Traveling can be a big threat to the planet—both environmentally and culturally. There, I’ve said it. As much as those of us afflicted with wanderlust don’t want to admit it, that is a cold hard truth.
There are many ways in which tourism is wreaking havoc with places—but there are also many ways in which we, as travelers, can minimize that negative impact. It’s all about being aware, conscious and mindful. And the absolute number one, easiest general principle to follow to put tourism in the beneficial balance column rather than the detrimental is this:
Travel like a local. As much as possible.
Recently I have discovered a really great travel resource called the WHL Group. It is the largest local-travel company in the world, and is a global network that helps travelers find unique ways to experience a destination through local tourism professionals. WHL Group companies empower local partners who have practice in experiential and mindful travel, and a local’s knack for identifying, explaining and sustaining the distinctive qualities of a place.
The Local Travel Movement connects travelers with locals at their destination, to help them respect the culture, heritage and environment where they are traveling and have a more authentic cultural exchange. The movement defines Local Travel Values:
- If you are mindful of the local people, you put yourself in the locals’ shoes and discover what they really think.
- If you are mindful of the local environment, you put yourself in the heart of it, feel its beauty and power, and do what you can to preserve it for the future.
- If you are mindful of the local culture, you put yourself in the local mindset and share in activities and experiences as locals do.
- If you are mindful of the local economy, you put your money into local business and ensure that your tourism benefits the right people.
The Travel Word is the blog and newsletter of the WHL Group, showcasing sustainable and local travel. I was highly impressed with a recent post on The Travel Word, that asked numerous travel professionals: “What is tourism’s biggest threat to the environment?“
Turns out that the answers aren’t surprising in a way; but should also ring many alarms in the tourism industry. I would like to share a brief bit of the findings, because I think that by being aware of these things we can consciously craft our travel experience in ways that will not only preserve the ecology and cultures of our planet, but also give us a much better travel experience.
What is tourism’s biggest threat to the environment?
The article ends with an encouraging example from the WHL Group’s CEO, Len Cordiner:
Here are a few more resources to help you travel like a local:
- Tripping.com – I just discovered this awesome resource; connecting people in over 175 countries for travel tips, shared cups of coffee, rideshares and homestays. Tripping is safe, free and good for the world. You can also find cool places to stay in 15,000 cities.
- AirB&B – Airbnb is a global network of accommodations offered by locals. It’s more fun and very cheap, especially in big cities like New York, San Francisco, etc. It’s also a great place to rent your own place out (I’ve done this twice), earning you money to fund your travels.
- Housetrip.com – Experience the greatest alternative to staying in hotels. Like AirB&B, Housetrip lets you find apartments, houses and other individual accommodations when you travel; Housetrip is based in Europe, but has hundreds of thousands of listings all over the world.
Travel like a local!
There is no excuse for mindless travel.