Traveling to new and exciting destinations is one of life’s greatest pleasures. It inspires us to see, taste and try new things, engage with different people, and challenges us to adapt and explore new ideas. While traveling can bring about economic growth and positive experiences, it can also adversely affect the places we visit. At RBP, we love to travel responsibly to learn from other cultures, connect with those who live there, and enrich our understanding of the world. Responsible travel is not just a buzzword – it’s a mindset and a commitment to positively impacting the places we visit and the people we meet.
Connecting With Our Trip’s Purpose
Each trip we take has a purpose, and understanding this helps us plan the best trip possible. Sometimes that purpose is for work, as our photography brings us worldwide to photograph assignments. Sometimes we aim to recharge our batteries and take on an adventure, and sometimes it’s to expand our views of the world and experience a new culture. Once we determine why we are visiting this unique destination, connecting with our trip’s purpose helps us choose the best place to stay and plan what we want to do!
Planning For The Trip
We always try to balance planning for our trip and living in the moment while traveling. The best trips happen somewhere between intentionally designed and go-with-the-flow mindsets. To achieve this balance, we keep our pre-trip research focused on finding authentic local experiences and the best places to call home during our stay. Before our trip, we also research the history and customs of the country we are visiting. This helps us better understand and appreciate the local culture and make the most of our travels.
We also get a basic understanding of some social and environmental issues in the places we are traveling to ensure we are not contributing to those problems during our visit. No matter where we are traveling, our flights will impact the planet. Offsetting those flights’ emissions is a great way to counter the footprint of the flight. Companies like Fly Green and Carbon Fund calculate the emissions from aviation. Then we pay to support certified projects that help the environment, such as improved air and water quality, erosion control, and habitat protection. Some airlines also offer emissions offset, including Virgin Atlantic and Jet Blue. This small financial act can go a long way in protecting the places we travel to.
Choosing A Central Location
When traveling, we often stay in an Airbnb, a small bed and breakfast, or a boutique hotel centrally located for our activities. This reduces the time spent traveling from one place to the next and our trip’s carbon footprint.
When we visit a city, we also see if there is a bike-sharing system for getting around. An EcoBici station was parked across the street from our hotel in Mexico City. We downloaded the App, and for $7 a week, we used this bi-pedal daily for transportation. The City is well-designed for biking, with a designated bike lane with bumpers between the cars and bikes. Walking and biking around a city shows us places we otherwise would have missed and keeps us active on our trip.
What We Do On The First Day
The first day we arrive in a new place, we love to get acquainted and get a deeper understanding of the history of our destination. In Mexico City, we wanted to visit the Museo Nacional de Antropología. We also wanted to explore historical landmarks and a few essential artists from Mexico. After spending hours at the museum, we peddled to the Palace of Fine Arts to see the murals by Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, and other incredible artists. The information and understanding enriched our experiences over the next week. We spotted places we had read about along our tours and understood cultural references we otherwise would have missed.
After visiting the historical places of interest, we walked around town to take in our surroundings and experience the culture, architecture, and people. In Greece, this past fall, we hired a local university professor to guide and explain the history of the Acropolis. It was a great way to deepen our connection and understanding of this monumental site.
We also used Voice Map during our travels. This App is a self-guided audio tour where you listen at your speed while walking, cycling, or driving through a specific location. We used it in Chania on Crete and in Mexico City to explore each town’s neighborhoods and historical places. It has over 300 destinations worldwide that tell local stories and historical details of the area you are visiting.
Eating Like A Local
We always try to eat like a local while traveling. We seek out local eateries and food markets to immerse ourselves in a new culture and experience the flavors and cuisines of a region. To find the best spots, we look for places popular with locals and that have been written up by travel writers as they try to find delicious, unique, and authentic food. It’s always exciting to try new things and be open to different ingredients and cooking styles. We also engage with the people we meet and ask for recommendations or tips on what to order. Prioritizing local food on our travels has allowed us to understand better their agricultural system, customs, and way of life.
In Greece, farm-to-table isn’t a fad – Mediterranean cuisine is part of their lifestyle and how the Grecians have always eaten and lived. We were very interested in understanding this way of life more deeply during our travels. In Crete, we visited the Arkoudaina Garden Restaurant, and were greeted by our host Georgios, whose mom is the chef in the kitchen. We looked at the menu but went with what our host suggested. Our meal included his mom’s known 49-ingredient Cretan Salad – picked from their garden on the other side of the stone wall.
