Recently, we got to visit a part of the UK we’ve never actually visited – the grand old city of Newcastle! The idea of visiting Newcastle comes with various connotations – a great place to party (thanks Geordie Shore), a brilliant city to visit, the Angel of the North, a city filled with lots of bridges… etc. however, the idea of going to a beach in Newcastle is definitely not one that springs to mind when you think of the city. Beaches in the U.K. in particular seems to be a lot more linked to the Southern climes of Cornwall, Brighton and even more remote islands like the Isles of Scilly.
That being said, we found ourselves Northern bound from London on a trip to Newcastle to go to the beach. This however wasn’t your regular day trip to the beach – yes, there would some of that (along with some wine to make the most of the beach time) but our trip to the beach was to take part in World Beach Rescue Day organized by Barefoot Wine & Bubbly.
The idea behind it is plain and simple and that’s to keep our beaches ‘Barefoot friendly’ and ‘leaving only footprints’ which quite frankly, is the point of having a beach as far as I am concerned. 🙂 The project has actually been happening for 9 years in the UK (in partnership with Surfers Against Sewage) and 10 years internationally (it was launched in partnership with Surfrider Foundation).
To celebrate this milestone, this year is the very first time it had been formalised into a proper ‘World Beach Rescue Day’. There were over 11 countries across the globe participating – Australia, South Korea, Mexico, the United Kingdom and United States to mention but a few.
In Newcastle, we headed up to Whitley Bay which is a long stretch of sandy beaches, set against a backdrop of the city, a quaint lighthouse and mossy rocks. Upon arrival, I thought “Well, this is a clean beach – surely there can’t be much to clean here unless you count seaweed as trash” but despite that, we managed (as a group – not just two of us 🙂 ) to find over 150kg of rubbish which needed to be cleared off the beach (seriously, there was a tyre, a rusty metal rod (this is an old railway sleeper if they want to mention that) and even an old lobster cage), all within the space of two hours.
We had so much fun (more fun than you’d think was possible while cleaning up a beach), made some new friends and of course, to celebrate, we finished off the evening with glasses of rather refreshing and much welcome Barefoot wines (and by glasses, I mean plastic cups – which we then took away with us to recycle). I’m more of a white wine/rose kinda guy so I quickly found my favourite in the Chardonnay – had to taste a couple of wines to make my decision of course, strictly for research purposes. 😉 Needless to say, a glass of wine and a day at the beach go effortlessly well together!
This whole afternoon however then led me to think of other ways we could make a difference when we travel. Doing things like this once a year is brilliant but there are so many opportunities to give back to beautiful places we visit that take up very little time and resources from us. And let’s face it, even from a ‘selfish’ point of view, the longer we keep places that we love beautiful and pristine, the more we can enjoy said places. We’re attracted to places we travel to because of how beautiful they are so it’s plain common sense to help keep it that way… or even to help improve it when we can (and no, not in the way that lady ‘improved’ the Fresco of Jesus Christ in that church in Spain).
To cut a long story short – here are 10 simple ways you can help give back when you travel:
1.) Be aware of your resource consumption. Resources in this context include things like power, water, heat…etc. There are things we all need/want when we travel but when they’re not in use, it’s always a good thing to be conscious of this and switch them off. Waste is absolutely unnecessary and does no one any favours.
2.) Volunteer your free time – especially if it’s something you enjoy doing. If you can have fun while giving something back, everyone wins.
3.) If you find rubbish where it doesn’t belong, help put it where it does belong – in the bin/recycling. Yes, it’s not your fault it was there in the first place and it’s not even your responsibility but little acts like this done by lots of people can make such a huge impact.
4.) Leave only footprints, take only memories. Sounds like quite the cliché (very much so in fact) but the essence of this quote holds very true when it comes to travel. The idea is of course to enjoy a place you visit and leave it better than you found it and that, is a good thing. (Of course you can take things away… like the salted caramel walnuts from the Dordogne Valley in France, if you do take those away, please get me some too!)
5.) Try to support local businesses where you can. Of course this isn’t saying you need to go buy yoghurt that has been sat for hours in the sun from a food vendor (typical travel common sense rules apply, of course) but supporting local businesses actively helps improve the economy of the places you visit, which in turn helps create a stronger and more prosperous community.
6.) Be respectful. Sounds simple but a lot of negative impacts travelers have on a destination stem from a lack of respect. No respect for coral reefs leads to people standing on (and breaking) coral which took hundreds of years to grow, lack of respect for a city leads to people visiting and throwing rubbish anywhere they can, lack of respect of the locals leads to people ignoring local customs or singing at the top of their voice when everyone else is trying to sleep… the pattern goes on and on. As long as we all respect the fact that we’re visiting someone else’s home – our actions generally leave a much more positive impact on the environment.
7.) Be informed. Information is key to helping you avoid tourist traps that are detrimental to a place you visit. Don’t go picking up baby turtles and stressing them just for a photo on Instagram (their survival chances in the wild were already low before that), try to research the places you visit in advance, don’t support activities that actively take advantage of less empowered people… the list goes on and on. If you do your research prior to engaging in an activity when you travel, then you leave yourself in the best position of understanding whether or not you’re making a positive impact to the destination you’re visiting.
8.) Immerse yourself in the culture. The benefits of this flows both ways – for you, you get a more authentic travel experience and for the community you’re visiting, you get a great appreciation of the cultures and can go ahead and be a ‘flag-bearer’ of sorts to help promote these communities and cultures.
9.) Share knowledge. This goes hand-in-hand with the point above. Look for ways to gain knowledge on your travels and actively look to share that knowledge. The more people know how beautiful a rarely visited destination is and how friendly its people are, the more others around you will want to visit and hence help the local economies with the influx of like-minded travellers (just like you). 🙂
10.) Make a donation. This perhaps the most obvious one of the lot but it would be silly to overlook this as this can be quite a direct way to contribute towards a place you visit. Granted some destinations don’t need it as much as others do (some even come with a mandatory ‘donation’ i.e. your entry fee) and monetary donations can be quite a contentious issue but in places that do need financial help, this can be the most direct way you can create an impact and provide a helping hand.