Responsible Travel – What can you do?

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The term sustainable travel is a phrase that is being thrown around a lot these days and frankly I couldn’t be happier. I feel so passionate about sustainable travel because I truly believe that if we choose to travel in socially and environmentally responsible ways, we actually have the power to create sustainable development in under developed countries. I definitely consider myself to have won the birth place lottery – what I mean by this is that had I been born in a different country where jobs are scarce or currency is worth very little the gift of travel wouldn’t be as accessible as it is. I therefore truly believe that having the ability to see our world’s beauty is a gift and one that we shouldn’t take for granted.

So what exactly is sustainable travel, eco-tourism, or responsible travel? I like to think of it is traveling to a destination but leaving the lightest footprint. Let’s compare communities and places we visit to ecosystems. For a community to thrive there must be a delicate balance between those who live in the community, the land in which they live off of, their economy and finally their governing body. Throwing in a new element such as tourism into the mix can definitely disrupt this balance. In developing countries, this can be extremely detrimental in so many ways. Thus, I think it is important as tourists to become more conscious about the choices we make while traveling and how they affect the existing ecosystems.

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Throughout my travels I can definitely say that I have made my fair share of mistakes. Like anything there are growing pains; the more experience we have under our belt and the more people we are able to learn from, the more we are better equipped to travel responsibly.

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Even though this may just scratch the surface I have compiled my top 5 suggested practices for responsible travel.

  1. When booking your trip consider booking through a tour company that directly supports and benefits local communities and promotes sustainable practices. There are many tour companies that give back to the community and finding the perfect one only takes a little bit of research. Some even invest their profits back into education and other local causes. A few examples of tour companies that I know have great practices are both G Adventures and Intrepid.

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  1. Support local businesses whenever possible. This usually means staying at smaller locally owned accommodations, shopping at markets instead of larger grocery chains and frequenting locally owned businesses. This not only empowers the locals, but it also opens up opportunities for you to meet more people and experience local life. There are many websites out there that make finding smaller accommodations like guest houses and bed and breakfasts quite simple. A great site that I’ve used that specializes in accommodation throughout much of Asia is Agoda.

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  1. Respect the local traditions, customs and people. Try to remember that you are essentially a guest in someone’s home. Doing a little bit of research and understanding the culture before getting to your destination goes a long way. Being able to travel is a privilege and far too often I have seen others abuse this privilege. Even though we may have the money to get us to certain destinations or into monuments, this does not give us the right to abuse local traditions.  Be respectful of people. This should be common sense but all too often I see travelers throw this out the window when they stumble upon the perfect photo opportunity. Although capturing an authentic photograph is such a great feeling no one should ever feel like they are an animal in a zoo. There is definitely a fine line when capturing photos of people. My biggest suggestion would be try to put yourself in their shoes. If you would feel uncomfortable then please refrain from putting your subject in that position.respect
  1. Do not give money to child beggars. Every time I am faced with an outstretched arm and a cute little face I can’t help but feel my heart break just a little bit. Saying no to anyone is absolutely heart wrenching but I believe that we as travelers can’t be responsible for adding to the cycle of poverty. The list is endless as to why handing out money or things like candy actually add to the problem. Children learn quickly and if begging is successful, then more and more children will take part. It has been known that desperate parents will often take their children out of school so that they can work the streets. Begging has also become a business where Begging Mafia kidnap, exploit and injure children just for that extra buck. Instead of creating that kind of dependency seek out organizations or social enterprises that directly benefit the local community.

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  1. Leave nothing but footprints. No matter where we go, humans create waste. Try to leave as little behind as possible. Use reusable containers, shut water and electricity off when you are not using it and keep your garbage to a minimum.

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As I mentioned before, these five points only scratch the surface when thinking about how we can actively participate in responsible tourism. I have read that approximately 10% of the world’s total GDP is derived from the travel industry and the number continues to grow each year. My hope is that by educating ourselves and sharing that knowledge we can minimize the detrimental economic, social and environmental impacts and instead help sustainable development while maintaining traditional cultures.

There is so much to see in this great big world of ours and I really hope that each and every one of you get a chance to travel either near or far and truly explore the beauty that is all around us.

Keeping the Memory Alive

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How do you make your travel experiences last forever? As you get back into your daily life it is natural for those memories to slowly fade away, but I have some tricks to help keep your memories alive.

The first way to capture memories is an obvious one…take loads of photos. Taking pictures is as easy as ever now that our smart phones are always in our back pocket and we don’t have to cart around film containers (am I making myself sound old?)  Don’t feel embarrassed for holding up the group or looking like an idiot to capture that perfect shot. photophotoIn the end our photos are our treasures and they truly do capture a moment like nothing else. There’s a quote I recently read that says ‘we take photos as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone’.  I used to be an avid ‘scrapbooker’…well avid might be a strong word…but I did take the time to print all my photos out and place them in a book with pretty paper. Although some may be crafty and still like doing this, I have found a much more cost and time effective way to store and display my photos when I get home. Creating a photo book through an online provider is pretty easy. First you download the program to your computer (some computers might already have them installed), then you upload the photos that you want to include in your lovely finished book, next you can either let the program arrange the photos for you or you can drag them in whatever order you’d like (I add text to my book), and lastly once finished, you order your book and voila…it comes to your doorstep. Boom, just like that you have a beautiful bound book that looks like you bought it from the bookstore down the road. I use Picaboo, but I know that there are many sites out there with similar functions.img_6196

Another way to make your travel memories last is to take advantage of your olfactory system. Do you ever wonder why when you smell coconut oil, it reminds you of when you were at the beach?scent Or perhaps the smell of fresh cut grass reminds you of when you were a kid playing in the back yard. I tend to bring scented lotion that I use while I am away. The minute I am at home and use that scent again, I have a sense of when I was back on my holidays.