In Mexico, we wanted to experience their vibrant food scene beyond the tacos and margaritas. We explored this City on a street food safari that guided us on a walking tour to three food markets. The tour began with a traditional Mexican breakfast of Tlacoyos and tamales. We sampled different types of mole and learned about Mexican traditions and history.
We ended our time at the San Juan Market, which specializes in gourmet and exotic foods. Here we tasted Chapulines (grasshoppers), Chicatanas (giant winged ants), and a variety of Mezcal, which may be the next big drink. This more traditional alternative to tequila is made from agave plants, smoked in pits rather than ovens, and has a smoky flavor that is becoming popular in many artisanal cocktails. Another great company providing authentic food experiences in Mexico is Eat Like A Local. Owned and managed entirely by women, this local company offers immersive food experiences focusing on responsible tourism. We support these types of companies when traveling because they provide visitors with an authentic experience while protecting their culture and giving back to the community. They were fully booked during our trip, so make sure you call to book ahead! We might have to return to Mexico for their Badass Mexican Woman – Food Adventure.
Support The Local Communities
One of our favorite and most essential ways to travel purposefully is to support local communities. This involves staying in locally owned accommodations, eating at local restaurants, and shopping at local markets, among other ideas. We also book tours and experiences held and operated by locals. Finding locally owned companies takes more work upfront, but the local economy reward is worth the effort. Plus, locals are often the best tour guides because they understand the history and culture of their home better than anyone and can provide the most authentic experience!
Have a Unique Experience
When traveling, we love to try to do something that we wouldn’t be able to do back home. In Mexico, we read about a hot air balloon ride experience. Balloon rides must be over expansive land, and the Teotihuacan Pyramids gave us the perfect opportunity. Once we arrived, we watched as they inflated more than 30 balloons. First they used a giant fan to inflate them horizontally and then used propane to propel them upwards. Once we had taken flight with six other thrill seekers and our pilot in our basket, a curated soundtrack was played as we drifted over the pyramids at sunrise. It was sublime. Forty minutes later, we landed in a farmer’s field and were told the story about the two French brothers, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, who invented hot air balloons and how they overcame the challenges of their time.
Traveling is the perfect time to do something you always wanted and check it off your bucket list. We research to ensure the experience is locally owned and doesn’t negatively affect the community or environment. These experiences allow us to establish a deeper connection and appreciation for the destination.
Use Photography To Make An Impact
Photography is our way to explore new places and bring back information. We use it to educate and highlight environmental and social issues like climate change, food systems, and other universally essential issues faced by different parts of the world. As photographers, we often bring back our travels through photos. When we are traveling, we find that both a camera and an iPhone can be effective ways to capture beautiful images. If an activity is photo-worthy in a professional sense or particularly meaningful, we opt to bring the DSLR camera. We typically travel with our Canon 5R and our go-to 24-70 mm lens. We’re always looking for captivating images on our trips, from the food to the architecture and other sites that capture the essence of the destination.
When taking photos in another country, we follow some guidelines to ensure respect and responsibility. We always ask permission to photograph people and share the images with the subject when possible. If we photograph a hotel or restaurant, we support that place by purchasing an item or a meal. We also tag designers, businesses, and people in our photos when we post them on social media. We do the research to give credit where it’s due and bring new eyes to the businesses. Plus, the study often teaches us something new and allows us to tell great stories about a place.
After a trip, we host a dinner with the cuisine from our recent destination. We channel our post-trip inspiration into this meal and enjoy cooking with new ingredients and flavors while listening to the music from our travels. We share these new dishes with our friends, and we also share a slideshow of photographs from the trip. Over the meal, we discuss our traveling experiences and what we can bring back into our lives and community.
Responsible travel makes our travels more meaningful and fulfilling. By connecting with our trip’s purpose, researching our destination, supporting local communities whenever possible, and learning from locals, we make a positive impact while traveling and gain new, valuable perspectives on the world. We are always looking for new ways to be responsible travelers, so let us know your favorite ways to make a positive impact while traveling.
To read more about our travels, read our blog post on “How to Live Fully, Work Productively, and Eat Well on the Road”.