While I preach green living and even how to travel more sustainably, it’s not the most sustainable to be traveling, especially on long-haul flights. I honestly never really thought about it until recently. Traveling is something I have loved for years. I love just getting up and going somewhere new, I love planning a trip for over a year, I love quickly planning out a trip, I love exploring new places, I love going on a trip AT LEAST once a year. But, all of that isn’t sustainable. Because my trips aren’t to the beach only an hour away. They’re often to Europe, 8 hours by plane. Plus, two more hours to get to a big enough airport that flies directly to a European city. That’s a lot of carbon being emitted into the air just so I can feel fancy in a new place.
Although I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop visiting Paris, and I’m always looking for new places to explore, I’ve decided that after my next two BIG trips I’ll be focusing on smaller ones that won’t break the bank and that will have a much smaller carbon footprint. I like to be honest with myself and I know I’ll still be traveling, especially to Paris, but I’m hoping that by adopting this new way of thinking, that if I only get to go on a long-haul trip every two years, that’s okay. Here’s what I’ll be doing instead:
Be a Tourist in my Own City
It’s funny, but you rarely care much about the city you’re in. You’re always looking for bigger and better things out there that are much more exciting than where you’ve been born and raised. Except, I’ve slowly been exploring my city, and I have to say, Winnipeg is pretty cool.
I know, I know, no one ever says that. But, we’re full of culture and full of amazing restaurants. We even have our own major tourist attraction: The Museum for Human Rights, a place I haven’t yet been to!
There are so many cool things in my city, and in surrounding communities that I’ve been missing simply because I think that Madrid or London is going to be better. Here’s a secret: foreign cities are only fun for a couple of days. After that, they’re simply cities. If you’ve found one that speaks to your soul (like my love for Paris) and that’s where you feel at home, then that’s amazing. But, I bet you’ve felt the same way I have. A few tourist attractions were neat, some weren’t, and it’s busy and loud and dirty. Aka a city.
Find those tourist attractions in your own city, those hidden gems people talk about in places like Amsterdam or Zurich. Find them in your own city, without leaving a huge carbon footprint behind.
Travel by Train
This is two-fold. I’ve never traveled by train in Canada and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for so long! Instead of driving, or flying, I’m hoping to find a good deal on train travel and explore more of home. And, then, I’m going to train A LOT more when abroad. Most people probably do this already as it is a pretty affordable way to travel. But, when you’re crunched for time, grabbing a flight and shaving 4 – 5 hours off of your journey is sometimes the best option. But, planes aren’t the easiest on the environment. I’m going to try to take the train a lot more once I arrive at my destination. It’ll save me money, I get to see a little bit more of the country-side and tiny, adorable towns and villages dotting the way and it’ll be a much greener option.
If I’m going to use the train a lot more, I’ll need to be staying overseas for a lot longer. I always wanted to jet off to Paris or London for a few days, do some shopping, eat some great food, and then head back without using too many vacation days. So far, I haven’t had enough money to casually jet off to Europe, instead, opting for 2 – 4 weeks vacations. As much fun as it sounds to be such a cool jet-setter, I’m going to continue on with my trend of staying for weeks at a time in a place. It’s way easier to see more, stopping you from coming back for another trip, and it feels amazing to be in one country, or even region, for weeks at a time.
Some of you may not be able to swing 4 weeks vacation all at once, and that’s fair! Sometimes, you have to start small and work your way up. Or, use other options, like the ones listed in this post here and here.
See your own Country
I don’t know where you’re reading from, but my country is huge. There is so much to see in Canada that, after 30 years of living here, I haven’t seen it all. Granted, I haven’t tried to see it all much like I do when I’m traveling abroad, but you’d think that I would’ve gotten pretty far in 30 years. Nope.
I’ve seen places from B.C. to Quebec City, but I haven’t gone further and I haven’t gone up North. I always viewed seeing my own country as a family type of excursion, a bit of disdain dripping from my voice anytime I mention traveling locally. And, I still think of it as a family type of trip. It’s easier to pack up a camper and head out West than to get a passport for a baby and/or pay for extra plane tickets for children who aren’t yet going to appreciate seeing the world.
But, I’m tired of thinking that way. There are so many cool places I want to see in Canada, but haven’t the time or money to spend because I’m busy flying everywhere else.
I ranted about how you shouldn’t go to regular resorts or cruises, but what about all the things in between? While I usually book apartments when traveling, there are times when a hotel will be better suited or is the only thing available. Instead of looking for the best deal on the fanciest hotel I can find, I’m going to add sustainable practices to my list of must-haves. And, research a little more to make sure that the ‘eco-friendly’ hotel/resort is actually eco-friendly AND that they’re not involved with anything shady on the side.While it’s always a good practice to stay away from wildlife tourism, ESPECIALLY without doing mass amounts of research first, it’s not on this list because it’s something I’ve been regularly doing for years.
When it comes to animal treatment abroad, we all have to begin with education and learn that pictures aren’t worth the price of an animal’s safety and well-being. It’ll be hard to get everything right every time, but it’s okay. Baby steps and learning to travel better, for everyone involved, is what we all need to do. Instead of just going to a city to see the sights, try seeing it from a locals eyes. Instead of buying up the cutest clothing and souvenirs in big stores, try supporting locals in their craft. I absolutely love perusing markets when abroad and finding those one-of-a-kind items. And, things like this:
There are so many little things we can do to make traveling a more sustainable and enjoyable experience. It doesn’t matter if you incorporate one, or all them, as long as you’re changing bad habits for good ones.
What’s your sustainable go-to’s when traveling?