Responsible Volunteering

Responsible Travel

Responsible Travel

Globalteer is committed to responsible travel and its promotion on all levels, and recognises that we have a duty to the countries and the communities we work with to ensure that we act responsibly in everything we do.

That duty extends from the way we use energy resources, to how we prepare our volunteers for their experiences in new and foreign cultures. And of course also extends to the criteria we use to select the partner projects we work with. We believe that all travel should be culturally, socially and environmentally responsible.

Our aim is for the impact of our volunteers to be nothing but positive on the communities they visit. Every country has its own cultural uniqueness, which can be very different from what we are used to. Globalteer encourages all volunteers to adhere to our guidelines for responsible travel.

This guide on responsible travel will cover how we should all act when travelling abroad and discovering new cultures. We will go through the important aspects of international travel including:

  1. What is responsible travel?
  2. Etiquette when abroad.
  3. Body language and what it means in different cultures.
  4. Being sensitive when taking photos.
  5. Dealing with beggars and hawkers.
  6. Wildlife and animals.
  7. Energy usage while overseas.
  8. Economic, environmental and social responsibility.

This is a general guide for responsible travel which is replaced by a country specific guide for all Globalteer volunteers.

The 2002 Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism in Destinations defines Responsible Travel as follows:

“Responsible Tourism" is tourism which:
  • minimises negative economic, environmental and social impacts
  • generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well being of host communities
  • improves working conditions and access to the industry
  • involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances
  • makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage embracing diversity
  • provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues
  • provides access for physically challenged people
  • is culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.

Here is a general guide to volunteers on Responsible Travel.

Basics

A smile will go a long way! No matter where you go in the world, a smile is a universally recognised sign of friendship.

Learn a little of the local language. Using just the simple words such as "hello" and "thank you" will earn you respect from your hosts.

Accept and embrace the differences you encounter.

Etiquette

Be respectful to the beliefs of your hosts, whether they be religious, the love of their king or their political standing. You may wish to learn about these differences and you can be sure they will wish to learn from you.

Use the locals as your fashion guide. Some cultures are very conservative and are careful about covering up certain parts of their bodies. They can find the very liberal attitude of some foreigners quite embarrassing, and even disrespectful.

Body language

Learn how to greet someone in the country you visit. It may be a hand shake, a bow or even a kiss! The greeting is important in all cultures but your hosts usually understand and respect our customs in return. Some cultures are very physical in their mannerisms, with hugs and kissing the norm between people whilst, in other cultures any form of physical contact is taboo. Your country specific guide will explain the body language customs in the country that you are visiting.

Western Time

In the Western world we are very hung up on time, with our meetings and schedules. Most other cultures do not stress over time and it is not uncommon for things to happen later than arranged. Just go with the flow and forget stress, it’s better for you anyway!

Photos

Always ask permission before taking someone’s photograph. Children will be very, very interested to see their image on your digital camera and will rush to see after the photo is taken.

Beggars and hawkers

Try to be courteous to hawkers selling gifts to tourists, a polite "no thank you" and a smile is usually all that is needed to be left alone if you are not in the mood for buying. Don’t forget that they are very poor and just trying to make a living, and sometimes you may wish to pick up a bargain from them. Buying locally to support the economy is a great way to give back while travelling, particularly locally produced products.

Begging is an unsustainable activity. People do not wish to be beggars but have been forced into the situation by the poverty of their country, and sometimes by unscrupulous parents or guardians.

We strongly recommend that you do not give money to beggars out of guilt. By being a volunteer in their country and supporting Globalteer and its partner projects, you are already helping provide a sustainable future.

Giving sweets to children who have no access to tooth paste or brushes causes major problems when you consider they have no access to dental care. Giving money to children makes them spend more time begging and prevents them from going to school, when they become older and "less cute" they earn less money and have no education or possibility of employment.

Do not buy products made from endangered species or hard wood.

