- Elizabeth Cochran
How to be a Sustainable Traveler
As a solo traveler I try to minimize my impact as a traveler and be intentional about my travel, my impact on local economies, and supporting ethical practices as a traveler. I am a solo traveler most times and a budget traveler. I travel for the experiences of traveling itself, immersion, learning about cultures, and interacting with the country by learning languages, or getting involved in the community.
Why is this important? I have traveled to many countries solo, and I have realized something major, which is tourists have power over the economy, and over the demand. When over tourism occurs, the local economy pushes themself to the brim to reach demands. The demands of tourists often influence things such as child labor, putting women at risk, and depleting the nature of its beauty or over-exploiting a country's resources. This is a far too common issue with mass tourism. This is a problem because it puts vulnerable groups at risk s.a. women, children, poor communities, wildlife, and so on, and thus the people are forced to stay in the cycle of demand. It saddens me to see beautiful cities with rich history, locals, tribes, lots of unique nature and animals get ruined due to over-crowding and people demanding services that are unethical.
Recently, I revisited Thailand after being gone for 6 months and I realized things are rapidly changing. The country is adapting for the floods of tourists, and I must say I am not so sure this is a good thing. I lived in Thailand for about three years and saw the land filled with tourists back in 2019 and was there during hard times of covid, when Thailand resumed in slow life, lockdowns, and nature recovering. I lived in Chiang Mai after the worst part of covid, and returned now recently as a traveler, rather than an expat. I have some major thoughts about this with the increase of digital nomads, retirees, elitists, green supporters, and the party goers.
Since so many types of people and groups of people are moving to Thailand or just visiting there are some things you should understand and respect the local life. Moving to Thailand is being encouraged at this time, but that doesn't mean that the locals are happy about this. They have no control over this, there is just a high demand. Since you are a guest in the country for whatever reason you are traveling, respect the locals, learn some phrases, it is the least that you can do.
What you can do 1. Read and research Before going to any country really, I recommend you do a bit of research. WE have so many possibilities for learning, so read a book about the country, look up videos, blogs, read about the customs, and have a general idea of what you are getting yourself into, whether you are traveling for work, moving there, or visiting it's important to not remain ignorant.
2. Respect the people and customs Because you are a visitor of their country, respect their customs, culture, languages, and be open to experiencing differences no matter how big or small they are. Let's say you want to order something customizable at a restaurant , and they say they cannot.. be flexible and patient, in most places this is an odd behavior. If you are going to a country that dresses more modestly abide by this. If you go to holy places all over the world it is very common to dress respectfully, it's just common sense. Just observe the locals and try your best to respect their customs.
3. Say no to touristy things
Why do I say this? Mass tourism, while it is good to support the economy, often it is not done in a sustainable way. Visit maybe a different city or just be mindful of your impact when you are a tourist. Mass tourism often puts vulnerable groups at risk such as, women, children, LGBTQ, minority groups such as indigenous people, animal, and wildlife. 4. Support Local
Things you can do rather than support touristy things are go for a hike, buy only local products, eat local foods only, get involved in the community, support locals in every way possible. Volunteering can be a wonderful thing, and you will learn a lot of the local customs, culture, and make friends who are similar. I volunteered in Chiang Mai at "New Hope" as street dogs are at risk and in a big need of support, love, and care. Visiting ethical places for animals, such as Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is highly recommended to support local and give back with your travels. If you like what you read then check out my podcast. I have a monthly newsletter also, so don't forget to get on the list.
Thanks for reading. xx