How can you be sustainable while traveling around the world might be a weird topic, hardly being able to travel at all because of the covid rules.
However, when you have the time to mesmerize about traveling, this will perhaps lift up your spirits a bit.
If so, you might as well take the opportunity to design a sustainable travel plan. This is good for you, for the environment, for biodiversity, for the climate, and for the people that live in the countries and places you wish to visit.
This article is an introduction to how you could design such a sustainable travel plan. Have fun making it.
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How can you be sustainable while traveling?
Sustainable traveling starts with making choices. Those choices depend on your financial, health, and location options. Make a list of where you want to go, what your sustainable possibilities are, and decide what you can afford to do.
From train to plane
Hannie and I love to travel. Our first trip together abroad was by train with a backpack and a tent to the south of France. We stayed at the same campground for a month and visited one famous city, village, or museum after another. By train or by foot. We even went on foot from our campsite to a live concert of the legendary blues musician Muddy Waters in Juan-Les-Pins.
A couple of years later we went to Rimini in Italy by train. From there we visited the cities of Florence and Venice also by train. But I guess that’s where our sustainable trips end. Afterward, we took the car or the plane. And always abroad. Three to four times a year if possible.
We’ve been to the USA and to Australia. That’s only possible by plane if you don’t have the time and the stamina to go by boat. However, in the past 15 years, we more and more concluded that we had to change our traveling attitude. Although that was not easy.
Growing travel awareness
There are several reasons why we started to think about our travel attitude. The first time we went to the National Park Ordesa in the Spanish Pyrenees, we could drive all the way up and into the mountains. The second time this was no longer allowed. We had to take the bus.
The first time we visited Sequoia National Park in California (USA) we were allowed to go as we pleased. The second time many roads were closed to cars and hikes were limited. Other parks in the USA started to ban cars altogether and to limit the time of access.
These changes made us aware that the burden of tourism on, for instance, biodiversity was getting too heavy. We wanted to change our attitude. This wasn’t easy. Our son had moved to Spain, some 2.000 kilometers away from where we lived. And public transport over long distances became impossible due to physical limitations.
Related: To Walk or to Cycle, Which is Better? Either Way, they’re Both Sustainable
Desire to travel
That was one of the reasons to move to Spain. With this, we reduced the travel time to our grandchildren from 2 days to 4 hours. We settled ourselves in a small village some 25 minutes from the coast and we can walk to a large mountainous nature park. This is how we try to control our desire to travel.
However, we also want to travel abroad. We want to go to Italy (our favorite travel destination), but also to Greece. And there are still some national parks in the USA we want to visit. Like most of us, we haven’t been able to travel in the past years. We also suspect that it will take at least another year before we will be allowed to travel as we were used to.
Where does all this desire to travel come from? To see those things we’ve never seen before! There are so many beautiful places. Places of interest. Museums. Cities, small and large. Nature parks. Coastal areas. Traveling and seeing different cultures broadens our way of thinking.
Related: The Enchanted City, a Petrified Beauty in the Vicinity of Cuenca, Spain
How to travel in a sustainable way?
Many coastal areas have been spoiled by huge blocks of tourist apartments. And the biodiversity in the nature parks is under serious threat. Many interesting cities are spoiled by too many tourists.
This is why we seriously wonder how to balance our desire to travel with our concerns about biodiversity, the climate, the environment, and the concerns of local citizens. How can we travel in a more eco-friendly or more sustainable way?
The answer is not that simple. There are all kinds of commercial options. However, do these rise up to our standards? What are our standards anyway?
Related: Is Plastic Really a Problem? (Probably Not, but Something Else is)
Travel with a conscience
During all those years we’ve traveled, we adopted a set of guidelines to cope with our travel conscience. We:
- Always prepare ourselves abundantly by informing ourselves of the cultures, politics, and economy of the countries, and, if possible, of the communities we visit;
- Respect local cultures;
- Park the car on the outskirts of town or city and continue on foot, with the bus, the tram or the subway;
- Buy local and preferably there where they adhere to our organic principles;
- Are fanatic about the rule ‘garbage in, garbage out’;
- Use as little plastic as possible. For instance, we have small glass water bottles and use a water filter so we don’t have to buy water in plastic bottles;
- Follow the local instructions on how to behave in nature parks. For instance, we never leave the designated roads and trails;
- Avoid making any unnecessary noise or other types of nuisance;
- Don’t touch anything or take away anything that’s not ours.
Related: Las Tablas de Daimiel, One of the Unique National Parks of Spain
Not very eco-friendly behavior
There are many things we don’t understand about other people. It often happens, when we hike here in the nature park Sierra Espuña, that people have a radio on while walking, or cycling, for everybody to enjoy. Or they drive around in their car with open windows while displaying an amount of noise that’s not even allowed inside a disco.
The mountain of plastic people leave behind in nature is also astounding. During the weekends, people go up in the mountains, park their cars, and start to eat and drink from cans and plastic bottles and cases. When they’re done they get back in their car and leave all their rubbish behind. Why do people do this?
It’s the same with flying. The prices for many flights are way too cheap compared to their damage. On the other hand, flying isn’t good anyway. Whether it’s cheap or expensive. It contributes to our alienation from the environment.
Sustainable travel alternatives
In general, travel is unsustainable. There aren’t many sustainable travel alternatives. Traveling by train is nice when you’re young and can sit up straight for hours on end, if not, the train is no serious option.
