There are so many ways you can lessen your negative impact (and increase your positive one) when travelling.
There are so many ways you can lessen your negative impact (and increase your positive one) when travelling.

Holiday sins: The 7 new rules of travel

No one ever travelled to narrow their horizons. As Mark Twain famously wrote, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness …"

But as we flit around the world in a frenzy, trying to tick off all the things, are we in danger of travel becoming just another commodity? Of taking it for granted?

Travel has so many touch points, so many decision-making moments and the choices we make - and the attitude we keep - can affect not only our own experience but those around us, the countries we visit, and the industry as a whole.

"A lot of us see travel now as a right … when, in fact, it's a real privilege," says Dayana Brooke, director of The Sustainable Traveller.

Dayana founded the Virtuoso agency six months ago after becoming disillusioned with the business travel world and walks the talk, supporting "green" hotels and experiences, and giving her travellers simple tips to be more mindful about what they pack, saying no to plastics and travelling paper free.

"To me, being a better traveller means knowing my actions can have a direct impact in either a positive or negative way to the people around me and to the environment," she says.

Make your next holiday a more mindful one with these expert traveller tips.

It is possible to experience animal tourism experiences created to help preserve not exploit — you just have to do your research.
It is possible to experience animal tourism experiences created to help preserve not exploit — you just have to do your research.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

Of course there's the fun, surface level stuff to consider when planning a trip - where are we going? Where are we sleeping? What am I going to wear? But being a better traveller means thinking outside yourself to read up on the history and culture of your chosen destination before you go.

Can you dress the same as you do at home? Is it customary to tip while eating at a local restaurant? As Intrepid Travel's Brett Mitchell says, "The last thing you want to do is insult or exclude a local by a careless mistake that could have been avoided."

Liz Glover, marketing director at Scenic, schools herself on the economic status of her destination before she takes off, to be aware of what to tip. "Too low can be offensive, too high can actually be dangerous," she says.

Even knowing local quirks, like noodle slurping in China or a disdain for small talk, will stop you from misinterpreting certain behaviours and potentially making incorrect assumptions.

"If we are to breed good and harmonious relations between foreign communities and world travellers, having compassion, respect and cultural intelligence is critically important," World Expeditions CEO Sue Badyari says.

Don’t be one of ‘those’ tourists in Bali, who are disrespectful to local customs.
Don’t be one of ‘those’ tourists in Bali, who are disrespectful to local customs.

MAKE SMART CHOICES

We're living in a time flush with options - we can pretty much travel wherever we want using whatever method of transport suits our mood at the time, which means it's also becoming easier to make a statement with our tourist dollar.

Research the operators you're spending with - do they support the local economy and provide activities that are ethically aligned? If your aim is to give back on your travels, dig a little deeper to be certain you are actually supporting the vulnerable.

The Flight Centre Travel Group has established a Responsible Travel Charter to inform and educate customers on issues surrounding "voluntourism", orphanage tourism and animal welfare.

You may think you're helping but sometimes volunteers are brought in to perform duties that could be fulfilled by a qualified local, which denies much needed employment.

Travel Associates' marketing general manager Darren Wright suggests buying local and staying in local hotels versus big-name chains as one of the best ways to give back on your travels.

Consider staying in local hotels in lesser known areas (like Gokayama, Japan) in order to make sure your money is being fed back into the local economy.
Consider staying in local hotels in lesser known areas (like Gokayama, Japan) in order to make sure your money is being fed back into the local economy.

"I travel to Japan with my family a lot so we look for little villages and stay with families, which offers financial rewards to smaller communities," he says.

Buying souvenirs created by local artisans rather than cheap, mass-produced imports is also a win-win and, in some developing countries, you can help give back by visiting social enterprise - Emma Prineas from Wendy Wu Tours is a big fan of the gorgeous silks woven by artisans in Ock Pop Tok in Laos.

And while the perils of animal tourism are well documented, some experiences are actually created to help preserve not exploit.

At Singita lodges in Africa, a significant amount of the tariff is not taken as profit but funnelled into conservation and sustainability practices. A new property opening in Rwanda in 2019 is the result of a partnership with the Rwandan government to bolster their gorilla conservation efforts in the Volcanoes National Park.

Singita Sasakwa Lodge, Tanzania, funnels part of their tariff into local conservation efforts.
Singita Sasakwa Lodge, Tanzania, funnels part of their tariff into local conservation efforts.

HAVE R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Being on holidays equals switching off but, for some, that switch can flip far enough to forget manners, too. A cancelled flight, stressful taxi ride, or struggling with a stuffed suitcase through Venice's cobblestone streets can tip you over the edge and cause you to lash out.

Travel writer Craig Tansley is mindful that, "You're on other people's territory when you travel. How you handle that responsibility is a gauge of what sort of traveller you are - don't tread on too many toes."

If you consider every interaction in your travels as an energy transfer - from pressing the call button to your interactions with frontline staff at airports and hotels - it makes the "dramas" easier to shrug off. If you're agitated, it can spark a domino effect whereas if you can level yourself with everyone you meet along the way it makes for a smoother ride.

