TED talks have become such a source of learning and motivation in our daily lives that it’s hard to ignore them when it comes to inspiring responsible travel as a force for good. We have put together an extensive list of TED talks on thoughtful travel and sustainable tourism that discuss some good news in tourism, some bad news in tourism, and how you can make a difference.

Travel has improved over the years in some ways, but it has come off the rails in others. It’s great that a journey from Europe to the U.S. takes eight hours instead of several weeks in the hull of a rat-infested sailboat boat, but tourism is also homogenizing the planet’s cultures and growing unsustainably. How can Stockholm, for example, find room for twice as many tourists in the summer in popular areas where it’s already so crowded visitors can barely move down the street? And with the packaged, tight itineraries that bring visitors from one attractions to the next, how are visitors supposed to make natural contact with locals? Doug Lansky, travel writer, tourism industry advisor, and author of the thought-provoking new visual book TRAVEL: The Guide, takes us on a journey to find the Holy Grail of tourism: sustainable, profitable, and authentic travel.

“Travel like a guide book writer, not a guide book reader.”

Judith Fein is an award-winning travel journalist who has contributed to more than 100 publications. She is an acclaimed speaker and workshop leader, and is also the author of “LIFE IS A TRIP: The Transformative Magic of Travel” and the new “THE SPOON FROM MINKOWITZ: A Bittersweet Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands.” She is the Executive Editor and co-founder of the popular and much-respected group travel blog. Her TedX talk “Deep Travel” is about why authentic interaction is the best way to travel. But how do you get beneath the surface and have meaningful, memorable, and unique travel experiences? How can you be a peacemaker, goodwill ambassador and deep traveler every time you hit the road?

“We’re not just tourists when we travel. We’re ambassadors. We’re peacemakers. Anthropologists. We’re even storytellers. We presents points of view that people don’t see in the media.”

“Life is not separate from travel. Life IS travel. Travel IS life. Wherever you go, wherever you are.”

After years of travelling, Joe Diaz found that the most dangerous worldview is that of those who have never viewed the world. The more we travel, the more we learn and the less we fear our world. We can help people to fear less. Joe launched AFAR in 2009 with co-founder Greg Sullivan. AFAR has quickly become one of the world’s most critically acclaimed travel media brands. Its flagship magazine is the only travel publication to be nominated for three National Magazine Awards with its most recent nomination in “Best Overall Photography.” It also the only travel publication to be named “America’s Best Travel Magazine” every year since its launch. Joe was born in Palm Springs, CA and grew up in a bi-cultural family with his father from Spain and mother from San Francisco. He graduated from Duke University and joined Teach for America where he taught in Phoenix, Arizona. Joe went on to found a successful real estate investment company, which he sold in 2006 before embarking on living life AFAR. He passionately believes that experiential travel is the best form of education and the more people who travel in a curious and open-minded way, the better our world will be.

“The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have never viewed the world.”

Old need not mean the end for countless aging Japanese towns as Alex Kerr fosters “sustainable tourism” one rejuvenated building at a time. In his TED talk Alex shows how tourism can not only be a way to preserve culture, but also to revive it. Alex found a way to not only increase international, but also domestic tourism, as well as breath a new life into abandoned Japanese village and towns.

“People are attracted by what I call ‘the appeal of nothing special’. Once you’ve seen the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, the real appeal of Paris is in its little back streets.”

We live in a world of consumption. Before you buy your next item for your “man cave” or “she shed,” think again. Adventure and exploration is the best way to learn and expand your horizons. The idea here is simple and enlightening, that one should have a passport full of stamps rather than a house full of stuff. Travel more. Buy less. Luis Vargas was born in Mexico City, grew up in California and found home in Oregon. He has spent 20 years working around the World in the digital start-up and adventure travel space helping iconic brands like Disney, REI, and The Clymb create meaningful experiences-based businesses. His purpose is to inspire and enable others to have transformative travel experiences, with the knowledge that travel can be a force for good.

“One is reminded, at a level deeper than all worlds, how making a living and making life sometimes point in opposite directions.” Pico Iyer

Aziz Abu Sarah is a Palestinian activist with an unusual approach to peace-keeping: Be a tourist. The TED Fellow shows how simple interactions with people in different cultures can erode decades of hate. He starts with Palestinians visiting Israelis and moves beyond.

