I have done a lot of different kinds of travel. From teaching English in Ethiopia to working at a surf camp in Costa Rica, my experiences have been anything but consistent. Still, no matter where I go or what I do there is one thing I try to be consistent in; I try to be a responsible traveler.
Conscious travel, responsible travel, sustainable travel... their are endless terms in the industry but the idea is the same. And they are rising in popularity. More and more travelers are making an effort to be socially and environmentally conscious about their travel decisions. In fact, "recent surveys... document the sustained interest among consumers in types of tourism and tourism products that help to protect the environment and bring tangible benefits to local communities."
Responsible travel is staying in environmentally friendly accommodations. It's reducing the carbon footprint of your flights. It's supporting the local economies in which you travel. It's being aware of the decisions you make when traveling and how they effect the communities in which you travel. Responsible travel is all of these things... and it's growing.
"93% of Conde Nast Traveler readers surveyed in 2011, travel companies should be responsible for protecting the environment" and "58% said their hotel choice is influenced by the support the hotel gives to the local community". People want to travel responsibly. Here are seven travel companies that are making that possible.
Kind Traveler has a really unique give and get format. You give to local or global charities and in return you get discounts on some of the best hotels around the world. You can choose the charity you want to give to and feel good about your travel decisions when you curl into that comfy hotel bed at the end of a long day of adventure.
Transparency note: I work part-time for this company and am completely biased. However, I work for them because I adore them. While mainly a yoga retreat company, they do offer a variety of other travel experiences around the world. What makes them a responsible travel company? They partner with local organizations to provide community service opportunities in every community they travel to.
This is a more traditional travel company offering adventure travel experiences around the world. They offer unique small group tours, but they do more than that. They make a big effort to be responsible about how they travel. In addition to training their tour leaders on local social issues, they have their own foundation (The Intrepid Foundation) that provides support to local communities through more than 50 different projects.
Another small group travel company, G Adventures is big on responsible travel. They have their own foundation as well (the Planeterra Foundation) through which they support the local communities in which they travel. They are specifically dedicated to investing in locally owned businesses, protecting wildlife, and providing disaster relief.
Tribes Travel is a travel agency that curates personalized travel experiences... but that's not all they do. They also provide access to education for children in the communities where they travel and help preserve cultural heritage. To help you travel more responsibly, they plant ten trees for every trip booked with them (to help offset carbon emissions from flights). They also rate hotels and lodging around the world based on their impact on local communities, wildlife, and the environment so you can pick accommodations consciously.
This responsible travel company is a little more specialized than the rest. They offer mountain biking trips around the world. But if you are looking for a mountain biking adventure, this is the one to go with. They contribute to the protection of wildlife, the environment, and the local economy of rural communities. When you travel with Pure Mountains you know you are doing so consciously as all of their housing is eco-friendly to the max, solar panels and wind turbines included.
The name says it all. Responsible Travel works with tour operators around the world, but they are picky in their choices. They hand select socially and environmentally responsible travel companies so you can know your making a good decision regardless of which of their offerings you choose (Pure Mountains is one of their partners!). In addition, when you book a trip with Responsible Travel, you have the option to sponsor a local child's visit to a game park, mountain, museum, or the like.
There are tons of ways to travel. Some of us love to get our hand dirty. Others prefer a more luxurious vacation. With these seven companies you can travel however you want and still travel responsibly.