One of The Sustainable Traveller's clients was in Peru, about to board the luxury Belmond Hiram Bingham train to Machu Picchu, with only three days to see the sacred sights and then fly out. Her 89-year-old father flew in from the US to meet her as one of the last experiences of his lifetime. And there was a train strike.

"He was like, you know what, it wasn't meant to be. Even he was OK with it. But so many people would have been just like, 'where's the train, I've paid for all this, and it's a very high-end price!' Thankfully my clients saw it from the point-of-view of, 'why is there a strike, what does this mean for the locals, what's the purpose?'" Dayana says.

Open your mind and the truly good times that make travel so rewarding and worthwhile will follow.

Despite not getting to Machu Picchu, or its picturesque surrounds such as the Sacred Valley of the Incas or Urubamba Valley, the traveller kept their cool.
Despite not getting to Machu Picchu, or its picturesque surrounds such as the Sacred Valley of the Incas or Urubamba Valley, the traveller kept their cool.

TRACK YOUR IMPACT

Overtourism and exploitation are the darker sides of travel that no one wants to unwittingly support, which is why tour operator G Adventures has introduced its new "Ripple Score" - an evaluation score which indicates what percentage of a tour's local expenditure remains in the local economy.

The average Ripple Score across its 640 scored trips is 93, meaning that 93 per cent of the money spent in-destination across these tours is spent with locally owned businesses, benefiting local people.

"As I travel now I need to understand what impact my presence in a particular place has on that community (positive or negative)," says Lonely Planet's Chris Zeiher.

"Being aware is being empowered. It may mean I change my mind on visiting a particular country, city or region, or it may even influence what attractions I visit while I'm in a destination."

Rather than following the pack, Brett Mitchell from Intrepid Travel suggests travelling to less-frequented destinations, such as Komodo and Flores (in Indonesia) instead of Seminyak, to increase tourism dispersal and support local communities with your tourist dollar.

Don’t follow the pack: when next in Indonesia, try Flores instead of Seminyak.
Don’t follow the pack: when next in Indonesia, try Flores instead of Seminyak.

RESPECT FEES, RESTRICTIONS

Before you bemoan entry fees to wilderness areas or restrictions on visitor numbers, such as in Machu Picchu, think about why they've been implemented.

Land grabs to transform wild spaces into farms, or giant luxury resorts and golf courses are a big problem in areas such as Patagonia. South American travel experts, Viva Expeditions, reminds guests that entrance fees can help local people generate an income from their land, prevent tourist overcrowding and also stop the land being ravaged for commercial gain by speculators and big business.

CHANNEL CAPTAIN PLANET

The environmental impact of our travelling ways is impossible to ignore but with a few simple habits and mindshifts, it's easy to be a force for change.

Start with a BYO water bottle and coffee cup, say no to single-use plastics, don't use straws and you'll find the more you refuse, the most respect you'll gain.

You can even be a better traveller by using the right sunscreen. The Banyan Tree hospitality group has a new skincare range that includes oxybenzone-free sunscreen, helping to highlight the plight of our reefs.

The chemical, which is the ingredient that blocks the effects of the sun, has been found to contribute to coral reef bleaching and was recently banned by the state of Hawaii.

Making more considered choices inspires resorts to step up to the environmental plate, too. Can you join a local beach clean-up? Help to replant mangrove forests, such as the program at Nanuku Resort in Fiji? Take part in coral regeneration projects? Or consider your food wastage.

After removing plastic straws across their eight resorts in Asia, Club Med has pledged to ditch plastic straws from its 68 resorts worldwide by 2019. Since implementing a "Straw on Request" policy, replacing plastic straws with paper straws (and then only on request), Club Med Phuket alone has seen an approximate 76 per cent decrease in the use of straws, reducing the daily use by an estimated 1000 straws.

Even if you can't stay somewhere with eco credentials, Dayana from The Sustainable Traveller suggests you can still practise sustainable travel. "Knowing that you're going to reuse your towels or you've brought your own water bottle, you're going to say no to the plastics, that's just as important," she says.

Also consider your impact through air miles and fuel consumption - do you need two suitcases or could you share one between two? Every piece, or lack of it helps.

A reusable water bottle is an easy way to lower your impact. Picture: Averie Woodard
A reusable water bottle is an easy way to lower your impact. Picture: Averie Woodard

BE A GOOD HUMAN

Luckily, it's a rare person who doesn't translate their travels into a deeper respect and understanding for humanity and the land upon which we tread.

Being mindful of your behaviour and thinking about what you can give as well as receive may form the basis of being a better traveller but travel writer Craig Tansley suggests you can also do better by just not being like everyone else.

"If you're in, say Bali, and you notice a bunch of Aussies treating locals like they're below them, then you make a point of being the one who respects every local," he says.

"Even being respectful to one person can totally change the way they see tourists and it can also make that person's day.

"Be nice - it's super simple."

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