A socially responsible traveller explores destinations beyond touristy hotspots and spends as much of their travel budget as possible to support the local community. If you want to be aware of the social impact of your holiday, read this article. And if you decide to plan your next trip with these guidelines, you might notice a significant difference.
1. When looking for accommodation or food, favor local homestays and restaurants
By sleeping in local homes and eating in restaurants owned by locals, you ensure the money you pay goes directly to local people. If spending your entire holiday in someone’s home feels like too much, try to find private guesthouses and bed & breakfasts owned by locals.
Finding them might sometimes be more difficult, but you will be rewarded with an atmosphere way different than in international hotel chains. Also your wallet will praise your choice!
2. Forget Lonely Planet and get familiar with the destination by asking around
Leave travel guides in your room and talk to locals - also someone else than the waiter of your restaurant. Ask tips about their favourite bars, restaurants and activities.
You will hear about alternative experiences that you couldn’t find by following other tourists and travel routes. For example in Bali, locals who surf and practice yoga are extremely rare, although the general image about the island makes you to believe that.
3. Do a little research on the companies selling you activities and excursions
As for sleeping and eating, also with your excursions you can decide who to give your money. By asking around and getting familiar with smaller, local companies you can avoid overpaying huge international organizations where your cash does not support the local economy.
Duara Travels does not encourage you to support animal tourism where animals are touched, such as elephant treks or zoos with tigers for people to pet.
4. Dive into the local culture
A socially responsible traveller tries their best to adjust into the local culture. Taking part in the local community’s daily life is an honor for the villagers - as long as you do it with respect.
If you remember to dress accordingly and behave discreetly you will go a long way. With a bit of luck you might get to follow a hindu ceremony in a Sri Lankan temple, among other unforgettable experiences.
5. Don’t forget to enjoy the small stuff
If your are staying in a local house, go the the market with your hosts, cook with them a speciality from your home country or participate to a football game with the neighbourhood’s children.
The locals appreciate your culture at least as much as you look up to theirs.
6. Think what the best way to help is
If you want to help the locals somehow, weight first the positive and negative aspects of your actions. Bringing pens and clothes to street association, visiting an orphanage, or participating to voluntary programs are not always the best ways to contribute.
If the locals don’t know what they would need, accept it. It’s often more empowering to help the community to employ themselves by purchasing products and services from them, than by doing charity.
7. During your trip focus on improving yourself but also others
You are not travelling only for you. Thanks to your visit the locals get a possibility to share about their culture, to learn new languages and to employ themselves.
When travelling in vulnerable destinations, break the stereotypes about cold and distant travellers by asking questions about their lives and by telling about yours.
8. Forget about social media and focus on being here now
The most important tip for a modern traveller today. Forget to hunt for the perfect holiday picture for Instagram, relax and take pictures only when you really feel like it. This way your pictures will be more authentic, and maybe even better!
Text Salia Binaud. Photos by Duara.