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Responsible Travel
What does it mean to travel responsibly? In short, it means traveling with awareness—self-awareness, cultural awareness, and awareness of your impact on your surroundings (that includes the environment). This is your responsibility as a traveler—both to yourself and to the local culture.The lands you visit will not be behind glass. They are not museum exhibitions. When you travel, you become part of the world around you, and everything you do has an effect on it.
Respect for the Culture
Start by embracing the culture as your own: sample the local food, learn the native customs, study the region’s history and religions. Pay attention to the fashion and dress appropriately. (This is especially true if you will be visiting places of worship.) For a resident’s view of Nepal, you may want to talk with vendors and staff, but use discretion concerning matters of politics or religion. (And always ask before taking photos of people.) One of the sincere (and easiest) showings of cultural respect ispurchased locally produced goods and services—art, crafts, souvenirs—rather than buying from chain stores and supermarkets. Not only will this have huge benefits to the community’s economy,but you’ll also sharpen your skills in the time-honored art of haggling.
Health Safety
Always take proper health precautions for the environment you will be in. Most of Nepal does not have potable tap water, so be prepared with bottled water or purification tablets to ensure safe hydration. Avoid food from questionable sources. And before leaving home, make sure you’re up on required immunizations and travel insurance.
Personal Safety
Awareness of yourself and your belongings is fundamental to responsible travel.Before going off on your own, make sure to pack a map and a phone. If you expect to go out of contact for a day or more, notify a friend, family member, travel companion, or tour guide of your plan. Keep valuables in sight or locked up at all times, and don’t flaunt them out in public.Personal safety also means having a respectful wariness of strangers. Feel free to talk with locals and fellow backpackers (it’s part of the fun of traveling, after all), but maintain good sense if you find the situation becoming tense or uncomfortable. A simple “No, thank you” or “I’m late to meet a friend” can politely extricate you from a potentially uncomfortable situation.
Respect for the Environment
An influx of tourists to Nepal in recent years has caused a host of serious environmental problems for the small nation. For that reason, respecting the environment is your no. 1 responsibility as a traveler. Whether you’re trekking the Himalayas or sightseeing in Kathmandu, be mindful never to leave trash behind. (No matter how dirty the streets are—and they can get pretty bad—you don’t need to be making them dirtier.) Electricity and water are in short supply, so keep shower time to a minimum. If washing your clothes yourself, wash them in a bucket or sink rather than a stream or lake. In general, treat the environment as you would your own backyard. After all, when you’re a traveler the whole world becomes your home.
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