Most women in our community travel to relax, rewind and rejuvenate.

In the west, we live hectic lives and often feel stressed and over committed. Some of us – present company included – spend too much time online. Others live in busy towns and cities, where we practice unhealthy eating habits and live with toxic air.

In our everyday lives, many of us do our best to protect the environment for our grandkids. We recycle, purchase environmentally conscious products and donate to causes we believe in.

Now, many of us are starting to realize that our efforts to product the environment shouldn’t be limited to what we do at home. We also have a responsibility to look after the world when we travel.

Bali Shows the Potential of Sustainable Tourism

Bali has a paradoxical relationship with the tourism industry. On the one hand, tourism is a huge economic driver for the island. On the other hand, tourists contribute to the many ecological challenges facing this tropical paradise.

Fortunately, a growing number of hotels and service businesses are realizing that economics and ecology do not need to be enemies. They are helping tourists to experience the beauty of Bali, without harming the local environment.

It’s a win-win. If these hotels are successful, Bali will stay beautiful and economically prosperous for generations to come. Here are a few things that I learned about sustainable tourism on my recent trip to Bali.


Sustainable Travel Feels Like Being at Home

Many people look to escape to places where they can enjoy a simpler way of life. They want calm and relaxation. Others look for adventure in remote places. These women want to explore the untouched wonders of nature. Sustainable travel offers the best of both worlds.

Enjoying sustainable travel requires flexibility and open-mindedness. It works best when you visit a place with the desire to “fit in” and understand the local culture and natural environment.

This trip, I decided to stay in Ubud, Bali for 8 weeks. This choice was a bit out of character for me. Usually, I tend to be a fast traveler, hopping from one place to the other. Here in Bali, I wanted to enjoy the experience of being at “home” in a new place. I also wanted to have the time to live in a sustainable way.

I wanted to get to know the local people, wash my own clothes and eat local food. Simply put, I wanted to become a part of the Bali “family.”

Learn About Each Place You Visit and Tell Your Friends What You Find

Bali is a gorgeous island. Nature is abundant and it is easy to be seduced by lime green rice paddy fields and the coconut and verdant palm trees that dominate the landscape.

While in Ubud, I stayed in several different properties, ranging from a simple hostel, where I spent most of my time, to occasional overnight stays in luxurious 5-star properties. I spent time at each of the Alila Hotels  in Ubud, Manggis, Soori, Seminyak and Uluwatu. They are spectacular properies with unique personalities, but all committed to values of sustainability. I learned about the subak form of irrigation, in which the design of the terraces allows one field to only “take what it needs.” This ensures that the rest of the water is shared with the next terrace.

When you visit a new place, take the time to understand its unique beauty. Then, share the stories that you learn with your friends. Sustainable tourism is not just about leaving less behind; it is also about the sustainability stories that you take with you.

What Are Some Practical Ways to Be Sustainable on the Road?

Sustainability is all about changing your and mindset and behavior. Sustainable tourism starts with the accommodation that you choose.

Book Greener is an online resource that features sustainable properties around the world. It gives practical advice on what it means to be a sustainable traveler. The website provides tips on how to research and plan a trip, while being sensitive to the culture and traditions that you will encounter.

Its featured hotels have made a commitment to sustainability. This includes saving resources, using energy efficiently, relying on organic gardening and engaging with the community.

The site also provides practical tips for reducing your ecological footprint on your way to your destination. This includes shutting off the water and power supply. It also recommends packing light to reduce the amount of fuel that your plane has to exert to get you to your destination.

Once you arrive, there are plenty of small things that you can do to help the environment. Two of the most obvious examples are flushing less and not taking home amenities in plastic bottles. In addition, most green hotels give guests the option of reusing their towels and linens during their stay.

Respecting Local Cultures and Customs is a Part of Sustainable Travel

This is one of my favorite parts of travel. I strongly believe that, as conscientious travelers, we have a responsibility to understand the respect the cultures that we are exposed to. When we understand and share the wonderful ideas, ceremonies, languages and traditions of the countries we visit, we make it more likely that future visitors will do the same.

When we learn to respect a local culture, we are more likely to respect the local environment. After all, the two are intimately connected, especially in places like Bali.

What specific things do you do when you travel to protect the environment? Have you ever stayed at an eco hotel? Or, at a minimum, do you prefer to stay at hotels that have a good reputation for sustainability? Please join the conversation.

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