Ways you can be a sustainable backpacker

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I went backpacking in Vietnam this month. It was short-lived, though, because of the coronavirus. Nonetheless, now that my trip’s over (for now), it gave me an idea or two about sustainable travel as a backpacker. This is not an extensive list, and by no means am I an expert traveler, but here’s what I have in mind and what I want to share with you.

Pack light

More than just a way to make your trip more convenient, packing light has benefits also in terms of the fuel efficiency of transportation. For instance, the reason why airlines limit the capacity of your check-in baggage to usually seven kilograms is because they’re trying to fill in the maximum quota or weight for all the things being transported by the plane — which includes people and baggage. Less weight would, in turn, help the airplane achieve better fuel efficiency. So whenever you travel, pack light as much as you can!

Avoid water bottles at all costs

When traveling, one of the essentials is drinking water to stay hydrated. While not all countries provide water refilling stations, it’s best to lessen or at best avoid buying water bottles. In Vietnam, for instance, it’s only seldom that you’ll come across water refilling stations. In that case, don’t buy too many water bottles. Or if you can, wait until you find a water refilling station. Some hostels and homestays provide them for free.

Turn off the air conditioner

This should go without saying, but if no one else is in your hostel room or you’re the last to leave, it’s always best to turn off the air conditioner. It will save electricity as well as the bills of the hostel!

Don’t buy unnecessary things

This probably works for me, but not for everyone else. Let’s face it, everyone wants to buy a certain something, like a souvenir, whenever they travel. But apart from saving your wallet and lessening the weight of your bag, not buying too many things can also be helpful in the long run in terms of waste management. More often than not, the things we buy would probably just end up in a landfill. In that case, I believe the best souvenirs you can get from a place are the photos and memories you make.

Walk, walk, walk

If the place you’re going to is just near, then walk! My personal rule of thumb is that if I can go towards that certain place for less than an hour, then I can just walk it. There’s plenty of things to see along the way, anyway. Walking, apart from being good to our health, also helps us lessen our contribution to carbon emissions brought by riding public transportation. So when you get the chance, walk a lot when traveling.

Avoid straws

We’re probably aware of this by now. Do away with the straws! Although sometimes we tend to forget and once the server brings us our drinks, there’s already a straw placed inside our glass. In that case, I’d honestly just continue using it. It’s already a lost case. So the best thing to do next time is to bring your own bamboo or metal straw and inform the server that you’ll be using that instead. That, or just don’t use straws. Seriously — you can drink straight from the glass, anyway.

Make sure you’re joining a ‘sustainable’ tour

I’m against any tour that involves elephants. In Thailand, for instance, they have elephant sanctuaries. They seem innocent and harmless at first, but the reality is that these elephants are formerly part of circus acts, where they’re usually whipped or ‘forced’ to entertain people. If you want to help the elephants, it would be best to avoid any elephant-related tour as much as possible. By doing so, you’re reducing the demand for such tours or forms of entertainment, thereby helping eliminate its demand in the future.

But of course, this barely touches the surface of ‘sustainable’ tours. If you’re going to find a ‘sustainable’ tour, make sure it has none or at least minimized environmental impact as much as possible.

These are what I have in mind. As I go on to more backpacking adventures, I’m sure to find more tips!


Hi! I’m Ian. In this blog, I share my personal stories and hopes for the world. Let’s take the conversation forward! Email me at ianbrmia@gmail.com for collaborations.

Why traveling is not an escape, but a journey towards life

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We see it everywhere. Traveling is branded as an escape — a temporary sanctuary or rush of hormones. At the same time, I understand why this is the case, considering how travel has been advertised to us constantly.

The word ‘traveling’ brings a smile to people’s faces. Whoever I talk to, they would lighten up with just the thought of traveling somewhere in the world they haven’t seen in person before.

Traveling itself is an art. It’s something that refreshes and energizes us. Seeing new sights, new places, and basically being somewhere no one knows you give a feeling of excitement and wonder.

Here’s why I think traveling is more of a journey towards life rather than an escape from it.

Feelings of discovery

Traveling is all about meeting new people, seeing new sights, and getting valuable experiences. It gives you a natural high.

From the beautiful beaches and mountains in the Philippines, to the amazing mix of nature and urban landscapes in Taiwan, there’s always something new to discover when you travel.

Lots of amazing people

I’ve met a lot of helpful and amazing people in my travels. Although we only met momentarily, it’s the type of friendship that can last despite the lack of personal updates.

For me, the best part of traveling are the people you meet along the way. It could be the type of traveling for work, leisure — what have you. The nice people you get to know makes any travel experience worthwhile.

A chance to understand other countries and relate it to your own

Every time I travel abroad, I observe the city and how people move and act. I think pretty much anyone else does this. And I think it’s a very healthy way to better understand our home country. It gives us ideas on how to be better and perhaps learn a thing or two from other countries.

It also allows us to understand ourselves better. What’s our position in the world? Where do we truly belong? How do we reach our goals? These questions come into mind when we travel.

At the end of the day, traveling is a journey towards life — a chance to remodel and rediscover ourselves. More than just soul-searching, traveling is also about just having fun and taking things as they are.


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