Whether you’re travelling in your own backyard or in a far-flung corner of the globe, it can be challenging to ensure that you leave a positive impact on the people and places you visit. After decades of travelling the world, here’s our best advice.
Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.
This rule is universal when exploring the natural environment, whether you’re at your local beach or on top of a mountain in Patagonia. It says it all, really: follow the path if there is one, be respectful of wildlife, and leave the place as you found it! Especially in nature reserves and national parks, you can face hefty fines for removing flora and fauna – and even non-living things such as rocks and bones. So when you see something that you love, take a photograph of it, draw a picture, stare at it until it’s ingrained in your mind – but remember that as lovely as it might look in your house, it belongs right where it is.
Watch your waste
Waste management is a major issue in many places, especially developing countries, and it’s all too easy to unknowingly contribute to the problem. Avoiding single-use plastic can seem absolutely impossible, especially in regions where drinking the tap water is not advisable and you’re consigned to sealed plastic bottles. And disposing of your waste is challenging whether you’re in Spain trying to work out what to put in the recycling bin or in Kenya’s Maasai Mara trying to find any bin at all! It can also be disheartening to see inefficient systems and a lack of education around waste in some parts of the world – but this only makes it all the more important that you do what you can to set the example and leave a positive impact on the environment.
Some small steps that will make a big difference include taking your rubbish with you until you find a suitable place to dispose of it, bringing a reusable water bottle or water purifier, saying no to plastic products, bags, straws and packaging where possible, bringing a few reusable bags that you can pull out if you go shopping, and – if you have the space in your luggage – packing a reusable takeaway container, cutlery set and coffee mug to help you avoid the single-use alternatives. Also, if you’re travelling to a remote region and wish to bring gifts for the locals, bear in mind that they may not have any waste systems in place. If your gift has any packaging, offer to take it back with you to civilisation.
Something else worth mentioning is food waste. Here’s a scary statistic: if global food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, behind the US and China! Not only that, in some areas it is considered disrespectful to leave food on your plate. The chefs, cooks and caterers on all of our riding holidays do their best to provide you with sensational cuisine every day, and estimating how much a group of globetrotters and their guides will eat can be quite a challenge! Do your bit by finishing what’s on your plate and listing any dietary requirements you may have on your booking form. Or if you find yourself full to the brim from your hot, continental breakfast and wish to skip a meal or have a light snack instead, try to inform your guides early so that the cooks can adjust their quantities accordingly.
Supporting the local economy is one of the best things you can do as a traveller, especially in developing nations. Skip the superstores and mass-produced keyrings and seek out authentic souvenirs from the people who make them. Starbucks? You can get that anywhere – but how many chances will you have to sit down in a local cafe in a foreign country, say ‘coffee’, present a few coins and see what happens?
Also, if you’re in a country where haggling is the norm, try not to drive too hard a bargain. Trust us, that 50c that you’re arguing over means a whole lot more to the storeholder than it does to you! Look at the bigger picture and you’ll both leave with smiles on your faces.
Choose non-toxic toiletries
Especially on some of our more remote rides such as those in Iceland, Mongolia, Argentina, Morocco, Kenya, Botswana and Namibia, it is important that you choose eco-friendly toiletries for your horse riding holiday. On these rides, you will often be passing through unique and pristine ecosystems that can be seriously disrupted by the introduction of foreign or environmentally toxic chemicals. You may even find yourself cleaning off in a river – adding shampoos, conditioners, body washes etc that aren’t eco-friendly to the local water supply is a BIG no. Even if you see locals doing exactly this, remember that it is usually due to a lack of education rather than a lack of care, and they’re just trying to do their best for themselves and their families.
Learn the local customs
Part of the joy of a horse riding holiday in a foreign country is discovering a whole new way of life – different languages, dress codes, lifestyles, traditions and cuisines. We know that as a globetrotter, you’re all for embracing the unfamiliar – so take the time to ensure that you’re familiar with the cultural basics of the region you’re visiting. This can include learning a few words in the local language (they’ll LOVE you for it, even if you stuff it up completely!), dressing appropriately, and learning commonplace etiquette and body language for meals, introductions and conversations. You’ll find a great introduction to the local culture in your trip prep kit, which we prepare for every single Globetrotting ride we offer to ensure our guests are 100% prepared for their holiday.
Ask permission for photos
Would you like it if some crazy foreigner on a horse trotted up to you, snapped a bunch of photos and rode off? I know I’d feel a bit perplexed, to say the least! Wherever you’re travelling, it’s polite to ask before photographing someone – and nine times out of ten you’ll get a better photo as a result. Obviously there’s room for personal discretion, here – if you’re watching the final furlong of a horse race in Mongolia you can’t stop the jockeys to ask if they mind you snapping a few pics! But always ask yourself how you’d feel on the opposite side of the camera. There are also some places and ceremonies that should not be photographed – this will be mentioned by your guides if applicable.
If you do your best to abide by these guidelines and make sure to pack all of your common sense and empathy, your horse riding holiday of a lifetime is likely to have a very positive effect on the world. We’ll keep adding to this list as we see fit – send us your best tips if there’s anything you think we’ve missed!