Thailand recently announced that its once pristine Maya Bay will remain closed indefinitely to tourists. Ringed by cliffs, the turquoise waters and white sand beaches of the bay were immortalized in Leonardo DiCaprio’s film The Beach. But the price of fame meant up to 5,000 tourists visited the bay per day, and, unfortunately, the vast majority didn’t practice ethical travel.
The result? A magnificent destination was ravaged by crowds, trash, and damage to local habitats including fragile coral reefs. Thai officials have determined to keep the beach closed until its ecosystem fully recovers, a courageous step on the nation’s part. But this issue brings to mind the importance of teaching our kids to travel responsibly.
Make Responsible Choices
If we want to make tourism sustainable both environmentally and economically, then we need to start by teaching our kids how to travel ethically. While ethical tourism is a broad topic, it starts with the resolution to consider the lasting consequences of our actions on the places that we visit.
Whether this means leaving no trace, traveling authentically, or shopping locally, these seemingly small choices add up to big positive consequences. Simple actions make a significant difference.
Leave No Trace
Unlike the beachgoers of Maya Bay who left behind plastic waste, pollution, and environmental devastation, let’s make the conscious decision to leave no trace when we travel. That means coming prepared to carry out all of the waste that our families create.
Some travelers go the next step, ready to carry out trash left by previous guests, too. While this marks a decision that every family needs to make on their own, leaving a destination better than we find it has incredibly positive repercussions. It also teaches our kids powerful lessons about global stewardship.
Responsible tourism starts well before we ever set foot in our destination. It involves learning about a nation’s language(s), culture(s), geography, and history. It means digging deeper to gain a profound understanding of the country’s customs, food, music, and art.
As we gain familiarity with local cultures and geographies, we’ll naturally find ourselves gravitating towards less visited places. From off-the-beaten-path cafes to playgrounds, we’ll travel like locals rather than tourists.
We’ll have more opportunities to interact with residents in authentic ways, too. When we approach a new place authentically, we bring good intentions and respect to our encounters. And we effortlessly teach our children the building blocks of good global citizenship.
When in a destination, we can get truly adventurous by investing in the local economy through purchases. From food to keepsakes, we’ll put more back into local economies while gaining a greater sense of what it’s like to live in a place.
Instead of keeping a constant eye open for McDonald’s and Starbucks, let’s branch out and visit local food markets, cafes, and co-ops. We’ll experience regional culture at its most vibrant. What’s more, mom-and-pop shops and restaurants tend to cost less yet provide greater value.
Modeling Ethical Travel
As Maya Bay attests, the time to start practicing ethical travel is now. We need to teach responsible tourism practices to our children. That means traveling authentically and minimizing our impact. It also means investing in local markets and choosing a responsible travel tour company that cares about regional economies and the environment.
At Our Whole Village, raising globally-minded children and supporting responsible travel remain our passions. We believe that travel is crucial to raising good global citizens. And the family adventures we offer benefit local economies, too.
We’re here to help you and your family experience the world, its peoples, and its cultures. Contact us today to learn more about the unforgettable experiences that we handcraft to introduce kids to the world and create better global citizens.