We see the beautiful pictures and can’t wait to arrive at our next off the beaten track destination right? Unfortunately, some travellers inadvertently spoil it for the others. Not to mention the lasting negative impact they make on the lives of those who live there permanently.
A common problem not thought through by travellers is the rubbish they bring with them into people’s communities. You know what I’m talking about - the cute travel sized products that fit in our light backpacks and are oh so easy to toss away without a thought. What happens when we are done with them and sent them out into the world?
From toothpaste tubes, energy bar wrappers and zip lock bags to shampoo, washing powders and old makeup, we simply don’t realise the amount of waste we bring with us and then leave behind, when we travel.
Many countries in search of economic development, have opened to tourism in the last decade or so, but the lack of infrastructure prevents them from handling the waste we bring along. The beauty of these destinations, with their pristine and clean landscapes, will only remain that way if something can be done to manage the disposable waste we generate.
Did you know that many locations in the trekking regions of Nepal have no facilities for waste disposal or recycling? This means that waste ends up littering the waterways and landscape, polluting what ordinarily is a magical and serene landscape. Some see burning it as a solution but we also inadvertently cause harm to the environment by doing that too.
Waste or grey water is also an issue. With no separate waste disposal system, much of it ends up in rivers and streams. The issue here is that shampoos and washing powders may contain substances that could harm the balance that previously existed in that ecosystem.
So, with a bit of forward planning, we can create a memorable experience, but also not leave a negative footprint behind us. Visit, appreciate it and make your memories – but don’t spoil it for the locals.
Here are 10 tips on how to minimise our impact when travelling off the beaten track:
Pack a re-usable water bottle. You can refill it with water from any source, as long as you use water purification tablets.
Pack any food in re-usable containers.
Bring your own bags and re-use them. If they break, pack them away and bring them back home with you.
Bring your own travel cutlery to avoid using disposable ones you may be given.
Learn about the local recycling practices. If there are none, don’t contribute to the problem
Chose biodegradable toiletries. The solid ones are the best. Check out Lush as a good example.
Buy local food from local producers. You only THINK you need a Mars Bar when you are trekking the Himalayas – you really don’t.
If you are trekking with a guide, encourage the use of kerosene instead of timber. This may cost more, but will leave the forests and native vegetation intact.
If heading to a cold place, dress with appropriate warm clothing as this will reduce the need for heating.
Co-ordinate eating times with other travellers to reduce the use of fuel.
Remember, take only what you need - your back and shoulders will thank you too.
Travelling off the beaten track has given me many memorable experiences. That is a big part of why I started Finders and Makers. Encouraging ethical and sustainable business in the developing world plays a big role in a nation’s economic development and I want to be a part of that.
What have you learnt from your ‘off the beaten track’ travel experiences? We welcome you to share your stories with the Finders and Makers tribe!
Until next time,
Photo credits in order of appearance: Christopher Burns, Kristy Dixon, Hermes Rivera, Sergio Souza, Ives Ives, Alex Blajan