An ally is any person who takes actions—big or small—to advance the equality of a marginalized group that they’re not a part of. Allyship is a journey of life-long learning, and it is something you can apply to all aspects of your life, including travel.
Here are 10 tips for you to consider to help you be a better ally while travelling.
1. Research, research, research — Learn about where you’re going: read a novel, reach out to someone who’s travelled there or is from there, do some online exploration about local culture and customs, and investigate government/laws.
Allyship can also come in the form of understanding the current socio-economic and political dynamic in the country and remembering that you are a visitor. Perhaps you can champion causes by spreading the word about how to support (e.g. hurricane relief needed to help a country recover, or women’s rights protests).
2. Get in with the lingo — Find out what to say and what not to say. Combat discriminatory language by writing, speaking, or using images that reflect a broad range of identities and perspectives. Seek advice or more information when you’re unsure.
As a guide, you can check out this inclusive language article here.
3. Be conscious of your own baggage and privilege — We all have biases; be conscious of the stereotypes you might have and put them aside before taking off on your journey.
Consider biases around local food and dress, and how you should pack accordingly. For example, women may need to dress more conservatively when visiting temples or sacred locations; or you may need to proactively research the common food dish ingredients, especially if you are vegan/vegetarian visiting a country that is more meat-based.
Pro-tip! Check out this article for some ways to politely greet in different cultures.
4. Leave your judgments at home — Remember whatever you think you know, and you think is right is only from one perspective: your own. Depending where you stand, a 6 can look like a 9 and vice versa.
If you find yourself thinking, “This is better where I live,” think about how what you’re used to might be from a different perspective—like driving on the left or on the right, or having cheese after desert or desert after cheese.
5. Visit local communities and chat with locals — Ask questions with curiosity and listen actively and openly to the answers (even if you don’t agree at first). Make sure to respect the customs, don’t treat one’s culture like a tourist attraction; show genuine appreciation for a culture. When you’re taking a photo of (or in front) of something, do you know what you’re taking a photo of, or is it “just for the ‘gram?”
Also, if you’re travelling abroad, think about practicing the local language, there are a ton of apps to help like Duolingo, Google Translate, HelloTalk, TripLingo, Tandem, iTranslate, and more.
6. Leave no trace — Being an ally also means looking after the environment you’ve travelled to—not leaving any traces behind, being mindful of the resources you use, and not taking any “natural souvenirs” with you.
We all know the tempting feeling of wanting to take some sand from that pristine beach, or dropping our lunch packaging in the first (and not necessarily correct) bin, or of taking an extra long shower after a hot day outside despite the drought signs. These things, though they might seem benign, have a negative impact on the environment and on the local populations who inhabit the land, so focus on taking memories with you and leave smiles behind instead.
Another way to respect the environment or being more locally-minded could be to find an opportunity to volunteer for a day. For example, plant trees, restore houses, collect supplies, or help an underrepresented community.
7. Call in kindly — if someone says something you don’t agree with, then ask them about their intent and kindly point out their impact. Instead of “calling out,” you should “call in” different perspectives by sharing how the impact of their words may not match their positive intent.
If you’re the one being called in, be grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow as an ally.
8. Put your money where your values are — Spend in ways that can help local communities, small businesses, and under-represented identities, such as people of colour, people with disabilities, or LGBTQIA+ owned, where it will make a difference.
This is where your research and conversations with locals will come in handy, since reality can be a different story. Take the time to inquire and find some great activities that match with your interests and your values—for example, a cooking class, a city guided tour, or a stay with a host family.
9. Reflect and reminisce — Think back not only on what you experienced but also on what you learned, what challenged your biases, and what changed you.
10. Share generously — Spread all the amazing things you learned with your friends, family, followers, and be open to them sharing their views with you. The trip might be over, but the ally learning journey never ends!
What are your tips for being a better, more inclusive traveller?
This article was written in collaboration by employee travel experts, Solène Maud Anglaret, Monica Pedraja, Veronica Velazquez, Majojo Kuss, and Shayla Silva.