Traveler, did you know you have a responsibility?
This week's article was "inspired" by a social media friend's recent trip to Africa. I saw him being able to pet lions and pose with pictures right next to them, and I couldn't help but think...this just isn't right. I mean...he was standing next to animals that have the capacity to shred him to pieces. I don't know if it's because I've been watching more zoo shows on tv where the keepers and doctors maintain the integrity of an animal's nature...or just my internal Jiminy Cricket telling me it's not the right thing to do. Regardless, I think this incident and recent world challenges have brought on the need to discuss how to be a more ethical traveler.
For me, when I think of ethical travel it means being a responsible traveler; not entitled. Doing things because they are right to do and not doing things (even though I could) because they are wrong to do.
1. Be kind to animals- It has been long on the forefront the cruelty to elephants, in particular, and other animals receive for what is thought to be a premium travel experience. Some of these experiences are just wrong, while others can bring out the nasty nature in humans to dominate these animals. The obvious way to combat this is not to support these businesses. Additionally, there are many places where you can both support the safe-keeping of these animals and still see them up close and personal. Visit wildlife sanctuaries and rescue centers, and of course remember to vet them out to make sure they are ethical places to visit.
2. Be kind to nature- I can't believe this story I'm about to tell you. During my August Alaska cruise, my brother and cousins went on a glacier excursion. Their GUIDE decided it was a good idea to throw boulders down the crevices of the glacier. His justification-- to show the depth of the glacier. What amounted--after the second boulder, there was a great cracking sound, the earth shook beneath everyone, and everyone panicked to get off. My family told me they thought it would be their end. And I'm not being dramatic, I could tell it was something that truly frightened them. Morale of the story: be kind to and respectful of nature; you don't want it to fight back.
3. Be kind to each other-This includes so many things, but here's some basics. Have patience and grace while you are around and deal with new cultures. Be respectful of the culture of the country you are in. This means you may need to dress a little differently to adapt. This means you should learn popular phrases or greetings in their language. Support local businesses and markets--on my last trip to Europe, I was making sure that the items I bought were made in the country I was in.
Do you have another other ides of how we can remain ethical while traveling abroad? I have been using a travel water bottle more this year, but don't know if that would classify as more environmental. If you have any ethical practices you follow while abroad, please send them my way, so I can share.
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