We are just a few short days away from bringing another year to a close. I hate new year’s resolutions, because I don’t think I have actually followed through with a single one! So this year I have done things a little differently. I want to ‘travel more…’ By this I don’t just mean I want to travel more frequently (although I always do), I mean that I want to take a deep dive into what travel could be if I spent a little more time researching some sustainable, ethical options for travel in 2019. So if you’re ready to make a real and important change in how you participate in the world of travel this coming year, read on for ten tips on how to travel more…
Travel More Clean
If you haven’t been hiding under a rock (and you’re forgiven if you have because 2018 has been depressing AF), you’ll have seen the terrifying climate change headlines. Alongside these articles there are always pictures of animals in the wild who have been affected by our collective obsession with single-use plastic. So my first travel resolution is to travel more cleanly, and to really get serious about investing in reusable, sustainable items.
This year when we went to Bali we invested in bamboo straws so that we could cut out plastic straws whenever possible. But to be honest we haven’t used them as much as we should have. Sometimes we have just refused straws at all and other times we haven’t been fast enough (or proficient in enough Korean) to stop the servers giving us already opened straws.
My goal in 2019 is to get more serious about using our bamboo straws, and to really commit, rather than letting them gather dust at home where I don’t need them. I also want to invest in some reusable cutlery that I can carry around so that street food gets less plastic-y. Wherever possible, I want to try to eat in or cook at our accommodation, so that we can eliminate fast food waste, but I know that’s not always possible. So having my own set of reusable cutlery will be a big step to ameliorating my plastic footprint. Here’s a great list of some sustainable reusable cutlery sets.
Travel More Kind
My second travel new year’s resolution is to travel more kindly, and specifically to get serious about supporting cruelty-free products and practices. Cruelty-free to me is more than making sure that no animals were harmed in the making of the products we use, it’s about making sure that no humans were harmed either. So a coffee might source their beans from an organic farm, but that doesn’t guarantee that the workers on the farm are being paid a living wage for their labour.
Wherever possible while travelling, I want to put in the extra research time to make sure what I’m consuming and buying isn’t causing harm to anyone. This might be in my preparations for travel, like investing in Lush products for my travel beauty needs. Or it can be on the road, where I want to try to spend less on things like clothes where I’m not sure if it’s been made in a sweatshop. Ultimately this travel resolution is about slowing down on buying things while travelling, when it is difficult to verify whether something is cruelty-free or fair-trade, and to focus on investing in experiences.
Travel More Locally
This travel resolution is all about supporting local businesses and people. We have written a lot on this subject, including supporting the awesome work of Fair Warung Bale, and Bali Eco Tours, and I hope it is something that we can continue to learn about and get better at. Travel is an industry that we can really affect directly through how we spend our time and money, so there is no excuse to not due your homework.
Everything from where you choose to eat, sleep, and adventure, to which tour companies you use is an opportunity to directly support local people and help to make the world a better place. If we can stop supporting unethical animal practices and spend our money on visiting rehabilitation centres such as Elephant Valley in Thailand, or the Sunbear Conservation Project in Borneo, we can shift the entire focus of local tourism.
But it is also essential that we research and support local projects that are doing the ethical work, so that there are jobs for locals in sustainable industries. It is no help to local people and animals if we take way the money that they need to survive, and do not replace it with a demand and support for something different. It is not just a question of taking away our support for unethical activities, but of actively seeking out and supporting ethical ones. This is one resolution that requires homework, but I think it is also one that can potentially make the most direct difference in peoples’ lives.
Travel More Green
This travel resolution is another really practical way to affect the welfare of our planet. I want to focus on finding different ways to travel. If you look up the impact of flying on the environment, the numbers are pretty frightening. Just one round trip between New York and California can emit 20% of your car’s yearly carbon emissions. So I want to find alternative ways of travelling that don’t involve so many planes.
One way to do this is to travel more locally, like I mentioned above. Not only are you lowering your emissions, you’re also supporting local people more often, as you could do several shorter trips rather than saving up for one big holiday a year. Another way is to fly direct whenever possible, so that you aren’t using multiple flights when one will do. Another option made my wallet really happy, as flying economy is way better for the environment than flying business class, in terms of the resources that are required for each passenger.
And if you must fly, offset your carbon emissions with a certified company. This is something that I haven’t ever really researched, and it is beyond time that I do. Here is an article on the basics of offsetting carbon footprints, and Green-e and Climate Action Reserve are great websites to find certified programs to donate to in order to offset your footprint.
Travel More Aware
Travel more resolution number 5 is all about awareness. I recently wrote an article about travelling while White, and since dong the research for it I have been overwhelmed by all the ways I have been doing harm while travelling that I didn’t even think of. I didn’t even think about how outdoor activities are pretty White spaces, or about how which travel companies actively support a diverse representation in their media. I am devastated that it took so long to open my eyes, but now they are never shutting again.
