Responsible travel is something my family and I are passionate about so I’m hoping we can inspire you all to be the same 😉 Last year was declared International Year of Sustainable Tourism by the UN in an effort to raise awareness of responsible travel and help minimise the impact tourism is having on the environment.
Turkey is one of the most historically significant and culturally rich countries in the world. With tourist numbers on the rise this year, it seems a great time to remind people of the importance of travelling responsibly and helping to preserve the beauty and magic around us.
WHAT IS RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL?
Responsible travel is about thinking. It’s about owning your actions and being aware of consequences. A smart traveller enjoys their destination but leaves it as they found it so tourism can be sustained long-term.
If all travellers and holidaymakers were a little more aware of the impact their actions have on the environment, we would all enjoy very positive results and the resorts and sites we visit would benefit greatly. There are many ways you can make a positive impact during your time here in Turkey. Here are a few ideas:
HOW TO TRAVEL RESPONSIBLY.
Respect whats around you, don’t take what isn’t yours. Turkey is full of amazing ancient sites and ruins, let’s keep it that way. Some sites are well managed, protected and preserved, others, like the rock tombs or sarcophagy you simply stumble upon on a stroll around town, or a piece of mosaic you find on the floor or diving at the bottom of a bay, are great to look at, but don’t touch, don’t mark and definitely don’t take!
- Shop and eat locally. You’re on holiday. You are exploring a fascinating country packed full of fabulous eateries, local produce, and unique handmade items – there really shouldn’t be a need to buy expensive imported or mass produced products from elsewhere. Support local businesses rather than assembly chains and conglomerates, buy souvenirs ‘made in Turkey’ rather than ‘China’!
- Don’t wash the towels and sheets every day. Fair enough if they are truly dirty, but is putting your sheets and towels out for the maids to take daily really necessary? Hang them on the balcony to dry or air and use them again – I’m sure you would do that at home.
Book local accommodation. Do your research on hotels and resorts, also consider family-run little places, self-catering, home-stays, glamping or camping. There’s a ton of accommodation options in all the popular resorts throughout Turkey, even some wonderful places way off the beaten track. Around Fethiye, places like Faralya, Kayakoy, and the villages have a growing number of eco and sustainable hotels and lodges, have a nosey on the internet – don’t just rush and book a brochure or package deal without having a look first. Flights and transfers are easily sorted, make your own arrangements and itinerary if somewhere takes your fancy.
- Ask before taking photos of locals. Would you like it if someone bowled over with their iPhone and snapped a photo of you without asking? Probably not. Respect the locals and ask if you want to take their picture.
- Respect local customs and culture. Turkey, although used to tourists in many areas, is fairly traditional. It is a Muslim country and, as such, many locals do frown upon topless sunbathing or g-strings on public beaches where they take their kids swimming. Enjoying nights out is one thing, but falling around in a drunken haze is not acceptable here, and would it hurt to throw on a T-shirt and a pair of shorts in a public bar? Wearing skimpy swimwear on a stroll through the streets of town or on an evening out will draw attention and is frowned upon by many. Respect the local culture and give a little thought to how you act and what you wear in public.
- Support local charities. Do your bit for local charities if you get chance. Most areas have charitable organisations that run events locally. Here in Fethiye the likes of Fethiye International Group (FIG) and Calis Children’s Charity (3C’s), both supporting local families and kids, and Animal Aid, dedicated to helping street animals, run coffee mornings, auctions, table-top sales or evening events around Fethiye and the surrounding resorts. Take a look at their websites for more info on how you can do your bit, up and coming events, or to make a donation.
- Learn a little Turkish. Give the local lingo a try – it’s good fun, the kids will love learning a few words, and the locals will be happy you made the effort. Even just ‘Merhaba’ (Hello), ‘Evet’ (Yes), ‘Hayir’ (No), ‘Lutfen’ (Please) and ‘Teşekkür ederim’ (Thank-you) will show you have taken an interest.
Don’t litter. Turkey has a litter problem, mainly due to people simply not thinking. There are some fabulous sites, but get to a landmark, look down and you invariably see empty water or beer bottles, cigarette butts, chocolate wrappers or worse. Beaches, after the daily rush, are the same. The local council go out of their way to try and clean most popular public places; bins are emptied daily and you often see the street sweepers out collecting rubbish. But, if you do decide on a picnic, take your rubbish with you – bag it and bin it and, whilst you’re at it, if you see a few other bits of trash lying around, bin them aswell. Let’s keep our sites safe and clean for us all to enjoy 🙂
Don’t buy Chinese lanterns or flick lit cigarette butts away – they cause fires. Turkey can go many months without rain. The landscape is dry and arid from April until October meaning it takes very little to provoke a fire. In the years I’ve been here I’ve witnessed many forest fires, mostly caused by someone ignorantly throwing a cigarette butt out of a car, not putting out a BBQ correctly, or lighting silly things like Chinese lanterns that fall, still flaming, into the undergrowth.
- Switch off lights and air-con when not in the room. Help save energy by turning off the aircon and lights when you leave your home or hotel room.
- Tread lightly – stick to designated trails. If you head out for a ramble or trek, stick to designated trails or paths. Not only is it safer to use way-marked or well-trodden routes, traipsing across the undergrowth and making your own way will disturb the surroundings, it will leave a footprint.
- Walk, cycle or use public transport. The public transport around Fethiye is excellent and most places can be reached easily for just a few lira. In addition, a lot of private beaches and restaurants offer pick up and drop off services. Areas like Central Fethiye and Calis are flat so brilliant for anyone who likes walking or cycling. Be healthy, instead of hiring a car, walk or hire a bike, failing that, use the local dolmus or call a cab.
Beware of shops using animals to lure in customers. I hate it when my kids say “look, Mummy, can we go and play with the puppy (kitten, rabbit, monkey) in that shop? Pleeeease…”. Why oh why do some shop owners think it’s acceptable to use animals to lure in custom? OK, I get it – it works. They have a young dog running around to attract the kids and in turn their parents, then they convince them to buy a fake bag – DON’T FALL FOR IT! Go somewhere else (I feel a summer rant coming on!). I have witnessed this many times, the cute puppy at the end of the season, now a tame and playful dog that’s boosted trade throughout the summer, is abandoned and left to fend for itself. Think…don’t give these people your custom.
- Spread the word. Travelling responsibly is mainly about thinking of the consequences of our actions. I am raising my boys to value and respect their environment – do the same. Educate those around you so they too can help prevent the negative impact tourism is having on our world and help make Turkey, and all other destinations, places we can enjoy for many years to come.
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Thanks for reading.