One of the great principles of traveling responsibly is to talk to the locals. Find out how they experience tourism, what they think is positive and what they think is negative about tourism in the area. No one knows that better than the locals.
In today’s interview, I talk with Samantha Anthony and Veren Ferrera, founders of the vegan, sustainable travel blog Alternative Travelers. You might know them as Sam and Veren, digital nomads and house sitters who spend time talking to the locals to find ways of promoting positive tourism to lesser-visited places.
Meet Sam and Veren
Sam and Veren, aka the Alternative Travelers, are originally from New York City and lived for 2 years in Madrid, Spain. Now, they’re full-time digital nomads and house sitters. They aim to show that neither traveling sustainably nor eating vegan has to be expensive or difficult. On their blog, you find sustainable travel tips, budget-friendly vegan city guides, and tips and strategies on how to travel via house sitting.
Now, let’s see what these sustainably conscious guys have to say about responsible tourism!
An interview with Sam and Veren
What does travel mean to you?
We travel to explore and learn about different ways of life around the world. Our backgrounds are in anthropology (Sam) and filmmaking (Veren), so we’re fascinated by different lifestyles and cultures. Travel has really opened up our eyes to the experiences and conditions in which people live around the world. We also travel to learn more about where we might want to end up someday. One huge benefit we’re currently getting from travel is that it’s way cheaper than living in our home city (New York City). We travel via house sitting, meaning that we take care of pets and homes in exchange for accommodation. We’ve met incredible people and pets and get a true look at local life by traveling this way. This method of travel has also allowed us to focus on passion projects like our blog.
What does responsible tourism mean to you?
For us, responsible tourism means being aware of our impact on the local environment and community. That means keeping our carbon footprint down, creating less waste, and making more mindful choices about our economic contribution to a destination. It’s hard for us to separate which is more important as we feel like all aspects of responsible tourism are intertwined! If we lean toward one aspect though, it’s probably in the environmental direction.
When did you first start to be conscious about the way you travel and the effects your travels have on your destination?
We became more aware of responsible travel through food. We are both vegan, though we didn’t go vegan for environmental reasons. After we learned about the negative impacts of animal agriculture on the planet, it made us wonder what other things had a negative impact. We started learning how to make changes to reduce waste and reduce our carbon emissions in other ways.
Also, since we’re so interested in local lifestyles around the world, we’re always very curious about the impact of tourism on a destination. We always strike up conversations with residents and have learned a lot about how tourism affects different places. Some places are overwhelmed with too much tourism, while other places could benefit from much more tourism. This also has inspired us to share the great positive impact that tourism can have on lesser-known places. We want to inspire others to seek out these kinds of places instead of overwhelming popular hot spots, which would benefit both kinds of places.
Have you traveled to a specific destination that you found especially sustainable that you would like to recommend to other travelers?
Portland, Oregon and Berlin, Germany are the two places that immediately come to mind. Both places are cutting edge when it comes to their environmental initiatives. For example, both cities have curbside composting, many miles of bike lanes and bike-share systems, great public transportation (no need for a car), environmentally friendly buildings, vast green parks, and many more cool green initiatives. Both cities also have incredible food scenes that prioritize local, organic, and vegan foods, all of which are great for the environment. Not surprisingly, these cities are also among our favorites in the world!
What do you do to travel responsibly?
In the past couple of years, we’ve reduced our flights dramatically, and choose overland options (bus or train) wherever possible. We love to explore destinations by bike – zero emissions! We also talk a lot about how house sitting is a great option for sustainable accommodation. House sitters are staying in homes that would otherwise be empty, meaning that there is no issue of displacing a resident as is too often a problem with Airbnbs in popular destinations. House sitters help locals by providing pet care, and you get to reuse resources and create less waste, since homes are already equipped with whatever you might need.
Outside of the house, we reduce waste by carrying an eco-friendly travel kit with things like a reusable coffee cup, water bottle, containers, and cutlery. Finally, we are passionate about animal welfare, meaning that we don’t participate in animal tourism of any kind (unless you count pet sitting).
What are your top 3 advice to travelers that want to travel more responsibly?
Take a look at how you travel (transportation), where you stay (local accommodation over chain hotels, be conscious about Airbnb, etc.), and what you eat (i.e. no exotic animals, more plant-based, local eateries only, low waste). Being more mindful in these three areas can really help travelers on their journey to traveling and living more responsibly. And following and learning from fellow responsible travelers is a great way to learn and get inspired!
See more from Sam and Veren
Did you find this interview just as inspiring as I did? I will definitely look into house sitting for the future! Let us know your biggest takeaway in the comments below.
To see more from Sam and Veren and learn about how YOU can start house sitting, make sure you check out their blog, Alternative Travelers or tag along on your favorite social media channel! You find them on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
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