I hope that you can make a commitment, like me, to keep educating myself, keep getting uncomfortable, and having real conversations about the White, Cis-gendered, Heteronormative, Patriarchal poop-storm that is the travel industry. Follow the social media accounts of people that look, sound, and think differently to yourself, and not only will you find amazing human beings, you might also be pushed to be an amazing human being yourself.
If you don’t know where to start, take a look at How not to travel like a basic bitch, Nature Chola, Asian.actiivist, and the angry ambisextress. Also take a look at Claire Bennett’s article for us on how to find an ethical volunteer placement, because voluntourism is another potentially harmful practice that we need to be doing our homework about.
Travel More Diversely
This leads me onto travel more resolution number six: to be more diverse in my travelling. Not only does this mean that I want to listen to more diverse voices, as I mentioned above, but it also means that I want to break out of the mainstream travel activities and destinations. Over-tourism is a real issue for us now and I think it can be pretty dangerous to encourage thousands of people to visit the same areas year after year.
For example, Venice doesn’t love tourists, and Thailand and the Philippines have both had to close down beaches due to the amount of environmental damage that tourists and unethical travel practices were causing. One of our focuses on this site has always been to travel off the beaten path, and I want to resolve to push this even further in the new year. How can our tourism help rather than hinder communities?
An example would be to support destinations that have clear rules for tourists such as Bhutan, that charges a $250 per day tourist tax to discourage over-tourism and keep their country thriving. Travelling to off the beaten track destinations may be a bit more of a mission, but it means that your money can boost local economies while not forcing the locals to spend that money rebuilding what over-tourism has destroyed.
Travel More Gently
This travel more resolution is focused less on travel and more on my own mental health. Travel is fun and exciting and I wouldn’t trade my life for anything, but man can it take a toll on our mental health. In 2019 I want to travel in a way that builds me up rather than breaks me down. There are a number of ways we can do this.
Firstly I am starting a career change. Although I love teaching, I always seem to be utterly burnt out by the time the year ends. TEFL teaching has been even more stressful than teaching in my own country, and I honestly encourage you to check out my post on things to consider before you become a TEFL teacher, because it is everything but easy.
So I have dived back into my first love of drama therapy, and will hopefully be opening my own online therapy practice in the new year. This will hopefully mean that the time I spend travelling will be less about rest and recuperation from burn out and more about fully experiencing the travel.
Secondly I want to really focus on getting back on track with my self-care this coming year, as it has been sporadic at best in the past. Hopefully, with self-care more of a regular and preventative practice, I can get back to having a load of fun travelling rather than focusing on the stress and anxiety of it all. Here are some of my top tips for self-care on the road, maybe I can implement them myself too!
Travel More Slowly
Slow travel is something I’ve been reading about recently and I really want to dive into it more next year. The Art of Slow Travel defines it as “a mindset that rejects traditional ideas of tourism and encourages you to soak in your environments and keep yourself open to new experiences.” I feel like this really speaks to my soul, and to the other travel more resolutions I’ve described.
Just like having an awesome meal at a restaurant is more of an experience than a quick take out, slow travel is all about soaking the place in, not just flying in and out for the Instagram shot. We so often pack our holidays as full as possible, scared to miss anything out, and we end up coming home exhausted and more burnt out than we were before.
An example of this that has really woken me up was our mid-year holiday to Thailand and Bali this year. For the Bali leg we packed every day with everything we could find. We were diving and hiking, walking, and snorkeling, and it was an absolutely fantastic! But then we spent a few days in Thailand that were completely different.
Although we ended up being quite busy, we made few plans before we arrived. We went to Chiang Rai to get Sak Yant tattoos, and maybe see a few temples. And it was this laid back style that really made the experience magical. We found things we would never have known to look for, and met amazing people along the way. I want more of those experiences in my life thanks very much!
Travel More Minimalist
The penultimate travel more resolution has to do with prioritising experiences over things. I love things. I could shop forever and fill a thousand acres with stuff and still not be satisfied. Unfortunately, Chris is pretty much the same. And so we tend to end up with a lot of stuff. This next year I want to focus on travelling to do something rather than collecting things while we travel.
When we did our Advanced Scuba qualification in Bali, not only did we gain valuable skills that we can use on other holidays, we also have the most amazing memories of Bali both above and below the water. We dived with Manta Rays, we did our first wreck dive, and we made amazing friends. If my apartment burnt down tomorrow and we lost our gorgeous Bali souvenirs, we would still have those skills and those memories. I want to focus on making more of the travel decisions that open my mind up to new things and give me amazing stories. Things are awesome, but stories are forever.
Travel More Thoughtfully
Number ten on my travel more list is really an amalgamation of all of the others. I want to commit to travel being a sustainable and ethical lifestyle, and give it the research and seriousness it deserves. After all, travel is not just for fun, it is also about experiencing our world before it all burns up or drowns in climate change disasters. If I can keep my goals in mind and be really thoughtful and reflective about my travel, I feel like it could be a way of making a small but real difference in the world. and maybe that’s just me being idealistic, but it sure beats sitting at home and complaining. Let’s travel more together.
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