when it has one of the lowest crime rates and highest literacy rates in the world? When you learn to view a region’s history from their point of view, you are able to understand that country just a bit more clearly.

Support LOCAL – especially black, brown, and indigenous businesses

Speaking of decolonizing your mind, try decolonizing your wallet as well. As a traveler, your money speaks VOLUMES. The tourism market has the power to determine which businesses get published in the city’s “must visit” newsletters, which restaurants get placed on the food tour, and which companies get added to travel magazines. Never forget the strength of your money. That said, shop local. Big businesses have the luxury to afford lower costs, but small local businesses are the soul of the city. Plus, the souvenirs are usually better and more unique as well!

As you know, the world is unfair. So also keep a special eye out for businesses owned and operated by people of color and indigenous people. Statistically, they have lower loan approvals and higher interest rates, solely based on prejudices of banks and historical injustices. Be an ally and put your money where your ethical-consumerism is.

Give Back to the Communities you Visit

You came, you saw, you had an amazing experience. Travel really is transformative. Now, if you are so inclined, consider giving back to the communities that welcomed you for vacation. Donate to their environmental efforts. Buy some supplies for the local animal shelter. Tip the musicians bussing in the streets as you eat a romantic dinner.  This is probably the easiest and simplest request out of all the tips on this list. But if you are unable to give back to the communities you visit, you can still give back at home. The Global Dreamers Foundation is a non-profit organization that sponsors young adults with ethical and sustainable global opportunities! They are always accepting donations as well as applications

Stop Judging Someone Else’s Travel

Ah, now that you’ve home from your trip, no doubt travel is all you want to talk about. And, since you’ve now experienced such tremendous personal growth from following the first eight steps, you want to help make others better travelers as well! But…then you see your friends checking in at an American chain restaurant in Costa Rica. And going on a lion walk in South Africa. And going on a travel retreat with someone who isn’t even a local!! And even…TAKING A CRUISE??!? What are your friends thinking?

Well, before you jump on a pedestal and threaten to unfollow all of your friends. Breathe, and remember step 1. Humble yourself. First of all, not everyone is at the same point in their travel journey. A lot of people just don’t know that there are more sustainable or ethical options. Others have food sensitivities that make chowing down street food vendors with no ingredient list dangerous for them. Or mobility restrictions that make navigating to more difficult lodgings that may or may not be accessible to them. Don’t judge someone else’s travel because it seems basic or shallow to you. If you have suggestions, approach the topic from a stance of understanding and openness. If travel teaches you anything, it is that you don’t and never will know everything. Especially about other people. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

pink cherry blossoms flowers park

Bring Your Compassion Home with You

Now that you’ve spread so much sustainable positivity in the places that you’ve visited, you must now do the same at home. When you hear racism and xenophobia in your hometown, stand up against it. Be open and welcoming to different cultures, and make sure that your city does the same. During the 2020 COVID-19 #StayHome initiatives enacted by countries around the world, don’t be selfish. Don’t buy cheap plane tickets and potentially spread the virus to communities with already limited resources. To people who have lost their jobs, their livelihoods, and even their lives – please show empathy. Be kind, above all else, and do not use your energy to spread misinformation or chew people out if you feel they are promoting unsafe behavior. Treat others with the same level of compassion and understanding as you would a friend.

Be a good traveler, yes, but be an even BETTER person.

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