This trick is one of my favorites… when I am away I keep an ear out for a few songs that play during the course of that trip. Once you are aware of that song (it could be a golden oldie, or a song you’ve never heard before) make sure to make note of it and download it as soon recordsas you get home. Every time one of my songs that I downloaded from past trips shuffles through my play list I can literally picture exactly where I was and what I was looking at during those moments.

And lastly I think that keeping in touch with the people you meet along your travels is the most important way of keeping your travels alive. It is so simple to keep in touch with people on the other side of the world these days. With a click of a button we can video chat around the world. Keep these relationships alive. They are a unique and treasured gift. One day you never know when you will be in the same place at the same time and can relive all your amazing memories together!

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Some of the beautiful friends I met while traveling in Turkey!

I know that some of these tricks might sound cheesy or common sense…but if you actually become aware of how you can bring past memories alive, it truly does help when you are slugging away at your monotonous life!

Top tips to keep your travel memories alive

Budget Travel – How I juggle a full time job and explore the world!


Too many people dismiss the idea of following their adventurous hearts because of lack of funds. The idea of travel seems daunting when you have bills to pay and debts owing. But I want to crush your fears and give you a bit of hope that although you may not earn the big bucks, you too can go explore the world and fulfill that wanderlust within.

The question is where to start?

Being a single woman I can say with all honestly that most of my earnings goes towards my living expenses. This means that I have to strike a fine balance between spending my ‘play’ money on experiencing life at home, while saving for my annual big adventure.img_0285 I truly think it is important that we allow ourselves to go out and enjoy life while at home. Spending dinner out with friends is much more life enhancing and memorable than sitting alone on a couch. But the small things like packing a lunch instead of buying it, or not buying that coffee on the way to work really do add up. I challenge you to cut out the extras in your life and see how much this adds up monthly…you’ll be surprised!

The next question I look at is where in the world I can afford to travel. img_0284With the Canadian dollar currently in the dumps I look at places with a poorer dollar. The United States, Europe or the UK can be much pricier than others at the moment, so sometimes I can stretch my dollar further if I stick to countries with a bit of a weaker economy.

Now let’s look at the type of travel. I have done various forms of travel throughout the years. From volunteering, to all-inclusive resorts, to solo backpacking , to small group tours. I can say without a doubt that the simplest and most cost and time effective form of travel has been small group tours. Now I can hear you moan and roll your eyes at the thought of being hand held in a big group like school children.  Are you picturing a mass of tourists spilling out of a tour bus and following the guide who is holding his brightly coloured umbrella high in the air for all to see? This is NOT the group tour I am talking about. I am talking about small group tours that specialize in sustainable tourism.

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One of the G Adventures Tours I took through Africa (this was a larger group that usual)

G Adventures is a prime example of a company that focuses on finding the perfect adventure that specifically meets your needs. And to make it even more affordable they give you the option as a single traveler to share a room with other single travelers on the same tour, which in turn cuts the price down dramatically. In my experiences of small group travel through G Adventures I have never had to worry about the logistics of where I am staying or how I am getting there. Everything is taken care of once I set foot in the country. When you have an unlimited amount of time to backpack around the world, it is okay to get lost and wind up slightly off your projected schedule. But if you are like me and only get a specific amount of time to travel per year, you too will want to maximize what you see and do. I remember a few years ago when I was in Spain, I decided to embark on exploring the country with a couple of friends.  We learned the hard way that we spent too much time booking hotels (and then not being able to find the hotels), and then getting lost on the highways. I spent a lot of time stressing over things that I would prefer not to while on holiday. And to make matters worse, I am 100% sure that I spent more money than had I been traveling in a small group.

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My friend and I getting utterly lost in Spain

Being in a small group has even more benefits that help keep the spending at bay. Having your own guide is extremely helpful. They are experts in the area of the world that you are traveling to. They will know the best restaurants and services that are off the beaten track and this almost always will guarantee the cheapest prices. Another advantage to this is that instead of giving your money to big chains that lure you in as you walk by, you are taken to places run by locals, and thus become a key contributor to the local economy.

Traveling on a budget can sometimes require one to be creative, but I am living proof that with very little saved up it is possible to experience this great big world of ours. I believe that it all starts with priorities. Sometimes we have to give up a little in order to get back so much more in memories and experiences. There are options out there and I challenge anyone who is on the fence to jump off and dive in!

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Standing at the edge of Table Mountain in Cape Town