How to travel sustainably

By Jen Becker
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When you hear the word “eco-tourism,” what comes to mind? Do you think of staying in a treehouse, being surrounded by all that nature has to offer or laying on the beach with a coconut in hand? These are all authentic visions of how we perceive the world of eco-tourism. Thinking on a bigger scale, there are more ways that you can see the world while being sustainable.

I am very fortunate and have been able to travel to a lot of places. Traveling through Asia has offered some of my all-time favorite places that I have been to this far in my life. I think the hardest part about traveling is the planning. Where will you sleep, eat and do while you are there? Here are some of the tips that I learned through my travels:

  1. When packing your belongings, think about what you will actually need versus what you want. Do you want to carry 30 pounds of stuff on your back when you could be enjoying something else? A trick is when you are done packing everything that you “want,” take a step back and cut the pile in half. Do you really need 10 shirts? Laundry does exist in other countries. Another good idea is to invest in quality travel gear. A backpack from Ross that is super cute is only $15, but will last you a hot 2.5 seconds on your trip. Invest your money in something that will last.
  2. Depending on your comfort zone, I would suggest checking out a hostel. It’s essentially a large dormitory filled with other travelers. One of the benefits of staying in a hostel is a very low-cost point. A lot of hostels are run by the locals – by staying there, you help the local economy and can learn about the local experiences!
  3. Do your research on where you are going and staying. Another tip of traveling sustainably is looking for places in a central area so that you are able to walk places or take public transportation. Making your way on foot also helps you see things that a paid ride could miss in the blink of an eye.
  4. One of the biggest tips that I learned aboard was buying locally. The “authentic” memento shops and gift stores in the most well-lit, tourist-friendly areas may promise good homemade crafts, but deal in cheap cookie-cutters. Avoid them. It is well worth spending those extra dollars on handmade local artisans products. Spending time with a local artisan or craftsman can be eye-opening for both parties: you’ll be able to watch a master at work and explain your own life in the meantime.
  5. “Bring your own” is even more important when traveling. Bring a reusable water bottle or coffee cup, pack it with socks or a t-shirt to save space. A reusable spork will have a huge impact on reducing waste while traveling.

I hope these tips can help you integrate sustainability into your next trip! I will leave you with one of my favorite mantras by author Aliyyah Eniath, “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures and kill nothing but time.”

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