Litter

The streets are often dirty as there are limited rubbish bins provided. Please do not throw your litter in the street or countryside just because they are already dirty, take all rubbish with you until you can dispose of it properly. Buy a reusable water bottle rather than purchasing disposable plastic water bottles. Purchase a portable ash tray to dispose of cigarette butts instead of throwing them in the street.

Wildlife and Animals

Animal welfare may not be what you are used to in your home country. You will often encounter very different attitudes to animals and wildlife while travelling. You may visit a city where street dogs are an issue as described in our blog about dog welfare in Cusco, Peru. Or you may be tempted to ride and elephant while in Asia. Our blog about elephant riding and the harm it causes may change your mind!

Do not have photos taken with wildlife. The animals are usually taken from the wild as babies and their whole family may be killed while protecting the babies. The animals are usually overworked, badly treated and sometimes drugged so they act calmly. This may also be illegal in the country you are visiting.

We do not recommend that you visit animal shows or zoos while travelling. The conditions the animals are kept in can be upsetting to most.

Travelling Responsibly

For international journeys, think about how you can lower your carbon emissions; look for the lowest carbon usage options. This may mean direct flights, using trains or overland journeys where possible. Rather than travel overseas many times a year for short periods, think about travelling fewer times for long periods.

Once in country, consider using low energy use transportation. At some projects, Globalteer provide free bicycles for volunteers to use. Where this is not possible we show volunteers how to use the local public transport system, which whilst it may not be the most environmentally friendly does help feed the local economy.

Energy use

Once in country, please be aware of your energy use. Tourists visiting a developing country can use considerably more energy in their day to day activities than the locals use. These are precious local resources.

Be especially aware of the amount of water you use – never take a bath, only take showers! Water is a vital resource in any culture and its mismanagement can have a devastating impact on communities when water resources are directed to tourism and away from local communities.

Economic Responsibility
With Globalteer doing much of the work recruiting volunteers, the amazing projects we work with can save time and money. This allows them to concentrate fully on the important work of their projects. Which we know is as important to you as it is to us. And it means that you can be confident your trip will be worthwhile for everyone. Like any organisation – charitable or otherwise - Globalteer has to cover many costs to enable us to operate.

For more information on how that money was spent please read “where your money goes

Environmental Responsibility

Globalteer use environmentally friendly transportation in the countries where we work. We provide bicycles for volunteers and staff to use, where this is not possible we show volunteers how to use public transport.

A movable classroom has been designed in Cambodia to allow a quick, cheap and environmentally friendly option for all projects to use. This also means that should any project need to change location for any reason it is possible to do so without having to spend money building new classrooms.

We have also introduced rain water recycling, solar technology, natural air flow (no air con or fans) and water pumps to many projects. Bamboo or other fast growing sustainable products are used where possible. Wood is recycled and new wood is rarely used in buildings.

Solar lighting systems have been provided to NGO's to reduce the use of electricity and fuel generators. At Globalteer we recycle and regularly assess our energy use in offices, projects and accommodation.

Social Responsibility

Globalteer provides pre-departure orientation to volunteers to prepare them for their cultural exchange.

Inductions and ongoing training are provided to volunteers to help them understand the cultural difference experienced once in their host country.

Volunteering while Abroad

Globalteer's rule is that the volunteers are not a free substitute for suitably skilled or qualified local staff. Volunteers’ are mainly employed doing tasks where there is a local skills shortage, or where projects do not have the funds to pay someone to undertake vital work. At the same time, volunteer donations help to pay for local support staff and permanent employment at the projects.

Our projects source from local suppliers and employ local staff to assist in the development of the community as well as the project. The majority of the donation from volunteers goes directly to support the project are also used to ensure their continual existence and to expand the amazing contribution they make to their community.

Whether you choose to volunteer during your travels or just travel for pleasure responsible travel is important for everyone. This should be an important consideration in all things from choosing travel companies to your actions overseas.

If you found this article interesting then why not browse our blogs about our stance on Orphanage Volunteering, Ethical Volunteering or an interview with the Founder of Globalteer.