I’ve been travelling around pretty much non-stop since I was in my late teens. It’s not really that I have much of a bug for it, it’s just the way things went. A way for me to escape from one reality to another in the seemingly endless and still uncompleted quest to find myself and find ‘home’. 

I have the great privilege of being Canadian, meaning I’m welcome to visit most countries on a whim. I also have the luck of being a British man’s daughter and a Spanish / American man’s wife, thus giving me access to live beyond the borders that bore me. I’ve taken advantage of the opportunities life has given me without really giving thought to how selfish travelling really is.

Generally, nobody benefits from ones travels apart from one’s self, especially if you do it often and wander far from home. Until recently, I had never really thought about the impact my wanders had on the planet, on those I interact with, and on those who love me.

Tourism is worth $919 billion dollars, making it one of the world’s largest industries. Unfortunately, more often than not, our #wanderlust frolics impact the environmental, cultural, and socio-economic balances of the communities we visit, especially when heaps of tourists from one culture swarm another in unison. It causes globalization of food, travel, and hotels, diminishing the language and culture we travel to experience, assimilating countries to have the 'comforts' from 'home' abroad. Finding ways to rebalance the imbalance travel creates is an important part of being a tourist at all, and with a few edits in behaviour, the negative impact we carry, diminishes. 

☾⟠ 9 WAYS TO BE A BETTER TOURIST ⟠☽


⟠ ONE. TRANSPORTATION 
THE PROBLEMS: As tourism continues to grow, the carbon emissions caused by our goings and doings are also on the up. In fact, air travel is amongst the biggest contributors to the rise in carbon dioxide. One round-trip flight from New York to Europe creates a warming effect equivalent to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. The average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide a year; the average European, 10. I calculated my carbon emissions last year, and despite the fact I use public transport, live in a small apartment, don’t have air conditioning, use LED lights, and live an eco-friendly, zero waste, plant-based lifestyle when I’m at home; all of that effort is virtually erased the moment I get on a plane. My lifestyle without air travel omits about 3.0 tons of carbon, but as soon as I tack on my flights for the year those emissions jump to 11.6 tons. 

SOME SOLUTIONS: If you can’t walk, bike. If you can’t bike grab the metro, bus or train. If you need to rent a car, ask for a hybrid. If you take a taxi, download Lyft or Uber and use their pooling or green option. Offset the carbon you create, for plane travel especially, by opting to pay a voluntary carbon tax or travel by train instead. It’s an imperfect solution, as nothing completely reverses the harms caused by carbon emissions, but it helps you remain cognizant of your movements and their effects while signalling to the government that you care for climate, and funding good causes all at once. 
⟠ TWO. HOTEL 
THE PROBLEMS: Most hotels have horrifically wasteful practices, creating heaps of waste which they’ve now run out of places to hide, using ineffective water and waste management, unfair staff wages, energy efficiency issues, as well as noise, air and landscape pollution, the issues with mainstream hotels are endless. 

SOME SOLUTIONS:
a) Book with WANDER (wander.io)
WANDER is a hotel booking site which works a bit like Expedia, but instead of hoarding all their earnings for themselves, they donate a portion of the profits of each reservation booked to charitable organizations. WANDER works with several humanitarian charities and you’re able to choose while you book which one the proceeds are donated to. There are over 250,000+ hotels in 47,000+ locations around the world and with their service, the average traveller can bring sustainable solutions to communities in need. The price for you - whether you book with a site like Expedia or with WANDER - is the same. The only difference is the positive impact the money you spend has on those in need.

b) Use Less: You can make any hotel stay greener by avoiding using plastic. Bring your own reusable coffee cup and water bottle, reuse your sheets and towels, turn off the air con, turn down the thermostat, and switch off the lights when you leave the room.

c) Stay In A Sustainable Hotel: or if there are none, stay in a boutique hotel owned by local people. You can read my reviews on Copenhagen’s Manon Les Suites, Barcelona’s Hostal Grau, and Barcelona’s Jam Hostel for perfect examples of what hotels should be doing. As a bare minimum, call or email a few hotels before you book and ask the hotel to answer these questions (booking the one with the most positive answers):
1. Are they a member of Green Hotels Association or Green Key Global
2. Do they have efficient waste disposal?
3. Do they have any water-saving strategies implemented? 
4. Do they source their food locally and organically?
5. Do they use organic cotton linens?
6. Are their buildings energy-efficient?
7. How many local people do they employ?
8. Do they use non-toxic cleaning products?
9. Do they have a program that allows guests to choose to reuse sheet and towels?
10. Do they hire locally and promote locally owned businesses?


