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How To Travel Responsibly

After travelling to 32 countries, I can honestly say I have never been more aware of irresponsible travel as I have since being in Thailand. I’m not going to say I’ve been a saint throughout all of my travels. I’ve definitely left trash behind, taken plastic bags for just a small item, walked away from plastic I’ve seen on the beach. I’m not perfect, but if there’s one thing that I need to take away from travelling so much is how to be a better and more responsible traveler.

I feel that sometimes we think of our upcoming destinations as more of an abstract concept than as an actual, physical location. Before I moved to Australia, I couldn’t even really describe what I thought it would be like. It was just this foreign, far away land. I think when we travel to a new destination we don’t think about how our actions affect the environment or the economy. I mean, you’re partying on a beach in Thailand, all bets are off right? Just throw a bottle into the ocean, who cares right? Well would you do that at your hometown beach? Would you just throw a plastic bag on the ground back home?

As travelers, it’s important to remember that our actions create real consequences, and we like to think we are stimulating the local economy positively, but we’re usually affecting the local environment negatively. Just because we don’t stick around long enough to see the changes to the environment, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care. Here are a few ways we can easily travel responsibly without putting a damper on your plans!


Keep our waters free of plastic bags!

1.) Don’t take a plastic bag for a single item.

I know it’s a lot more convenient to carry around your packet of chips in a big as opposed to in your hand, but if you have a backpack, purse or spare hand, try your best to limit how many plastic bags you use. In many developing countries and areas, especially through Asia, there is no real recycling program to handle the amount of bags people end up wasting away.

2.) Turn off your air conditioning when you leave your hotel room.

There’s nothing more refreshing than coming back to a cool hotel room after a long day in the heat exploring, but you can save so much electricity and energy by turning it off. Sure, it may be the hotel’s problem to deal with the electricity bill, but we all need to work together to conserve energy.


Learning about the elephants in Chiang Mai in a responsible way.

3.) Any tours involving animals make sure you pick ethical ones.

Before I did any real research into what I wanted to do in Asia, I desperately wanted to ride an elephant and play with the tigers. Little did I know that the majority of the tigers in the “sanctuaries” are drugged up, and that the elephants are forced to wear a huge metal chair to their back with 2-4 people on each. Also, many of the elephants are bought and crossed through borders illegally. I realized a main reason I wanted to do these things was because of my own selfish (and vain) reasons – mainly for a cool picture. Since then, I’ve done a lot of research, and I found the perfect experience to give back to the elephant community. Make sure you ask the right questions before doing any tours involving animals.

5.) Don’t leave bottles or trash on the ground.

This should go without saying, but I’ve seen countless people around the world just leave glass bottles or Styrofoam boxes on the beach, side of the road or on the ground. Do your part and find a trash bin or recycling bin – even if it means holding onto the trash YOU decided to consume just for a little bit longer. M

6.) Pick up trash on the beach.

How many times have you passed by a piece of trash on the beach as you’re going for a walk and you think “Hmm I should pick that up”? Well, do it! You could save a turtle’s life! Our oceans are depleting every minute. If you’re going to enjoy the beauty of the beach, you can do your part to pick up a few pieces of trash here and there. I promise you no one will call you a trash picker like in the 4th grade.

7.) Get your room cleaned every other day or every third day or not at all!

This is a biggie. Do you know how much water is wasted every single day in hotels around the world because of unnecessary washing? No, your sheets and towels don’t have to be cleaned and changed every single day – unless you’re some nasty, then maybe you shouldn’t be out anyways. But seriously, get your room cleaned every few days or not at all if you can. You go without daily cleaned sheets at home, so you can deal with it for your 3 day stint at the hotel.


What are some of your tips on travelling responsibly around the world?

Comment below!

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  • Reply Abbi from life in a rucksack July 31, 2015 at 1:00 am

    Great post KP! When I got to South East Asia, I suddenly realised the need to be more responsible when I travelled, though what surprised me was the fact that locals would just throw trash down anywhere on the street, or in forest parks. They don’t seem to have the same mentality as westerners in regards to recycling waste.
    Though there are plenty of westerners in Thailand that do much worse of course.

    The animal thing is a big one with me. I remember going to circus’ when I was younger, never thinking about how the animals were treated, but I’ve seen countless animals in Asia, shackled up in the sweltering heat, and made to perform on command – its awful.

    Thanks for posting this. I hope it makes others think before they travel.

    • Reply KP Schwan July 31, 2015 at 7:03 pm

      Aw thanks, I’m glad you liked it! I’ve noticed that as well about the locals in SE Asia. There just isn’t the awareness out yet in developing countries, but at least we can do our part as travellers 🙂

  • Reply Jason Baker August 2, 2015 at 6:39 am

    Great points on the washing factor, except the issue with hotels is that they often have to wash sheets all the time as guests check-out and guests check-in. Then, trying to coordinate a method of picking up sheets in hotel rooms every other day would be exhausting given that there is so much turnover amongst guests. However, I like the idea and think it’s great. Perhaps hotels should involve guests more by asking them to remove sheets if they want it washed to provide a greater awareness to sustainability and responsible travel.

    • Reply KP Schwan August 3, 2015 at 12:54 pm

      Great points Jason. A lot of hotels I’ve been to recently actually have an initiative where they ask guests to place the hotel towels on the floor if they wish for them to be washed. If not, they will leave them as they are 🙂

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