How to travel better?
Ever heard people saying they want to inspire others to travel? Ever noticed that wherever you go there are always tons of people there. We have been traveling for over 15 years and initially when we started blogging, we also wanted to do the cliched thing – inspire our readers to travel. Then over the last 5 years, we have witnessed over-tourism at almost every national and international destination we have been to! So now, our resolve is NOT to inspire people to travel coz apparently the whole world already is! But now we want to implore people to be BETTER travelers.
Aren’t you tired of finding garbage wherever you go, or people shouting their lungs out in serene destinations! Or the sound of modified bikes ripping through the silence in a mountain area? Well, we have seen it all and it’s time we tell people they can travel and do it in a better way! For themselves and for others! We often hear that movies like 3 Idiots have spoilt the Pangong area without realizing that it’s we who damage the destination.
WHY do YOU travel?
Is the Khardung La Pass more important than experiencing Ladakhi culture? Are Khardung La Pass and the Khardung La Pass more important than a California getaway off the beaten path? Do you want to zip through 10 states because you just have 10 day’s holidays? Find your true purpose to travel and once you do, you will see having better experiences!
Get off the beaten path
Do you actually enjoy being stuck in long traffic jams in tourist destinations? Do you like waiting to take a pic at a historical monument? Rather, try something new, visit less popular destinations, meet the natives and interact with them and more so, be creative and discover the hidden treasures. For example, have you traveled to Lepchajagat or Taki?
Tap the knowledge of locals
Some of your best experiences could come from a recommendation from your taxi driver or hotel staff or just about anyone you meet along the way. Be friendly and they’ll share their local knowledge with you. Want to know how to make friends while traveling?
One of the main reasons for the emergence of the anti-tourist movement across Europe in the last few years has been the incredible over-crowding of places such as Barcelona, Venice, Amsterdam, Iceland, and Dubrovnik, which heaved with huge numbers of tourists during the summer high season. We know of many locals in Goa who dread stepping out of their homes during peak tourist season.
Or how many of them leave Goa during that time! If you travel off-season, not only do you avoid crowds, you also help reduce over-crowding of our destinations and give the locals some breathing space. And of course, flights/hotels are cheaper and their availability also increases during low seasons. No more standing in line to take pics!
K2K, GQ, B2B, C2C – is this even travel?
A lot of people we know want to travel because that’s the in-thing and if they don’t do it, they are going to look down upon or they feel left out. We get lots of DM’s from people wanting to do the K2K ride in 4 days or do Ladakh/Spiti in peak winter or want to do the golden quadrilateral in a week!
Do you think these people actually get to ‘travel’? Make your own plans and find your own reason to hit the road! Don’t do it because everyone is doing it or because it looks cool! Heard of bikers attempting the saddle sore certification in India? 1600 kms in 24 hours? No matter how prestigious people think it is, it puts the rider and others on the road at risk and is highly dangerous! But I guess that’s what these people want – to be daredevils!
STOP Saying You’ve Done Places
We are sure you know many people who say they’ve ‘done’ Leh Ladakh (the correct term is Ladakh). Now what they actually mean is, that they have done they regular tourist of Leh, Pangong, Nubra, Tso Moriri, Manali, the passes, etc. Check with them if they explored Hunderman, Batalik, Chamba, Nun Kun Peak, Lato, Basgo, Panamik – we guarantee most of them didn’t. Be honest to yourself and others about how much of a destination you have actually explored!
STOP Ticking Off Destinations
Stop ticking off stuff. Counting countries, air miles, and passport stamps is pretentious, pompous and puerile, don’t you think? The miles or the destinations don’t make you a traveler, they make you a trend follower, a tourist. What makes you a traveler is how much of a destination have you explored? Did you learn something from the places you go to or the people you meet?
Traveling slowly is one of the easiest ways to be a better traveler. Because when you slow down, you become more aware of your surroundings. You pay more attention to the culture, the people and the stories of the places you visit. Slow is good because you deep dive into your reasons for travel – you become an explorer.
DON’T Be A Selfie Tourist
The selfie tourists are the new breed that is taking over all major tourist destinations in the world. From the pyramids of Giza to the 18,000 feet passes of Ladakh, they can be found everywhere – pouting towards their selfie sticks!
We once saw a bunch of people get down from a bus in the Buddha Park at Ravangla, take selfies and leave within 5 minutes!! And to think of it, we spent about 2 hours there – just sitting and admiring the tranquillity of the place! If you are looking at the lens the whole time, when do you actually get to see with your own eyes where you are!
