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The phrase ‘travel better’ is important to us here at JKGO. This guide explains why.

If you’re new to our blog, this is a great place to start. We’ll keep this page updated with our favourite articles, and continue sharing what we learn as we travel.

What exactly does it mean to travel better?

For us, the phrase has two connotations:

1: To make travelling a better experience for you

2: To have a positive impact on the world through travel

One is personal, while the other is philanthropic. Both are very important.

Let’s explore how both of these areas can apply to your own travels.

1: To make travel a better experience for you

We have identified three ways you can have a better travel experience:

Make the most of your time and money

This requires you to plan carefully and make smart decisions on the road. Most people don’t have an unlimited supply of time or money, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a life-changing travel experience on your own budget or timescale.

To be clear, we are not advocating against luxury travel. If you can afford it, staying in the right luxury hotel can be worth every penny. We just want to make sure that you feel that you are getting the best possible value for what you pay.

Have an authentic travel experience

For many people, one of the most enjoyable aspects of travelling is to immerse themselves in another culture and experience a different way of life. What constitutes as an authentic travel experience is subjective, but the important thing is that you come away from a destination feeling that you really connected with it; that you experienced and enjoyed it to the best of your ability.

Learn and grow as a person

Travel teaches us many things about the world, but also about ourselves. We learn from the people we meet, the historic sites we visit, and the challenges we experience when travelling.

We can learn about our physical limitations and how to overcome them. Overcoming language barriers can give us a new perspective on communication. We learn to be more grateful and appreciative of what we have, and how to be content with less. Kayla has a great post on other ways travel can change your life.

2: To have a positive impact on the world through travel

If you’re reading this, we’re willing to bet that you want to have a positive impact on the world. So do we.

There are lots of terms to describe it: sustainable travel, ethical travel, green travel, responsible tourism, ecotourism. We use ‘travel better’ as an all-encompassing phrase.

We believe that there are three fundamental areas in which we, as travellers, can make a difference: people and culture, planet Earth, and animal welfare.

People & culture

Experiencing new destinations and cultures is one of the main reasons we travel. It’s fascinating to talk to people from different backgrounds and learn the history and traditions of other cultures.

Through tourism, we have the potential to provide for local economies. We can use our valuable tourist dollars to help spread wealth, empower the less fortunate, and help communities thrive. We can place value in the knowledge and skills that define a cultural identity.

But we can also hurt communities. Cultures can be disrespected, and traditions forgotten. Local, indigenous people can be left out of the tourism trade. Economies can collapse. A flood of foreign visitors and the wrong kind of investment can force people out of their homes and out of their livelihoods.

There are several easy ways we can support people and cultures when we travel. You’re probably even doing some of them already.

  • Learn about your destination before you arrive
    • Research local laws, customs, and traditions. You don’t want to offend anyone with the way you behave or dress.
    • Make an effort to learn the local language. Phrases such as hello, please, and thank you, are a great place to start. It will make communicating a lot easier, and helps make local people feel appreciated and respected.
  • Support local businesses
    • Stay in local guesthouses or hotels. (Larger chains are fine too, as long as they employ local people).
    • Eat at a variety of locally-owned restaurants.
    • Don’t buy mass-produced or imported souvenirs.
    • Choose a local tour guide.

Planet Earth

We all have a responsibility to care for the earth.

Travel and tourism can harm the environment in direct ways, such as gas emissions from a plane or an excess of plastic from travel accessories. There are also indirect effects, such as deforestation to make way for resorts or unsustainable agriculture to feed hungry travellers.

Fortunately, there are some easy ways to reduce your environmental impact when travelling:

  • Consider your transport method.
    • If you can take a bus or train, this usually has a lower environmental impact than flying.
  • Pack light.
    • This saves you money on baggage fees, and reduces fuel consumption.
  • Save energy.
    • Turn off lights, TV, and heating/air conditioning when you leave your hotel.
  • Save water.
    • Reuse towels, and don’t leave the tap running unnecessarily.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle.
    • Anything you can do to cut down waste! Tote bags, reusable water bottles, and other reusable containers are more environmentally-friendly. They save you money in the long run too.
  • Stick to marked trails and obey signage.
    • This will ensure you don’t accidentally damage any endangered plants or wildlife.
  • Choose your destination carefully. 
    • Some places suffer from overtourism. Learn what you can about a destination and decide whether it is an appropriate time to visit.

Animal welfare

In many destinations around the world, tourists have the opportunity to view, interact with, or ride animals. However, these aren’t always regulated or controlled. They can range from causing mild distress to animals to being downright cruel.

There are different opinions on the matter, and some of the lines are blurry, but we firmly believe that animals should not be mistreated for the entertainment of humans. There are several ways that you can ensure that animal cruelty isn’t a by-product of your travels:

  • Never pay to have your picture taken with animals.
    • Many of these animals have been taken from the wild, drugged, maimed, or harshly treated so that they ‘behave’ around tourists.
  • Avoid activities that revolve around animals.
    • This includes riding elephants, walking with lions, or watching animals perform.
  • Don’t buy souvenirs made from animal products.
    • Many of these products support unsustainable practices such as poaching. You probably can’t carry them through customs anyway.
  • Keep wildlife wild.
    • Don’t get too close, or attempt to feed or disturb any wild animals.
  • Be conscious of what you eat
    • This is a tricky subject, and something we are still trying to figure out for ourselves. We’re not saying you have to go vegetarian or vegan, but do think about and be conscious of what you eat. We are trying to cut back significantly on the amount of meat we consume, and will avoid eating animals that are endangered.
  • Don’t blindly accept culture as an excuse for cruelty.
    • Some cultures treat animals (and humans) in different ways. While it isn’t our place as travellers to condemn or judge other cultures, we should be aware that some traditions have ethical implications. Think carefully whether you should support or take part in certain activities. (For example, read our article on why we didn’t visit the bullring in Spain.)

This guide by World Animal Protection highlights the cruel conditions that many animals experience in tourist attractions, and offers further advice on how to make your trip wildlife-friendly.

Why should you travel better?

Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, tourism accounts for 10% of the world’s GDP and employs 1 in 10 people globally. That’s an opportunity to make a big difference.

You can have a positive impact on natural, social, and cultural heritage. You will develop more meaningful connections with the people and places you visit, and have a more transformative experience.

It certainly takes a great level commitment to travel better. But it’s worth it. By travelling better, you can genuinely change lives - yours and others!

The future supply of tourism products and services responds to the current demands of travellers like you. If you choose the sustainable or responsible option, it can influence the future decisions of those companies. You can make a real difference, even with a short trip!

Want to learn more?

Are you ready to start making a difference and learn how to travel better?

Join our community and we'll send you a free travel starter kit, as well as our best tips and articles.

We are striving to continuously learn more as we travel, and pass the knowledge on to you. Browse our current articles, and take a look at our destination guides for more ideas on places to visit and things to do.

How to travel better - crowds at Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

The more people that get on board, the greater impact we can have.

Education is a key aspect of better travel. A lot of people want to travel more ethically and sustainably, but don’t know how. Some people don’t realise the negative impact that travelling can have.

Making the right decision isn’t always easy, and we frequently make mistakes. But we are trying.

We need to encourage tourists and travellers to be more conscious of their impact on the places they visit, and you can help spread the message. Use the buttons below to share this post to social media, or forward it to someone you know who is planning a trip of their own.

Together, we can ensure that cultures and destinations are protected, and that travel can be an enjoyable experience for generations to come.

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