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 Composed & contributed by Madhushri Mudke for The Street Edit

I usually travel in ways that help local communities while getting them to develop in a sustainable way (this, for me, is the very definition of sustainable ecotourism!). The places that I prefer travelling to, include villages, forest reserves, national parks, heritage towns and biodiversity hot-spots. Why? Because usually tourists leave these places alone, enabling the locals to offer their own version of ecotourism, without corporate influences getting in the way! I have tried to embrace all principles of sustainable tourism wherever I have traveled. Here are some of my experiences over the last two years: 

Experience 1: Chilling with the Banjaras, otherwise known as the lost tribes of India.

They are locally called "Lambadi” or “Lambani", counted among the fast disappearing tribes of the world. Karnataka, in India hosts one of the richest and the most vibrant cultures of Lambanis. They usually work in farms or any other daily wage jobs around their village and in their spare time, they like to chill or to create intricate art work with mirrors and colored threads. Some have turned their artisan skills into small scale businesses. They aren't hesitant to tell you that their ancestors are Gypsies/Romans of Europe. When you travel local, you get to learn and see the heritage of any place that you are travelling to. When you interact with the people, you might get to know how exactly to boost their economy and help them. After this happy meeting, I ended up buying some cheap, local, banjara jewelry for myself! And you know what, I love it and think it looks great.  

Experience 2: Camping to support local communities

Sleeping under the stars with a local family in Chatru (3100 meters above the sea level)was an experience of a lifetime. The family of four that I stayed with, had lived in this place for six months already and they spend the rest of the year roaming in the villages at a lower elevation. That night when I looked up, in the cold breeze at the clear sky, I saw the whole galaxy stretch out over my head. Holy Christ! I could experience nature first hand. I wanted to fly and touch every star that I saw twinkling above me. I was glad that I was here & had decided to ditch all the hotels and the guesthouses. Had I been in a hotel, I am sure I would have missed out on the starry galaxy and a whole lot of joyous thoughts!

Experience 3: Living in local homestay thus encouraging local businesses

In Hampi, a UNESCO heritage town in India, I lived in this colorful home-stay run by Rambo and admired the beauty of this quaint little hamlet. The nearby frogs were my friends during my stay. Rambo leaves no stones unturned in making his guests happy. Seeing happiness in others is something not many people master. But the ones who do, are enlightened in their lives. Most of Rambo’s daily earning depends upon travelers like you and me! The money he makes out of this home-stay goes towards his children’s education, maintenance of his farm and his home. 

Experience 4: Explore a destination on foot

I went trekking through the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park in Nepal to spend time with birds and local tribes there. Trekking is a great way to explore the outdoors. It is healthy and reduces your carbon footprint. It is much better than exploring the same area with jeeps/cars. Also, believe it or not, being close to nature has several health benefits. Walking on natural non-cemented paths is great for your joints and muscles. It reduces the ground reaction force exerted on your joints (The physiotherapist in me is talking here!). 

Experience 6: Volunteer Travel

This is my favorite way of travelling. By volunteering and helping different organisations, I have made my way to the breathtaking countryside of Nepal, lived with the farmers in Karnataka and have taught children an eco­friendly/sustainable way of living almost everywhere I have gone! Even today, at most times I end up volunteering with local NGOs and working for them while I get to explore the town/village locally. Here’s a photograph of me helping farmers sow their first paddy crops

When you travel minimizing your demands, encouraging local communities and getting closer to nature, you are not only appreciating the wonders of mother nature but also contributing towards the environment. This is the need of the hour, to develop a feeling of compassion towards nature and the environment that we live in.  I love using public transport, exploring the rural India, landing somewhere away from the touristy & over-hyped towns and experiencing nature up close! This is my way of travel.

What’s your way of travel? Let me know in the comments below. 

Madhushri Mudke is an avid traveler and bird-watcher who believes in Eco-tourism and sustainable living. If you'd like to know more about her, please visit her blog here. Don't forget to check her Facebook & Instagram channels.