In the last few decades, as world travel has gotten exponentially easier, global markets and exoticism have grown more trendy. Many harmful traditional practices rooted in local culture have been exploited for tourist revenue, despite becoming glaringly antiquated. While ritual remains important, times do change. And with them, so does the world.
Though there are many aspects of the “days of yore” that deserve to be preserved, we must collectively make progress towards a more just and responsible world.
While traveling, we often face choices that test our own resolve: Do we accept customs that are in direct disagreement with our own beliefs ? Or do we reject unethical practices that are considered conventional elsewhere?
Like many aspects of responsible. sustainable travel, it’s a tough tightrope to walk. The following are examples of harmful traditional practices to which, for many responsible travelers, the answer is a resounding “nay.”
The Responsible Travel slogan “Leave no trace” encourages us to explore the great outdoors without altering them. This mentality should obviously apply when visiting any of the 83 million acres of National Parks in the US, or the hundreds of other national parks around the world. But when it comes to protecting these treasured landmarks, leaving no trace just isn’t enough.
If you visited a National Park this year, there’s no doubt you saw garbage. You may have even seen vandalism or other saddening signs of disrespect. In 2014, a graffiti artist tagged iconic natural landmarks in at least 10 National Parks — unwisely posting selfies of the work to social media. This summer saw four young men wander off the path at Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone, endangering the fragile ecosystem in an area that was clearly marked off-limits.
Crowds flooded every park from Death Valley to the Everglades in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Parks, presumably toppling last year’s record of 282 million visitors. And while it’s wonderful to see so many people getting outside and exploring these beautiful spaces, the increasing crowds are a constant reminder that we must take great care of these places if we wish to continue enjoying their wild grandeur.
The following responsible travel tips will help you be the best National Parks visitor you can be, so that we can preserve these precious places for our children and the generations to follow.
SPECIES: Hairy Nosed Otter (Lutra sumatrana)
CURRENT RANGE: Small isolated populations in southeast Asia.
CURRENT THREATS: Habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade (both for skins and for pets).
CONSERVATION STATUS: Endangered
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: There is just one Hairy Nosed Otter in captivity– a rescued male at the Wildlife Alliance’s Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
I’d been traveling for years before I even considered the notion that travel packing tips could make a difference in the trips my wife and I took.
I was on my way to the airport after 8 weeks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when I first realized with absolutely certainty that my luggage had gotten out of hand.
Standing on the platform for the monorail, I’d already watched several trains go by. There were hordes of people rushing out of the cars, and equally overwhelming throngs loading them back up. My bags and I took up the space of at least five Malay people, and I hadn’t been able to bring myself to attempt boarding with the others.
Good packing is an experiential skill, and its efficiency should be savored. A well-packed suitcase or backpack makes a traveler’s life much easier.
It rids us of the ridiculous bevy of Travel Fashion choices we normally give ourselves, unloading the undue burden of carrying so much baggage (which is often just as much emotional as it is physical). It also makes the lives of those around us— other travelers, bellhops, drivers, etc.— easier when we aren’t hogging the overhead bin or swinging heavy objects about without the ability to see peripherally.
I had to learn this lesson the hard way. But with these travel packing tips, perhaps other long-term travelers will be enlightened to do as I say, and not as I’ve done…
We’ve been interested in learning how to create a DIY wildlife habitat in our back yard ever since 2011, when we first wrote about it. But it wasn’t until our self-imposed 6-month break from travel that we had the time to do the manual labor involved in transforming our suburban yard into a haven for nature and wildlife.
It all started in March with GGT writer Jonathan Engels’ Permaculture Garden Guide, which offered simple step-by-step instructions for us to follow. We tilled the soil by hand, added compost and mulch from the woods behind our yard, lined the beds with fallen pine logs, made worm towers, and used organic fertilizer to improve soil quality without harmful chemicals.
We covered more than half our yard with cardboard to kill weeds and grass, then covered it with pine straw. We surrounded the yard with flowering plants to attract bees and butterflies. We added a birdbath, and feeders for regular birds and hummingbirds. We pruned the overgrown fruit trees and created a massive pile in the back of our property, to provide shelter from predators.
We’ve still got a good bit of work left to do, but the results we’ve seen in just 6 short weeks are pretty amazing. Our first-ever garden is flourishing, with enough fruits, vegetables and herbs growing to feed our family for the second half of this year. We find ourselves working and eating outside more than ever, enjoying Atlanta’s wonderfully temperate Spring weather.
But the unexpected benefit of our work has been the increasingly frequent wildlife sightings we’ve seen in our back yard over the last few days. There have been hundreds of birds, including Hawks, Woodpeckers, and a Great Blue Egret flying overhead.
We discovered a Possum living in one corner of our yard and an adorable pair of Chipmunks living on the opposite side. We’ve seen Tree Frogs, Skinks, and this handsome Lizard, who sunned himself atop our wheelbarrow yesterday. And the grand total of our investment, including all the plants, fertilizer, pine straw, an electric chain saw, and a tree pruning tool, has been less than $400.
It’s been a lot of work, to be sure. But the cost and labor involved in creating a certified wildlife habitat has paid off in spades, making our back yard a much more enjoyable space for our family. And the fact that we can grow our own food while also providing a haven for these animals just makes the process all the more rewarding. –Bret Love
If you enjoyed reading about the Benefits of a Certified Wildlife Habitat, you may also like:
GO GREEN TIP #114: DIY Permaculture Garden Guide
GO GREEN TIP #108: Using Permaculture Principles in Travel
GO GREEN TIP #99: How to Make a DIY Vertical Garden
GO GREEN TIP 97# : DIY Rainwater Harvesting Tips
GO GREEN TIP #91: How To Attract Birds To Your Garden
GO GREEN TIP #87: How To Compost At Home
GO GREEN TIP #60: How to Create a DIY Wildlife Habitat