Conscious Travel: How NOT to Be a Problem Tourist

Bali Baths

Is recent news making you rethink how you travel? 

You’re not alone. 

Wherever you look – from major publications to social media – you’ll find stories about bad-apple tourists. It’s enough to make you wonder whether it’s even possible to have a positive impact when you visit a foreign country.

Well, we have some good news: conscious travel is alive and well, and it’s more attainable than you think.

How (Some) Travelers are Ruining Travel

Lately, it’s easy to get the sense that tourists are marching carelessly around the world wreaking havoc.

As we mentioned in our article about responsible tourism, the post-pandemic travel uptick has brought a wave of cringe-worthy travel stories, ranging from graffiti on Italy’s historical landmarks to Amsterdam’s public drunkenness problem. 

But, as the BBC points out, a change in perspective might be (partially) to blame. 

It’s possible that bad tourists were always causing mayhem, but in the past, the rest of us didn’t pay much attention. 

For one thing, cell phone cameras catch everything today. But it’s not just about technology changes; it’s about culture.

Today, people are more mindful than ever of privilege and its consequences, making them quick to correct or condemn bad tourist behavior. And more and more travelers are putting their personal values at the forefront of their travel decisions, according to research by Expedia Group.

We’re not saying there’s not a problem with bad tourists – there absolutely is! 

What we are saying is there’s hope. Which leads us to the topic we want to discuss today – a mindset any traveler can adopt to make real change. It’s called conscious travel.

How to Embrace a Conscious Travel Style

So, what exactly is conscious travel?

While not an official definition, conscious travel is essentially travel for good. 

Here are a few subcategories of conscious travel:

  • Eco-conscious travel is travel that minimizes negative impact – or has a net positive impact – on local and global environments.
  • Socially conscious travel is travel that respects the culture, economy, and environment of the location you’re visiting.

Conscious travel doesn’t just reduce the negative impacts of travel (like bad tourist behavior or carbon emissions). It actually seeks to make the world a better place. 

For example, conscious travel can have a positive impact on:

  • Economies. When you make sure your travel dollars go to local communities, you can help support traditional ways of life and economic systems that rely on tourist dollars. You can do this either by purchasing from small businesses directly, or from larger travel companies that, in turn, invest in local communities and employ locals for a fair wage.
  • Awareness. When you seek out education about environmental and social issues in your destination, you can help spread awareness to your friends and family, creating a ripple effect that leads to positive change. Awareness is the first step towards charitable donations, volunteer movements, and even some policy changes!
  • Environment. When you’re conscious about where you spend your travel budget, you have the chance to help preserve the natural environment or improve the built human environment.

Our Favorite Conscious Travel Stories

At The Travel Yogi, we plan our Yoga Adventure itineraries based on conscious travel principles – from the local businesses we support to our clean air commitment (more on that below!). 

But honestly, the best part is watching groups of people team up to make a positive change. Here are two of our favorite examples: one passionate group of travelers, and one passionate group of locals.

Building a Well in Kenya

Sunset in Kenya via Mekeila

Kenya is an incredibly diverse country, home to 42 indigenous ethnic groups that are continuing their unique cultural legacies through the 21st century. 

On our Kenya Yoga Adventure, travelers visit land inhabited by the Samburu, a semi-nomadic pastoral people known for their colorful beaded garments and skill in reading the land to find water for their herds. 

Recently, though, the Samburu region has been going through drought, and access to new water sources has become an obstacle as the people continue their nomadic lifestyle in the face of climate change. 

Our 2023 Kenya traveler group was so inspired by their experience getting to know the Samburu tribe they’ve set to work raising $100,000 for a permanent well by partnering with The Samburu Project.

In fact, even travelers from our other adventures are getting involved, including the August 2024 Sri Lanka Adventure group!

Reforesting Bhutan

Bhutan Forest via Dropbox

Our conscious travel story is less about us, and more about an incredible Bhutanese project with deep roots and a lasting legacy!

Bhutan is one of only 3 carbon negative countries in the world! Take a moment to appreciate that.. It is no small feat.

To say that the Bhutanese people are dedicated to protecting their biodiverse nation would be an understatement. So it was important for us to make sure our visits to their country have a positive impact.

We chose our local partners for the Bhutan Yoga Adventure not just because they provide excellent English speaking guidance. They also agree to plant 100 trees per trip as part of their promise to us and in aid of reforesting Bhutan.

Bhutan issues limited tourist visas each year. As part of this small, privileged quota, each group of Travel Yogis that visits Bhutan knows they’re treading lightly and leaving Bhutan’s forests 100 trees stronger.

The Travel Yogi Approach

Conscious travel isn’t just about the biggest, most impressive impacts, though. It’s a matter of consistent, small choices.

Keep money local

Hyper-local travel experiences are the best travel experiences. You’ll learn more, you’ll meet locals on their terms, and you’ll support communities financially. 

Whether you’re chanting with monks in Cambodia or making goat cheese in Italy, you’ll know the individual people who are welcoming you into their culture are being paid directly. 

Keep the air clean

When you hop on an airplane to explore some far-off destination, carbon emissions are released into the air. There’s no way around that (at least until airlines figure out how to not burn jet fuel). 

But there is a way to remove carbon from the air, solidify it, and use it in other products. We’re not scientists, but we’re still kind of obsessed with this technology, and we support it on every trip through our partnership with Tomorrow’s Air! 

You can learn more about how we keep the air clean here.

Conscious Adventure Awaits!

Ready for an adventure that does more than just prevent a negative impact, but actually makes a positive change? 

At The Travel Yogi, we’re here to help you follow your big travel dreams by supporting small local businesses and communities across the world. 

That leaves just one question. It’s a hard one, and only you know the right answer…

Where will conscious travel take you first?

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