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But what the heck is this “responsible travel”?!?

Traveling is wonderful. No doubt about that, right?
Getting in touch with people and cultures and lifestyles so so far from our own, visiting breathtaking corners of the world, sensing the exotic…it’s hard not to fall into the addiction of the compulsive traveller.Footprints on the beach
What we often don’t realize though, in the excitement of packing, taking an airplane, and going far away, is that we always leave traces behind us in the places we visit.

Often we hear talking about responsible travel, sustainable tourism, fair travel and eco-tourism, and we may have questioned the meaning of these obscure words. Well the good news is, behind all of them lays one single, important, concept: ensuring that those traces we leave behind are positive ones.

OK, I bet right now you are thinking yes, alright, but in substance, this responsible sustainable tourism, what the heck is? 

Indian woman doing laundry


In 1988 the World Tourism Organization defined it as such: “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”. 

Let’s make it simple: the conscious traveler is one who pays attention to the environmental and ethical impact of tourism; he/she’s informed on the place he’ll visit, on its customs and traditions; he respects the environment, the local population, and makes sure that the money he spends goes directly to the locals.
It sounds complicated, but it’s not!

Ecotourism sign and monkeys

Image: Susan Renee

Here it’s the top 4 of the wrong stereotypes on responsible travel.

1| To travel responsibly means leaving with a backpack, sleeping on a hammock and doing things like trekking in the jungle. WRONG!
Sure, there are operators or packages which associate responsible travel with adventurous experiences, but there are options for any kind of travellers. Are you more of a city girl/guy? In the middle of the biggest cities in the world there are environmentally conscious hotel associating sustainability with comfort.

2| Sustainable tourism means low-budget travel. WRONG!
Fortunately there are sustainable options for youngsters with no money as well (actually, there are always more hostels caring about the environment!), but this doesn’t mean that if you’re a little older or have money to splurge on something a bit more luxurious, there are no options for you. For example, what about an eco-resort on the beach in Costa Rica or in the Amazon?

3| Being a sustainable traveler is too expensive for me. WRONG!
Read above. Choose one of the many conscious hostels around the world (some of them are actually the best hostels you will ever find!), and travel by train or car-sharing so tyou can save money as well.

4| It’s too hard to travel in a responsible way, especially if I want to book with a travel agent. WRONG!
Being a conscious tourist is no hard by any way, you just need to think about the consequence of your decisions…something you probably do in your everyday life anyway!
Tourists have become more and more demanding, and tour operators are sponding by offering sustainable packages, you just need to choose the right one. For a more personalized experience, choose a small tour operator specialized in the place you’re visiting.

In conclusion, there are really no excuses not to be conscious!

And you, what do you usually do in order to be a responsible traveler?
  • Stefania Guglielmi

    Stefania Guglielmi is the founder of Every Steph. Originally from Bologna, Italy, she's been traveling full-time since 2016 and has visited over 50 countries across 6 continents. She believes sustainable travel and luxury travel can go hand in hand and has been advocating for responsible tourism since 2014. Stefania's advice and travel experiences have been featured in important publications such as Business Insider, Refinery29, and Yahoo Money.


Monday 20th of October 2014

Great post Steph! Thanks for promoting responsible travel. I think we all have lots to learn and to contribute in this area moving forward.


Tuesday 21st of October 2014

Thank you! You are right, there's still much to do, but promoting a form of tourism that will give instead of destroying is just so important!