5 ways to be a responsible traveler

Every time, I am out on the roads, I overhear people complaining about traffic and pollution. Have you ever thought who is responsible for it? Commuting to work, just by yourself in a car, for 30 odd kilometers one-way, makes you the traffic more than anyone else. Similarly, it astonishes me whenever someone blames the world for global warming while their own TV sets are switched on without an audience. My own family does it, for that matter!

In recent years, people have started travelling more than ever. But, sadly a lot of them don’t know how to do it right. Destinations like Nainital and Shimla have been damaged beyond repair. And yet every time you’re there, you can see families littering those places away. It looks like they don’t seem to understand that Mars may not be able to accommodate us all once we destroy the Earth.

Here are some ways to not be an ‘Irresponsible Traveler’ –

Minimize the use of Plastic

The easiest way to start doing this is to stop buying water bottles every now and then. Carry a bottle and refill it throughout your trip, from water filters at your hostel/hotel, and restaurant or from a natural fresh water stream.
In the same way, replace the plastic bags with re-usable cloth bags. It’s one miscreant that needs to be done away with.

A tin can doesn’t belong in a park!

Remove excess packaging

This applies specially while hiking or camping. Some of the items may have layers of wrappers that can be taken away, so that you aren’t carrying extra trash to dispose of. A few places in the outdoors may not have garbage bins. So, it’s advisable to either remove the packaging in advance, or put it back in your bag instead of throwing it away. You may have seen the world but you can’t be considered a traveler if you litter.

Polythene on tree
You sure don’t want to come back with such pictures. Do you?

Choose your accommodation carefully

A few things you can ask before booking a place to stay –

  • Do they have an option to minimize washing sheets and towels?
  • What are their waste disposal methods – recycling, reusing?
  • What type of water saving policies do they have?
  • What are some of their other environmental programs?
  • Do they encourage switching off lights, when not in use?

Depending on your interests and duration of stay, you can also find out if they involve the guests to indulge in ongoing Eco-projects, if any.

Tree huts Goa
Eco-hut in Goa

Watch your transport

Don’t take out that car of yours, each time you plan a vacation. For destinations closer to home, take the bus or train, as much as possible. Try to use public transport locally, instead of hiring a cab. Rent a cycle, if available. Kayak/raft in place of using a motorboat. Walk a lot. There’s no better way to see the world than on foot!

Two sides of a road in Tehran
Two sides of a road in Tehran

Shop sensibly

Before buying a product, ask what it’s made of. Don’t collect souvenirs just for the sake of it. Avoid purchasing things such as tortoise shell, ivory, animal skins or feathers. You may be tempted to buy beautiful shawls made of horse hair in Jodhpur or leather jackets from animal flesh in Chennai. But, before paying the bill, make sure you inquire if animals were deliberately killed for business.
Another way to be a more responsible buyer is to ask if the goods have been produced locally.

Souvenir shop at Greece
A souvenir shop in Greece

The ecological balance or imbalance depends on how you act. Every step matters.
Want to add anything to the list? Please feel free to leave a comment.

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© 2016, Swati. All rights reserved.


  1. Thanks for this informative post.In future When I make a plan for a tour then I will follow your all suggestion. I think people also follow them and make a responsible traveler.

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