How to keep things ethical when interacting with animals abroad

Seeing wildlife is an amazing motivator for travel. Unfortunately in many parts of the world animals are abused by our fellow humans, and in particular exploited for the benefit of the travel industry. Here are some things to consider to ensure your interactions with animals stay ethical.

Put yourself in their shoes

Animals deserve respect. My favourite way to ensure I check my behaviour when encountering wildlife abroad is by putting myself in their shoes. Would I like some random person to start petting me, invading my personal space, destroying my home? No. Treat animals the way you would want to be treated in the same situation.

Don’t touch or ride animals

It is called wildlife for a reason folks. Animals are supposed to be wild. Wildlife is not supposed to be in a cage, lined up for tourist selfies, or forced to hug us. As soft as a koala may be, if you are hugging it you are ethically blurring lines, even in a sanctuary. Sure a sanctuary may keep animals in decent conditions and fund conservation projects but it still doesn’t mean that we should be partaking in anything more than observation.

Observe

Watching an animal in its natural undisturbed habitat? What an honour! This is the best way to appreciate a creature, not how soft its fur is! Watch for long enough and you can get a sense of an animal’s character and mannerisms, a much more valuable interaction than a threatening approach which scares it off.

Consent

Now, I am not trying to argue that you should never interact with any animals. However, only ever engage if an animal approaches and touches you and you deem it safe to respond. Much like you shouldn’t be touching another human without consent, let animals make the first move to engage with you to ensure it is something they want and not something that will distress them.

Use your voice in defence

If you are going on safari or want to visit a sanctuary, do your best to choose responsible and ethical providers. Take things a step further by speaking up if you see any cruelty against animals whilst travelling, particularly if the cruelty is inflicted for the sake of tourism. Opt not to ride the elephant. Leave reviews exposing the treatment of animals where you have had bad experiences and alert the local animal services if they exist.

How to complain when your travels go wrong

In my past there have definitely been situations where my easy going nature has dissuaded me from making a fuss in less than desirable travel situations where I probably should have. One of my friends is super talented at voicing her complaints when things aren’t up to standard and she has been given plenty of free stuff as a result. Travelling with her has opened my eyes and I now see her as my boss-guru what taught me to own that as a customer I have rights and am entitled to what I paid for and nothing less. Here are some top things to keep in mind when your travels don’t go as planned and you want to say something about it.

Do not feel guilty

You have entered into a transaction, you are paying for a product or service, you are not paying to suffer inconvenience so that you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. You have the right to receive the quality you pay for. Sure, complaining can be awkward at first, but remind yourself you are not being unreasonable, you are merely seeking a provider to make good on what was agreed. Never feel guilty for demanding what you have paid for in a mutually agreed deal.

Calm disappointment

Kill them with kindness. Ok not kindness, but a reasonable, firm, and disappointed demeanour rather than rudeness. It boils down to the fact that you paid for something that you either didn’t get or wasn’t up to scratch so you are entitled to be disappointed, have a right to complain, and should expect the provider to try and make amends. If you are calm, providers more often than not see reason rather than immediately going on the defence if they feel attacked.

No expectations

I think it is important to complain or feedback if something isn’t right, however, I don’t recommend doing it just to seek free stuff or money back. You should have no expectations. Whilst with certain well known travel names you will likely get some form of compensation, in many cases things won’t play out the way you would like. Don’t let this ruin your trip! Stay positive! It is a mishap which in my experience can make for a funny story. Only complain because it feels right to you, to get it off your chest, and never do it seeking a certain response or remorse which you may not get.

Complain early

Something wrong with your hotel room? Make a fuss immediately. If you do, the managers can’t say that you never raised an issue if they still haven’t taken action by the end or your stay. If you complain straight away you may be looking at a room upgrade rather than an inconvenient stay and a discount. Raise issues from the get go, and you throw in the added benefit of freeing yourself from the frustration which could affect your trip.

Demand to speak to the manager

Employees will always take you seriously when you request to speak to management. Rather than this needing to sound threatening, the ask shows that you are serious and expect a resolution and to be respectfully heard. A good manager should put you as the client first even if a poor employee hasn’t.

Play the review card

Management not playing ball? If you really feel hard done by and want to ensure they do right by you, mention the fact that you are going to have to give them poor reviews for not assisting you with your complaints. The travel industry is so competitive that reviews literally translate to profit or loss. You are completely in your right to write an honest review and the intention reminds providers that you may be one person but your voice can have significant impact.

