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

​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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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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