12 Practices of a Morally Conscious Traveler

Athens, Greece

So you’ve decided to explore the world. Or at least a tiny part of it for now…

Studying abroad in the UK and Ireland comes with endless opportunities to travel outside of your home country. With Europe right next door and the frequent availability of low-cost flights, traveling to new places has likely never been easier for you. Yay!

Before you book your next weekend getaway, take a moment to think about what kind of traveler you want to be. It’s not always highlighted in the mainstream tourist scene, but with the ability to travel comes a lot of responsibility.

When we actively choose to be mindful about the ways in which we travel, the whole world benefits – as do we. So here are a few conscious travel practices that we can all try to remind ourselves of wherever we go.

1. Do a bit of research about local customs and traditions before you arrive at your destination. This will enable you to be as prepared as you can be. Find out about the acceptable ways of dress and the customary greetings and manners.

2. Be respectful and openminded. You will likely encounter situations and sights that you are not used to. Embrace the difference and respect the culture. Remember, you are a visitor.

3. Learn how to say ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘hello’ in the native language. Even if you can’t get the accent quite right, people will appreciate your attempt. Don’t complain if a language barrier inconveniences you. Embrace the challenge and do the best you can.

Annecy, France

4. Ask more, tell less. Encourage yourself to bring up questions when chatting with locals. Listen intently. The less you talk about you and your country of origin, the more you will learn about your current location and the people who live there.

5. Respect people’s boundaries. No one is obligated to answer or help you. Sometimes people just don’t have the capacity to engage – and that’s okay. Practice seeing things from a perspective that is not your own.

6. Be kind. Even if you experience unpleasantness. Know when to ‘stay in your lane.’ Wherever you go, there will be people who appreciate your kindness and authenticity. Express your interest and good intentions.

7. Buy locally when you can. You will likely run into a global restaurant chain or recognize some imported merchandise. And it can be tempting to spend money on what you know. But whenever you are able, support the local businesses that are trying to thrive on a smaller scale. Especially those that are owned and run by people who grew up in the country you are visiting.

Seville, Spain

8. Take care of the environment. Minimize your impact. Dispose of your waste properly. Conserve resources. Even if you notice people doing otherwise, lead by example. The planet is the one thing we all share, and we should do our best to protect it no matter where we are in the world.

9. Remember that your point of view is always relative to perspective. Your opinions are based on your own life experiences, and they may differ from those held by locals. Make sure to not jump to any conclusions about what you think is needed. If you ever feel called to offer your service in some way, the best thing to do is listen to local community leaders.

10. Assume you know nothing about where you are going. Ignore stereotypes and reputation. Free your mind of the opinions of family, friends, co-workers, and online influencers — leave room for you to form your own thoughts and reactions while you are traveling. Let go of any preconceived expectations and experience it for yourself.

11. Be present. Try not to think too much about what you will do once you return, or which photographs you are going to share. Photography can be a fun way to document any trip — just make sure to spend time really experiencing where you are. Practice mindfulness. Just be. Learn. Experience. Enjoy.

12. Find gratitude. Not everyone has access to these kinds of experiences abroad. And how wonderful it is to be able to travel somewhere new!