We are constantly looking for the next adventure, next destination, and for new experiences. We are the generation of explorers and adventure seekers.
For us, travel defines, educates and resets us like no other experience we can have within the confines of what is comfortable. As much as we take and get from travel, we only hope that in return we are good travellers - not only really experiencing a place and it's culture, but good at making sure our footprint doesn't leave a more permanent or destructive mark.
Being a good traveler isn't always intuitive. Somethings, unfortunately, have to be learnt the hard way and boy, have we learnt the hard way. Just like everything, this is a learning process for us too - we haven't always got it right, but with each trip (and lighter pack strapped to our backs) we learn a little more about the impact (both positive and negative) we can have on the country we visit, and the ripple effect of seemingly small decisions and actions we take when we travel.
If you are anything like us, you tend to travel the more gritty places or places that are still developing economically. This leaves us in a position where we need to be especially mindful of the position you come from and how you might come across.
With our next destination on our minds, we thought it would be a good time to share our thoughts on how we have learnt to travel that little bit more consciously.
EAT YOUR WAY INTO A COMMUNITY
Food is one of the reasons we travel. Some of the best travel memories we have involve shared long dinners that go late into the night at a tiny little taverna overlooking the sea or a recipe shared in broken English with an old lady and her family down a backstreet in Morocco. Food is the cultural landscape of a place and there is no way to more quickly find the beating heart of a culture than it's food.
Whether it's stocking up on fresh food at the markets and buying direct from the growers, stopping at a little ma and pa run restaurant or buying from a street vendor, it's these interactions - especially where language is a barrier - that will let you into the culture. These interactions - the delicious, the spontaneous and the inclusive - also have a deeper importance.
Aside from letting you into the world of those that live there, the money you supply to these restaurants, vendors and market growers goes directly back to them - the everyday people growing food for a living or cooking your dinner. This money funds education, healthcare, a standard of living and can be a vital source of income for a family.
On the contrary, dining at the fashionable places, big franchises or expat run is almost doing the opposite - money more often goes to people and companies that don't necessarily need it. They will always have customers who are happy to pay bigger prices.
Next time you travel, challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Seek out those side alley eateries, eat from street vendors, little produce stands, markets and step away from the crowds and what's beautiful and trendy. We can promise for your efforts you will be rewarded with richer experiences and authentic cuisine and in return, your money will make a direct difference for those who you buy your food from.
THINK TWICE ABOUT WHAT YOUR MONEY SUPPORTS
I remember a conversation I had with a marine biologist in Mexico. I was so excited to see the release of the baby turtles into the sea from a turtle sanctuary on the beach and I was telling her how I planned to go that night. I watched her face drop as she explained to me that these turtles are far less likely to live because they were already exhausted from wriggling the day away in a bucket, rather than running straight to sea when they hatch. I was gutted as this was something I was desperate to see, but decided in the end that as long as tourist money was involved, the practice would continue.
Instead, you can make a massive difference in encouraging positive eco and animal tourism. Invest in tourism and activities that will positively affect the environment and animals affected. Guided tours to wetlands, jungle hikes, night rainforest tours and treehutt eco stays are all cool ways you can invest in positive eco tourism - a little research might make the world of difference for the future of tourism in that part of the country.
REDUCING YOUR WASTE IS EASY!
A few things we have discovered will reduce your waste include really simple things like eating in and bringing your own metal straw and reusable bag that can easily be folded up into a tiny little bag.
The single biggest impact thing we have started doing is buying a quality water filter bottle that filters any water to save us from buying various plastic bottles of water each day. I can personally recommend the Fill-2-Pure brand and never had any trouble filling up the bottle from any tap. Most accomodation these days have free filter water so a reusable drink bottle is good, but for times when this isn't a thing, using a filter bottle means you can use water from a tap just about anywhere. Just prepare for a few 'oh god that does person know they are going to die drinking tap water' looks from other travellers!
Making a place better than when you found it is a nice way to give back too ... a few pieces of rubbish picked up on your morning beach run will give you karma brownie points for when you inevitably accidentally wake up your fellow travellers after a few too many margaritas!
Let me explain a situation I once found myself watching in Central America. Two tiny kids, bare feet, scruffy - they should have been at school but instead walked around the makeshift tourist resorts selling fruit. They had these little bunches of these jelly like fruits that you crack open and suck the sweet juice out of.
I watched these kids talking with a young travelling couple who were staying at the same place as us, and after a discussion, the kids leave and the couple come back beaming with the fruit. Still beaming, they explained that the kids wanted 30 Cordoba, but they bargained them down to 10 Cordoba. To put that into context, that was around 10 pence for them.
I felt sick listening to this conversation. 10p was nothing to them, but to these kids probably the difference between a full belly that night or not. And this is not the first time I have witnessed miserly travellers. Heated fights over $1, refusal to tip because 'they don't believe in tipping' and practically walking over starving people begging to get to a fancy resturant - I have seen it all and they never fail to make me feel a deep sense of shame for my fellow travellers.
This doesn't mean that I have not been here myself but I am learning that being in the position to give in a discreet and respectful way is one of the greatest privileges as a traveller.
So buy a little bit extra of whatever you are eating and give it to people who have nothing to eat, be generous with your time, buy things from desperate sellers, buy the pumpkin seeds off the toothless old lady who everybody else ignores and pay a little extra. Tip the mum and young daughter duo who are selling coconuts from a street stall late in the night. Do it in a polite, respectful and humble way and it will be a pleasure that can't be rivalled, especially when you keep your little moments of generosity just to yourself.
SMALL THINGS DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
All those small things you are already doing - using reef friendly sunblock, learning little pockets of language to communicate, getting away from the guidebooks and having your own adventure and respecting people not to take photos where inappropriate all really do make a difference.
It is a privilege to travel and experience other cultures, places and people and being conscious of the small things can mean that your visit may enrich a community in some small way rather than just enriching your life. Every plastic bag you avoid, every extra effort you make to say thank you and please in the native language and cover up respectfully is noticed and appreciated.
These are just a small few things we have personally noticed can make a difference when you travel, especially when travelling to countries that are still developing economically. If you are thinking about your next trip, we encourage you to take the plunge and book those flights! Just promise us you will give us tips on the places your travels take you!