Conscious Travel Can Change the World

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” -Leo Tolstoy

Traveling is a marvelous thing that everyone should do not once, not twice, but as often as they can. It opens the mind, stimulates the brain, and shines light on the beauty of the world. However, tourism has a lot of negative impacts caused by the increased number of global travelers. Conscious travel and overtourism are two main things that current and future travelers should keep in mind to counteract these problems.

What is conscious travel?

Conscious travel is being mindful and considerate of the world and its people while traveling. It’s about being more eco-friendly and kind in the places you visit. With conscious travel, you also begin to think differently about how you travel, and allow yourself to see a destination through locals’ eyes.

Do you know what it takes to be a conscious traveler? 20 wonderful ways are being shared at the bottom. Stick around!

What is overtourism?

Overtourism happens when an influx of tourists overwhelm a destination, making tourism unsustainable. With overtourism on a consistent rise throughout hundreds of destinations around the world, taking a moment to think and be a more conscious traveler can positively change everything about not only your experience but the experience of the locals living in these destinations, too.

Why is it important?

Many destinations around the globe are experiencing an influx in tourism. While this may generate a large boost economically, there are concerning implications that come with this amount of tourism. The World Travel & Tourism Council and McKinsey & Company partnered to conduct a study on the effects of overtourism. There were five main issues found with overcrowding: Alienated local residents, degraded tourist experience, overloaded infrastructure, damage to nature, and threats to culture and heritage.

Tourism has a bigger impact on communities than many may realize. Increases in rental properties and shops in touristic locations makes it more difficult for locals to make a decent wage to pay their rent every month, as salaries remain low. Profits from tourism often ends up in the hands of big businesses and major tour operators instead of the locals themselves.

What’s more, communities are concerned about the impacts of overtourism on the environment and the well-being of the people. Cities such as Barcelona, Rome, and Amsterdam are among the worst in regards to issues with overtourism.

Local authorities in these cities have felt immense pressure from unhappy residents due to the disruption that overtourism brings. Barcelona residents have put up signs in popular neighborhoods where tourists tend to flock demanding a stop to overtourism, noise, and Airbnbs, too. They’ve also been known to take to the streets in protest. In Amsterdam, higher tourist taxes are already being implemented. Also, the city has also started advertising campaigns for other cities in the Netherlands to try to combat overcrowding in Amsterdam.

The tourism industry has a long way to go before a kinder world-wide travel experience is possible, but that’s where conscious travel comes into play. Being aware of where your money is going and the impact your visit has on a culture is already several steps in the right direction.

What can you do to be a more conscious traveler?

1. Pack reusable shopping bags instead of taking plastic bags from shops.

2.Shop local and get souvenirs from handmade sellers and boutiques.

3. Visit local coffee shops and avoid chains.

4. This applies to fast food, too. Go local.

5. Avoid staying in hotel chains. Rent bed and breakfasts or stay in a hostel, for example.

6. Ride a bike or walk.

7. Learn at least a few words and phrases in the local language.

8. Respect the culture and do your best to dress appropriately for the destination you are visiting.

9. Don’t engage in unethical tourist activities (basically anything involving animals.)

10. Use local tour guides instead of major companies. They’ll show you the real side of the destination and you know the money is benefiting the local community rather than a major corporation.

11. Go off the beaten path.

12. Be kind and patient with locals.

13. Pack your own reusable water bottle, spoon, fork, and knife, so you are limiting your single-use plastic waste.

14. Talk with the locals.

15. Be respectful.

16. Dive into the culture and keep an open mind.

17. Volunteer while traveling. This doesn’t have to be long-term. You can spend an afternoon at an animal shelter, for example, if you don’t have time to commit to weeks of volunteer work.

18. Visit the local farmers’ market instead of shopping at a chain.

19. Explore lesser-known cities and towns.

20. Travel during off-peak periods.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

Originally published at on March 4, 2019.

Freelance writer, solo traveler & sustainable explorer.

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