Over the years of globetrotting, I developed a need to travel with a real purpose having found myself today fuelled to travel deeply and see the world with different lenses. What if we want a more meaningful travel experience? You guessed it, be a conscious traveller!
To travel consciously is to travel curiously and considerately. When travelling, you might be environmentally conscious or socially responsible by leaving the smallest of footprints and gaining the greatest of real connections. If it’s not immediate positive impacts to the world, it’s positive change within yourself by being a more mindful person. With a raised collective consciousness, we become better as one. You’re also more likely to have happy travels when you make deliberate choices based on your values. Here are 15 ways you can become a more conscious traveller!
1. Focus on quality, not quantity of experiences. Travelling isn’t about collecting passport stamps and photos. Don’t rush or try to squeeze too much in, you will have time to return later in life! Instead, travel slowly to dig deeper into the soul of a place.
2. Be adventurous and take the path less travelled. Guidebooks can be great but you don’t need to always do the obvious, especially if it doesn’t interest you. Wander through the back alleys of town or journey into remote villages.
3. Take off your earphones. Listen intently, focus on your senses and savour every single moment.
4. Take the time to build real connections with real people instead of paying for a “traditional dance” aimed at tourists or giving tips to uniquely dressed locals for taking photographs. Debatable, I know. Some see this as a “donation” but I just couldn’t do it.
5. Learn the language, habits and customs – and abide by the rules. Making an effort to communicate with locals and respecting their way of living even when you don’t align with it (e.g. no public display of affection, dress codes) will help you gain a more authentic connection.
6. Find out what’s really going on behind the scenes. Researching the country and chatting to many locals to find different perspectives and challenges people face will go a long way. Paradise may not have always been paradise without pushing local beachside villages away for tourism operations.
7. Practice compassion for all beings. I remember how angry I was when I was scammed in Bali. Don’t even get me started about my escapades in India. You just can’t let it get to you. Understand why people are the way they are, let things go, send everyone light and love, and make it a note to travel smarter.
8. Embrace a lovely culture shock in trying something outside your norm. Like new foods or rituals. You move away from being a visitor and get on the same side as the locals. “You’re one of us now!”
9. Sleep in a homestay, family-run guesthouse or boutique hotel. Your money is more likely to go towards the local community. I love using home rental website Airbnb to give me glimpses of how the locals really live. Get $45 off your first Airbnb experience using my referral link – yay!
10. Shop from traditional artisans to help keep the crafts alive. Whether it’s food, textiles or any other form of art, there’s nothing more special about preserving culture if you choose local over imported goods.
11. Choose tour operators who care about the community and environment. You might pay a little more for green experiences but what matters is the satisfaction in knowing you haven’t corrupted the land and its culture.
12. Provide selfless service in the tiniest of actions. You don’t need to venture on a month-long volunteering trip to do good. Ask around – help the family-run guesthouse cook, build an island bungalow or partake in agricultural activities. It’s one of the best ways to learn about the people.
13. Be careful with voluntourism. You need to understand that it’s still a business. When paying to be placed somewhere, ask yourself: Where is my money going? How exactly will it be spent? A transparent organisation is the best organisation.
14. Don’t be seen as a stupid, rich tourist. Overpaying in developing countries does not help the community. Recognise the true value of things instead of breeding a culture taking advantage of tourism dollars that slowly loses sight of their own true heritage. Throwing fortunes at locals also teach them that the more they cheat us, the more they earn.
15. Gather emotional memories, not ‘stuff’. Mass produced souvenirs at tourist destinations are inevitable. Keepsakes are beautiful, just make sure you’re not caught up in the high of completing an experience and making a purchase that’s going to end up in your miscellaneous box at home.
Tiffany Tran writes Australian travel blog Tales of Ardour, documenting world explorations as a mindful traveller. Savouring life at every moment, she inspires people to explore deeply all that’s beautiful, confusing and challenging to raise a collective consciousness. When she’s not contemplating over culture shocks from India and Africa, the passionate human indulges in a severe love affair with hometown Sydney, where she remembers how to sit like a lady again with a Negroni in one hand. A nomadic bohemian at heart, living in a whimsical eco-friendly treehouse fit with an outdoor bathtub is certainly in her cards. I mean, wouldn’t you? Say hello on Instagram and Facebook! E: firstname.lastname@example.org
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