Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can make small improvements to my life to have a more eco-friendly lifestyle. One of the things I keep coming up against is the idea of long-distance travel; should I keep traveling by planes and trains to far away places knowing full well how much carbon I’m emitting in the process? I’ve googled the question countless times, and each blogger or writer has a different opinion, and honestly, I’m usually just left a bit confused. So to fix my personal confusion, I’ll add my opinion to the mix!
Let’s start with why I personally like to travel. The first reason is that I love vacation – I’ve gone on vacation almost every summer since I was young, and I have very fond memories of that downtime. It’s always been a time where I don’t have to worry about any kind of work, and can just enjoy being with the people I love most. Plus, my brain gets a bit of a break from the usual routine – including seeing the same people and places every single day.
Another reason I love traveling is that I get to interact with people who are vastly different from me, in terms of background, culture and history. Because of this opportunity, I have been in situations with which I am unfamiliar, but am also able to learn a lot from. Being uncomfortable has led to some of the biggest and most important personal growth in my life, and it has usually happened in the smallest, most seemingly insignificant moments.
The last reason I love traveling, which is closely tied to my second reason, is that it makes me realize how small most of my problems and worries are. Traveling helps me further conceptualize my privilege, and gives me a drive to keep studying and striving for something better in order to get a job in the future that can actually help others. Traveling helps me put things in perspective and reframe my thinking in order to continually improve myself.
Now, if I mentioned so many wonderful things about traveling, why in the world would I be debating whether it’s ethical for me to continue doing it? Well, here’s the big problem – over tourism is a thing, and it’s not only damaging the environment, but also cultures and small economies around the world.
So in 2019, more people are out and about traveling the world. This means that tourism is an increasingly lucrative industry, and that more countries are trying to make their big cities and spectacular landscapes more accessible. Often times, this results in big chain hotels and restaurants taking over, and small local businesses being run out of business.
This focus on tourism also leads to a lot of construction, especially in pristine environmental areas, which leads to a heavily degraded environment. Globally, we are literally paving paradise to put up hotels and restaurants and busy gift shops.
Often times, the new businesses that come into the paved paradise are big international chains looking to make a few bucks. Whilst on the surface this may seem ok, there’s an economic problem here. Because a lot of tourists try to stick with something familiar, such as chain hotels, they won’t actually be paying for a place to stay that helps sustain the local economy, but rather just be paying into the big international companies that pay little to no taxes.
Then there’s the environmental damage – starting with the carbon emissions from the entirety of the trip. Starting from the ride to your vacation destination, you’ll be consuming a ton, and emitting a whole lot of carbon. Not only that, but your waste tends to increase while traveling because you have to buy all your food and drinks out and about. This is, personally, the most worrisome part of traveling, and really where my conundrum stems from.
So now I’ve laid out my facts, and I promised I would give y’all my opinion. But first, I want to hear from you! Comment below what you think is the best recourse, or find me on Twitter or Instagram and share your thoughts with me! I promise it’ll be worth your while, and maybe you’ll even be featured in my follow up!