You’re on holiday, you want to have a fantastic time, see everything and do everything possible. But this urge sometimes leads tourists to push the boundaries. Ignoring a sign, jumping a fence or carving your name in a tree may seem like a small moment that provides you with the perfect holiday snap or story, however, these actions are having massive consequences.
Being a thoughtful tourist is becoming more and more important. Recently, a beautiful Sunflower Farm in Ontario closed down forever due to inconsiderate visitors. The sheer volume of traffic to the quiet town in Millgrove caused huge problems for residents with the local police having to control cars through the site. Furthermore, visitors would simply trespass from every corner onto the farm to get the perfect picture, not only is this illegal, it often damaged the flowers.
This story highlights perfectly why we should all try to be good tourists. By thinking before doing, we can preserve beautiful locations for everyone to enjoy and enjoy safely. Here are a few ways to be a considerate traveller on your next vacation!
Obey Safety Signs
Safety police here! I may seem like a party pooper, but obeying safety signs is a simple step to be a good tourist. Every year there are stories of thrill seekers who have gotten themselves into danger and either severely injured themselves or died when disobeying multiple signs.
Those slippery rocks are not going to save you!
Whilst I hate seeing a natural beauty spot littered with bright yellow warning signs, I understand the importance. However, several times I have seen people inch themselves out onto slippery rock edges to get the perfect selfie. It seems crazy to have to say it but obey the signs and stay safe!
Leave No Trace
Now this is primarily a hiking principal (check out leavenotrace.ca) However, it can be applied to all aspects of travelling. The idea is that you pack back into your bag exactly what you pack out, leaving no evidence you’ve ever even visited a spot. This is important when hiking so that the natural environment is protected, and animals are not attracted to human foods. However, I feel this principal can be applied to other situations. If you’re in the city and can’t find a bin, put it back in your bag too!
Don’t Approach or Feed Wildlife
As mentioned above leave no trace is key in protecting wildlife, once animals become accustomed to human food they actively seek it out. Not only does this endanger humans but the animals are less likely to survive on our crappy snacks. Plus, here in Canada there is a fine of up to $25,000 for feeding wildlife! Now that is an expensive holiday experience.
Both this bird and otter were waiting for food but don’t give in to the cuteness!
Matt and I have also witnessed tourists actively following a bear cub. Crazy behaviour like this can not only get yourself hurt but can often lead to the animal being putdown. All because someone wanted the perfect picture. Recently in Alaska a gentleman jumped a fence from a viewing platform into a zone where several brown bears were feeding on salmon… all to get a selfie. Given that there was a safe place to view these wonderful creatures from there is no excuse. So, don’t become a bear snack… stay at least 100m away.
Keep off the Grass!
Another way to be a respectful tourist while on the trails is similar to the first one, stay on the trails! It maybe tempting to venture down to a river, waterfall or lookout when there isn’t a designated trail, however, you may be damaging valuable or endangered parts of the wilderness. Surface vegetation, animal habitats and fragile soils can all be disrupted when we go off track.
Inukshuks left by tourists on the left and one left to mark a trail on the right… huge difference!
Even something as simple a picking up a rock can have an impact of the surrounding environment for many years. For example, Park officials in Jasper have requested that hikers stop building inukshuks (balancing rocks on top of one another) on trails as it was causing major soil erosion. However, if we all stick to the trails we can preserve these beautiful, natural resources for generations to come.
Try and Speak the Language
As a Brit I know we have a bit of a reputation for being rubbish with languages. It’s only partially our fault, we do get taught languages at school (shout out to my French teacher Miss Mariner) but we don’t start learning until we are eleven in most cases. Other countries learn from a much younger age and are therefore a bit better at us in terms of communication. But learning a few phrases show some willing when on your holiday. Nine times out of ten they will switch to English, but I do feel happy when I’m understood in a foreign language. Knowing a little about the language is also key when reading signs, using transit or in an emergency.
Use Public Transit
Using public transit may not seem like an obvious way of being a better tourist. However, by hopping on the bus, train or tram can ease congestion is busy areas, making it easier for residents to get on with their everyday lives. It can also be more environmentally friendly and cheaper than driving.
Go even further by travelling off peak and avoiding rush hours. Furthermore, many transit systems around the world are famous within their own right. The London Tube and red double decker buses, San Francisco’s trams or the subway in New York are well worth exploring.
Enjoy and Respect the Culture
A great part of travelling is seeing and experiencing new things. Witnessing different cultures is a beautiful thing but it is important to respect all aspects of a nations way of life. A simple example from my travels would be in America. Their love for their flag and anthem is astounding, it is sung before pretty much every single sporting occasion unlike the UK where it is usually only done in the finals of a competition. However, whilst it is not my country’s national anthem (and I’m pretty impartial to that too!) I would always stand and remove my hat whilst it’s being sung. It’s a small gesture to show that you understand and respect the nuances of that particular country.
Consider Those Around You
This final one ties all these tips together, by considering those around you everyone can enjoy their vacation. Everyone is there to enjoy whatever sight it is you have gone to see so share the space. Maybe don’t take 20 minutes hogging the best photo spot, for example. Offer to take a group picture for someone struggling with a selfie and maybe don’t shove your selfie stick in other people’s views.
People in every shot at Peyto Lake and going off trail to get the ‘best’ shot!
By being aware and considerate of those around you can turn a good experience into an excellent one. Who knows that person who you take a quick picture for may know an excellent pub, doughnut shop or burger place!!
Being a thoughtful tourist can make more of an impact than you think, so take the time to stop and think while on your next vacation. Not only will you enjoy your sightseeing even more, but you will help others enjoy them too! It’s a win-win!
How do you try to be a good tourist?? Let me know in the comments 😊