Ethical Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Plan Your Next Trip

Travel may be on pause, but practicing mindful trip planning doesn’t have to be. With countries closing their doors due to a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, why not reflect on what travel could be if we only stopped to think about our impact on the world around us.

During this worldwide standstill, Vincie Ho founded RISE Travel Institute, an organization dedicated to educating the next generation of mindful travelers. As the very first guest of our podcast: The RISE Traveler: Unpacking Conversations on Sustainable Travel, Vincie provides her first-hand travel knowledge on how to be mindful about each and every decision we make on our next trip around the globe. This way, when Covid-19 travel restrictions relax, we’ll be ready.

Here are some questions we can all start reflecting on today:

Who benefits from my visit?

Vincie suggests thinking about how your trip will benefit others. Is this visit simply benefitting you or your employer? Will the local community benefit in any way? If it’s only self-serving, this is not truly sustainable tourism.

Does my visit impact the environment negatively?

Vincie raises the question, “What if the place where I’m standing right now is visited by tens of thousands of tourists at the same time?” If that’s the case, how does it impact the environment and the locals? Rather than always picking the most popular destinations, consider those that are eco-friendly, off the beaten path, or visiting off-season.

Will my choices help the local economy?

“The souvenir that I buy, is it made of unsustainable material? Was it made in a sweatshop?” Vincie asks herself and encourages others to ask themselves. The economic outcome of your purchasing power is something to consider whether buying a gift for a friend or deciding on lodging. Make sure money gets into the hands of local people and supports ethical practices.

Did I check my privilege?

“Understanding our unearned privilege makes it a lot easier for us to act more compassionately and treat others with respect,” Vincie notes. The more you think about and come to terms with your own privilege, the better you will be at contemplating the circumstances of others and acting accordingly.

How do I write about my experiences after I return?

As Vincie aptly describes, “It’s important that we think carefully about what we write, and how we choose to use our words and images to talk about our trips when we come back home, and always ask ourselves whether what we say or show is fair and whether it’s reinforcing or breaking stereotypes.” Before you post that Yelp review or Instagram image, pause. Think about whether the post is perpetuating biases about a country. Words are powerful and they can either take from or act as strong support for a community.

Amy Hager, the host of The RISE Traveler, summed it all up saying, “If we had more of an approach of ‘hey think about that’ that would just make us so much more aware.”

Fellow RISE travelers, before that next trip we encourage you to make space for reflection and ask yourself Dr. Vincie Ho’s guiding questions.

Listen to the entire conversation on Facebook and subscribe to our podcast via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and YouTube.

Written by Kara King

Kara (she/her/hers) is a traveler and writer who strives to enhance the voices of others. She has developed travel content for Thrillist, Wanderful, and Unearth Women. In addition, she has worked extensively with underprivileged communities, most recently at the Brooklyn-based non-profit, CAMBA, where she managed instructional services and designed holistic programming for young adults, immigrants, and newly arrived refugees. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and holds a degree in Comparative Literature.

Currently, in addition to developing content for RISE Travel Institute, she is using her content creation skills on The Hill’s Events Team, where she crafts virtual event programming and acts as an extension of the newsroom, bringing thought leaders together and important issues to light.

She’s lived in multiple cities including Paris, Berlin, Los Angeles, and New York. But she now calls Washington, D.C home.

Our Mission — To inspire responsible, impactful, sustainable and ethical travel through education