How you can choose to be Environmentally Conscious when Travelling on your Gap Year
Preparing for your gap year is exciting. Your paid programme will give you opportunities to work and travel, meet new people and gain skills that no other experience can offer. Here’s our simple guide to help you pack for your gap year and protect the environment you are visiting.
Sustainable choices on your gap year
More and more people are becoming aware that their actions whilst travelling can have big impacts on the environment, countries they visit and the people that live there. Being more sustainable in the choices you make is more important than ever before.
Below are a couple of tips on how you can prepare for your travel and Gap Year and be more sustainable.
By no means is this an exhaustive list, just a starting point to get you thinking about the actions that you are taking to minimise your footprint.
Reusable travel items
Having a reusable tote or bag that can roll up into your handbag or backpack that you can use when you buy snacks or souvenirs is the easiest way to say no to plastic bags. You will also find that a lot of supermarkets and shops around the world are no longer offering customers a bag so this will mean you won’t be caught short.
Invest in a reusable coffee cup. Store bought coffees are delicious and a lot of places now offer a discount with a reusable coffee cup. These are also really handy to minimise your waste and repurpose for other drinks while out and about.
Carry a reusable/refillable drink bottle. This is a must! Not only do you save so much money in buying endless bottles of water you are also saving so much plastic waste. Please always check that the country you are visiting has safe drinking water, if not you might need to ask at your hotel/hostel or purchase a high grade filter for your drink bottle so you can also stay safe while travelling.
Forget plastic and carry reusable cutlery and straws. These environmentally friendly items do not take up room in your backpack and are very handy when exploring food markets. You’ll be able to picnic anywhere and be prepared. Hello to endless sandwiches and other budget friendly food in parks around the world!
Be responsible travellers
During your gap year you may visit lots of places. It’s important that we treat each new place with respect for generations to come. While travelling, pick up any rubbish you see lying around. When we travel we often get a bit lazy with some of the things that we do at home.
Instead of catching a double decker bus around town, there might be an option for a bicycle tour. These fun and casual rides around town will easily be a highlight of your trip. You get the unique opportunity to be amongst the locals and get your bearings on the city, more importantly there’s no pollution and you can tick off exercise for the day!
Learn the local customs and a couple of phrases that you can use even if it is just hello and goodbye. Respecting local cultures is a must when travelling, this will ensure that you aren’t being disrespectful and rude. It only takes a quick Google search on the key customs, whether it is covering up i.e. not wearing short shorts and sleeveless shirts; whether it is not holding hands or showing affection in public. This will ensure you don’t get into any tricky situations or offend any of the locals. Plus you get to learn about a different culture which is one of the biggest perks of travelling!
Support the local community
When in a hotel don’t forget to turn the lights and air conditioning off, have shorter showers and avoid getting a new towel every day. This is always a given back home but don’t forget while you aren’t paying for the electricity bill you are wasting large amounts of energy. Getting a clean towel each day is not necessary and will avoid large amounts of energy and water waste.
Eat at local restaurants, this will support the locals and is often a lot cheaper than international chain restaurants.
Buy local souvenirs, again you are supporting the local communities and reducing your impact on imported goods. Plus you will often walk away with a one off souvenir that you will be able to take home.
Avoid hands on wild animal experiences, too often these are marketed as “friendly” experiences but hidden from the tourists is the cruelty that continues to take place.
Pack lightly- this will avoid you paying for additional luggage, will be easier to carry around and reduces the amount of carbon emissions produced when flying.
If you are hiking, stay on the designated path. The paths are there for a reason, if you march off into the wilderness you are damaging often fragile ecosystems with protected or endangered species. Also maintain a safe distance from any animals that you see along the way.
We hope this helps give you a bit of an overview on ways that you can become a more conscious traveller on your gap year. Please share with us some of the ways you plan to be a conscious traveller. Remember to think globally and act locally!