"Abroad" -- a simple word with many interpretations. A term synonymous with mystery, it draws up images of faraway lands, exotic customs, and diverse populations. Now more than ever the issues of travel, immigration and international relations are on the minds and hearts of many. For some, travel is not a choice but a necessity. For others, it is a chance to gain insight and broaden horizons. Spring is an incredible time to escape the cold months of winter and take a much needed holiday. But it's also important we acknowledge that this type of travel is a luxury, and the impact we make on the communities and environments we visit depends entirely on the intention we carry and the actions we take while abroad.
No matter where I travel, I always strive to tread lightly and engage the community. Whether you're a seasoned globetrotter or about to take your first trip, here's a few tips for how to be a conscious traveler and make the most of your trip abroad:
- Pack light - Someone once gave me that simple advice before my first trip and I'll never forget it. If everything we carry is an extension of ourselves, what does your pack say about you? I say bringing only the essentials keeps life simple, always including a warm layer (my Woolrich flannel comes with me everywhere!) music, a great book, and comfy shoes. A camera is key, and reusable water bottle/cutlery always comes in handy and reduces waste. Besides that, all you really need is a smile and heart full of gratitude and you'll be prepared for anything.
- Keep it in the Community - Treat where you go like where you're from. If you can't stay with a local, act like one. Is there a boutique hotel or eco lodge you can book rather than falling into a tourist trap? Can you shop at a farmer's market and use harvested ingredients rather than eating out every meal? Strive to get a local's perspective on a new destination and your impact will reflect the authenticity of your experience.
- Disconnect from Social Media and Connect with the Elements - When traveling abroad, it all comes down to intention and presence. Before your trip, ask yourself one question: What is the purpose? If it's to explore and experience, then being present in each moment is a must. Slow down, turn off devices, look around and immerse yourself in nature. Surfing, hiking, and camping are some of my favorite ways to discover a new place. Through studying and absorbing the swell patterns and geographic details of an area, I feel a sense of responsibility to preserve and care for my temporary home. I also develop a strong sense of independence and self sufficiency. Follow this tip and you'll come out a stronger, more competent traveller and THAT is something to take pride in.
- Leave It Better Than You Found It - I live and travel by the mentality "give more than you take." This can be accomplished in a number of ways from simple to serious commitments. Need some inspiration? How about smiling at strangers, practicing patience, sharing with the community, donating to a local cause, picking up trash when you see it, volunteering on a farm, or offering your skill sets to a local in need. There's countless ways to give back and no effort is too small. I love traveling with my polaroid for example, giving someone a physical photo as a memory to cherish has brought more smiles than I ever expected, and connections with strangers I'll never forget!
- Be an Ambassador of Love - Acknowledge your power. We are walking representatives of our beliefs and our culture. Now more than ever it is imperative that we take responsibility for our actions and cross borders with love, compassion, humility and understanding. Be kind, use manners, respect elders and local customs, make an effort to learn "please" and "thank you" in the local language; take the small steps that make a huge difference. It's these actions that make travel a tool for healing misunderstanding, creating authentic connections, and sharing fresh perspectives with those back home. Take this tip seriously and you will find the rewards are limitless!
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