What does supporting local communities while travelling actually mean?
Updated: Aug 5
You might be probably wondering why is there yet another article on a question which has the most obvious answers like buying from local shops, eating local cuisines, staying with locals in their homes, and so on.
So before we introduce our thoughts on this, let’s ask you a few questions -
How many times have you visited a 5-star hotel in a remote location and still expected all resources to be at your beck and call just because you paid for it?
How many times have you visited a restaurant and ordered in great quantities just because you think you have the right to splurge on vacation only to throw away most of it?
How many times have you bothered to throw your waste in places allocated for it instead of littering the popular tourist spot?
And the most important question we often don’t think about - how often do we think about what local communities expect from us when we travel?
Yes, not the kind of questions you would like to think of when you’re on vacation when you’re a tourist. But remember, the places you visit are the homes of some people. What you do affects their daily lives. How you leave the place matters to them.
So how about we make an attempt to understand them in order to start supporting them in the truest sense?
Buy from the common man:
Of course, you’ll buy from local shops and eat from local restaurants. But don’t forget the ones who sell on the streets. You probably might not need what they’re selling, or like the quality even. But when you buy from them, you’re contributing to their livelihood. Also, thanks to social media, many unknown places are receiving well-deserved recognition. But once in a while, give a shot to those people who might never come on the social media radar.
Promote their culture:
Do you feel those pictures where people wear the local traditional clothes are cliched? But do you know what the locals see? An outsider respecting their culture and being one with the community. Another way to make them feel one of your own is to participate in their festivals and shows put up by locals. When more and more tourists show genuine interest for those shows, it boosts them to continue their traditions and gives them another source of livelihood. Going beyond your comfort and exploring beyond your taste will truly make a great difference in their lives.
Educate yourself about their lifestyle:
Attempt to know about their daily lives better for you to understand the efforts they make for you. For example, how far do they have to travel to get you food, how many hours of electricity do they get, and so on? This is especially important if you’re visiting a remote location where the resources are generally scarce. Understanding their difficulties will encourage you to take actions beneficial for them like using resources wisely, not hammering them to make the impossible happen, being less demanding, being happy with the available resources, and becoming one of them. It will help you become a responsible traveller and not just a tourist.
Communicate with utmost kindness:
The aim is to be a traveller who lives in collaboration with them, and not against them. You’re in their land, and not the other way. It takes nothing to be kind, to be respectful, to talk to them like one of your own. You’ll be amazed at the differences and similarities you’ll identify. Oh, the conversations you’ll have and the insights you’ll get!
Supporting local communities is this simple. Think about it from their perspective and you’ll realise it’s much more than buying from them. On our trips, we encourage such meaningful interactions with the locals. We ensure that we become better travellers for them, leave their homes as they were, and be truly humbled with the learnings we take back home.
In short, while we take a break to disconnect from our world, we don’t ignore theirs.
Freelance Content Writer & Copywriter
After a short stint as a software engineer at Capgemini, she decided to go back to her first love - writing. She started her journey as a content writer in 2019 and considers it one of the best decisions of her life. Today, she cannot imagine doing something else for a living than coming up with the right words that will justify and bring to life her clients’ ideas. While her agency experience gave her exposure to writing for multiple sectors, her heart lies in topics related to women, mental health, career counselling, employee wellbeing, travel, personal development, and lifestyle. If she's not staring at the blank Google doc waiting for inspiration to strike, you'll either find her lost in a book or practising for her next dance routine!