Brumley: When You Go, Go Responsibly

Jan 23, 2014

The tourism industry is one of the largest in the world. According to the United Nations, one out of every 11 jobs worldwide is related to tourism.

“When you travel, it has real implications for the people you’re visiting,” said KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley. “There are two sides to this: there’s the environmental side, and there’s the socioeconomic side that has to do with the people themselves.”

So how do you travel responsibly? Here are some tips from KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

First, let's talk about the environmental impact of your trip. Getting places requires fuel, from your car or your train or your plane. 

At carbonfootprint.com, you can purchase credits to offset the fuel you’ll burn. According to the website, your round-trip flight between Seattle and London generates about 1.35 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. For around $18, you can help carbon reduction projects. For a little more money, you can plant a tree in the U.K. or Kenya.

Get To Know The Invisible People

The other responsibility deals with the people you come across on your trips.

“One thing that’s really struck me is the masses of people in tourism who are invisible,” Brumley said. “That’s something that’s really begun to bug me over the years.”

In addition to being generous with tips (where culturally appropriate), get to know hotel maids and other people who are working to make your trip more enjoyable.

"Usually these are people that are underpaid," Brumley said. "Get to know them and acknowledge them."

Consider Adding A Day Of Service

Whether you’re a carpenter or a teacher, you can use your skills in places where they’re desperately needed.

“That is a wonderful thing to do on vacation, and surprisingly, it’s often the highlight of any trip. It’s also a great way to keep in contact with local people when you return home," Brumley said. 

One of Brumley's favorite projects is a little school on the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

"The first time I was there, my wife and I were a little nervous because it seemed a bit dicey. Now when we travel into this small village, everyone runs out into the street and gives us a big hug,” he said.

Find An Organization That Speaks To You

So how do you add service to your trip? There are a lot of organizations that can help. One of Brumley’s favorites is called Grassroot Soccer, which works to stop the spread of HIV in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and other African nations.

“Soccer is one of the international languages. Everybody loves soccer,” Brumley said. “They bring kids into soccer camps and teach them about leadership, education and really help them turn their lives around.”

Find an organization that can guide you to a project that works for you, Brumley says.

One or two days out of a two-week trip might suffice. A service project doesn't have to take up your entire vacation, but it can certainly enhance it.

“The fact we can even travel outside the United States means we’re some of the most lucky, fortunate people on the planet,” Brumley said.

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Matthew Brumley is the founder of Earthbound Expeditions, which organizes group travel to destinations around the world for various clients, including KPLU. "Going Places" is our new travel segment exploring all aspects of getting from Point A to Point B. Tell us what you think about responsible travel, or suggest topics for future installations of this series. Have a travel hangup or a tip? Let us know in the comments.