Responsible Travel

– with Anika Funk




A Roadmap to responsible travel: more than just a 2019 trend

Responsible travel is one of the big trends of 2019. Once a niche part of the tourism sector, responsible travel is becoming increasingly mainstream. Yet with so many components that fall under this term – from limiting environmental impact through carbon offsetting and decreasing plastic consumption to making choices that benefit the local communities – it can be difficult to get a single definition for responsible travel.

So, what exactly is responsible travel?

In simple terms, it’s the type of travel that does no harm to others or the environment, and ideally, enhances their well-being. 

Okay, one question down. Now what does this mean in practice? 

Even with a definition under our belts, there’s often more confusion about how we travel responsibly, particularly what it means to make responsible travel decisions that protect and support children. 

This aspect of responsible travel is a constant learning curve for even the most seasoned traveler. To help get you started, here is my personal roadmap to responsible travel and one that you can use as a jumping-off point for your own adventures. 

Step 1: Before you hit the road

This first step sets the stage for all of your other footprints towards responsible travel. Start off by listing the products you need for you trip (that you don’t already own – because reducing consumption should always be priority number one!). Once you have your list of outstanding gear, you’ll need to decide which of the hundreds of brands you should choose from. 

If you don’t know where to start, use one of the amazing responsible travel blogs out there to find gear that’s responsibly made. If you already have certain brands in mind, look into who makes their products. Were any children employed in their production? According to UNICEF, in the world’s poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in child labor. It’s important to do your homework here. If brands don’t tell you outright, reach out and ask them. Speaking from experience, companies are happy to answer these questions when they have nothing to hide. 

If you’re going on an organized tour, you can check if your travel operator is a ChildSafe Supporting Business and that the activities they have planned do not include visits to orphanages or schools. 

You can also look into brands and operators that work with reputable development partners to contribute to child protection, education, or other initiatives that support and protect children. 

Step 2: Once you are on the road

This is the fun part. Responsible travel has evolved so much over the years. There are incredible opportunities to support youth skills development through your everyday choices. Cambodia is a great example of this with a wide selection of responsible travel experiences from eating at restaurants such as Friends’ Training Restaurants for Employment and Entrepreneurship, to attending events that support youth in the arts, to going for a massage at a spa that trains young women in business management. These are great ways to support youth, while avoiding the harms of giving gifts or money to children or undertaking potentially harmful voluntourism opportunities.

Download ChildSafe’s handy 7 Tips for Travelers to avoid these and other common pitfalls when it comes to responsible, child safe travel on the road. 

Step 3: After you get home 

This is the easy part, but also the step that’s easiest to forget about! Talk about your trip, what you saw, what you learned, and maybe what you wish you did differently. Talk about you own responsible travel experiences and share insights with your family and friends, with strangers on the bus, or online. Share the love by helping others to travel responsibly. And if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration to get your creative energy flowing, you can check out the Tales from the Banana Trail blog and download the free ‘Explorer’s Guide’ for top tips and travel inspiration from other adventurers. 

Trends have the power to start movements, and I like to believe the movement towards more responsible travel is just beginning. Why not get ahead of the trend and build you own roadmap today?

 Details on our guest blogger: Anika Funk is the co-founder of Banana Backpacks, where she leads the enterprise’s social impact and partnerships work. As a ChildSafe supporting business, Banana Backpacks is committed to ensuring child protection throughout their supply chain and operations. With the sale of every one of their backpacks, they help support a student’s education in Cambodia through their NGO partner in Siem Reap province.  

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