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Becoming a Mindful Traveler: 4 Ways to Plan a Socially Conscious Trip

Posted by on February 13, 2020 in Economy, Travel with 0 Comments

By Lilly Miller

In the past several decades, traveling has become much simpler, easier, and more affordable than ever, allowing people to see the world first-hand, book cultural experiences and immerse themselves in new societies. All of these conveniences have brought about a surge of travel companies offering a wide array of different packages that can be more or less sensible for your wallet – but how well do they pan out on your ethical scale? 

The idea of eco-tourism and socially-conscious travel can both be considered two notions under one, an overarching principle called mindful travel. Being mindful means that you’re fully aware of the impact your travel choices have on the world around you, not just nature and the environment, but the people, cultures, and economies of the places you visit. 

There are many ways in which you can transform your own travel itinerary and habits to become a more mindful traveler and keep the social, environmental, and cultural effects in mind when you make your decisions. Here are a few to start practicing for more mindful travels!

Support the local economy

First and foremost, you need to educate yourself and be respectful of the local culture whenever you travel somewhere new – that means abandoning stereotypes and expectations and showing basic respect towards their different cultural norms. Take the time to learn about what makes each destination unique, and how you should adapt your behavior to show respect for their societal customs and traditions. 

Above all, use your knowledge to support the local economy by purchasing from local businesses when you want to take a souvenir to someone you love, when you’re preparing a meal (use farmers’ markets), and stick to locally-made, seasonal goods. This is an incredibly simple way to contribute to the development of a society that has welcomed you into their unique world. 

Focus on safety on the road

Awareness extends beyond the places you visit and the activities you book. It also encompasses your own behavior and preventative measures you take to increase the safety of others as well as your own. If you have decided to take a road trip and learn more about a nearby animal sanctuary or a nature reserve, or a city, you should look for better car insurance policies that suit your travel needs, your make and model, and your driving habits. 

This helps you implement best practices when taking care of your car, and it’s an investment that ensures you’re covered in case of an accident. Plus, these policies aim to reward drivers who tend to use their vehicles on occasion, rather than every day, so if you’re normally cycling, walking, or using public transportation and your car serves as a road-trip resource, then insurance perks can help you save up and stay safe at the same time. 

Be mindful of animal rights and welfare

The internet is full of photos showing people who ride elephants or pet tigers in zoos and parks all over the world. These photos represent everything that’s completely and entirely wrong about interacting with animals while traveling – they show animal abuse as the norm, and they promote using animals for the purpose of entertaining people. To give your travels a more ethical twist, these are precisely the kinds of activities you want to eliminate from your itinerary.

Do not accept elephant rides or visit places that sedate animals so that humans can touch them or take pictures with them. Refuse to eat in restaurants that serve meals that endanger different species (think: shark-fin soup), and don’t purchase souvenirs made of animal products. 

Learn about ethical destinations

Tourism is thriving almost everywhere around the globe. And while you can indeed book a ticket or drive your way to pretty much anywhere and learn something new, there are countries and regions that do more good on a global and a local scale. It’s these destinations that deserve your attention the most, and these countries are precisely the ones that will benefit from mindful travelers such as yourself because they will use your presence to make a difference.

You can rely on platforms such as Ethical Traveler to learn about places that score the highest on these lists, but not just that – they also compile the reasons that make them ethical in the first place, and how they are evolving to earn a spot on these lists. Whether it’s environmental conservation, human rights, equality, or suicide prevention, or any number of other factors, these countries are making great strides to change their structures and advance in numerous ways. Traveling there means supporting their causes, too.

There’s no one way to become a mindful traveler, nor does it ever end. It’s a state of mind based on continuous learning and awareness, one that helps you accept your current limitations so that you can push them a little further. Consider this guide as the beginning of developing a mindful attitude towards travel, but certainly not a finite list of things that instantly transform you into one. Let it guide you towards ongoing improvement, and you’ll travel smarter and make better, socially-conscious decisions on the go. 

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