Ethical and Eco Travels - Off the Beaten Track

Ethical and Eco Travels - Do you enjoy traveling but want your time away to have a positive impact? Step off the beaten tracks (Paris, Rome, Barcelona, London etc.) and pack your bags for an ethical traveling destination!


What’s the Difference Between Ethical Tourism and Eco Travel?

You may have heard of eco tourism or eco travel, where the environment plays a large role and places are selected due to their “green” profile. Low-key resorts with minimal impact to the surroundings and buildings made from local materials is the core of eco-traveling. In contrast, ethical traveling involves these concepts but with a much broader selection of possibilities as well.

Ethical travel is directly related to the conscientious choices that you make when you plan your vacation. You accede to the idea of sustainable tourism by using resources while making sure they can also meet future generations' needs. In turn, the social and environmental negative impacts caused by tourism are minimized.

Ethical travel in its deeper meaning also means putting down your photo camera and giving a helping hand where is needed. It can be seen as a form of volunteering that focuses on human relation and meeting between cultures in developing countries. It means living with the locals and getting actively involved in a wide range of activities varying from: teaching a foreign language, helping to build a shelter, providing healthcare support, eco-travel expeditions or wildlife conservation projects.


How it Works

Depending on the situation, you may have the opportunity to be invited to live with a local family or you can spend the nights in shared rooms with other tourists. Keep in mind that locals residing in more impoverished areas have limited means to support their family, so try not to be a burden during your stay. Ask to help out as much as you can and try to blend in to the rhythm of their daily lives. Just because you are on holiday, does not mean they are! Be prepared to cover small costs for accommodation and meals. Other costs could be related to short trips organized in the area.

It is always a nice gesture to bring some things with you that can be left with the family after you leave. Consider bringing things that would be long-lasting and useful to a family with less than you. Be sensible too, something that requires a lot of batteries may not be a great idea if there is no money to buy them when they run out. An old Playstation2 game won’t do any good in a house without a TV, let alone a PS2 game console!

A few things that are nice to bring include: Items from your own wardrobe you wouldn’t mind parting with. You could also bring basic office supplies like pen, paper, glue, tape, pushpins, elastic bands and so forth. Useful household items could range from small kitchen utensils to things like hammers or pliers. Silly things like rubber balloons, balls and small toys are often really appreciated. Other options include “quality of life changers” like old unused laptops, mobile phones and even mp3 players! You would be surprised how many items we have collecting dust on the shelf that would be the most prized possession in another household.

The costs of donating some of these items will be more than offset by the low price of your room & board, not to mention the positive feeling that comes from helping the less fortunate. :)


Costs of Ethical and Eco Travel

By definition, ethical traveling does not require staying in a luxury hotel or in an ultra-expensive location. You won’t be helping the local population by staying in a downtown mega-resort so your vacation budget will be reduced from the start.

All of the places we researched offer a range of prices and potential interests. There is a form of ethical travel that should appeal to nearly every type of person. It is important to do some research and perhaps ease yourself into the experience by spending just a portion of a regular holiday doing an ethical excursion.


So Why Should You Do It?

It is hard to give up the easier choice of going to some mega-resort, separated from the locals by large walls and private beach fences because it can be so relaxing and everyone does need time for themselves. That said, perhaps you can spend half of your holiday laying by the pool doing “sweet nothing” and the other half with a local family business, farm or volunteer organization.

There is something to be gained by unselfish actions. At the very least, a feeling of accomplishment will be achieved, as donating your time and effort is a big deal. Call it karma, but what comes back to you can be infinitely more rewarding than the effort it took in the first place.

Ethical traveling can be summed up in a few words: learning, caring, sharing and giving!

By choosing this alternate form of traveling you share your knowledge and skills with the people you choose to help. This is accomplished in many ways by getting involved in their daily activities, if even for a short while. At the same time, you return with a unique lifelong experience.

Choose to ethically travel if you want to make a change in the world, one step at a time. It may not be the thing to do every trip you take but if we all could do so once in awhile it would positively affect the planet.


Where Can You Visit?

Ethical traveling destinations should be selected considering criteria such as: human rights, social welfare and environmental protection. Does the country you’re visiting have a good record in these matters?

We would like to compile a review-bank with all of the best and worst travel destinations, including ethical travelling. Check back with us at InLivin’ Reviews to see future articles on our findings…

In the meantime, we asked around and heard about some pretty cool places to try.


Here are five European ethical and eco travel options for the summer:

1. Estonia - WWOOF
Working on an organic farm gives you hands-on experience of bio or other ecologically-sound growing methods. At the same time that useful work is being carried out, the experience can also provide you with an opportunity to learn about life in the host country by living and working together. See their website for more info.

2. Romania – Transylvanian villages
Dive into rural life and traditional occupations of region famous shepherding, Sibiu’s borders. The host will get you involved in local gardening, cooking traditional foods, painting, and making bricks the way it has been done for centuries.
See their website for more info.

3. Spain – Ecotrek and Wine tasting in Beautiful Priorat
This experience includes guided visits to wine tasting at some of the ecological wine cellars in the region and staying in family run rural accommodation in the area.
See their website for more info.

4. Greece – Sea Turtle conservation
Project highlights: Get up close and personal with some breathtaking marine wildlife while making a difference. Help monitor and relocate sea turtle hatchlings and experience laidback beach life.
See their website for more info.

5. Portugal – Monte Mariposa
Get involved in performances, courses, workshops and residential training’s in fields such as: Energy work, art, dance and movement studies, holistic healing, theatre, music and environmental awareness.
See their website for more info.