STOP writing your name everywhere
Seen buildings, trees, and pillars full of graffiti, someone’s name or a Sanju who loves meenu? People defacing our monuments and cutting up trees are spoiling our destinations and turning them into an eyesore. If you do such things or know someone who does it, please stop before you cause more damage. Would you like someone to scratch their names on your car or bike?
STOP Throwing Bottles
Today, the most common sight in most India destination is – beer bottles, plastic bottles or chips packets! STOP doing this and learn how to manage your own garbage. Carry garbage bags in your car or dispose of litter in a responsible way.
Don’t Waste Water
Don’t you just love using the bathtub in hotels or taking a long shower? Well, in some parts of the world water is scarce and you need to change your habits so that you waste less water. Take shorter showers. Ask for your towels not to be changed. Use the half flush whenever you can. And make sure to turn the lights and air-conditioning or heating off when you leave your room.
AVOID Animal Tourism
Stop riding elephants, stop posing with tigers and lions. Yes, we have done some of these in the past but now we realize how wrong we were. Avoiding animal tourism is one of the best ways you can travel more responsibly and travel ethically. Wild animals belong in the wild. Instead: support animal sanctuaries, animal conservation, and rehabilitation efforts.
DO NOT feed wildlife
Did you know thousands of animals die on our roads each year, as they sit there looking for food given by passing motorists? Most people mean well when they do it, but if you really want to be a more responsible traveler remember that feeding wildlife if one of the most irresponsible practices you can think of: animals should eat what they find in nature, and feeding them ultimately breaks their migration and reproduction cycle. Even feeding bread to the ducks you may see at the park isn’t good for them!
DO NOT give money to children
We remember traveling to a remote village in Nepal, and some cute little kids came over to see who we were. Since they were locals we asked them for directions and then we got a shock when they asked us for money!
If giving money to beggars is questionable, giving money to children is simply irresponsible. In many places, children are taken out of school and sent to the street to beg for money. So instead of money, we gave them a bottle of water since it was a hot day.
DO NOT give sweets to children
Yeah, you read that right! Firstly you are spoiling their habits and getting their addicted to sugar. Secondly, we don’t know if their parents appreciate it or not! Stick to giving candy to your own kids.
Act according to the place
Imagine standing at 18,000 ft and hearing people shout their names or being in the thick of forest and hearing people chit-chatting loudly!
Picture this. A scantily clad person, visiting religious places. Or someone freezing to death in a mountain pass yet refusing to cover their crop top with a jacket! While we understand that what you wear is a personal choice, you also need to be sensible enough to see what dressing goes where.
Try NEW Things
From strange food to adventurous day trips, try new things – at least once. You may never have the opportunity again so go for it. Don’t just stick to rajma chawal or biryani wherever you go. Have local food – it might just surprise you! Or go bike-packing in the next destination you travel to!
Learn Basic Phrases
We know this is a tough one and we struggle with it sometimes. However, if we could pick up a few words in the local language, things get better so easily! What you need to do is learn the language’s basic greetings, gratitude phrases, and how-to request phrases. Not only will this make your interaction with the locals easier and faster, but it will be a good gesture to them.
Show Some Gratitude
Tips exist for one main reason; to show tangible gratitude to people who have been of great help to you. Make sure to tip even the most under-appreciated and forgotten employees at the hotel and wherever you go, including the maids who make your bed, clean your room and ensure your living environment is sparkling clean and in good order. If your budget does not allow for a tip, just saying thank you and treating them right is enough.
Participate in the local economy
What this means is that we should try using services or products that benefit the locals at the destinations we travel to. Try to stay at home-stays or local hotels, rather than chain hotels. Avoid big tourist attractions and buffet restaurants and eat and drink in local restaurants, street food stalls, cafes, and local neighborhood bars and pubs. Rather than using hotel aggregators, see if you can book directly with the accommodation provider.
The BIGGER Picture Of Bargaining
In our country, bargaining is a part of the culture. It can almost be like a game! Before you start haggling over 30 rupees, think about how far that extra bit of cash could go for the person you are dealing with. Most of us spend a lot while dealing with big brands but haggle with a roadside vendor. Help them make some money by offering them reasonable rates, only if they are being outlandish about pricing. Do other things to save money!
Pack Your Patience
The people in front of you are walking slowly, the airport security line is long and full of slow movers, or you’re stuck in traffic. Take a breath. Try to remember that you’re lucky enough to get to travel and that you’ll hopefully get wherever you’re going. Angry sighs, pushing or yelling won’t help things.
One of the best parts of travel is getting to meet people who are different from you. Don’t leap to judgment when you get the chance to interact with people who have different values, viewpoints or a way of life than you. Think of this as a learning experience rather than a chance to debate. You are unique and so are others, so embrace the difference!