If you’ve ventured onto Facebook within the last few years, chances are you’ve come across photos of someone riding an elephant, petting a tiger, or showcasing the fact that they did charity work one time on their gap year. The common link between these three activities? They’re all experiences tourists do to ‘open their eyes up to the world,’ and ‘broaden their horizons.’ The underlying truth can be a lot more sinister than that. It’s important to do the research before you touch down in a new destination, and because we care about you (truly we do), we’ve done the research for you. Here’s our list on how to be a sensitive, respectful traveller abroad.
Look into the culture
If there’s one thing almost everyone is guilty of when travelling, it’s spending too much time researching where you’re going to get brunch, and not enough time looking into the etiquette of the country you’re visiting. This is without a doubt the best thing you can do as a tourist. If a community has been wonderful enough to open their doors up to you, the least you can do is ensure you’re as polite as possible. Even if that means trading in those denim shorts for a long kaftan and learning how to say please and thank you in the local lingo.
Don’t go too wild on the booze
We understand, you’re on holiday, the drinks are flowing, and everyone’s a little bit happier than normal. “Young, wild and free” and all that jazz. But before you take a sip of that tenth sangria, just remember that the whole “what happens on holiday, stays on holiday” thing isn’t exactly true. We Brits have a pretty bad reputation as travellers. Let’s try not to feed into that. There’s also plenty of fun to be had in non-alcoholic environments too, when in doubt have at least a glass of water for every drink to stay hydrated when you’re on the road.
Leave the animals alone
Do your research on this one (seriously). If the animals look unhappy, they probably are and if it’s performing for you in any way for some kind of photo opportunity, the likelihood is they’re not being treated very well. Often, keepers drug the animals to make them more docile and amenable to mass crowds and photos.
Disclaimer: There are thousands of animal reserves out there that are put into place to love and protect all the wildlife they have within their grounds. Find these kinds of places instead. The chances are, if they’re letting you ride or pet something that’s higher up on the food chain than you, it’s not ethical.
Respect the history
This one is pretty simple. Don’t make misdirected, half baked jokes poking fun at any kind of sensitive historical material about wherever you’re visiting. Locals decide the line and you’ve been invited into their world for the time you’re there. If you’re visiting a temple, don’t climb up the ruins. If you’re going to Venice, avoid travelling on a city-eroding cruise ship.
Stop it with the selfies
When taking in particularly significant religious sites, don’t be taking selfies. It’s insensitive and suggests you’re not actually taking in your surroundings, if all you want to do is take a picture of *you* looking at something historical not the actual thing itself. Also, we’re living in a time where people are actually dying and suffering fatal falls at tourist destinations all in the name of the perfect ‘jumping’ High School Musical picture. The number is going up each year, and there are genuinely more deaths caused by selfies than shark attacks. We can’t believe we are saying this, but please stop sitting on cliff tops and jumping in the air at Machu Picchu.