How to Be a More Thoughtful Traveler This Year

A meditative moment in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Getty Images

Sustainably minded ideas from Virtuoso advisors and travel companies.

1. Start with a Simple New Resolution

After a year filled with canceled flights and quarantine, the start of 2021 is “a great time to reset our intention to travel,” says Virtuoso advisor Theresa Jackson. “But it’s also the time to reset our intention to travel in ways that will help the world heal and then thrive moving forward.” Here, her top five New Year’s goals for globe-trotters.

Lessen your footprint. Our plastic use increased significantly during the Covid shutdowns. To reverse that trend on future travels, remember to pack refillable water bottles, reusable bamboo cutlery for flights, and enough nondisposable masks to last your trip.

Be a giver. Consider spending a portion of your vacation volunteering, or look to contribute funds and supplies to local schools or antipoaching units.

Buy local. Supporting community artisans and vendors creates a ripple effect: Buying hand-crafted textiles or jewelry from a women-run micro-industry, for instance, often funds children’s educations.

Think small. Along with providing an intimate experience, smaller lodgings tend to be more effective in using renewable energy sources and providing locally grown food and carbon-free tours via electric vehicle or on foot.

Invest wisely. Ask where your travel dollars will be going and let it be known you’d like to support conscientious providers. By simply, say, selecting a specific lodge, you can help conserve and grow wildlife populations. Similarly, using local guides and drivers strengthens your connection to a destination and delivers a greater economic impact to the community.

2. Embrace Regenerative Travel

“Communities across the globe are in the midst of economic and environmental crises, and it’s more important than ever for us to recognize our responsibility to be stewards of the earth. By offering us the chance to participate in the recovery of the destinations we visit, regenerative travel provides insight into the interconnectedness of our precious world and the vital role each of us plays in sustaining it. It allows us to go beyond the principle of treading lightly to one of leaving the people and places we experience better off than when we arrived. Ultimately, regenerative travel delivers us from a state of powerlessness to one of purpose, enabling global transformation, one adventure at a time.” – Rose O’Connor, Virtuoso travel advisor

3. Brush Up on Some Global Etiquette

Virtuoso on-site Asia tour operator EXO Travel provides guides and guests with a handbook (printed on recycled paper, of course) filled with advice on responsible travel. Here, some of their best advice.

  • Learn how to say “hello,” “good-bye,” and “thank you” in the local language.
  • Respect cultural sites.
  • Connect with people before taking pictures.
  • Support local economies and artisan traditions.
  • Protect flora and fauna.

4. Heed the Advice of the World Travel & Tourism Council

The World Travel & Tourism Council recently published easy steps you can take to make your travel sustainable. Here are a few we’re adding to our travel resolutions:

Pack light and smart. Every additional pound you pack implies additional jet fuel. Also consider packing items that help reduce plastic waste, such as a reusable mask; a refillable water bottle, purifier, or filter; a reusable bag; and your own toiletries, to avoid single-use hotel products.

Support animal welfare and nature preservation. Look for tours that respect wildlife and keep a safe distance from animals, opt for wildlife sanctuaries and accredited rehabilitation centers where you can help protect rescued and orphaned animals, choose a sunscreen that doesn’t damage marine life, and when scuba diving or snorkeling, do so responsibly to make sure you aren’t treading on the coral.

Demand sustainability. It’s important to tell businesses that you expect sustainable practices. Fill in feedback forms when you have the chance, or speak to managers when you can.

5. Put Your Best Foot Forward

Three new pairs of sustainable sneakers we love.

Cariuma Oca Lows for Men
Rio, Brazil-based Cariuma maintains ethical factories, and its sneakers, born from sustainable raw materials such as bamboo and cork, are built to last (read: less landfill waste). $79, cariuma.com.

Yatay Unisex Neven Lows
Handmade in Le Marche, Italy, each pair of Yatay’s 100 percent vegan sneakers has a unique code on its heels. When customers enter their code on the company’s website, Yatay plants a tree in Kenya on their behalf – more than 110,000 pounds of carbon dioxide have been absorbed to date. $270, yatayatay.com.

Nothing New Women’s Low Tops
NYC’s Nothing New makes its sneakers with recycled cotton, plastic, and fishing nets. Bonus: The company purchases carbon credits to fully offset its production emissions. $95, nothingnew.com.

Joel Centano, January 18, 2021
Published in Virtuoso.com

luxury travel advisor Theresa Jackson on one of her adventures journeys

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