Conscious travel is about making mindful and responsible decisions –towards exploration and journey. These could be decisions of various kinds where to stay, what activities to engage in, which services to use, what goods to purchase, and how to behave with locals
Booking an all-inclusive resort, whiling away the day sipping cocktails by the pool, shopping designer labels from those luxurious multistoried malls – is this really a travel exploration?
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In this new period, where everything is centered on minimizing individual carbon footprint, why not apply the same rationale to our vacations?
While we are somewhat acquainted with the jargon surrounding the latest movements in leisure travel, such as experiential, transformative, sustainable and regenerative. Conscious travel is the new way forward - a synthesis of the aforementioned travel trends.
So, what does conscious travel mean?
Aware or conscious travel is about making mindful and responsible decisions –towards our exploration and journey. These could be decisions of various kinds about where to stay, what activities to engage in, which services to use, what goods to purchase, and how to behave with the locals. Being 'conscious ' in no way means giving up your freedom or reducing your air travel; on the contrary, it means pursuing as much introspective and geographical exploration as possible.
In addition to leaving an environmentally good impact and repairing the damages of past reckless travels–empathetic and conscious travel is essential for our own personal growth as global citizens.
There are many ways to become a more conscientious traveler, but here are five simple ones to get you started. And keep in mind that it might end up costing a little more and requiring a bit more preparation than you're accustomed to.
1. Pick your destination wisely
The first step in every trip should be deciding where you want to go. It's not about where you go but how you travel that makes you a conscientious traveler. While everyone else is posting Insta-perfect pictures of themselves in Maldives, Turkey and London, you could use your vacation to experience the real deal- meet real people, experience the culture and get a feel for what it's like to live there.
In lieu of the typical tourist attractions, you could also try visiting somewhere unusual and off the beaten path. An article in National Geographic claims that not only would visiting a relatively unexplored location fill you with the enthusiasm of discovering a new and uncharted region, but it will also facilitate your attempts to be more conscientious. For instance, in Italy, Treviso about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of the popular destination of Venice, is a lovely alternative – and a place that hasn’t yet been as commercialized as Venice. For people visiting Iceland- choosing to skip the capital city of Reykjavik and go to the non-touristy peninsula in the northwest of the country- Westfjords could be an interesting option. This is a place in Iceland which is more like a virgin unspoiled paradise where you'll find quaint cottages, bungalows, and cabins dotting the beautiful scenery of snow-capped mountains, and cascading waterfalls. Exploring places like these would not only allow you to uncover novel beauty - but would also be beneficial to the economies where you are travelling
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2. Support local
Once you've arrived at your final destination, it's time to start paying attention to what you do. If you want to save money and also help the place you are visiting, be selective and conscious. Pause for a while and observe how the locals behave and the things they choose. Getting a sense of the local opinions on how best to proceed will help you immensely on your trip.
Stay: Staying in an Airbnb or bed & breakfast is a fantastic first step in helping the local economy. Smaller hotels may also be eco-friendly options; for instance, a place that runs on solar energy, feeds guests breakfast made from locally sourced organic ingredients, and hires locals.
Experiences: One of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel is by seeking out new and exciting experiences right in your own backyard. Consider taking out a few hours to drive to a nearby beach or forest if you're itching to get out of town. A short trip like this might seem like a lifetime away and yet aid “non wasteful travelling”. Always be sure to listen to the local guides or friends that you meet while you are traveling and drawing inspiration from their experiences – this could be a great approach to creating memorable moments.
Dining: Eating locally is another method to reduce your impact on the environment. One could also choose to visit the nearby farmers’ markets and supporting local growers. Gaining an insight into the local tastes and cuisines could be very enriching and adventurous
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Adopting local habits: Learning the local way of doing things can help you stay out of trouble and also teach you proper etiquette. You may also help the local economy by staying with a local family, hiring a local guide, or participating in a volunteer program. Friendships of a lifetime are frequently formed when travelers choose to stay at homestays or tiny B&Bs and use local transportation in the area.
3. Pack wisely
It’s important to be cognizant of the fact that as travelers while we are at the holiday spot only for a short period of time - but the people who live there shouldn't be forced to cope with the consequences of our irresponsible behavior.
That’s why it is extremely important to give a careful thought to your packing process.
Keep a copy of your hotel confirmations, flight tickets, and insurance documents, on your mobile to avoid unnecessary paper wastage and keep track of all of your trip. If your phone ever gets stolen or lost during the trip, you would still be able to access these documents through email, or via a cloud storage service.
Careful vacation planning also includes taking just the essentials . Create a list of the things that are absolutely necessary for you to take with you. Select pieces of clothing that are understated and multifunctional rather than purchasing a large number of items that are not essential. This will be advantageous for you since it will lessen the weight of your luggage that you have to carry, and it may even have an effect on the total weight of the airplane, which is significant because a heavier plane consumes more fuel.
When you go shopping, bring reusable water bottles, coffee cups, straws, soaps rather than bottled shower gels, and lightweight tote bags with you to cut down on the amount of single-use plastic you consume.
4. Shop consciously
Think about buying experiences rather than material goods. Instead of purchasing trinkets to remind you of your trip, why not take a walking tour or photography tour to get a feel for the local culture and history? That magnet on the fridge won't stay as long as the things you remember.
But if you at all feel a shopping spree, you don't have to kill it, there are ways to indulge in it and yet be responsible.
Giving business to the local shops and merchants gives you the ideal chance to practice your language skills, understand the local mindset, and establish a real connection with the location that you are visiting.
Make an effort to buy clothing that was created responsibly – by hunting for brands that adhere to ethical standards. They could be ethical in a variety of different ways. A majority of them make their designs using materials that are either organic or recycled, are open about their supply chain, and have decent working conditions for the individuals working with them.
Ditch the mall culture and explore those narrow-hidden alleys, to find tiny little shops selling the most unique creations- hand carved art , beautifully embroidered clothing to heirloom jewellery that the owners have been making for generations. With experiences like these- you are not only purchasing a memento for your trip, but you are actually making an investment in the culture of the area. A lot of travelers have now also started opting for seconds hand products- with the intent of giving previously treasured goods a new lease of life.
5. Respect local culture
Your mind and heart must be open before you start the trip. “Aware Travel” also means -experiencing “mindfully”. Taking in, absorbing and being open and receptive to new experiences. Living each moment to a 100 percent- allowing these new learnings to widen your horizons and make you embrace a whole new way of living life.
Learn more about the local culture by reading books about the place, going though blogs and Vlogs, watching online documentaries could really help you gather an understanding of the place. You could also familiarize yourself with the location by speaking to seasoned travelers who have experienced the place before you and making a checklist of things to do and to avoid.
As a "Guest" in the new town – It is essential to show respect for the locals whose principles you are not familiar with rather than attempting to impose your own belief system on them. When you respect others, they will likely respect you in return, which will help you form meaningful connections with the people in the community. Locals will frequently support you and be more forthcoming with information about their life if they see that you are making an effort to learn and respect the cultural norms of their society.
As Global citizens- Home is not just where we will- it includes every place we inhabit for even a while. It is key for us to see ourselves as representatives and ambassadors of our own nation and culture. As we leave our foot prints across the world- we also need to leave memories which are worthy of being cherished. We can’t afford to be the privileged travelers using the locals as props for our social media feeds. Building in the feeling of humility and compassion is essential in our travel journey. As the new age traveler it is important to be fully aware and make our wholehearted efforts in assisting people across the globe in preserving this beautiful planet.
(Edited by : Jerome Anthony)