What is Ethical Travel? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself quite a bit lately. About the best and most simple answer I can come up with is that it means to leave a place better then it was before going there. To me it also means trying to leave a positive impact on the people, environment and nature wherever I visit.
Part of the reason I first chose to travel with G Adventures Is the fact that part of the money spent on each trip is invested back into the communities visited on each of their trips through their foundation Planeterra. In a village near Kruger Park it meant helping to build a preschool in the local village followed by better washroom and kitchen facilities at the preschool. In Dehli it means donating to Salam Balak Trust, which is an Indian non-profit and non-governmental organization which provides a sensitive and caring environment to street and working children in Delhi, India. On the majority of G Adventures tours you will visit a place or organization which is being supported in part by your trip. To me this was a very important part of why I often choose G Adventures to travel with.
The Salam Balak Trust City Walk is an experience that will tug at your heart strings. A former Dehli street kid will guide you through bazaars, dark alleys and dirty places which they used to call home while sharing their own personal stories you. After the walk they take you to Salam Balak Trust where you will be introduced to some of the latest children helped off the street. It’s an experience not to be missed, a real eye opener and great learning experience. It’s also a real wake-up call as to what goes on out in the rest of the world outside the cozy living rooms of our homes in North America.
Check out this video of a Salam Balak Trust City Walk:
Sometimes learning the right and ethical things to do comes from making a mistake. Peoples views of what is ethical will also vary. Spending a few days in the Karol Bagh area of Dehli on my own this past March I hung around and ate street food with locals. While walking around on the day when the market was closed it seemed there were more street kids out then the previous two days, many of whom were not shy to ask for money. I felt sad for one little girl in particular and gave her enough that she could eat for the day. She was dirty and looked very hungry. Only that evening when we met up with our G Adventurestour did I find out from our guide that many of the street kids are put out to beg by gangs and the money they get goes straight to the gang and not to the children. We were told not to give any money to street kids as it most likely was not going to help them at all anyway. This takes me back to Salam Balak Trust, as donating money to an organization such as this would help get more kids off the street. Even a few dollars helps, and you know it will be put to good use, not end up in the hands of a gang.
Another side of ethical travel has to do with exploitation of wildlife. During my first trip to South Africa I was told about lion farms that were breeding lions for conservation and future release into the wild. I was told these were places where I could interact and “Walk With Lions” all while contributing to a great cause. Only after the fact did I find out that the lion farms of South Africa are well known for lying to tourists about what really happens to these lions and that they typically end up in a cruel form of hunting known as a canned hunt. I’ve written previously about my experience and it can be found here – #WheresRicky. Any facility which allows interaction with lion cubs is not ethical. The same goes for places in the world that allow riding elephants or interaction with tigers. Just look into how these animals are really treated and see what you find out.
There are many scams out there waiting to take advantage of a tourist whether it be a street kid begging for money which will end up supporting a gang on the streets of Dehli, or being told you’re supporting conservation by petting a lion cub which will actually end up in a canned hunt. I’ve learned from mistakes while travelling as we hopefully all do. My recommendation is to research the things you plan to do and might encounter while out exploring this amazing world in order to find out the impact they might have. Once you know the right information hopefully the rest is simple – Follow your heart.