“Tourism is the best sustainable way to bring down those walls and to create a sustainable way of connecting with each other and creating friendships.”

Travel and tourism have tremendous power to drive conservation, promote peace and bring economic value to those who need it most. But often it does the opposite. CEO of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, Shannon Stowell, in an entertaining and educating way, describes how to choose a better vacation that can change the world for good. An adventurer and traveler, with more than 25 years of business experience in adventure travel, e-commerce, outdoor retail, and environmental science, Shannon Stowell promotes the power of travel done right. He advocates for responsible tourism as a tool for destinations to position themselves at the intersection of commerce, conservation and community, and has been advising and speaking around the world in that capacity for the last 14 years. Pursuing the vision that it could be a powerful force for good in the tourism industry, Shannon Stowell has led the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) as CEO since 2004, and has served on the boards of both the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund.

“Adventure travel can be an immunization against tourism being a force of destruction.”

Nick Hunt is the author of Walking the Woods and the Water, an account of a 2,500-mile walk across Europe in the footsteps of Patrick Leigh Fermor. His writing and journalism has appeared in The Guardian, The Economist, New Internationalist, Resurgence, Geographical and other publications. He also works as a storyteller, and co-editor of the Dark Mountain books.

“If you look at life as a process of gathering experiences, stories and memories, which is all we’re left with in the end, then rushing blindly from one place to another doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Through his personal experience as a tourist, Andreas Pantazatos, Co-Director of the Centre for Ethics of Cultural Heritage and professor at the Philosophy Department at Durham University, argues that tourists have an ethical responsibility towards heritage. In his fascinating Talk, he explains that, by sharing their experiences, tourists shape the meaning and the future of the heritage sites they visit and therefore become stewards of them. His curiosity for how we deal with the past shapes his research and teaching interests. He is Co-Director of the Centre for the Ethics of Cultural Heritage and he teaches and researches normative and professional ethics at the Philosophy Department of Durham University, UK. His main interests are philosophy of cultural heritage and archaeology, ethics of stewardship, ethics of museum governance and trusteeship, epistemic injustice and cultural heritage. He shares his passion for these issues with his postgraduate students on the innovative module “Ethics of Cultural Heritage” that he designed a couple of years ago.

“We become stewards of the sites we visit. As tourists in the 21st century we share our experiences with friends, family and others. But when it comes to heritage, we share more than experiences – we distribute knowledge about the past.”

After spending 4 months a year for the last 30 years living out of a suitcase, Rick Steves reflects on the value of thoughtful travel. Sharing lessons learned from Iran to El Salvador and from India to Denmark, Steves tells why spending all that time and money away from home has broadened his perspective, enriched his life, and made it clear to him, as he says in his talk, “fear is for people who don’t get out very much.”

“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you’ve traveled.”

Dr. Dioko will tell you how to travel with integrity and responsibility. Prof. Leonardo (Don) Dioko is at the Institute for Tourism Studies, Macau (IFT) and is the Director of IFT’s Tourism Research Centre (ITRC), which principally conducts policy research commissioned by the Macau SAR Government. The most significant of these studies is the Centre’s long-running annual study on Macau’s Tourism Carrying Capacity, which began in 2003 and continues today to inform much of what we know about how Macau’s residents and its millions of visitors think, feel, and react to the tremendous change brought about by the almost inscrutable and oft-misunderstood force of tourism. Having arrived in Macau 25 years ago when visitors numbered only 6M/year, Don’s work and core research have allowed him and his colleagues to systematically and continuously observe some of the most important long-term socio-economic trends in Macau driven by rapid tourism growth. His work has led Don to believe that tourism growth can be a force for good as much as it can be a force for harm.

“Social media destroyed the serendipity of our travels. Instead of us discovering on our own, we tend to look at those must-see and to-do lists, and this destroys a very important part of tourism – the art of getting lost.”

