It’s the end of January already and the time of year when New Year resolutions have already been broken and for some are a thing of the past.
Most of us strive to be a better person, to be a better version of ourselves than we were last year and New Year gives us that chance to reflect on what we want to let go off and what we want to change.
But sometimes we forget that we are human, just trying to do our best in the world and that sometimes we slip up, and it’s okay. We don’t have to have everything figured out. All we can do is take action from today and leave the past in the past.
My biggest resolution this year was to make more of an impact. More of an impact in regards to being a better conscious traveller, of being a better business woman and of making more of an impact in the world. So I came up with a goal:
Girl about the Globe aims to create 100,000 conscious travellers and to raise £100,000 to impact the lives of vulnerable girls about the globe by the year 2025.
And I have to admit that stepping up to make more of an impact scares me, but all I can do is take steps to do it. There’s a saying by Stephen R. Covey that ‘If we keep doing what we're doing, we're going to keep getting what we're getting.’
Making a change to what we are doing can, and will change the course of our future. There has never been such a critical time on the planet to think about actions and how we can change the course of our environmental. The greatest change comes from our behaviour.
Now is the time to step up, and if you want to make an impact this year, but are confused about how to do it or what making an impact even really means, then I’ve put together a pledge with the 10 main ways I believe we can be conscious travellers and help to make more of an impact. If you would like to learn more about one of the topics, click the links below to be taken to the article for more information.
1. Volunteer Through an Ethical Company and Avoid Orphanages
Volunteering is such a hot topic, especially within orphanages. I recently attended a talk on the impact of volunteering in an orphanage by Next Generation Nepal, who advised that the children can suffer from a psychological detachment disorder. They also struggle to form relationships later on. Having previously volunteered in an orphanage in Kenya, I later questioned the positive impact, if any, my visit had had. Instead of volunteering this way, help support organisations that work with families of orphanages.
2. Reducing Your Footprint
There are so many things that we do which have a negative impact on the environment and one is flying. But some airlines are working on new ways to help reduce their carbon footprint. As a consumer we can offset our carbon footprint for any flights that we take. It can be hard to reduce travelling if it is a means for work or business but we can make an impact by offsetting any journeys that we take, whether that’s on a plane, bus or car.
Using public transport is recommended such as buses, or car pooling services instead of taxis. If you can cycle then even better, but sometimes we know that’s just not possible.
The Carbon Footprint Calculator works out the impact of your journey, e.g. a flight from London to Barcelona is 0.36 metric tons. To offset it, I can then choose to plant trees to the cost, help reforestation in Kenya or help community projects. It’s really easy to use.
3. Taking Ethical Photos of People & Children
It can be challenging when you travel. When I used to travel with a camera, children would automatically be curious about it and want to pose to have their photo taken. If you are taking a photo of a local, then it’s common etiquette to ask their permission first. If you then show them the photo, you’ll often see their face light up as it may be the first time they have ever seen a photograph.
People are humans and happily snapping them when you are on a tour especially if it is a township tour, is not an ethical way to behave. Make sure you have permission of a tribesman that you want to photograph and don’t share images of children on your social media either.
If you are approached by a child begging, try to refrain from giving them money or gifts. Sometimes these children are taken out of school and any money that you give them encourages them away from their education. Instead support community-led projects which helps street kids.
4. Elephants & Wildlife
We all want to see an elephant when we travel especially if we’ve never seen one in the wild before. I’m ashamed to say that I rode an elephant in Thailand nearly 20 years ago, when I was unaware of the impact and how the elephants were are treated to make them interact with humans. Luckily, we now have so much more awareness and people are being discouraged from harmful elephant rides. As an alternative, you can visit an elephant sanctuary and see the elephants bathing and doing things that elephants should be doing. This also applies to staged animal and sea life shows. Avoid anything that an animal is doing which is not natural, and watch them in their natural habitat instead.
5. Reducing Plastic
According to Greenpeace “Right now it is estimated that up to 12 million metric tons of plastic—everything from plastic bottles and bags to microbeads—end up in our oceans each year. That’s a truckload of trash every minute.”
This is such a huge topic, and one that can sometimes be easier to manage when you’re at home where you can drink the tap water, and recycle any plastic. When you’re away, especially if you are travelling to a third world country, where tap water is impossible to consume, and they don’t recycle.
To try and avoid this, buy a water filter flask before you go. You can get some great portable travel ones and just filter straws to help clean the water and make it safe to drink. Take your own cutlery with you if you can too. I travel with a plastic spork that doubles up as a spoon and a fork, and a reusable cup which helps reduce my plastic consumption.
6. Be Mindful of What You Buy
It’s easy to pick up a pretty souvenir as a memento of your trip and not think twice about where it actually comes from. Try to avoid buying anything that looks as though it’s made from threatened or endangered species, including coral and other marine life. Don’t buy any fake goods such as imitation Gucci handbags and instead try and buy souvenirs direct from artisans.
7. Help The Local Community
One easy way to help the communities you visit is by finding social impact projects. There are many great organisations making a positive social impact to their local communities such as restaurants who help feed the homeless, or accommodation that support their local schools. Not only do you get to support a local’s business but you indirectly help the vulnerable people in their community too. Search for social impact programs in the city that you’re going to.
8. Report Anything Suspicious
It is an industry that is difficult to comprehend but for the 47 million people who are human trafficked every single year, this $150 billion business is their reality. That’s why human trafficking awareness is so important, especially when we travel.
When we travel alone, we’re more inclined to look around and be aware of our surroundings. Our senses can be heightened and our instinct so much greater that we notice things that just don’t feel right.
Apparently 20-25% of people who have travelled have witnessed a potential situation where a child was at risk and only 4% reported it. If we are staying at a hotel and we see a young girl with an older man and it doesn’t feel right then it really is best to report it to the hotel. You could make such a difference to that girl’s life.
9. To Not Be judgemental and Respect The People And The Culture
This can be a challenging one, especially if you are having a hard time when you’re away and experiencing some cultural challenges (Hello West Africa). When things don’t go your way, or when the locals have a laid-back attitude when you really need the answers yesterday, it can be hard to put it down to cultural differences when it’s affecting our trip. It’s times like these when we need to remember why we travel. To experience another country, another culture and its people.
Reading up about cultural norms before we go can help us to have a more comfortable trip. We travel the world to be a better person so aim to not judge how others choose to live their lives. Accepting things will really impact your trip and the people that you meet along the way.
10. To Embrace Every Moment
Life slips by so quickly that it’s so important to be in the moment as much as we can. That’s what I love about solo travel. It forces you to live in the moment and be in the present as you become mindful of each action that you take, whether that’s looking for your accommodation, admiring architecture in a back street that you just turned down, or witting on a long bus journey staring out at the landscape flashing past. If we can embrace the transformation that solo travel brings, we can help to inspire and empower other women to travel solo too.
One person really can make a difference, so if your resolution for 2020 or the whole decade was to make an impact and change the way that you travel, I hope these have helped you to see how simple it can be.
If you like these actions and want to take the Girl about the Globe pledge, click on this link to become a Girl about the Globe.
My word for 2020 is Impact. What’s yours?