Do you know what it means to be a responsible traveler? I feel bad when I see photos on social media and around the world, of travelers with behaviors that attack our environment, biodiversity, the conservation of species, and against the inhabitants of the places they visit. In this post, I want to give you a quick guide on how and why we should avoid falling into these types of behaviors.
1) Photos or activities with animals outside their natural environment: Unfortunately the tourism industry has taken advantage of the desire of many to kiss a dolphin, ride an elephant or embrace a white tiger, but it doesn’t make it right. If you investigate a little, you will realize the terrible practices of coercion that the animals have to go through to interact with us; Tigers are absolutely drugged and stripped of will, elephants are mistreated with electricity and fire, and dolphins are locked in small pools forced to learn tricks just to satisfy the curiosity of man.
Aware of the rising trend of responsible travelers, the tour operators disguise the same abuse in the form of “sanctuaries”. In Thailand, several of these elephant sanctuaries now force these animals to bathe up to 8 times a day, so that people can groom them, which is absolutely exaggerated for their needs. Although, little by little, they have been forbidden to ride them, they still find a way to profit from them and continue to harm them (read here what my friend from La Vida Nómade tells about the mistreatment of elephants in Asia).
My advice? investigate, if you see that an animal is tied so you can take a picture with him, it is clear that there is abuse, investigate even beyond the obvious. It was fashionable to take pictures with starfish but it has proven that they only need seconds to die once out of the water. Even if you don’t take them out of the water, they suffer from stress when they are poke and that the chemicals of the UV filters that we use affect their pH balance, something similar happens with the corals.
Many marine animals are losing their innate ability to get food, because they are fed on purpose to keep them closer to tourists, I will never forget in San Andres, Colombia the stingrays tour where they invite you to take a picture using a stingray as a table to hold your beer. In El Ñuro, Peru, something similar is happening with the turtles, which are over feed to stay by the dock so that people can go down to swim with them. In Holbox and the Philippines, as a great attraction, they offer you to swim with the Whale Shark, the largest fish in the world. The stress caused by the noise of the boat engines has already been studied and many of the Whale Sharks have been injured because they get too close, in addition to being disoriented by the vibration that these boats emit.
If you are an animal lover, you will see that there are many conservation areas scattered around the world. You will have the opportunity to see them in their natural environment without any kind of human intervention and you are warned beforehand that you may or may not see animals. That it will depend on how lucky you are that they appear during your visit.
You can also investigate volunteering in places where they are responsible for the preservation or rescue of endangered species. In Mano Juan, a small town in the Dominican Republic, for example, there is a fisherman who dedicates all his effort to the preservation of the turtles. The turtle eggs are sometimes sold because they are considered an aphrodisiac.There you can see them up close in the effort that is made to preserve them.
This blog is committed to discard the practices of animal abuse related to tourism and belongs to FAADA (Foundation for Advice and Action in Defense of Animals), a global organization that fights for this purpose, if you want more advice on how to be responsible travelers with the animals do not miss out what they have to say.
2) Extreme bargaining in destinations visibly below the poverty line: this topic had previously touched on an article about fair trade. It is true that in many places bargaining is part of the culture and sellers expect them to do so, but in other places they are not. If you are in a visibly poor place where you can see how much effort people put in make the crafts they sell, if you can realize that it is not mass-produced products in China and that prices are already too cheap, pay what is worth, be a responsible traveler, leave your money in the hands of people who need it and contribute your bit to the development of the local economy.
3) Take “memories” of the environment they visit: It has become a trend to take sand from beaches around the world and then put it in a vase back home. It may sound exaggerated, but those “littles” are adding up and have made sandbars disappear around the world.
Same goes with seashells and even with stones that have been part of ruins of ancient civilizations that are considered world heritage sites. In China they even sold small live turtles condemned to die in the form of key rings. Avoid all these practices, be environmentally responsible travelers. In addition to the damage you can cause to the environment, in many countries, this constitutes a crime punishable by law. Do you want to expose yourself to that?
Try that your premise is not to take more than the garbage of the places you visit. In addition to photos and your good memories and if you want to take something extra, you can buy some crafts and going back to the previous point, to help the local economy. I collect beer caps that later become magnets at home, during the trip they do not weigh or take up space in my luggage and they are also waste material.
4)Not respecting the inhabitants of the places they visit: arriving and shooting the flash in the face of a person who is doing his daily life for your instagram is disrespectful. Let’s be respectful with people, if you want to take photos ask them for permission and better yet, if you can, then share the photo with them in some way. Get involved with people in the places you visit and you will definitely take memories and experiences much deeper than a photo.
Respect also that the fact of being on vacation does not give us the right to interfere in the life of the inhabitants of a city, that is why many cities are trying to stop the amount of tourists who arrive, Venice and Barcelona for example . In the same city where I live, Viña del Mar, which is full of tourists in the summer, life can become unbearable, because tourists stay on the balconies of buildings singing while drunk until dawn, not caring much that people who live around have to work in the morning.
5) Post photos of children on your social media: children represent joy and innocence in its purest form and without a doubt are feelings that we often want to portray and that can represent very well the idiosyncrasy of a place. But did you know you could be hurting them? Various international organizations for the protection of minors (such as the International Convention of the Rights of the Child) have called for the dismissal of these practices, unless you have written permission from the parents of the minors. Therefore, by exposing them in a public way, including their geographical location and also being mostly vulnerable children, we expose them to trafficking networks. Unfortunately, this type of crime with minors is still a daily occurance in many places around the world and we do not want to be those who passively contribute to this happening. Let’s be responsible travelers.
6) Running stupid risks for a photo: ufff! This seems obvious, but there are travelers who are willing to risk their lives for a photo. The pic below was taken at Maho Beach, St. Marteen, a beach known for being close to the airport and because planes land and take off a few meters away from you. It is full of warning signs because the planes when turning on their turbines literally make you fly. A few months ago a woman fell on the berm and hit the head, causing her death immediately. However, there is always someone who wants to take the risk.
In the Tatio Geysers, located in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, there is a story of a traveler who got too close to the Geisers to take a picture and ended up falling inside, at that temperature and far from everyone else, it was impossible to save his life, and all for one picture. Evaluate the danger and do not take silly risks for having the best photo, it’s not worth it.
8) Do not follow the rules of protected areas: If you like to camp, follow the rules of the places you visit, be extremely careful if you do campfires, known cases such as Torres del Paine where thousands of hectares were burned by irresponsibility of a traveler making a fire in a forbidden area. If you are visiting heritage sites or sacred areas, be respectful with different cultures and take care of what you have in front of you. If you do not do it, not only are you contributing to the destruction of the site, you also expose yourself to pay thousands in fines or even jail sentences. Is this how you want your vacation to end?
It is up to us to contribute to making the world a more kind and safe place, respecting the inhabitants of the places we visit, their children and above all, taking care of the planet because we don’t have other one and we are destroying it slowly. Nobody is born knowing all these premises, I also made mistakes at the beginning of my traveler life but we can pass on the message to educate other travelers and reduce these practices little by little. Have you encountered any of these situations in your travels? tell me your experience …