Traveling in 2020. This short sentence sounds like a utopia, a dream that now clearly would not come true. The COVID-19 pandemic shook up the world and made some serious changes in our minds. We started to reconsider our lives and the way we live, a.k.a. what do we do for work, how do we spend our time off, and, of course, what does traveling mean to us now that it is off the table. Will our travel skills remain the same, or will we develop more conscious habits after all?
Honestly, what does traveling mean to you?
If you get deeper into why and where you travel, it can come down to a very cliché type of motivation: social media. If every day you see beautiful people drinking coffee with a perfect looking croissant in the classics like Paris and Rome or catching waves in the trendy Bali or Thailand, after some time you want it yourself. However, traveling has its ‘fast food‘ side as well.
Your must-see destinations list grows with every travel blogger’s picture, but the time and money you can spend on vacation are limited. So, the trips get shorter but become very convenient in terms of transportation. A weekend trip to London is later on your social media account where you look happy and excited drinking your Starbucks coffee from a disposable cup (which says Easter instead of Ester, very funny), sitting in the cabin of the London eye (even though you had to wait in the queue for 2 hours, which is 16.6% of your time there, but you just had to make that picture).
A weekend trip to London is later on your social media account where you look happy and excited drinking your Starbucks coffee from a disposable cup (which says Easter instead of Ester, very funny), sitting in the cabin of the London eye (even though you had to wait in the queue for 2 hours, which is 16.6% of your time there, but you just had to make that picture).
You can now relax and cross out one destination from your never-ending list. Though somehow the pressure hasn’t gone anywhere, there is no sense of truly learning something new about the place or getting to know the people.
When thinking about our traveling skills (yes, you can have traveling skills as well as any other), we could develop them more consciously and make travel more meaningful. Try these simple steps:
- Do proper research on what do you want to see and do in your chosen destination. Out of all things, shorten the list to 3 or 4 and give some time to enjoy it.
- Take extra time for your ‘where to eat’ research – find the best local restaurants which usually are way more authentic taste-wise, with friendly and welcoming staff, and probably even less expensive than the most famous ones.
- Do the same with the best coffee places in town.
- Be an insider of the country you travel to – read about its political situation, history, and economics, and while being there, ask a local what do they think about it. It can be that friendly chef of the local restaurant. 99% that this will lead you to one of the most interesting conversations on the trip.
- Stop using your phone. You can pretend you are not addicted, though our phones have become an additional limb we’ve never asked for. It takes a massive chunk of our attention and prevents us from being in the present moment – the thing that is the key to experiencing joy while traveling. When putting it away for at least some time, you will be able to see and feel more.
The footprint after your weekend trip
You have probably heard the news of how the quarantine helped the earth to breathe while the carbon emissions dropped significantly. Because of the lockdown! The biggest part of this was due to falls in coal consumption and industrial output. As well as less usage of planes and cars.
However, it is too soon to have your happy dance moves yet. All the countries’ goal is to get back on track and hop on the economy wave ASAP. The same goes for all the ordinary travel addicts who cannot wait until the moment they can take off again.
Getting back to conscious traveling skills. Now is the time to look at your previous traveling habits and think of how you can replace them with the new ones.
Let’s continue the story of a weekend trip to London. For example, a return flight from Berlin to London. Emits around 0.6 tonnes CO2 – three times the emissions saved from a year of recycling. Sounds like all the effort just went down the drain, right?
Not to mention all the convenient decisions you make on your way. Coffee to go on your way to the airport. The water bottle while waiting for your flight, the taxi you take to the hotel. The hotel goodies a.k.a. those adorable mini shampoo bottles. And alcohol from the mini-fridge when you’re just not done yet after the party. The list goes on and on – it can give you a headache.
For example, a return flight from Berlin to London. Emits around 0.6 tonnes CO2 – three times the emissions saved from a year of recycling. Sounds like all the effort just went down the drain, right?
We leave our footprint while traveling in every little step we make. And yes, it is hard to turn it around. But we can all try to do it, even when it is baby steps at first. And a good start means a promising future.
Here are some ways you can practice reducing your part of CO2 while experiencing the world:
- Choose trains instead of planes. It obviously does not count if you are going to another continent. But while your destination is in a decent mileage range, consider having a magical train trip.
- Look for accommodations that use sustainable energy.
- Bring your toiletries as well as a reusable coffee mug and water bottle.
- Eat local food. Find a place that serves the food that was grown nearby.
- Track your CO2 footprint on the trip so you could improve.
The best way to keep your carbon footprint low is not to travel at all. But we both know that is not a solution. Thus, we can do it the old way, or we can do it the right way. I suggest we all go on the mindful side, so we don’t have to feel guilty later.