Print proof

Certain deals can disappear one day to the next and when you go to claim what you paid for providers can deny that it existed. It is always a good idea to have a printed confirmation of bookings to avoid any confusion if what you paid for is not available. If complaining after the fact for a refund but have messages that you complained during your travels, this is powerful evidence you should always include too.

10 items to pack in your first aid kit when travelling

You don’t want to be caught short when away and are desperately in need of a plaster or paracetamol. Sure, depending on your destination some typical first aid items may be easy or hard to get, but if you can, it is always best to come prepared. Why suffer on your trip without these when you can have them ready to go!

Aloe vera or after sun

I have certainly had a painful, bright red, ‘I am clearly not from here’ burn before. Ok, ok, I have had several. The thought of aloe vera on your toasty skin should be enough for you to pack this and I should not have to convince you more. Also, if you don’t burn easily, this is still a must to hydrate your skin after harsh sun.

Sun cream

Let’s all be kind to and take care of our bodies and lather up when we are spending full days roaming around outside. Remember, just because it is not sunny, it does not mean you are not getting hit with that UV.

A box of waterproof plasters

Scratches, cuts, and/or blisters. You are pretty much guaranteed to get some (at least if you are as clumsy as me) and you can avoid any unnecessary discomfort if you have some plasters handy. Be sure to pack a box with various sizes for choice!

Antiseptic wipes

If you need to disinfect a cut on the go before plastering it up, these are lifesavers. The wipes are individually packaged so you don’t need to bulk up your luggage with the box.

Mosquito repellent (with DEET)

A MUST. Please do yourself a favour and avoid as many annoying and itchy bites as you can. I know repellent can smell super strong but it is better to be cautious with mozzies particularly in malaria risk zones.

Paracetamol/ibuprofen

If you are prone to headaches, hangovers, and/or you know your monthly pal is coming, make sure you have some with you. Ditch the box to reduce the bulk in your first aid kit.

Lip balm with SPF

Cracked and sore lips are never fun. If you are somewhere hot you are going to be dehydrated with dry lips, if you are in a cold spot, your lips will suffer equally. Pack the balm, and make sure it has SPF protection for that extra self love.

Tweezers

Tweezers always come in handy in case you need to remove a splinter or tick. Secondary use being to keep those eyebrows looking FINE.

Antidiarrhoeal medicine

If you have never got the shits travelling have you even travelled? I certainly have, during unbelievably long bus journeys when all I wanted to do was avoid the public toilet. Once again, do yourself a solid (pun was not intended but shall leave as funny) and pack this!

Hydration tablets

You can feel pretty low on energy after a bout of diarrhoea. Hydration tablets can support you in recovering more quickly and have been my best friend in destinations such as Peru where many days were physically demanding hikes.

5 ways to switch off when travelling

Travelling is one way which people try and ‘escape’ their normal. For some it is super easy to be present and mindful of their surroundings when abroad, but for other workaholics it may be a challenge. Here are 5 tips for quieting your mind and zoning into the here and now.

Turn off all notifications

This is the first thing you should do in your destination if you are addicted to your phone (like most of us). A notification is a cry for attention, a message to react rather than relax! No! You are in an awesome destination in a completely unique moment that you will never relive. This is no exaggeration. Sure, you can return to a place you have been before, but it will a different time, you will be older, your circumstances will have changed, you may not be with the same people, and so on. This moment in time is yours and irreplaceable, do not let this be intruded upon by work or friend drama you can address later. I’m not telling you to forgo tech (you will need Google Maps) but limit yourself to an hour in the evening where you answer your messages and check your emails.

Think of 3 things you like in your destination that you do not have at home

Giving yourself a thought exercise of this nature will allow you to focus your mind and attention on where you are. Sometimes I find myself wandering around new places and missing the details. Challenging yourself to reflect on the place you are in can help you tune in to all the characteristics that make it so special.

Be still and people watch

People watching is a brilliant way to learn about the customs and culture of a place. A destination is not just about the natural beauty or tourist hot spots, but about the inhabitants! A good hour of watching passers by also means you have to be still for an hour which will encourage your mind to be also. Whether it be sipping a coffee at a cafe or sat on a bench, how often do we actually permit ourselves to be calm and not constantly in motion either physically or mentally? When you are travelling you hopefully have left behind the time pressures and responsibilities of your everyday life, so spoil your soul and sit still! In this day and age it is a luxury and one of the things I look forward to the most when travelling.

