(This post was brought to you in part by Travelocity. But we will never compromise our obligation to our readers. Our opinions remain our own.)
Every year at Christmastime, my mother chooses and champions a cause. In lieu of fruitcakes, popcorn tins and kitschy socks, she sends out donations to what she considers the best non profit organizations in our honor.
It’s not that she isn’t festive, or doesn’t believe in Christmas traditions. But when it comes to gift-giving, she assumes that the bulk of recipients have handled their own food, drink and decor.
Instead, she gives something that embodies the true spirit of the holidays. Since she started this tradition, many friends and relatives have followed suit. Our Christmas gifts now carry much more meaning, because they’re more personally reflective than any sweater or box of chocolates I’ve ever received. They are gifts from the heart that also help to make the world a better place.
So perhaps this year, in a time when both national and international philanthropy seem crucial, others might be interested in picking up this charitable giving habit. Whether it’s nature/wildlife conservation or the rights of women, children, racial minorities, the LGBTQ community and/or indigenous people, we can all find causes we believe in to support.
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…