However, there are things we can do individually. You could adopt our travel guidelines and share them with family and friends. When you’re already an advocate of eco-friendly or sustainable or responsible travel or tourism, check when you book a trip whether all organizations involved are abiding by your principles.
When you want to know what principles these could be, there is sufficient information to find on Wikipedia. Just click on one of the 2 following links:
We hope you choose eco-friendly travel, vacation, or tourism alternatives. Whatever principles you follow, have a safe trip and enjoy your holidays.
What are your experiences with ecotourism or sustainable tourism? Let us know in the comment box.
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4 thoughts on “How Can you Be Sustainable while Traveling around the World?”
This article definitely has me dreaming of travel again.
There are so many wonderful places I wish to see and experience in this world of ours. Heading to Europe is definitely on my bucket list.
I realize I will need to fly initially but once there we can enjoy touring by train, bicycle or walking as much as possible.
This summer we will again keep our travels local and will again put our sailboat to great use.
We absolutely love how we can travel through the waterways with the power of nature moving us along.
The sound of the sails filling with wind and the water lapping the side of the boat as we move along is just so satisfying.
Have you ever experienced sailing? Isn’t it wonderful?
It is frustrating how many people prefer the reckless speed and pollution of the speedboats.
Whenever we hike locally, I always take a spare garbage bag and gloves to pick up any mess we come upon left by others.
I know it doesn’t solve it and much more needs to be done but we do try to do our part whenever possible.
I will certainly look into other ways of responsible travel before we plan our next big trip.
Thank you for your comment. You’re right, sailing to Europe is not a real option. Although it could be a great trip of course. Provided the weather plays along.
To be honest, Hannie and I both have 2 sailing certificates for a type of boat called Falcon. This is an open sailing boat, some 6 meters long and 2 wide. I loved and still love to sail. Hannie not. She’s too afraid.
The only place where we can sail now, is on the Mediterranean. Once I made plans to take some extra lessons here. Never made it though. Always something else to do. At the moment it’s impossible.
Now I come to think of it, I never understood why they gave me 2 certificates. Hannie knows all the drills and theory by heart, I don’t. However, when I sit in the boat and hold the ropes in my hands, I am in total control. Even the slightest change of the wind, makes me adjust the boat to my command. The faster it goes, the more I enjoy.
In The Netherlands, I once went sailing with a friend of mine. He has a big, sea worthy yacht. At least twice as long as a Falcon and 3 meters wide. But that’s not the type of boat I like. Probably because I got seasick. Which never happened when I was on the small Falcon.
They say that my vestibular organ is too sensitive. Could be. In the plane I also get sick very easily. The most significant experience with this organ is when I lie on my back on the beach and see the clouds pass by in the air and hear the waves crashing on the beach: I get seasick!!! My younger brother is even more sensitive to abrupt and unexpected movements. He can’t even sit in the train without getting seasick.
Hannie and I are fed up with the fact that we can’t travel at the moment. We’re not even gambling on the autumn. We’ll see.
For now, stay safe, stay healthy.
Hi Tom! I have to admit I did it very well when I was young, the same way you both traveled, camping, cycling, walking.
But later I used the car and plane. Henk and I are also thinking of ways how we could travel sustainably. We are planning to use the train to Praag next time we are allowed to travel. In this manner, we hope to save the planet a bit.
I don’t want to fly anymore, but the train is an excellent alternative method to get around. If you have some time to travel, it is pretty convenient, but you have to think about choosing the best if you have only one week or two. Living in Ireland, I got one week of holidays in spring, two weeks in summer, and one week in winter. Maybe it depends on where you are coming from, but flying is always wrong. Because my husband is working for himself, it is not easy to take some weeks off. His clients would miss him. That makes it nearly impossible to travel longer, the way I prefer. I think the train is the best we could do at the moment!
You’re right the train is actually the best we can do at the moment. It is however time consuming.
Reading your comment, I suddenly remembered that when our son was three years old, we went on a holiday on the bike. That was not a success. Although the weather was good, we had to take so much with us, it made cycling rather difficult and sometimes even dangerous.
It’s very well possible that after that experience, we finally decided to only use the car and never spend our holidays in The Netherlands again. Or perhaps we made that decision after we got so fed up with the foul weather in The Netherlands. Probably it’s a bit of both.
This was of course all before we discovered that it also rains in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy and Spain. These were the countries we used to visit more frequently.
Once we went on a camping trip with our car, to the beautiful Abruzzen nature park in the middle of Italy. The park is in the mountains. We could have known that the weather was not very promising, because the campsite was totally empty, for us and one Dutch family.
The mornings were always beautiful, however, every afternoon it rained. When we left the area and went to a campsite up north on the coast near Rimini, the weather was beautiful, there was a heatwave. People there told us that this had been going on for three weeks already!!!
We’ve always made the most of our holidays. Hannie was a teacher and had a lot of time off. And I could manage it with my work. We went at least three times every year. This was in the days that it wasn’t that busy yet.
That’s all changed. Now we can’t go anywhere. Well, the weather here is beautiful most of the times. And during the week, when all the people are busy, the nature park next door is an oasis of peace and quiet. No masks required.
Thank you for your comment.
For now, stay safe, stay healthy.