Compassion and Respect: Your Passport to World Travel Friends frequently ask me for packing tips, short-cuts to get visas, and the inside scoop on how to actually use frequent flyer points so they really work. But I have other pointers as well, which are more to do with 'how' you travel, your approach and your attitude as you land in a new place, whether it's two provinces away in your own country or in another part of the globe. [caption id="attachment_7948" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="Supporting local producers is key to sustainable tourism (Photo: Andy Jones)"] [/caption]
There are ways you can give back as you journey throughout the world and I'm not talking about voluntourism. Here are 5 ways you show respect and compassion as you travel: 1. Learn a few words of the local language. Not only will you find that latrine in a hurry, but you'll also show respect to the person whose country you're visiting. Heading to Paris? Brush up with some FREE French lessons. . You've booked a winter break in Mexico. Download a list of popular tourist questions in Spanish. 2. Stop and talk to people you meet along the way. Yacking it up with other tourists in the line-up at the Louvre is fine, but your journey will be much more enriched with a one-on-one conversation with a local citizen, no matter how much you have to struggle with the language. That's the best way to learn about local customs as they pertain to dining hours, and, in other parts of the world, you can discover regional etiquette such as which temples you, as a tourist, can enter. How should you dress when going out? Is there a preferred method of greeting? I was in rural Alleppey, in the southern India State of Kerala and in the course of one afternoon walk I met a local farmer who had come up with a way to reclaim flooded land. Further down the path I stumbled upon five women, who were part of a rice collective, in the midst of their monthly meeting, sitting on chairs outdoors. They teased me mercilessly as they had spotted me earlier in the day on a morning walk down by the river - at the very hour when locals are taking their morning bath. 3. Buy local. Get off the resorts. Out of the souvenir shops. Buy from small mom and pop shops. Seek out the local artistans, not just those who are lucky enough to have a booth in the lobby of the resort. Buy direct from local craftspeople and artisans. You're supporting the local economy and getting some authentic take-home gifts at the same time. 4. Eat dinner and support a charity at the same time. A quick google search or a flip through your Frommers Guide will determine if there are any good local eateries whose profits go to local charities. (Or, better yet, ask a local!) In Phnom Penh, I ate one of the best Khmer meals ever at Friends Restaurant, which is run by an NGO to help street kids. 5. Change your words, change your experience. Instead of responding to a new experience with "This isn't the way we do it at home," try this expression on for size: "Oh, this is how you do it here." Makes the world of difference. What's your tip for travelling with respect and compassion?