Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Going Places: The Ability To Travel Brings Responsibilities, Too

Ed Ronco
A train arrives to a platform in Japan on a hot summer day in 2013.

Last week on Going Places, we talked about the ethics of traveling to countries with oppressive regimes, or whose governments might have tense relationships with the United States.

It got us thinking more generally about being a responsible traveler. Most of it comes down to just being a kind and thoughtful person. But knkx travel expert Matthew Brumley has some specific tips to help you travel responsibly:

Offset your carbon footprint. There are online calculators you can use to determine the approximate carbon footprint of your journey, and ways to mitigate your impact. 

Take direct flights. The most fuel-consumption for big plans happens at takeoff and landing. Save some emissions by trying to fly the most direct route whenever possible. (We recognize that this might not be possible in all cases, but it's good to keep in mind.)

Support local businesses. Spend your money in locally owned restaurants and markets. Stay at locally owned hotels. You'll be injecting money back into the local economy in a more significant way.

Be kind on social media. If you're going to write a review on Yelp! or TripAdvisor, consider your experience carefully. Did the hotel say it had air conditioning, or did you just assume it would be there? Could an otherwise competent staff simply be having a bad day? Did you try to resolve the issue in person? Small businesses can be especially damaged by nasty reviews online. If you have to criticize, make it constructive, thoughtful, and based on reasonable expectations.

Ask about photographs. Crowd shots are one thing, but whenever an individual or small group of people are to be the focus of a photograph, they should be asked.

Consider private versus public conversations. It might not be the best idea to ask someone from Cuba, for example, how they feel about the government while you're standing on a public street. Save the question for dinner, or some other setting where they won't be put in a tough spot.


"Going Places" is 88.5's weekly exploration of travel. Matthew Brumley is the co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions on Bainbridge Island, which provides small-group travel to clients including knkx.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.