Ecotourism is an up-and-coming travel trend that is defined by visiting natural areas with minimal environmental impact. This can include hiking, water sports, zip lining, or simply soaking up rays on a preserved beach. Basically, eco-tourism is a new, fancy term for adventure. The benefits of ecotourism are endless– awareness of environmental problems, educational exploration, wildlife conservation, new jobs– yet when we dream of a relaxing and rejuvenating getaway, expensive and extravagant resorts more often come to mind. So what are the personal benefits of ecotourism? Let’s explore:
Being in or close to nature refreshes and refocuses your mind. In an initiative to improve urban environments, University of Washington revealed studies that show mental health is positively influenced by nature—and they’re not the only ones to think so. Studies from psychologists and ecologists nation-wide prove that being in nature yields a ton of benefits, such as: restoring focus and providing relaxation after the mental fatigue of work and study, improving overall performance and satisfaction, encouraging learning and alertness, inducing calming effects, alleviating symptoms of stress, depression and dementia, and fostering connections with social and biophysical environments (leading to more compassionate feelings). So nature can be just as relaxing as any resort and makes people act nicer? Sign me up.
Most eco-touristic activities are opportunities for physical activity. Need I say more? I don’t have to explain the insane amount of benefits of exercise, but this is part of what makes ecotourism so rejuvenating. You can get your endorphins pumping and balance out those piña coladas you’ll be sipping on in the evenings!
Experience another culture first-hand. Get off the resort! Every country looks the same from a private beach. Ditch the all-inclusive vacation to get a true taste of a new country. Chatting with guides, seeing new cities from a local’s perspective, and running on your own schedule is humbling, inspiring, and fun! Of course, there are more risks in touring a country you are unfamiliar with, so do your research before you choose a location.
I can speak from personal experience on the benefits of ecotourism. During a three-week study trip to San Jose, Costa Rica, I was able to escape the hustle and bustle of the city to explore Quepos, a beachy area that is home to Manuel Antonio National Park. Costa Rica is known for its pioneering of ecotourism and intense conservation efforts, which are clearly demonstrated by the awe-inspiring beauty of the national parks. The five hours spent hiking and exploring the park were exhilarating. I was constantly surprised by different environments, plants, and animals. And the views? Breath-taking! The $17 spent on admission to the park was probably my best purchase in Costa Rica. I left Manuel Antonio feeling fulfilled, inspired, and insanely grateful for the planet that we call home.
Ecotourism is a major incentive for people to be more aware of their environmental impact, but it has just as many personal benefits for the tourist. Next time you’re planning a getaway or spring break excursion, skip the blingy resort and opt for an adventure that will benefit you and the planet.