Journal

What Ethical Travel Means to Me

Ethical travel has become a major travel trend recently and it’s likely to continue growing in popularity. Beyond eco-travel, ethical travel encompasses good for all (including nature, humans, and communities). Unfortunately, “ethical” has become little more than a buzzword by now, along with “sustainable” and “responsible”. Every sector is using “ethical” tactics to garner good press—they use the word in their campaigns and advertising, but what does it really mean? How do you know if you’re truly traveling in an ethical manner?

The answer, of course, is quite subjective. Instead of trying to define the term in absolutes, or list what is and isn’t ethical in the tourism industry, I’ve decided to write a bit about what Ethical Travel means to me.


Respect

Ethics start with respect. You must have respect for all humans, for all cultures, and for every way of life. You must respect nature, the creatures that live in it, and everything that depends on it. Every place you could possibly travel to is home to someone or something, so respect others’ homes. Respect the beliefs, traditions, languages, art, food, and cultures you encounter around the world. Respect the environment around you. Respect the earth that gives us all life.


Education

Take the time to learn about other people and their way of life. Learn some of the language of the country you’re traveling to, or at least try. Learn how other people do things. Learn what kind of food people eat where you are. Learn about the country, the city, the village you are staying in. Learn the history of where you travel to, and how your country may have been involved. Learn about the native plants and animals in the area, and learn how they might be in endangered. Make the effort to educate yourself as you travel so that you don’t go home the same person. Remember that you don’t have all of the knowledge, but others have plenty to share with you.


Exchange

Exchange takes many forms—cultural, monetary, educational, etc. More than just exchange, though, ethical travel is about FAIR and EQUAL exchange. Don’t take more than you give. If someone gives you a bed to sleep in, find a way to help in their home. If someone is providing you a service, give them the fair monetary compensation. Do not exploit a place or a culture by taking, taking, taking, and do not contribute to a company that does so.


Simplicity

Simplicity is an important aspect of ethical travel. Living with less, using less resources, taking less space–these things are all good for the environment. Demand for more things—for more luxuries, for more space, for more energy or electricity, for more food—inevitably puts a strain on resources. You can live and travel comfortably without the harmful indulgences of more, more, more.


These are just the basic ideals I consider when I think about whether or not something is ethical. When I decide whether or not I should participate in an activity, when I decide whether or not I should give my money to a company, I run through the above concepts. Am I learning something? Am I burdening the eco-system or the resources available? Is my money going to the right people? How can I make better travel decisions in the future?

None of this means that you shouldn’t travel at all, or that you can’t stay in a nice hotel, or that you should give up all material possessions (although it feels great to not have many). This should make you question whether a company calling themselves “ethical” is really doing anything helpful before handing over your money. This should make you reflect on what you could do differently the next time you head out into the world.

The most important takeaway from this post is RESPECT. Have true respect for people, places, and nature, and you will find yourself headed in the right direction–and remind companies they should do the same.


What does ethical travel mean to you? How do you make sure you’re traveling responsibly?

What Ethical Travel Means to Me

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5 Comments

  • Reply
    Melinda DiOrio (@MelindaDiOrio)
    February 12, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Hi Courtney!

    I found your blog by hopping over from your comment on the Pin the Map Project! I love that you’re also passionate about the sustainable travel movement, and refer to it as “ethical” travel. I think “Ethical” is a word that can resonate with everyone, it really forces you to be accountable for your actions. I’ve been referring a lot to “ethical” or “mindful” living these days, and I love that it’s a movement that keeps growing and growing!

    • Reply
      Courtney Michele
      February 12, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      Ethics and sustainability are so important in all aspects of life. It really is important that people be accountable while traveling. Mindful is another great word I like to use–really thinking and being aware. Thanks for reading Melinda!

  • Reply
    Mara
    September 24, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    Such an important topic. I’m glad you’re bringing attention to it. And I agree, respect for all is is important to keep in mind whenever one is traveling (and always). #FlyAwayFriday

  • Reply
    Kana
    September 26, 2016 at 7:50 am

    Courtney I love this! It’s so important and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I agree with you. Respect is especially important! I’m pinning the image onto the Fly Away Friday Pinterest board if that’s ok with you! Thank you so much for joining #FlyAwayFriday, see you in 2 weeks!

    • Reply
      traveldaze
      September 26, 2016 at 3:18 pm

      Thanks Kana 🙂

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