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Travelling in recent times has become a part and parcel of our lives. Each one of us travels for some reason or the other – be it for work, soul searching, to gain knowledge or just fun and leisure. Travelling inspires me to be culturally aware, be more tolerant about the world and its people, and instills in me the sense to be committed towards the environment. However in today’s global tourism industry, even though people are getting more aware of the benefits of travelling, they are exploiting the natural environment.
It is easy to be a tourist, to travel from one place to another, see new places and have new experiences. What is not easy is to be a responsible traveller, and embrace the power in us to help transform the way the world travels! While travelling responsibly is important on each and every sojourn, it becomes all the more vital while travelling to the mountains and other remote places. These are the places less explored, less visited, less inhabited. These are the places that have, to a great extent, managed to retain their pristine beauty, and it becomes our moral responsibility to make sure that it stays maintained.
Trekking is one such activity where you come in close contact with nature for many days. You trek through valleys, forests, meadows; cross rivers, streams and lakes; camp on many untouched spots, and reach high altitudes. The chances of leaving a lasting impression on your natural surroundings increase manifold on such trips. So it becomes absolutely necessary to be aware about the kind of places you are going to, the flora and fauna, the things you need to carry in order to not harm the environment, about the local communities and how you can contribute to making lives easier for them.
There are many ways in which we can turn our vacations into opportunities for a positive change, and contribute to the greater good of our environment and local communities. I urge that all of us explore alternative travel choices and make our vacations purposeful by avoiding any negative marks on the environment. Let’s be different, be the change on our next trip, and have minimal impact on the environment, and the lives of the people we connect with!
Here are a few simple and easy ways that would help us in our journey to becoming Eco-travellers and promoting responsible tourism –
- Minimal Impact Trekking and Leave-No-Trace Policy
One small motto to start with – travel light, and take back what you bring. When I say that, it typically means not to leave behind any form of plastic packets, foil, aluminum cans, and wrappers. Avoid littering Mother Earth and instead carry disposable bags in which you can dump all the waste items. Avoid using tissue papers and try and use water wherever possible. Although it sounds difficult in an ideal situation, but it’s best to carry disposable zip lock packets wherein you can store all the used tissue papers/napkins. We ought to avoid ablutions anywhere near the water sources as human waste pollutes the water which is the main source for local communities for water supply. Carry your own water bottles (not plastic bottles). Take only photographs and leave only footprints!
- Avoid Usage of Wood for Cooking or Campfires
Campfire has been made an integral part of a trekking experience at the cost of deforestation. Fuel efficient stoves should be used to cook instead of wood. Cutting off branches of trees to serve the purpose of cooking or for campfires leads to deforestation. Most of the people are not aware of the fact that in higher altitudes, trees take longer time to grow and reach an age of maturity; hence afforestation initiatives will take prolonged years to show any signs of progress. Also the concept of warming by the fire while trekking is misleading. Bonfire aggravates dehydration in higher altitudes and you will start feeling cold after the wood ceases to burn.
- Opt for Solar Power Chargers
This works best for a range of electronic items including cell phones, music and video widgets, battery chargers, etc. The solar cell packs are readily available which you can hang to your backpacks. The charger will soak up the solar energy while you’re walking in the daylight. The beauty of these chargers is their ability to work when the electricity doesn’t, making them ideal for any high altitude Himalayan sojourn.
- Tread Carefully if Visiting Areas with Indigenous People or Ecologically Sensitive Flora and Fauna
Respect nature and strive towards saving the ecology of protected areas. Always follow the trails made for hiking as getting off the trail might lead to soil erosion and spoil the vegetation. Also, we should never indulge in hunting/fishing of endangered species. We should respect all kinds of local cultures and their ways of life. Everyone follows one form of faith in certain kind of lifestyle and culture, so respect each culture and tradition. It may not be similar to ours, but it deserves all the respect.
- Work with the Locals
Making locals a part of our vacation is an integral part of responsible tourism. We, as travellers can directly contribute to the local communities by using local transport, local guides, local food and homestays, thereby providing a source of employment. Additionally, locals would be our best source of information when it comes to routes, local cuisines and even folklore; and who knows we might end up making some long-lasting friendships.