Stop being a shitty traveler: responsible travel

Matt and I have a pet peeve. They’re called shitty travelers. They can be found wearing booty shorts at a Buddhist temple or eating McDonald’s everyday. Not exactly the most responsible travel. They’re uninformed, rude and give a bad rep to other travelers.

The nonsense stops here!

I’ve come up with a plan to avoid being a shitty traveler and to be get into responsible travel. Because c’mon, you’re totally better than that.

1. Respect local culture

responsible travel

It’s so simple and yet too many overlook it. For instance, let’s look at Thailand. For many, this country is all about its beach destination and party islands. These islands are almost a no man’s land as westerners have completely taken over with their bikinis and hamburgers. Thai people are actually quite shy and conservative. For example, Thai women do not wear bathing suits at the beach as they instead opt to hang out in shorts and a t-shirt in the water. I would get so angry when I’d see western women topless as Thai children with their mothers were passing by. Smarten up, you can survive a few weeks abroad adhering to someone else’s rules. It’s about respect, don’t be a jerk.

Tip: Observe and ask yourself if a local person would be doing this. Trust your gut feeling. If your gut feeling isn’t trust worthy (that must suck huh), read up on the topic online. 

2. Google stuff

mexico tourist trap

This is so simple it blows my mind. In every country there are destinations to avoid, scams to watch out for. Yet, people still complain about getting scammed or getting sucked in tourist traps. The internet is FULL of reviews from fellow travelers which can usually give some hints on a place or activity. I wouldn’t encourage depending only on these but it’s a great way to get informed on what to expect. I’ve witnessed people getting conned by scams that were talked about over and over again in discussion boards and blogs.

Tip: Lonely Planet has some great discussion boards. If you have a question, odds are it’s been discussed on these forums. 

3. Stop using the word “weird”

Places are different. That’s how the world works and that’s awesome. Instead of noting everything as an outsider and how “weird” things are or how “back home we don’t do that” simply embrace how things are where you are, in the present. Energy spent on complaining on how things are slow or weird is energy wasted. It’s a lot more fun to laugh about mishaps or oddities (though not always easy) and how good of a story it’ll be when back home. To remove yourself as a critical eye and to simply live with a situation takes a lot of effort but enriching to the travel experience. 

Tip: Shut up and enjoy! 

4. Eat local

responsible travel

I absolutely understand the craving for western food if traveling for a long time so once in a while, a trip to Pizza Hut is no crime. However, don’t be afraid to eat local! Prices are much cheaper, ingredients are usually more fresh and you’re helping out the local economy. Some foods will look “weird” and  “unappealing” but it’s always rewarding to try something new. If you don’t like it, no problem! What’s important is to try different foods a great tool to get an insight on local life!

Tip: If a restaurant only has an English menu or has the word “authentic” on it, it’s NOT! 

5. Take less photos

responsible travel

I myself need to work on this step. I absolutely love my camera and taking photos. However, it’s important to look around with your own eyes and understand what’s around instead of simply traveling behind a lens. There is no need to take a photo of every monument, every mountain, every meal or ever person you see. I have actually been approached by people who want their photo taken in front of something that later ask me what they’re standing in front of. Ridiculous! Be conscious of where you are, enjoy the place, meet someone new and if you still feel it’s photo worthy, then go ahead. The internet doesn’t need more shitty travel photos.

Tip: At the end of the day, delete bad photos so you don’t have hundreds to organize later. 


Do you have tips of your own to share?

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  • Fabio

    “Stop using the word “weird”” VS “Some foods will look weird and utterly unappealing”… I’m confused… and bitchy :D

    • Caro_PassportandaToothbrush

      Hahaha, touche! I should maybe put them in quotation marks as I mean “some foods will look weird and unappealing” as the shitty traveler’s mind speaking.

      • Marion Klarer

        Wow, what you are doing here is just AWESOME, thanks for inspiring me! Can’t stop reading your posts :-) kisses from Switzerland :-*

  • Getting Stamped

    Great list! Love #3!!! I agree with all of these, hopefully we aren’t considered shitty travelers!

    • Caro_PassportandaToothbrush

      Absolutely! It’s a step often disregarded but very important! Thanks for commenting!

  • Steph

    Eating local : discovering a country through your stomach! Yummm!

    • Caro_PassportandaToothbrush

      The best way to do it, absolutely!

  • Tatiana from Paris

    Two pictures taken in France :)

    I hope we’ll soon leave it to explore (again and again and again) the world !

    • Caro_PassportandaToothbrush

      I’m in love with France!! Yes, photos were taken in Paris and Nice! I also hope to return soon!

