Regenerative travel is on all the headlines in the travel world these days. The basic idea of regenerative travel is to leave a destination better than you found it. This philosophy plays into the conscious travel mentality. In preparing to travel post-COVID-19, it’s imperative that we travel with more intentionality and respect to the local people and places we visit.
Supporting a destination by spending money there is great, but I want to challenge you to take it a step further. Let’s take a holistic approach when it comes to tourism in the future. We’ve already seen that overtourism was a huge problem preceding COVID, so this is our opportunity to travel better in the future.
Follow these 7 suggestions of mindful ways to contribute to a destination.
1. Learn the language
Start by learning the language! This is something fun you can do before your trip in the planning process. I recommend starting with essential phrases then try out some more advanced, fun things to say like “You’re the best!” or “I really appreciate it!”. You could learn through an app like Duolingo or take an online course.
Languages open doors and show locals that you really care and respect their culture. It’s a great start to traveling with intention.
2. Research your heart out
Learning about the cultural and historical context in which you’re visiting is also something you can do pre-travel. For example, you can read an overview of the history, political structure, artistic movements, literary figures, top dishes, and cultural norms. This one is SO much fun when you have months to plan (ahem, covid times). The more you know about your destination, the more interesting it will be to explore the place in person. Not to mention, the more you will be able to understand the culture, which translates to less culture shock.
3. Ask permission (to local gods/deities/land)
In your research, you may come across myths or religious figures central to your destination. Get to know these figures. Then, as you arrive, respectfully hold a ritual asking for permission and show gratitude to these local gods or deities. The ritual can be as simple as walking to a river or beach taking a moment of silent appreciation by yourself. You could also light a candle and say a prayer.
4. Volunteer at a local nonprofit
Ask your hotel concierge or do an online search of local nonprofits or charities looking for volunteers. For example, during my time in Big Sur, I reached out to a dog pound, Baja Dogs, and asked to help walk the dogs. They were very appreciative of the extra hand!
What skills or passion of yours could you put to use while traveling? How can you be of use to the community you’re visiting?
5. Give amazing reviews of your favorite places
This will help those small businesses that rely on reviews to get customers. Maybe you met the chef and owner of a small restaurant and loved the meal so much that you wanted to share it with the world. Luckily, now you can! You can write a five-star review and feel the satisfaction of knowing you helped out in a small way, and trust me, they will appreciate it!
6. Choose local
Make sure your spending money is spent on the locals. For instance, instead of staying in the chain hotel owned by a foreigner, intentionally choose a bed and breakfast owned by a local. Instead of drinking a Starbucks, go to the local cafe. Supporting local ensures that your money gives back to those who reside in the place you’re visiting.
7. Change your mindset
The most important aspect of conscious traveling is the change in mindset. To start, you’ve got to stop thinking of what you can get out of the place. Instead, think in terms of what you can give back to the place. By reading this article, you’re on your way! Keep up the good work, and spread the word. Together, we can change the travel industry for the better.
Conclusion: Regenerative travel starts with you
The tourism industry is changing for the better. We have to each put in the work to make that change happen. As the quote goes, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” That means you can be the change by traveling with mindfulness and intention. In doing so, you will have a better experience, and the locals will benefit as well! That’s what regenerative travel is all about!
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