Tips on How to Embrace Ethical Travel


There’s the saying that you should “collect moments, not things” that every minimalist or slow-living enthusiast has engraved in their heart. As with most people who start their journey towards sustainability, slow living, ethical fashion, and/or minimalism, many stories (ours included) sparked out of an overwhelming frustration with the status quo. Each story tends to start somewhere (i.e., an overflowing closet) and then it starts creeping into other areas in one’s life (i.e., a purse readied with reusable bottles and straws). With Summer in full bloom, we wondered what it meant to travel ethically.

When you google “ethical travel,” you can’t quite get a straight answer. Just like with searching “ethical fashion,” there are so many avenues you could go down. The word, “ethical”, holds different meanings for different people. For us, when it comes to ethics, we care about the people involved. For our leather goods, we care about the artisans who make our products. At the Velé manufacturers, we value our artisans' craftsmanship and fairly compensate them. We work to ensure that the Velé manufacturer is a place where our artisans can thrive. So when it came to learning about ethical traveling, we want to focus on the people: the local people.

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Here are our tips on traveling ethically:

  • STAY AT AN AIRBNB (OR ANY OTHER LODGING THAT SUPPORTS THE LOCALS): This one is pretty obvious. There isn’t anything close to living like a local than living with one or at least inside their home. Most hosts will provide suggestions to their favorite restaurants, cafes, and places to go. This will also allow you to go to the farmers market or grocery store so that you can cook like you would (or wish you would) at home.
  • SHOP AND EAT SMALL: Support small business owners while you’re in a new city. Visit small boutiques, and you might just walk away with a unique ceramic, leather, or woven souvenir that you wouldn’t be able to find in your hometown. You might also want to find time to browse the local thrift store to see if there are any hidden gems.

Your wallet is a powerful voice: where your money goes shows what you support. Be careful where you spend. The tourism industry is known to have both positive and negative social impact on the locals. It is also known to have some of the worst working conditions in the world. Human trafficking and sex tourism also remain prevalent in the travel industry, especially in countries like Cambodia and South Africa where the flights are cheap and tourism thrives. If you’re traveling to a country where sex tourism takes place, be aware of the situation and of your surroundings. Stay safe and reduce human trafficking by avoiding places where sex tourism may be taking place.

  • TRAVEL SLOWLY: Similar to the idea of slow-living, we are offering the idea of slow-traveling. Take it slow. Savor the moments. Soak in the city that you’re in and all that it has to offer. Make some new friends! Maybe you don’t see all the big tourist attractions while you’re there (it’s always a great excuse to visit that city again). Less is definitely more when it comes to traveling: You can spend more time at the things you really want to see or do. Be a traveler, not a tourist.

  • DO YOUR RESEARCH: Go beyond all of the “Top 10 Places To Visit in _______.” Take time to learn about your destination. Learn a few basic phrases in the native tongue like, “Hello,” “Thank you,” or “Do you speak English?” Locals will appreciate the effort. The more you know about the place you’re visiting--the political climate, what’s culturally appropriate, etc.--the more culturally sensitive you can be.

  • CONSIDER ANIMAL WELFARE: A lot of responsible travel companies have come out about against elephant riding in parts of Asia, and against interacting--directly and indirectly--with animals. Avoid restaurants that serve exotic cuisine that use meat from endangered species or that contribute to the mistreatment or declining population of animals. It is estimated that over 100 million sharks are killed every year for shark-fin soup. Animals should not be props for photographs and most definitely should not be trophies.

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Travel is more than seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.
— Miriam Beard
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