These seven principles were created by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to help people enjoy the outdoors responsibly. Since it espouses Explora's community values for love of country, care for the environment, and responsible travel, we have adapted it with permission to cover all types of travel.
1. Plan Ahead & Prepare
Spontaneous travel into unknown territory is one of the most thrilling parts of exploration, but it can also be one of the most dangerous; extreme weather, hazards, emergencies, and site regulations are things that you can’t take for granted.
Planning is essential. Consider accommodation, transportation, weather, and activities when you plan and pack – and don’t forget to make room for emergency situations. Make sure that your planning also includes security of your important documents and valuables, availability of drinking water and food, enough medicines (if you need to take them) to last you the entire trip, and a person that you will update on your whereabouts especially if you’re traveling solo. So, while spontaneous travel is fun, it’s still best to have an idea of the what you’re getting into, even if it’s just as basic as knowing what kind of clothes to wear. Pro-tip: utilize the internet for research, invest in a weather-proof bag, bring a first aid kit, and never rely on your memory for transportation schedules and details – write them down.
2. Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
It might be tempting to step into remote jungles or mystery islands but we’re pretty sure you know that this requires rigorous training. Without proper training though, do stay on established roads and trails to protect wildlife, wildlife habitats, plant ecosystems, cultural sites, and historical areas. Doing this will not only keep you safe but also minimize human damage by confining it to areas already regularly used. When it comes to finding a place to sleep, be it camping in the forest, on the beach, or crashing into someone else’s backyard, select locations that already have impacted sleeping grounds. Good campsites are found, not made, and altering a site is not really necessary.
Pro-tip: Respect and follow trail designations, road closures, and warning signs – always
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
No matter how careful you’ve been, you will still leave an impact wherever you go and the best that you can do is to minimize it. Trash, for example, should be disposed of properly (and yes, cigarette butts are trash) using the proper disposal bins provided. If you’re out camping and there are no trash bins, pack up all your waste to bring home with you. Do not bury or leave behind food scraps because this will alter the behavior of creatures in the area. On the matter of human waste and non-availability of bathroom while out camping, deposit human waste in a hole dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, trails, and campsite and cover with soil.
Pro Tip: Only two things should happen to whatever you bring with you: thrown in the proper disposal or taken with you back home.
4. Leave What You Find
…and don’t bring anything you’re not planning to dispose of or take back with you (see number 3). It may be difficult to keep your hands off interesting things that catch your eye – works of art, animals, plants, old structures – but it is something that a responsible traveler must do. If every traveler touched everything or took something home, the destination will lose all its charm and splendor.
As a traveler, you should help preserve every destination by leaving natural and manmade objects as you find them; do not desecrate trees, caves, or historical ruins by writing on the walls, do not use cologne, perfume, or sunscreen with ingredients that may be detrimental to coral reefs and marine animals.
Avoid introducing or transporting other species of plants and animals. Similarly, avoid introducing new ideas or gadgets that may harm a group of people in the long run. For example, giving a tribe a radio may sound helpful and harmless, but will damage their community and culture in the future.
Most importantly, refrain from supporting or buying products and services that may worsen the place’s environmental, social, or economic situation. For instance, aggravating child labor by buying wooden dolls carved by kids. The kids should be in school, not on travel sites, peddling for money.
Pro Tip: Unless it’s something that you bought from a reputable store, just leave it there – including sand, shells, and other “collectibles.”
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
Bonfires and campfires are a good source of light and warmth at night, but may cause irreversible damage to the environment. Don’t you just hate it when you arrive at a campsite or a beach and it’s littered with blackened stones or sand?
To prevent this, travelers are encouraged to use camp stoves instead. But if you do choose to make a campfire, create it in an official established fire ring, keep the fire small and gather only fallen and dead wood. Gather sticks no larger than an adult’s wrist that can easily be broken by hand. Also, consider the canopy of trees overhead when building a bonfire, as fire tends to go wild and rise far higher than intended. Lastly, never leave fires unattended, burn all wood and coals to ash, and put out campfires completely.
Pro Tip: a fire pan is a great work around to this – it does not leave the ground or sand blackened and it lessens the risk of spreading forest or wild fire.
6. Respect Wildlife
While humans have been taught to dominate the earth, this is the very idea that has been damaging our planet almost beyond repair. Travelers are advised to be humble and respectful, especially when it comes to the wildlife that you encounter.
Observe wildlife only from a distance. Give them plenty of space, avoid loud noises, sudden movement, and never follow or approach an animal. Do not disturb them or their homes. Respect their travel paths, feeding areas, and mating seasons. Most importantly, never feed animals or leave food scraps. Feeding wildlife damages an animal’s health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers. You are also advised to leave your pets at home.
When it comes to plants, do not pluck out leaves and flowers. Do not eat wild fruits unless you know what it exactly is. Some fruits, like wild berries, have varieties that may be poisonous.
Pro Tip: Leave plants and animals alone. Simple as that.
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
To any destination outside of our home, you are a visitor just like everyone else. Whether or not local residents, travel guides, or guards are present in the area, be considerate. Let nature’s sounds prevail; avoid loud voices, noises, music, or even blaring mobile phones. Travel quietly to be more aware of the destination. Strive to be inconspicuous; wear simple clothing and blend with the environment or crowd. If you are a smoker, smoke only in designated areas, or away from everybody else’s field of smell and vision. Respect the place and other people’s peace and solitude. After all, people travel to be free and to be revived, away from the noise, garbage, and routine that they deal with everyday.
Pro Tip: Follow the golden rule and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
It’s not enough to just say, “Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.” More than this adage, the Seven Principles are an elaboration of traveling ethically, safely, and with peace of mind. And these guidelines do not just apply when you’re out traveling – you can also apply these in your hometown. Traveling is one expression of freedom. And while freedom is everyone’s right, freedom without responsibility, we believe, would never be freedom at all.