Conscious travel describes a tourist economy that doesn’t cost the earth. Our increasingly globalized world is constantly getting smaller, with flights jetting us off to the smallest of islands and the remotest of valleys. Tourism can come at a sharp cost to the local economy and culture, wiping out agricultural land, bringing in illegal substances, and destroying natural wildlife and ecosystems overtime.
It doesn’t have to be like this though. We strongly believe that traveling, and contact with new, different cultures can help broaden worldviews and help us be more flexible and critical when reasoning through important issues. And if we travel consciously, we can help build a sustainable travel and social economy through which both locals and travelers can benefit.
We learned an important phrase in Hawai’i that encapsulates the true meaning of conscious travel: Take nothing, and leave nothing behind. If we exercise a little mindfulness when traveling, we can all become conscious travelers, taking nothing, and leaving nothing behind (let’s maybe amend this to – take nothing but memories, leave nothing but positive vibes!)
So how do we practice conscious travel?
Think consciously of where you are going and what you are going to do there. Are the activities you are going to engage in going to harm anyone, or anything? You may be able to swim with turtles, but not touch or disturb them in any way. You may be able to hike up forgotten trails to beautiful ruins, but not leave any trash behind. You may be able to fly over beautiful waterfalls – but are the helicopters ecofriendly, do they disturb wildlife, and is the business local? Always ask these questions before booking your tours, there are plenty of local, eco-friendly businesses that would take you around to give you the same amazing experiences in any given destination. See our adventures for proof!
2) Engage with local businesses as much as possible. Buy local produce, eat local food, look for souvenirs made by locals – and the profits of which also go (preferably) directly to those locals. Are locals being exploited in any way by the businesses you’re engaging with?
3) Be mindful of sound pollution when traveling. We can’t stress this enough – we love to blast music with the top down too, but not necessarily when driving through quiet towns, entering sacred ground, or hiking lush forests. Be conscious of how loud you speak, and what you say – most places deserve quiet and solitude.
4) Respect the culture of the destination as you’d like them to respect yours. They may have different norms for clothing, interpersonal interactions, etc., but for them, so do we. Leave their culture intact, and respect their ways of doing things as you’d like them to leave, and respect, yours. We like to Google “things not to do in [insert where you are traveling to] when packing as a practical way to figure out the do’s and don’ts of a destination.
5) Don’t be discouraged. Conscious tourism isn’t hard – you just have to think, learn, and preserve. It doesn’t mean you can’t eat what you want to eat and drink what you want to drink. You don’t necessarily have to be a vegan (Kula is a pescetarian and Christian still eats everything, for example!) and you don’t have to only wear wicker shoes and stay exclusively with locals. We ourselves don’t profess to be holier than thou – we do what we can, and so can you! Conscious tourism just means that we should try to do what we can to help preserve the society we enter; we observe, learn, and don’t destroy it in our wake. And please, please, please don’t litter.
Globalization can be a wonderful thing if used wisely, and conscious travel can help us create tourist economies that both the locals and travelers can benefit from. Take nothing, and leave nothing behind. Be conscious, and be welcome again!
Are you a business, traveler, or creator who practices conscious tourism? We’d very much like to hear from you! Even better, we’d love to work with you. Leave us a comment or write to us at acoupleonabudget [at] gmail [dot] com.