It's critical we respect nature and culture and lessen our environmental impact as we travel in the future
2020 has been a year of transformation. The health of our global population has been compromised in a way that none of us could have anticipated. Our plans have been put on hold while our planet has taken time to breathe. Our day-to-day routines have changed drastically and the future is still uncertain. Global movements have stirred up an awakening across the globe as a cry for inclusivity and equality.
As we adjust to the new normal, we dream of a future that brings back the privileges we once knew, and improves the areas that so desperately need it. We look ahead to a world that we must not take for granted. Just as we entered 2020 with a 20/20 vision for what we thought the year would bring, we must take from it a clearer idea of how we can make our future even brighter.
For travellers, there comes a whole new responsibility to protect our planet and the people that live in it. This is a privilege that may never be the same again, and we must navigate it with care and appreciation.
Here are the ways we must travel differently given the impact of 2020...
1. Travel sustainably
Photo by Taylor Simpson on UnsplashWhile people around the globe have been staying close to home, some of the planet’s most-visited natural sites have had time to replenish. Pollution has diminished, waters have cleared, vegetation has restored. But these improvements must not stop when the pandemic does.
When we can travel again, we must do so in a way that minimizes our carbon footprint and takes care of our environment to the best of our ability. Use resources sparingly and do the research to ensure you are spending your tourism dollars responsibly. Opt for greener modes of transportation, avoid flying when possible, ride-share rather than renting your own vehicle. Stay in eco-friendly lodgings and opt for sustainably made products. Abide by restrictions of natural reserves and treat every area with the respect you would want visitors to treat your home. Make an extra effort to bring reusable items, avoid single-use plastics, recycle, and support businesses that practice the same.
2. Be a conscious traveller
Photo by Zbysiu Rodak on UnsplashNow is the time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, to drop all sense of self-entitlement and to really embrace the places we are in and the people who surround us. Just as we must protect our physical environment as we travel, it is just as important to respect our cultural surroundings.
Make extra effort to learn about and immerse yourself in the history and culture of the place you’re in, learn the language and local customs, and act in accordance with them. Look at how our actions and behaviour are impacting those around us and check any privileges at the border. This will leave you with a greater appreciation for the place you’re visiting, and will make you an all-around better human—which is always a work in progress!
3. Go minimalist
Photo by Henry Gillis on UnsplashNever have we needed less stuff than during the months we were stuck at home in quarantine. Work outfits were optional (in fact, so were pants, thanks to waist-up Zoom meetings), we didn’t need new going-out clothes and we were quite content in the same comfortable clothing day after day.
Travelling with minimal belongings is always the best way to go, but now we should all be better at it thanks to our practice in isolation. Opt for function over fashion, pack just the necessities and cut the clutter. Bring only the clothes you need, so you’ll be carrying less weight and you will be less likely to get sick of your items and throw them away, or need to buy new ones.
4. Support local
Photo by Warren Wong on UnsplashMany countries that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic have also taken massive economic tolls due to the lack of tourism. When it is safe to travel again, it will be more important than ever to support local businesses, fuelling money into the economy. This fuel trickles back into the environment by eliminating excess importation and exportation of foreign goods and providing more funding to preserve the local infrastructure and land.
Choose businesses that give back to the community you’re in, such as supporting local artisans or shopping at local food shops. Invest in the future of those who are sharing their present with you.
5. Be grateful
Photo by Milan Popovic on UnsplashToo often we take the ability to travel for granted. This is a luxury that many people around the world do not have access to. Should we be so lucky to travel safely once again, we must be grateful for every aspect of our experience. We share this planet with so many beautiful landscapes, creatures, and people, and getting to experience even an ounce of it is an honour.
So on your next trip, whenever and wherever that might be, take time to appreciate every moment and do your part to help travel be a sustainable part of our lives into the future.