When sleeping women wake, mountains will move.~Chinese Proverb
Posted on:30 June 2015
By Doreen Nagle for Buy The Change
Planning a trip to a foreign land– and don’t want to leave your ethics at home?
Here are a few suggestions to help you not only fit in, but stand out as a welcomed traveler when away from home:
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
· Choose lodging that is owned by locals, green (uses solar if possible) recycles and treats their employees (who are, after all, locals) fairly.
If you choose a chain or franchise, what is the reputation of the corporation that owns it?
· If you are going on a tour, likewise research the company’s reputation.
· Read up on local customs so you won’t unintentionally offend. For instance, when in Rome: In order to visit the Vatican, women should cover their arms and wear a skirt or slacks that cover the knees.
Western style clothing such as shorts, short skirts or tank tops are not considered appropriate in many countries. It is always better to error on the side of being more conservative than less.
· Learn a few words in the native tongue.
· Especially when visiting a poor region, bring something you can leave behind, such as school supplies, books, medical supplies. If on a tour, your tour director should be able to help you connect with the proper agency to leave your gifts with; otherwise, contact an agency to make arrangements before you leave.
· Can you spend some time volunteering in-country? If so, choose the organization or agency where you would like to volunteer beforehand to find out their criteria and schedule.
Heed the words of the Dalai Lama: “Do no harm.”
· Clean up after yourself.
· Patronize locally-owned restaurants when possible. Eat locally grown and locally prepared foods; these dining experiences are the ones you will remember years later.
· Be water respectful. Clean drinking water may be a luxury for locals and travelers alike, even if you visit an area where drought is not an issue. Too many countries do not get water on demand as we do.
· Bundle up vs. using extra heat - and vice versa. Strip off a layer as appropriate vs. ramping up the air conditioning just because it’s there.
· Buy local, but buy with a good conscience. Make sure the souvenirs you have chosen as locally crafted, actually are.
Shop in markets rather than souvenir shops. Bargain with respect. It can be a fun game to try and buy products as cheaply as possible but if you are in a country with high poverty, the market stall owner or small shop owner is most likely living on only a few dollars a day. How much does that $5 or $10 really mean to you?
If you shop in company-owned stores, does part of your purchase go back to the community?
Look for and make purchases at fair trade outlets or cooperatives.
· Do not buy products made from elephant ivory (about 4,000 elephants were killed for their tusks in 2012).
Likewise, souvenirs made from animal teeth, feathers, bird beaks, paws, talons, snake, crocodile or other reptile skin, fur, turtle and tortoise shells or purported medicinal ingredients (ie: rhinoceros horn) may be contributing to poaching and unlawful killing of endangered animals.
As part of a philosophy of using every part of an animal, many items are made of bone and horn from animals that were not poached but it is impossible to know which ones.
The best philosophy may be to avoid these types of products all together.
Additionally, coral and seashell souvenirs are robbing the oceans of an important ecosystem.
· Enjoy the culture, sights, sounds, smells!
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