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.
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.
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 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 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?
Pin image to save & share!