  • Fred Perrotta

    “Google it” is good life advice in general. Show a little interest in the place you’re visiting. Give a damn. People notice.

    • Caro_PassportandaToothbrush

      Absolutely! Although I’ve been pleasantly surprised with places I knew nothing about, complete ignorance is unacceptable!

  • Cristina

    I am so bad at that too – I’m camera happy and I have tons of bad photos on my laptop I need to delete asap! Lol! They’re mostly from my early days of travelling when I first started. i like to think I’ve improved since then. I guess I’ve kept them all this time to look back and see how much better I am as a photographer and traveller. I’m definitely more conscious of my surroundings and capturing people, things and moments that matter.

    Ps: awesome sunglass shot and that pic of you in the local market SO looks like you’re about to snatch one of those squashes! Lol!

  • Spafford

    Awesome! Our (unspoken) motto is ‘don’t just do something, sit there!’

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  • thetraveltester

    Great tips! It’s one of the things I hate most too. I would add to travel to places that are a little bit less touristy, as you get to meet more of the local people and it really helps understanding the way they live, their values and customs.

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    I was constantly bothered by the disrespectful tourists in Thailand too! To be honest, I found that modesty hasn’t been as big of an issue as I thought it would be in Asia (even in Malaysia, a muslim country, the locals wear an awful lot of booty shorts!), but in Thailand, we could definitely see that this wasn’t the case—Thais definitely are more shy and conservative when it comes to clothing! And yet, we saw tons of people wandering around in bikini tops, and even saw topless sunbathing on several beaches as well. That really bothered me because it seems like the reason why so many people come to Thailand is to behave in a way that is actually completely incongruent with the local culture! There are places in the world where partying and public nudity are not a big deal, but why do people think Thailand is one of them?!?

  • dewtraveller

    Absolutely agree with all, especially the last one. I have friends who are actually “telling me off” for not taking enough pictures! I love taking pictures but I also love just enjoying what’s there in front of my eyes!

  • Amanda @ Farsickness

    I completely agree with numbers 1 and 3. I can’t believe how many disrespectful people I saw and heard in Southeast Asia the past couple of months, especially in terms of dress. But as far as the other things go, I don’t think we should judge how other people travel. If they are enjoying themselves and not being completely rude (or once again, disrespectful) , I don’t care if someone has no idea what they are seeing or eating McDonalds and pizza everyday. Do I want to hang out with them? Probably not, but everyone travels for different reasons and I don’t feel like it’s anyones place to tell them what to do.

  • Heather

    I was appalled by some of the things I saw in Thailand! One girl was walking around the airport in a skimpy tank top and shorts so short her butt cheeks were hanging out. I’m American and I don’t want to see that – I can’t imagine how the conservative Thais felt! My guess is that people think the “anything goes” party island scene translates to all aspects of the country. I really think people should learn about the destination before embarking on a trip to make sure they are culturally aware and respectful of the locals.

  • Tatiana

    This shitty traveler is clearly the U.S. traveler.

  • Adventure Nepal

    I agree with taking less photos. But I tend to take less photos of myself and take more of what is ahead of myself. Respecting locals is the most important part here. Even in Nepal, we see many tourists respecting our culture and traditions and in return they get lots of respect.

    Adventure Bound Nepal
    Senior Marketing Manager

  • Anglo Italian

    I wish more travelers would think in the same way as you and me, we met so many disrespectful people during our travels but also some great and responsible ones. I like the 3rd tip and I have to get better at it myself.

  • Anna Kate

    A great tip is, looking in a restaurant to see if it’s all travelers-if so it’s probably an overpriced tourist trap. Also, beware of recommendations from locals-they may assume you want to eat where all of the other tourists eat and send you there! Has happened to me several times before!

  • Guest

    I don’t think eating at McDonald’s and taking tons of photos make one an irresponsible traveler, though.

  • jessica

    I don’t think eating at McDonald’s and taking tons of photos make one an irresponsible traveler, though.

  • Mingma Sherpa

    I think eating macdonald

  • Mingma Sherpa

    Nepal is the ultimate destination for the trekking enthusiast – offering a myriad of possibilities from the short and easy to the demanding challenges.

  • jambon-beurre pinard

    if you don’t respect (so don’t meet) people, don’t taste the local food, and stay eyes stuck in your camera instead of living real things, what’s the use of travelling ? Impress your friends when back ?

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    I generally try to eat local dishes as much as possible or menu items from fast food places like KFC that are only available in specific regions.