1. Read & Research
Your journey to a meaningful travel experience can start long before you even set foot on an airplane. Doing a bit of research on the history, geography, and culture of the place you are visiting not only makes you a more informed traveler, but adds meaning to each step of your trip. Not into facts and figures? Literature is another way to gain fascinating insight and cultural context on a new country. In this list, for example, ambassadors of over 20 countries recommend the one book they recommend reading before visiting their home country.
2. Learn the Language
If you’ve studied a language, traveling is a fantastic way to practice what you’ve learned in a real world setting. If you haven’t – don’t worry! Learning how to be polite in another language is often as simple as memorizing a few words and phrases before your trip. “Hello,” “Good morning,” “Excuse me,” “Please,” and “Thank you,” in the language of your host country go a long way, and show that you’ve taken the time to learn about and respect the local customs. Duolingo is a great app for learning the basics or brushing up on your skills in over 20 languages.
3. Intern Abroad
For university students and recent grads, it may feel like there’s no time to travel with all the pressure to work before you hit the “real world.” Why not do both at once? Interning abroad allows you to gain professional experience while exploring a new culture, increasing your employability and often gain course credit. Organizations such as Human Connections in Mexico offer internship programs that fit into winter or summer breaks.
4. Choose Wisely
When you travel, you will be presented with a multitude of options – of hotels, hostels, restaurants, tours, and other activities. Even though it may be tempting to choose the name brand company or the most familiar option, picking local or family-run businesses allows you to support the local economy while creating meaningful connections. This list of Tips for a Responsible Traveller from the United Nations World Tourism Organization gives some helpful suggestions on other ways to travel wisely.
5. Reduce Your Environmental Impact
There’s no reason your environmentally friendly practices should end at home. You can enjoy your travels even more knowing that you are doing your part to protect the planet. Respect local wildlife and protected areas and be wary of purchasing products that are made with endangered plants or animals. Walk, bike, or use public transportation as you see the sights, or consider using a carbon offsetting service to help neutralize the pollution generated by your air travel.