Hey guys! Today I thought I’d bring up a really good question I get asked and I see being asked quite often.
“What is the best way to travel in a sustainable way?”
The short answer is to not fly anywhere. It’s common knowledge that flights are basically CO2 producing devil spawn. Greta made this into a huge topic for debate when she chose to take a boat to America instead of flying. But for a lot of us in larger countries, land/boat transit isn’t affordable or feasible so we are forced to use air travel. Sure you can buy biodegradable toiletries, religiously say no to straws and pick up some beach garbage, but what’s missing?
Besides cutting air travel out of our lives the next best thing would be to vote with your dollar when traveling (in addition to refusing plastic, bringing reusables, refusing unnecessary services, etc)
So what exactly do I mean by that?
Well, when you spend money in a foreign country that money contributes to the local economy, helps businesses grow and expand, and benefits the general population. So let me give you three scenarios that put this into perspective.
- You fly to Cancun for an all-inclusive vacation that you so desperately need. You spend 4 days lounging on the pristine beach drinking and eating to your heart’s content. You’re so relaxed you forget all about the tours offered by the hotel! (But you don’t really care). You book one last minute and snap some nice pics for the gram.
- You have just packed for the trip of a lifetime! You and your S/O are headed to Buenos Aires for your anniversary and you’re so excited that you have it planned out to a T. You booked a swanky room at the Marriott and filled up your days with tours that you booked through Expedia. While you’re there you eat at a few chain restaurants that offer authentic Argentinian food, and spot a 50% off deal for souvenirs in the store next door. This vacation is everything you ever dreamed of.
- You land a bit jet-lagged from your flight to Thailand and check into the closest locally-run hotel. After you’ve rested you venture out and enjoy some street food from the lovely man and his wife that you passed on the way in. You get to chatting and they mention that they can offer you a tour to go see the local temples. Their family friend runs the tour so you agree to go to their office and check it out. Happy with your decision you pay them and their family friend takes you to some local temples, telling you all about the wonderful history and religious significance. You take a selfie together in front of a temple and post a great review for them once you’re back.
In which scenario are you traveling in the most sustainable way?
I hope I don’t need to tell you the answer but option 3) is your best bet.
When we are traveling to foreign countries and staying in big hotels, eating at chain restaurants, and taking tours from huge companies you are funneling your money back into those big companies. Big companies more often than not come with a big carbon footprint and the tendency to mistreat their workers.
We should be supporting the local businesses, who need your foreign dollars way more than the Marriott does.
The best way to travel sustainably and make sure your money is going to support the locals is to stay, eat, shop and experience LOCAL.
It was obvious to me not to book huge chain hotels, shop huge stores or eat at chain restaurants but the tours were more tricky for me. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way.
I had always avoided tours because it’s so damn hard to find ones that are beneficial to the local people. If I had to book one I would book the one with good ratings online. When I booked my EBC trek I did just that, and I found out later from my guide that the porters are paid poorly (some don’t get paid at all) and the guides are not paid well either. I felt awful for supporting this company that was clearly keeping most of the profits for itself. I learned my lesson and will be doing more intense research before I book anything, and I hope you do as well!
It’s not always necessarily easier to find a good tour but it isn’t impossible! With enough research, intuition, and questioning you can usually get to the bottom of things really quickly and easily find out which one is in line with your values.
I’m not always a huge supporter of Airbnb due to their behavior and tendency to destroy the housing market, but now they have a section for experiences where you can book a “tour” or experience with a local and rate/review them as well! If all else fails this is a good middle-ground option.
So here is the TLDR version of the article.
Voting with your dollar can:
- Support local businesses
- Help them thrive and grow
- Cause you to make an informed, sustainable ethical decision
- Encourage others to do the same