According to Wikipedia sustainable tourism covers the complete tourism experience, including concern for economic, social and environmental issues as well as attention to improving tourists’ experiences. The concept of sustainable tourism aims to reduce the negative effects of tourism activities.
When you google how to travel in a more sustainable way you can find a lot of great tips like fly less, pack light and ecological and visit locally owned and eco-friendly places. In this blog, I am not going to repeat those great tips. I am giving you 10 tips on how you can do better while travelling, and I will make you a promise. When you use these 10 tips during your travels, your journey is going to be amazing!
Of course, policymakers have a lot of influence on sustainability in general and in tourism. But that doesn’t mean that we should just do nothing. Furthermore when you make your travel more socially responsible you’ll have way more fun and your experiences will go so much deeper.
How can you, as a traveller easily contribute to the social aspect of sustainibility?
1. How do you dress when you travel?
I understand that you don’t want to buy lot’s of new dresses before you travel abroad. I also understand that there is something like fashion. There’s also fashion in African countries;) Part of sustainable travel is showing respect to the inhabitants of the country you are visiting. So before you travel to an African country, please do your research! How short can shorts be, are shorts ok for women, can you show your shoulders etc.
Sometimes it also depends on the area you are going to visit which clothes are acceptable. For instance, in Ghana, where I live you can wear quite short things in Accra. You can also show your waist there. But in the middle of the country, it’s really not acceptable to show your waist and to wear very short skirts or trousers. In the northern part of Ghana, your dress should be over the knee and you shouldn’t wear sleeveless shirts as a woman.
2. What to pack for your Africa travels?
I agree with all the people who say that packing light is a good thing. It might surprise you, but we wash, brush and shower on the African continent as well;) In other words, you can buy a lot in the country that you are visiting. The more you bring the less you spend here on the local market. And… You are denying yourself the chance to discover all the advantages of local and natural products. Like original black soap and shea butter.
I wrote an extensive blog post on what to bring to Ghana, but this article is very useful for any destination so here’s the link.
3. To haggle or not to haggle……
There seems to be a prejudice that haggling is the norm while travelling in African countries… But let me tell you a secret…. It is not! There are places where you negotiate prices, but there are many places where you don’t have to. And where it’s even very impolite. And no you won’t always be ripped off just because you’re a traveller.
When you travel talk to the locals about the do’s and dont’s about haggling!
4. Where do you spend your money while travelling?
Nobody says that you can’t enjoy some luxury! But sometimes we make choices that might not be all that logical and sustainable when you think about it…. For instance, we haggle about coins with a taxi driver out of principle and after that we are going to eat at an expensive restaurant because we crave some pizza. Or we like to eat vegan, but instead of looking for local options we go and buy imported and canned beans at the not locally owned supermarket.
So try to balance your spending and be fair to the locals.
5. Don’t judge! Don’t compare!
I meet a lot of travellers in Ghana. Lot’s of them complain about the waste problem that we indeed have. But while they are complaining, they seem to forget that they boarded a plane to get here and some of them even use domestic flights as well. Again, I am not judging, just trying to bring some perspective.
When you have an open mind while travelling you will be able to see and do so much more, make great connections and have great conversations!
6. Really??? Did you travel overseas to just follow the path that all the travellers you meet and who you follow Instagram take?
Do you know what will make your journey a special one? A journey that has an impact and will make a lifelong impression?
Go off the beaten track! Get a guidebook! Find homestays and places that are so beautiful but for some reason didn’t make it big on Instagram (yet). When you visit the lesser-known places you will find great gems and make beautiful connections with the locals. You will learn so much about the country and its people. And you will see the real hotspots!
7. You are travelling, so dare to discover!!
How come, when we travel, we seem to trust people in Facebook groups, Google maps and other travellers that we meet in lodges more than the people who actually live in the country we are visiting?
I am absolutely not saying that every local that you meet will know everything about an attraction that is on the other side of the country. But they might be able to tell you so much about their area. Besides that the locals can keep you safe, they know exactly where you should and shouldn’t go.
8. Travel slow, travel conscious, travel with an open mind, travel sustainable….
Last year I hosted a traveller for 5 days. Her stay with me was the longest time that she stayed at one place during her 1 month journey. The rest of the time she tried to see all the highlights in the country.
Care to guess which part of her 1-month journey made the biggest impression and gave her the best memories?
I really understand that you would like to see as much of possible of the country that you are visiting. Who knows when you will go to the same country again? But when you are rushing from destination to destination you will miss so much! You might forget to enjoy the views, you will miss the hassle of local stations, you will miss the hospitality of fellow travellers on the minibuses.
The destination itself is not the experience, the journey towards the destination is!
9. How do you behave while travelling?
Of course, you are a model traveller! You are not that person that is very loud and judgemental. You are not the person that asks questions but seem to know all the answers already. You are not the person wearing indecent clothes on sacred grounds. And you are really not that person that visits a traditional festival who doesn’t care where he steps as long as he gets his picture. Or that disrespectful person who visits a memorial site, for example, an old slave camp, and is laughing, talking and taking pictures of everything.
Sorry, this section was not for you! I just wrote it because you never know who lands on this page;)
10. Which story are you telling?
Cleaning a beach while on vacation. Volunteer for one day at an animal shelter. You see it more and more on social media and it’s also being promoted by some bigger tour operators. MAKE AN IMPACT while travelling….
But is it a positive impact? Do you truly want to have a positive impact??
Think about the story you are going to tell about your journey on the African continent! Debunk stereotypes, show people something else than all the ‘cute’ kids. Show the people back home that Africans don’t need to be saved. That the local people taught you something. Show them that we have houses and roads and tell them to come themselves!
And when travelling to Ghana or Malawi, remember we can help you!
DILO AND PATRICIA | GHANA MEETS MALAWI
Together we have 30 years of experience on the African continent. Does this mean that we know everything? No, definitely not! Every day we learn. And we learn a lot from each other.
We got to know each other through an online training in which we both participate. When Dilo joined there was an immediate click and Patricia was happy with someone else ‘from’ Africa! It soon became apparent that we are both huge chatterboxes when we feel comfortable. That we both love the countries where we live and really want travelers to experience these African countries as opposed to just take a glance.
In addition, we both try to be as sustainable as possible, both privately and in our work. In Dilo’s case, this was mostly visible in the area of environmental sustainability and in Patricia’s case it is mainly visible in the social area.
That’s not to say that Dilo is anti-social and that Patricia is a huge environmental polluter who sits on elephants. Above all, it means that we complement each other well.