As a travel blogger, the term sustainable travel has always intrigued me.
What does that mean? How is that achieved? Who can I talk to about the subject of sustainable travel? Well…luckily, through my Departure Lounge series, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with some amazing travel bloggers and this month is no exception.
- How do you incorporate sustainable / culturally conscious travel into your travels? How do you prepare? Can you give us some tips?
For us being sustainable and culturally conscious travelers means we always try and leave a positive impact wherever we go. This includes researching the countries etiquettes and cultural differences before we go anywhere to be sure while we are there we do not (in our best efforts) offend anyone. Also while we are in the country we always try and participate in activities that do not exploit or harm that countries people or animals. Sometimes this choice can be difficult, as some cultures have formed around unsustainable practices. But, we believe that choosing to not participate in those activities helps spread the word and educate other travelers as well as contribute to that practice coming to an end.
To make sure you are making ethical choices while traveling we highly suggest that you research research research before you go somewhere or take part in an activity. But sometimes you simply won’t know if the money you are paying to go on an excursion is going end up in the hands of a corrupt businessman, or help a father who has 6 children to feed. Trust your instincts, ask the locals, and try to get recommendations from others.
- Share one of your favorite travel stories. How do these type of experiences change you as a person?
I think it would be impossible to pick just one experience. We have a ton of stories and experiences that have shaped us into the people we are today. Some of these experiences have been amazing while others were challenging and scary.
My first time abroad I went as a solo female traveler to Tanzania and I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with two lovely ladies I had met a just few weeks earlier. I ended up getting altitude sickness and could not make it to the summit. Looking back is hard for me as it was an experience of a lifetime and I feel I could have pushed myself harder to make it to the top. But, I have learned overtime that these thoughts are generated from my anxieties and I can only do my best in each situation I find myself in.
We also pushed ourselves way out of our comfort zone when we sold everything we had and moving to the other side of the world to teach English in South Korea. After only being together for a year and a half this was also a test of our relationship and so we learned a lot about each other, how to travel as a couple and a lot about ourselves in general.
When traveling in Laos I decided to push myself waaayyy out of my comfort zone by trying to conquer my fear of heights on The Gibbon Experience. Lets just say I’m still scared of heights but so proud of myself for doing it.
Traveling and purposefully putting yourself in situations that are out of your comfort zone are both terrifying and amazingly addictive. You learn so much about yourself that you would have never known if you stayed in the one corner of the world you are from. Although, my absolute favorite part about the experiences and stories I have gathered overtime is having the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and learn about their cultures and traditions. Learning about the differences and similarities across different cultures is truly fascinating.
- What are your top 5 travel rules that you follow every time you travel and why?
- Research before you go. Find out what the local customs are, which areas of town to avoid, scams to look out for etc. Knowledge is power and nowadays there is SO MUCH knowledge out there.
- Bring a second debit card/credit card. One might not work and having that back up is a lifesaver.
- Don’t pet the street dogs. I know, I know! They are so cute! Until you get bit… not so cute anymore.
- Only eat where the locals are eating. No locals = most likely not so great food. If you eat street food, find the stalls where all the locals are going; that way you can be almost 100% sure you wont be up all night on the toilet.
- Live like a local. If the locals take the bus, take the bus. If the locals eat noodles, eat noodles. Obviously they know their country best. Doing what they do will give you the best representation of their country.
- What are your top 5 travel hacking tips and tricks? (Anything from navigating a city to booking flights and accommodations)
- Always search for flights in incognito mode on your web browser. If you don’t, cookies left behind will make the prices go up the next time you search the same flight.
- Take a picture of the front of your accommodation- that way if you get lost, you can show the picture to a taxi driver and they will probably know where it is.
- Download a map on your phone that works offline and use it for getting around but also for tracking where a taxi is taking you. In a lot of countries taxi drivers will take the long way for the extra mileage and if they see you using a map they might be less likely to do that.
- Learn a few phrases in the local language- even if you butcher saying it, the effort is usually much appreciated!
- Scan copies of all your important documents and keep them on the cloud or in your Google drive- that way if the worst happens you can print the scanned copies to help you get new documents.
- What are your top 5 travel things you must bring in your carry on, purse and/or satchel?
- Stomach medicine… you just never know when you might need some.
- Baby wipes- after a long day or flight its so refreshing to be able to wipe off the grime with some wipes!
- Of course all the electronics; phone, camera, chargers, kindle, computer etc.
- A change of clothes just in case your luggage doesn’t make it there or you still have a long journey ahead to your final destination.
- The comfort kit- noise canceling headphones, eye mask, neck pillow, earplugs etc.
- What is your most prized souvenir you brought back from abroad and what’s its story?
When I was volunteering in Tanzania the director of the school I was teaching at was from a Massai tribe. He invited my two friends and I to spend a day meeting his family and tribe. We were the first foreigners to visit his tribe and some of the children had never seen a westerner before.
The polite custom when visiting someone’s home in Tanzania is to bring a gift. We brought a practical gift, some sugar and flour. When we arrived we were immediately covered in the traditional dress; beaded necklaces, headdresses, neck rings, and plaid clothing. After spending the day dancing, singing, and eating, we started giving the dresses and all the jewelry back but they wanted me to keep one of the intricately beaded necklaces as a gift! I treasure that necklace dearly and will always remember that day.
- Where are you off to next and what are hoping to experience, eat, see and/or learn?
We’re in the process of planning a big backpacking trip around Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka! We are so excited to experience the extremely stimulating and rich culture we have heard so much about in India. We plan to stay for a while in an ashram for a little shock to the system and to build more on our meditation practice. We can’t wait to dive in and learn more about the Hindi religion and of course eat all the delicious curries, tandoori and lassis!
We also plan to hike the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. We are extremely nervous for this as I struggled with altitude sickness while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro- but thankfully the altitude is a bit lower on the Annapurna trek. We also hope to make it to the ever famous Sri Lanka- but we are leaving this up in the air for now and hope to have enough money to make it there after India and Nepal.
- I want to thank Ron & Jess for taking the time to talk to me here in the Departure Lounge! Be sure to follow Unearth The Voyage on Social Media:
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