 THREE. FOOD 
THE PROBLEMS: Nothing annoys me more than seeing tourists choosing Starbucks over local café’s, especially in Paris where café culture is a genuine part of the experience. By eating food from chains, you’re putting a nail in the coffin of local culture and supporting a corporate giant rather than the local community and its agriculture. 

SOME SOLUTIONS: Find local restaurants to eat at, ideally ones which serve organic food, but just local is enough to make a difference. It will give you an authentic experience of the culture, save you money, support local farms, boost the local economy, reduce greenhouse gases, produce less waste, be fresher, have better flavours, and promotes diversification of local agriculture. The easiest way to find restaurants that are both good and green is to ask a local, but alternatively, you can try downloading the Slow Food app, which offers good, clean and fair places OR try the Happy Cow app, which helps you find organic vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants and stores. 

⟠ FOUR. SOUVENIRS 
THE PROBLEMS: Buying trinkets which say 'Paris' on one side and 'made in China' is pointless, they have nothing to do with where you’ve been or the culture of the place … they’re imposters. To top it off they’re likely made by people being paid unfairly and will find their way to the landfill within months of your return home. 

SOME SOLUTIONS: Support local artisans by buying locally designed and created items, buy useful things (like Marseille Soap), or consumables (like German Mustard), or artwork, or second-hand/vintage items. Some of my most cherished pieces come from second-hand shops visited on the road. It makes for a much more interesting story and it will hold a much more meaningful memory. You’ll find most local artisan creators at markets, and in galleries and boutiques. If you’re not sure where to go, ask a local! 


 FIVE. DRINK 
THE PROBLEMS: Anything that is imported from somewhere else leaves a carbon footprint, this goes for booze as well. French wine at American Tables, British Craft Beer at Bali Hotels, Mezcal in Nepal. 

SOME SOLUTIONS: Just about every culture has their own booze, and if they don’t, you probably shouldn’t be drinking there anyway. If it’s a dry country, try to respect that country’s wishes, it’s part of the cultural experience and I promise you, it won’t kill you.

⟠ SIX. FOOTPRINT 
THE PROBLEMS: Where there are tourists, there is garbage - and in many cases, this can be a major problem for the natural environment. Plastic bags take 200-1000 years to decompose, plastic bottles 450 years, coffee cups take 50 years, cigarette butts 10-12 years, plastic straws take 200 years … the list goes on. 

SOME SOLUTIONS: Leave NO Trace. You are a visitor, clean up after yourself and bring reusables so you can waste less. I’ve got a video HERE on some of the simplest sustainable switches that help you go litterless. Leave every place that you go in a better state than it was in when you arrived. 


 SEVEN. BE KIND AND PATIENT WITH EVERYONE 
THE PROBLEMS: Too many tourists are used to being catered to completely. Your presence is not a gift you are bestowing on another culture, it is them who are sharing their culture with you. 

SOME SOLUTIONS: Be gracious, be patient, be kind. Nobody owes you anything. Kindness begets kindness. Start a trend. 

⟠ EIGHT. LEARN SOME LANGUAGE  
THE PROBLEMS: English speakers are the laziest people in the world when it comes to expecting others to speak their language. Though English is undoubtedly the most influential on the global language field, from a socio-cultural aspect it has had a negative impact on the language and culture of certain countries, especially those colonized.

SOME SOLUTIONS: Learn a few words of the local language - travelling with respect earns you respect in return. As a bare minimum, learn how to say: hello, goodbye, thank you, please, excuse me, help. Learn how to count from 1 to 10 and try to have at least a vague understanding of the cultural norms and current political situations. Most importantly be polite and patient, don’t make fun of people speaking English imperfectly, they’re trying to meet YOU halfway, not the other way around ...

⟠ NINE. – RESPECT WILDLIFE 
THE PROBLEMS: From riding elephants, and feeding monkeys, to swimming with captured dolphins, and taking selfies with sedated tigers, hundreds of thousands of wild animals all over the world are taken away from their natural habitats, forced into captivity, and abused and exploited in the name of entertainment and profit. Don’t participate financially support the abuse.

SOME SOLUTIONS: Look but don’t touch. Check out this guide on how to ethically appreciate wildlife on your travels.

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SPONSORED POST: This post is sponsored by WANDER, a hotel booking site which works a bit like Expedia, but instead of hoarding all their earnings for themselves, they donate a portion of the profits of each reservation booked to charitable organizations. WANDER works with several humanitarian charities and you’re able to choose while you book which one the proceeds are donated to. There are over 250,000+ hotels in 47,000+ locations around the world and with their service, the average traveller can bring sustainable solutions to communities in need. The price for you - whether you book with a site like Expedia or with WANDER - is the same. The only difference is the positive impact the money you spend has on those in need.