Going on a trip? Here's how to make sure you're not 'that' tourist.
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Intrepid Travel

​There's nothing like the feeling of traveling to a new place for the first time.

Whether it’s tasting some new exotic food, visiting a fairytale-like castle that's steeped in centuries of history, or taking in a breathtaking landscape for the first time, travel is a powerful way to experience different cultures and natural wonders firsthand.

Image via iStock.


But whether you plan to visit ancient ruins in Europe, wander the markets of Marrakesh, or see wildlife in Africa, it’s easy to find yourself in a situation that you’re not used to. When that happens, sometimes we get overwhelmed by all the differences and "newness" — and that makes the experience less enjoyable not only for you, but also for your hosts. Here are some easy and practical ways to make sure you're getting the most out of your trip while also honoring and respecting the places you visit (and the planet in general!).

27 tips that can help us all be more conscious travelers.

1. Try to learn at least a little of the local language, even if it’s just "hello," "thank you," or the customary greetings.

A night street market in Marrakesh, Morocco. Image via iStock.

2. Shop and eat like the locals. Traveling can be a bit of a culture shock, so it might be tempting to stick with what you know, but not only will it be a more authentic travel experience for you, it will also support the local economy.

3. Wear clothing that's acceptable in the local culture. Some countries are more conservative, so do your research and dress modestly — yes, even if it’s humid or hot — to show respect.

4. Many places, such as those beautiful temples in Southeast Asia, also have rules about what you should wear and how you should act, so be sure to find out what they are and follow them, even if you don't love them.

A view of Bagan, Myanmar. Image via iStock.

5. Study (and observe!) the local customs as much as you can, especially when it comes to personal space, manners, sense of time, and dining. For example, in the Middle East, you should only use your right hand for eating or accepting food, and in France or Japan, blowing your nose in public is considered rude and repulsive.

6. Strike up a conversation with someone you meet! It’s often by talking and listening that we can reach a deeper understanding and appreciation of the people and places we're visiting.

7. Be ready to answer questions about yourself too. When you travel, the people you meet will be interested in you and where you are from, so be gracious in answering their questions.

8. Remember that you're the visitor, so it should be you who adapts to the local way of life — not the other way around.

The view from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, California. Image by Allie_Caulfield/Flickr.

9. Whether you are visiting an ancient ruin, an art gallery, or even a national park, respect the rules on where you can go and what you can do — don't be that person touching something you shouldn’t, disturbing nature, or taking things you shouldn’t.

10. Don't take selfies in places where it would be rude, offensive, or inappropriate — such as at memorials or holy sites. It can also be dangerous — even deadly — to take selfies from the edge of cliffs or while you are on the move.

11. Be careful what hand gestures you use because they can mean different things in different places. (Case in point: In many countries, a thumbs up means something quite different from "way to go.")

12. Avoid souvenirs that support harmful practices, such as ivory trinkets, which contribute to harmful practices like illegal wildlife poaching.

An elephant in front of Kilimanjaro. Image via iStock.

13. Be conscious about what you choose to eat as well. Some local delicacies — such as shark fin soup — are driving certain species to the brink of extinction.

14. If you haggle, do it with care. In places like Latin America or Southeast Asia, bargaining is a part of the culture, and it can be a fun way to interact with people — and even make a friend — but there are limits. Remember that it's their livelihood, consider the fair market value, and don’t be a bully.

Image via iStock.

15. If you're visiting a landmark that isn't too far away, walk or take local transportation (instead of a cab). It will give you the chance to see more along the way, and it will reduce your carbon footprint.

16. If you do walk, try asking for directions from a local. It will give you the opportunity to break free from tourist routes, find little hidden gems along the way, and keep you from getting lost.

17. Be conscious of your electricity and water use. In some parts of the world, electricity isn’t as basic as it is back home and clean water is a luxury.

18. Be mindful of your garbage. Waste management can be a major issue in some countries, and travelers can unknowingly contribute to the problem.

19. If possible, recycle or reuse what you can and carry a reusable water bottle. Pro tip: If you fill up your water bottle at a water station once you're through security at the airport, you can skip using a plastic beverage cup during the flight, too.

Image via iStock.

20. Leave a place better than you find it. If you come across a little litter while you’re hiking or walking down the street, why not pick it up and throw it away in the proper place? It's a small gesture, but every little bit helps.

21. Choose sustainable accommodations or tour operators. Find businesses that actively work with the local communities (e.g. ones that employ local guides from the area) and that use practices that help protect the environment.

22. Avoid activities that exploit wild animals, like elephant rides or taking photos with tigers.

23. If you do want to see animals on your trip, do it in a positive way, such as a visit to an ethical wildlife sanctuary. Opt for sanctuaries that are registered NGOs and are transparent about their business dealings, such as the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand.

24. Or plan a trip where you can observe animals in the wild from a safe, respectful distance. For example, Katmai National Park in Alaska offers outdoorsy people the opportunity to safely watch brown bears catch salmon from three viewing platforms.

Brown bears at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Image by Christoph Strässler/Flickr.

25. Don’t compare everything to "home." You left home to see the world and experience something new, so don't forget that while you're away.

26. Embrace the differences you encounter — those differences just might change how you see the world and your home.

27. Be an example. We've all met that tourist who makes us cringe. Be kind, polite, courteous, and respectful, and maybe all that goodwill will spread.

Image via iStock.

Of course, no list could contain everything you should or shouldn’t do while you are traveling.

Nor should we feel like we have to rely too closely on a set of rules. But if we all try to treat others with respect, keep an open mind, and learn about each other, traveling is bound to be an enriching experience for everyone.

via Kat Stickler / TikTok

Kat Stickler has created a hilarious series of videos about her husband that a lot of women say they can relate to because theirs behave the exact same way.

Stickler is a mother who shares funny videos about her domestic life on TikTok where she's earned over six million followers.

In the videos, she transforms into her husband Mike by throwing on a backward baseball cap and adopting a deeper voice. From the videos, it's pretty clear that Mike always wants some sort of praise for doing the things he's supposed to do.

The interesting thing about the couple is that they went from dating to parents pretty much overnight. Three months after their first date, Kat was pregnant and they were married.

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via Kat Stickler / TikTok

Kat Stickler has created a hilarious series of videos about her husband that a lot of women say they can relate to because theirs behave the exact same way.

Stickler is a mother who shares funny videos about her domestic life on TikTok where she's earned over six million followers.

In the videos, she transforms into her husband Mike by throwing on a backward baseball cap and adopting a deeper voice. From the videos, it's pretty clear that Mike always wants some sort of praise for doing the things he's supposed to do.

The interesting thing about the couple is that they went from dating to parents pretty much overnight. Three months after their first date, Kat was pregnant and they were married.

Keep Reading Show less
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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."