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Written By:
Jithin

What is it like to be a Responsible Traveller?

Published on
February 1, 2021

Have you ever rudely woken up in the middle of the night at a cozy homestay in the middle of serene nature by a loud music or obnoxious travellers who just decided to party all night?

If so, you know what a responsible traveller is not!

Responsible travelling doesn't just start and end with going to a place and coming back without littering and using the hashtag #responsibletraveller on social media!

The scope of responsible travelling is so much bigger than that.

But at the core of Responsible Travelling, you will find a very simple logic of common sense and empathy for people, places, culture, environment and more.

Here is a story from India about a great house with the most amazing view

One day I was scrolling through Instagram and found an amazing house that everyone was talking about. Seems like the views from that house were pretty stunning and more and more people were experiencing that view.

So I decided to go visit and experience what everyone else was experiencing.

The house was great. The host welcomed me with a warmth, true to the Indian saying 'Atithi Devo Bhava'. The host then told me to treat it like my own home and gave permission to use any facility that I wanted to use, which felt nice.

So I went ahead and found the best bedroom and threw my bag in one corner, unpacked my bag, got out some food that I was carrying and started eating it on the bed while enjoying the view through the large window.

The view was great and the weather was nice. So I felt cozy as well as lazy even to move from the comfy bed. So I just threw the food waste along with the package on the dark corner of the room, out of my sight and stayed in bed enjoying the view.

1
Who wouldn't! Wouldn't you do the same?x

I didn't realise how time had flown so fast. It was already time for my next meal. So finally, I had to go out and get some food. Then I remembered that the host had told me to use whatever I want in that house. So I went to the kitchen and opened all the cupboards looking for something nice to eat. I found a few things there, as well as in the refrigerator.

Since I didn't want to leave the room again later, I took more food than I needed and went back to my room to enjoy an uninterrupted view. This felt nice. I thanked the host in my mind and went ahead to enjoy my stay in that house.

Since it was so nice, I decided to extend my stay for a few more days at that house.

While I was there, I was posting live updates about my awesome life on all social media that I was on. In order to provide some cool new content that no one had given before, I told everyone about how they could also use the kitchen if they needed and make the best of their stay.

Over the course of next few days, I could actually 'influence' a few more people to follow my footsteps.

Some of them even wanted to stay in my room to get the best view. There was a bit of wrestling but finally, I could keep the room for myself. There can be very irresponsible people out there, right?!

After a few days, I realized that more and more people had started to come there and the supplies in the kitchen were getting reduced. And the host wasn't very sweet anymore.

He wasn't even cleaning the room! The darker corner of the room still had some stuff lying around. It even started to smell a little bit! I didn't want to clean the garbage in his house if he wasn't interested in cleanliness! I made my stand clear.

So I decided it was time to leave the place.

It was no longer a great place to stay. Everything had changed. The host wasn't very warm or sweet anymore, there wasn't enough food and drinks for everyone in the kitchen. And even the view wasn't great since no one cared to clean the place!

"I must find a better place.", I thought to myself.

I packed my bags and head to the nearby village that someone had mentioned the other day on Instagram. I heard that there was a similar house with an even better view. Since it was a bit more remote, not many people had been there.

I found an opportunity there and 'set my google map to explore this unexplored area'!

#Explorer #ResponsibleTraveller

I updated my bio with those tags once I reached this hidden village that everyone seemed to talk about. #Responsible, because I took public transport to this remote village, which happened to be the only way to get there as well!

But from the comments, I realized that not many people liked me. Some said what I did was wrong. I know, haters gonna hate! What can I do?

Well, what do you think? Did I do anything wrong?! All I did was guiding some travellers to a new destination. What is so wrong with that?!

But from the bottom of your heart, if you think I was wrong on many levels, I'd go ahead and congratulate you for calling a spade a spade.

Now let's bring some different perspective, shall we?

What if we replace the beautiful house in the previous story with 'destinations with fragile ecosystem' and I with 'an epitome of irresponsible traveller'?

Examples from real life

You might have already figured out, the story at the beautiful house was a fictional one. But it is not an uncommon story. There are many real-life examples of destinations suffering because of over-tourism, irresponsible use of natural resources and so on.

Many of you might remember what happened in Shimla. This popular Indian tourist spot, also tagged as the Queen of Hills in most Instagram posts, requested tourists not to visit due to acute water shortage. This happened in 2018.

According to an article by World Bank, during the summer season, which also happened to be the peak tourist season in Shimla, the city’s resident population of around 200,000 swells with more than 66,000 tourists!

This sudden spike in population translates to more demand for resources especially water which in turn puts a strain on the natural resources.

Clubbed with huge demand for clean water and water mismanagement, the hill town did not get a drop of water for almost eight days in the summer of 2018. (Courtesy : Original Report)

Even though the problem has been successfully rectified in the following years, 2018 water scarcity in Shimla gives us a real picture of the negative impact of 'Over Tourism'.

Many travellers would have started looking for destinations that don't have a water shortage and moved to even more remote places looking for the next perfect house with an even more amazing view.

Responsible Traveller

Just like everything in life, there could be two sides to everything. This can be true for Responsible travel as well. If everyone boycotts a destination to avoid over-tourism, that destination and its local economy will soon starve from the much-needed tourism money for its development. But then you can visit the same destination during off-season time and still enjoy many of the things the destination has to offer.

You will soon realize that there is only a thin line between being part of over-tourism and responsible tourism. Many people believe that responsible tourism is less fun, too expensive and too difficult. But it is not.

It is not difficult, but it can be different. It is not too expensive, but you might have to make a few adjustments. It is not less fun, it is more interesting. Becoming a responsible traveller and enjoying travelling is all about having a balance.

It is a huge topic to discuss and the scope of this post doesn't allow us to talk about it completely. So for starters, you can follow a few of these points.

  • Maintain each and every place as you found them to be
  • Do not leave your garbage behind, if you're in mountains or not
  • Try to learn about the place you're visiting and respect the local culture
  • Try to help the local economy. Stay at local run homestays, eat at a local eatery and so on.
  • Try to give back to the local community if possible. Teach a homestay owner how to do social media for their business could be one idea.
  • Be kind and respectful to everyone.
  • Travel slow if possible.

Are you a responsible traveller?

If you consider yourself a responsible traveller, tell us more about the ways in which a person can be a more responsible traveller. We are looking forward to your inputs to update our responsible traveller manual!

Do share your thoughts in the comments.

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