By travelling more responsibly you can still have the enriching, holiday of a lifetime you deserve, and at the same benefit the local people and environment you visit. Here, they set out 15 bad travel habits to give up that will help you gain a real connection to the people, culture, food and landscape of your destination, leading you on the path to holiday enlightenment:
1. Eating in international chain restaurants and cafes: Opt instead for small, locally run establishments which use local produce, and where your money will directly benefit local people. Headphones off, smile and make eye contact and you could have some interesting conversations to boot.
2. Avoiding street food: Yes, exert caution and use some common sense, but street markets can offer you an insight into the real heart and soul of a place. Stalls which are busy and popular with locals are unlikely to be serving inedible food. So pick a bustling spot and get stuck in.
3. Rushing around from one sight to the next: Stop ‘ticking off’ travel to-dos, slow down and enjoy where you are. Spending more time getting under the skin of your destination will leave you feeling much more fulfilled, and much, much more relaxed.
4. Saying you’ve ‘done’ a country: One of the responsibletravel.com team’s pet peeves. Discovering and learning about a country, its landscape, people and culture never ends. There’s always more to explore and understand.
5. Not attempting a few words of the local language: A hesitant “hello” or a faltering phrase or two. You may not be a confident linguist but making the effort to learn a few words of the local language opens doors and helps break down cultural barriers. With this in mind you might also want to avoid…
6. Getting annoyed because people don’t speak your language: You wouldn’t expect to speak someone else’s language at home so don’t expect them to do the same. If you have a problem hindered by a language barrier just be patient and friendly. Most people will find a way to help you.
7. Staying plugged into your iPod, keeping your nose in your book: Take your headphones out, lie back, breathe in, and look, listen and smell your surroundings every so often – you never know, you may find them more interesting than your book or beats.
8. Taking so many photos that you forget to look where you are: Put the camera down once in a while and use your own eyes to take in that stunning sunset, breathtaking view or exciting event. Don’t let your camera become a barrier between you and where you are.
9. Souvenir shopping at the airport rather than at local shops: Forsake the last-minute plastic fridge magnet and ‘Wish you were here’ t-shirt. Instead discover local artisans selling traditional crafts along the way.
10. Wearing a bikini to the supermarket. Or anywhere that isn’t the beach: Even in the most liberal of nations beachwear should stay on the beach, so cover up to stock up on an ice cream or more suncream. Be careful in more conservative countries; bikinis and shorts may be tolerated in tourist spots but in more local areas you will need to respect local dress codes.
11. The ‘traveller uniform’ of zip-off trousers, all terrain sandals and a fleece: Unless you are scaling Kilimanjaro, normal clothes appropriate to the temperature and culture of your destination will be fine. Not only will you not stand out like a tourist sore thumb, you also won’t be drowning your personality in a sea of khaki.
12. The early morning sun-lounger dash: Seeing a town wake up and come to life is a great way to start the day. Watch fishermen land their catch and markets stall set-up, or grab some freshly-baked breakfast. While other tourists wrestle each other for a sun lounger spot you’ll be banking some magical holiday memories.
13. Visiting the local orphanage for the day: It wouldn’t be acceptable in the UK so why overseas? Read responsibletravel.com’s guidelines on how to put child protection back at the heart of child-based volunteer projects. And if you are moved to help, instead search out local NGOs working to keep families together.
14. Never leaving your holiday resort: Take a step into the unknown and forgo spending all your time swimming, lounging and being entertained all within the confines of the resort. You’re in a new, exciting country, go out and explore it!
15. Thinking your way is right and local ways are wrong: Differences make the world an exciting place. Adopt the mindset of being a learner and guest and roll with it. After all, you’re on holiday!
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