Slow travel 101: How to (not) travel like a tourist
Looking for slow, meaningful and mindful travel experiences? Here, we share six ways you can explore the world ethically – and lightly.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than 11.1 million Australians returned from short-term overseas trips in 2018. Have you ever wondered about the impact of all that travel? Besides financially boosting the visited country’s economy, travellers leave social and environmental traces behind – good and bad. As the ease of travelling grows and globetrotting becomes more common, a shift to exploring the world more ethically needs to happen – and fast. Here are six ways you can do so.

Get to know the locals

Accommodation apps such as Airbnb and CouchSurfing have changed the way humans travel. Staying with locals means you can discover their favourite spots for delicious food, fun activities and beautiful views, away from the crowds.

When it comes to booking activities, seek out locally owned, family-operated tours or businesses. In doing so, you’ll take the road less travelled, explore the local sites and give back to the community.

Take the time to learn a few local phrases such as “hello”, “thank you” and “more please”. Locals will appreciate your effort in learning their language.

When you’re exploring, wander outside of tourist areas (only if it’s safe to do so), visit a restaurant where the menu isn’t in English and live like the locals wherever possible.

Be respectful

You pull your camera out to capture the beautiful Saharan plains, mud-hut homes and wild animals but a local kid jumps into your frame. Be respectful of the privacy of the locals – especially children. If people or children are in your shot, remember to ask permission before taking a photo.

Support the community

While you might be tempted to give the locals money when they beg, it can actually have the obverse effect. Often, the children are encouraged to skip school in order to beg tourists for money. This isn’t a long-term solution to the poverty cycle. If you’d like to financially support a community, look to reputable local organisations that support those in need. It doesn’t have to stop when you leave the area either. Consider sponsoring a child (with an organisation that supports the community as a whole) to create a lasting impact on someone’s life.

Reuse and recycle

As the saying goes, “leave only your footprints behind”. Avoiding the plethora of plastic bottles can be difficult in places with unsafe water. Thankfully, companies such as Sawyer are a step ahead and produce bottles with built-in filters so you can drink contaminated water without fear.

Saying no to plastic straws will help reduce the amount of plastic waste in the world. Skip the tacky key-ring souvenir and buy something lasting for your friends and family such as Fair Trade gifts or local art pieces.

In the wild

Seeing the world’s animals is a popular reason for travel and strongly tied to the specific country itself. From the Big Five in Africa (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo) to polar bears in Alaska and Japanese macaques, there are countless wild animals to see in your lifetime.

Rather than going to a zoo, snag a seat on a safari to see the animals in their natural habitat and not in captivity. To take this one step further, look into local rescue centres and find out more on animal rehabilitation and release.

Wander mindfully

Next time you’re travelling and you stumble upon something wonderful, take a pause. Breathe it all in; the earth is incredibly beautiful, a masterpiece of creativity and a miracle in itself. Put down the camera for a moment to acknowledge the wonders of this earth and make memories with people in different places.

Cassie Haywood is a kiwi living down under who loves exploring nature and eating a good burger. When she isn’t chasing adventures or writing for Grand Designs Australia magazine, you’ll find her freelance writing and editing for topics she’s passionate about.