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.

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

When an earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused a nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 most people who lived in the area fled. Some left without their pets, who then had to fend for themselves in a radioactive nuclear zone.

Sakae Kato stayed behind to rescue the cats abandoned by his neighbors and has spent the last decade taking care of them. He has converted his home, which is in a contaminated quarantine area, to a shelter for 41 cats, whom he refers to as "kids." He has buried 23 other cats in his garden over the past 10 years.

The government has asked the 57-year-old to evacuate the area many times, but he says he figured he was going to die anyway. "And if I had to die, I decided that I would like to die with these guys," he said.

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True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

OK, sure, there are no assigned seats, but you've been sitting at the same desk since the first day and everyone knows it.

So why does the guy who sits next to you put his phone, his book, his charger, his lunch, and his laptop in the space that's rightfully yours? It's annoying!

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Cats are notoriously weird. Everyone who's had cats knows that they each have their own unique quirks, idiosyncrasies, preferences, habits, and flat-out WTFness.

But even those of us who have experience with bizarre cat behavior are blown away by the antics this "cat dad" is able to get away with.

Kareem and Fifi are the cat parents of Chase, Skye, and Millie—literally the most chill kitties ever. They share their family life on TikTok as @dontstopmeowing, and their videos have been viewed millions of times. When you see them, you'll understand why.

Take Chase's spa days, for example. It may seem unreal at first, but watch what happens when Fifi tries to take away his cucumber slices.

When she puts them back on his eyes? WHAT?! What cat would let you put them on once, much less get mad when you take them off?

This cat. Chase is living his best life.

But apparently, it's not just Chase. Skye and Millie have also joined in "spaw day." How on earth does one couple end up with three hilariously malleable cats?

Oh, and if you think they must have been sedated or something, look at how wide awake they are during bath time. That's right, bath time. Most cats hate water, but apparently, these three couldn't care less. How?

They'll literally do anything. The Don't Stop Meowing channel is filled with videos like this. Cats wearing glasses. Cats wearing hats. Cats driving cars. It's unbelievable yet highly watchable entertainment.

If you're worried that Kareem gets all the love and Fifi constantly gets the shaft, that seems to be a bit for show. Look at Chase and Fifi's conversation about her leaving town for a business trip:

The whole channel is worth checking out. Ever seen a cat being carried in a baby carrier at the grocery store? A cat buckled into a car seat? Three cats sitting through storytime? It's all there. (Just a heads up: A few of the videos have explicit language, so parents might want to do a preview before watching with little ones.) You can follow the couple and their cats on all their social media channels, including Instagram and YouTube if TikTok isn't your thing, here.

If you weren't a cat person before, these videos might change your mind. Fair warning, however: Getting a cat because you want them to do things like this would be a mistake. Cats do what they want to do, and no one can predict what weird traits they will have. Even if you raise them from kittenhood, they're still unpredictable and weird.

And honestly, we wouldn't have them any other way.