Wander without a particular destination

This works particularly well in cities or towns where you are staying. If it is safe to do so, meander around the streets without necessarily having a destination. If you are not distracted by getting somewhere you need to go you can discover hidden gems and most importantly be more aware of what is around you rather than following that Maps route.

Move that body

The benefits of exercise for mental health and focus are still very much the same wherever you are in the world. Hopefully, your destination may offer opportunities to be active in ways that are a little bit different from home, but do not forget to move whether that be swimming, windsurfing, hiking, or yoga. The more it diverges from your normal activities the better!

10 things to do when it rains on your trip

It is sure to happen at some point during your travels, you will be hit by a miserable rainy day (fingers crossed it will be an exception rather than the rule). Particularly if your destination is about the weather and the outdoors, this can really suck, I feel for you, and sometimes it is hard to perk yourself up or know what to do. Here are 10 ideas that I pull from when stuck in this shituation.

Indoor local/artisan markets

If you are in a city or even a small town, there are likely to be markets you can spend some time nosing around! Think farmers markets for treats, vintage markets for some stellar finds, or art markets to find that unique piece that just needs to be in your living room. Markets are often indoors and if not sometimes have some sort of protection for bad weather so they are good spots to leave for a day you know the weather might turn on you.

Food/bar/pub crawl

Are you somewhere that is famed for its food and drink scene? Indulge! Hopefully you are with company and you can share some bites and get some drinks around town. It might be a bit more spenny than your typical day but you can visit the best spots in the area, find some gems, and you will definitely sleep well after.

Museums, galleries, & libraries

Enrich yourself with some local culture. I am not just talking about taking in the exhibitions themselves, but also witnessing the architectural beauty of these buildings which can be sights to behold. Maybe you don’t usually prioritise museums and galleries, so now is your chance, and they are particularly great if you didn’t do too much reading up on the history of your destinations beforehand. Once again, good to plan to visit these kind of sites if you know there is going to be a rainy day during your stay.

Cooking class

I absolutely love tasting all the different cuisines around the world, and the flavours my palate has experienced abroad has definitely influenced my cooking at home. A cooking class can be a way to learn how to spice your food, balance sweet and sour, or even just nail the cooking of a fresh piece of fish. If cooking is your passion, there is nothing better than some hands on experience and local culinary wisdom.

Hit a local hotspot

I am talking about finding a popular game pub (board games, ping pong, darts, anything), a karaoke bar, a bowling alley, a pool/billiards hall, or an arcade. Some of my best memories on my trips are hanging, chatting, and laughing with my friends at establishments like these. This is a chance to see how people from different places spend their leisure time and what niche haunts are on offer, whilst potentially giving you a chance to try and beat the locals at a game of pool.

Cards, a book, and a coffee shop

Live like a local, in my opinion it is the best way to travel. Find a quirky coffee shop, or if you are alone, google a rad hostel with some awesome communal areas to find some company. I always bring a pack of playing cards with me when I am on a trip and love learning new games from my friends on a commute or a down day. Spend the day drinking good coffee, living that cafe scene life, and getting sucked into your book du jour or hell even a good Netflix binge.

Get out if you’ve got the gear

If you are in Peru or some other destination where you knew you would be out and about with the possibility of rain, hopefully you have come prepared. If the rain is not awful and you have got a cagoule, get out there! The weather can clear up mid-hike and hey, sometimes, it is part of the fun, or why the memory stands out later on. One of my favourite stories from a trip to Toronto was getting absolutely drenched whilst helping my two friends carry a mattress about 20 blocks (long story and definitely not dressed appropriately). If it is just rain, get out there!

Trip admin

If we are talking a full on storm, windy as fuck, no chance you are going out kind of day, use the time to journal about your trip for future reference, plan the rest of your trip, and declutter your photos, because hunny you know you need the extra storage space!

Crafts class

Google what is on offer where you are staying. It could be kite making, glass blowing, jewellery making, paper lantern making, or a pottery class, the possibilities really are endless. If you want something a bit more mobile, try a dance class!

Go to a local gig

See if you can find a bar that has live music on! This is a great way to discover the local music scene. Another tip would be to check out whether they have Sofar Sounds gigs where you are. I have been to a couple of them before and highly recommend them. The organisation puts on intimate gigs at ‘secret’ spots where you can bring your own drinks. In London, I have had the privilege of seeing some really awesome local flats through this company which made perfect makeshift stages for the artists.