In this TEDx Talk, travel author Francis Tapon shares some of his traveling adventures, which include walking across America four times and spending three years visiting all 25 Eastern European countries. He discusses how travel can be a catalyst for transforming your life, giving you insights that are hard or impossible to achieve through other means. He also shares a personal story about his father, who motivated him to keep pursuing his dream of visiting every country in the world. Speaker’s bio: Francis Tapon was born and raised in San Francisco, California and has traveled to over 100 countries. His mom is from Chile and his dad is from France. He co-founded a robotic vision company in Silicon Valley. He consulted at Hitachi Data Systems and Microsoft. He thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. In 2007, he became the first person to do a round trip on the Continental Divide Trail. He’s walked across Spain twice. He wrote “Hike Your Own Hike: 7 Life Lessons from Backpacking Across America.” After spending three years in Eastern Europe, he wrote “The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us.” He plans to visit all 54 African countries in 2013-2016. He has a degree in Religion from Amherst College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

“If you’ve lost something, or if you’re at a point where you’re looking to bring it to the next level in your life, go someplace exotic, different, completely foreign – that will transform you and change you because you’ve fired neurons in your brain that you never fired before, and you will become a better person.”

Travel is now more popular than ever before; increasingly, travelers are interested in visiting sacred sites and spiritual destinations. Yet many return from a trip in need of a vacation. Can a few simple but profound practices help you transform your next trip into a journey, or even a pilgrimage? Summer Joy Hills-Bonczyk, MFA, RYT is a Kripalu yoga teacher, workshop leader, performance artist, dancer and Spanish interpreter. She co-leads international luxury retreats that combine yoga, art and cultural immersion. She has lived abroad and has traveled extensively on many different levels.

“When a trip becomes a pilgrimage, we find a way back to ourselves.”

Using Local Alike, Pai proposes a new approach for sustainable development and tourism that involves working with local communities and provides authentic experiences for tourists. Somsak (Pai) Boonkam focuses on sustainable development and social innovation. He is the founder of Local Alike, a community-based tourism platform dedicated to connecting local communities with travelers who look for meaningful and authentic experiences. He also owns the Sticky Rice Café in Chiang Mai.

“Community Based Tourism will eventually lead to decreased inequality in our societies.”

Robin Esrock‘s success as a global adventurer, travel writer, TV producer and international TV personality was no accident, although it did start with one. Struck down on his bike at a Vancouver intersection, Robin hobbled away with a broken kneecap, and one year later, a modest $20,000 insurance settlement. It was just enough for him pack up his things, quit his job, and set off on a one-year solo round-the-world backpacking adventure to 24 countries. He named his journey Modern Gonzo, and committed to record his year of living dangerously, with online weekly reports, photography, videos, and interviews with every person he met. In doing so, he pioneered a new era of multi-platform, switched-on and wired-in travel journalism, leading to adventures beyond his wildest dreams.

“Switch off reality TV and start participating in the reality that surrounds you.”

As tourists, we have a relationship with the places that we visit. Kristin Weis invites us to evaluate this relationship, looking specifically at coastal areas. By adjusting how we view ourselves and the places we visit, we are able to leave a more positive impact and become Smart Tourists. Kristin Weis is a coastal management and peacebuilding researcher and strategist. Her work aims to improve how we use and conserve the natural environment. As a graduate student at the University Centre of the Westfjords in Iceland, her current research explores how tourism affects social and ecological resilience in Dominica. She is the founder of Roskanet, a “smart tourism” project, as she fondly calls it, that aims to help shape tourism models to both benefit local communities and conserve their surrounding natural world. Her Environmental Migration Workshop helps international peacebuilding professionals create resilient responses to climate change threats, including rising sea levels and coastal damage from more intense, more frequent storms. Her workshop is held at the Just Governance for Human Security forum in Switzerland. Her efforts continue to address human mobility issues (such as environmental migration and coastal tourism trends) and international instability issues related to climate change.

“Use your consumer power. Look for businesses that are already supporting the local community. Businesses sell what you want to buy.”

Tyler Tervooren is on a mission to help every person in the world improve their health, work, and adventures by taking smarter risks. He’s an independent entrepreneur who has founded 8 businesses, traveled to 25 countries, and ran a marathon on every continent to connect with the the world’s greatest risk takers and adventurers and learn their secrets. His research in psychology and human behavior has lead to insights for harnessing the power of the brain to successfully navigate through high-risk and high-stress situations. After 10 years in the field, Tyler has found that by combining your passion and intuition with proven research and strategy, you can win at almost anything you want to. In this talk, he explains how adventure makes your brain smarter, your character stronger, and your ideas more attractive. Tyler’s resources, risk tests, and adventure strategies are available for free to his community at http://riskology.co

“Just by exposing yourself to new cultures, putting yourself in new environments, you can actually give your brain a new tool to use to solve a difficult problem. Adventure really does make you smarter.”