10 travel related things to keep you busy during Coronavirus lockdown

Coronavirus has brought the world to a halt in aid of our fellow human in a way most of us have never experienced before. Fingers crossed we can see governments taking similarly drastic measures for climate change too, eh? It is easy to feel a little claustrophobic as a result the restrictions that have been put on our freedom. You may, like me, be starting to feel like your longterm relationship with Netflix is suffering as a result of too much time together and that it can no longer sustain you through this extended lockdown. I have made a list of 10 travel related things you can do to keep yourself busy during these days. Here is to diversifying your activities from the ingesting, lying on the couch, and sleeping which were a staple of my first week (no shame).

Sort out your travel photos

Have you got a crap ton of photos on your that need editing and putitng into folders? Sort it out! Organise your images and relive past trips as you do, helping to ease any depression and anxiety you may be feeling during this time. Clear the storage on your phone and back up your photos. Lastly, send photos to travel buddies that you have been meaning to and/or chase them for photos they owe you.

Make a travel bucket list

A bucket list is a great way to visualise all the things you want to do in this life to ensure you can start ticking them off. General bucket lists can be a little bit daunting to get through so why not make a bucket list for the next year (from whenever we can travel again) as well as a general one? Think about putting some structure or order to your list and you will have a trip plan ready to go for when we are free to roam again. Also, don’t limit yourself to an actual list, be creative and make an inspiration board or mind map!

Research & plan your next getaway

Get your research done now so when restrictions start to ease you don’t have to hesitate in booking your next adventure. It is likely that you may find some bargains given the struggle the travel industry is being put through right now. If you do your planning beforehand you will be ready to take advantage. Hopefully the research will also get you excited for all that is to come after we beat this thing.

Connect with someone you met travelling

Have an email stashed away from a cute guy you met in Vietnam who bought you coffee? Happened to see that rad girl you met at a hostel in Budapest post on Facebook recently? Reach out! It could be a chance to make a new friend, reignite old friendships, or just to hear someone else’s perspective on this time. It can be nerve wrecking to reach out to someone you don’t talk to regularly (hey, thrills are hard to come by these days) so rise to the challenge. I promise that even if they awkwardly don’t respond it will be therapeutic to do a little writing and reflect on how you are and what you are up to in life right now.

Make a trip video/scrapbook

Delight your travel companions and yourself by putting together an awesome masterpiece of a trip you did. You will get to relive the trip during the process whilst also getting to flex those creative skills. This kind of project is exactly the kind of thing many people want to do but put off because there is never time, and well, now is the time!

Journal a past trip

One of the reasons I love making this blog is that my travel experiences are forever captured. Trust me, you forget a lot! Whilst photos help document a trip they can’t capture all the moments like the funny thing your friend did or the exact itinerary. Get out your pen and reflect and reminisce about a better time.

Check out travel gear online

Appreciate this will be a tight time for many given the economic impacts of this lockdown, however, the impacts will also be felt by companies that sell hiking boots, travelling backpacks, travel gadgets etc. It may be possible to grab a bargain with many retailers dropping prices to avoid sales plummeting. If you can’t financially permit yourself to make a purchase at this time you can at least do some research into options online so you know what you do want to save up for when things are more stable again.

Get an international pen pal

Been meaning to practice your French? Want to hear perspectives & stories from the other end of the world as if you were there visiting? Want to potentially reach out to someone who is struggling with loneliness at this time? Look for a pen pal and reach out! Send a care package or a snack which is super typical from your country to cheer them up along with your letter. If you want to keep it local, write to the elderly in your community and ask them about their travel memories, I am sure many will have super interesting stories (a time without Google Maps means much more challenges than nowadays).

Educate yourself on sustainable travel

I am learning more and more lately about the environmental impacts of this hobby of ours. Take this opportunity to read up on what options there are out there to minimise your footprint when travelling. If you want visual inspiration of what a greener trip can look like, search up eco accommodation options, there are some amazing ones.

Learn more about a place you have already been

I am definitely guilty of having travelled to places without doing too much research on its history beforehand when life is busy. Have a read of the history of a place that piqued your interest during your travels. If you don’t want to read, find a documentary! If your interest isn’t historical, educate yourself on the issues impacting the community presently. It is easy to be caught up with what is happening in our immediate surrounding when news coverage rarely extends past local stories or selected global ones.