These days, everyone feels the need to travel and see the world.
Of course, so have I. I have a fairly large footprint, in comparison to any average person on the planet. Not as big as business, politicians, rock stars and celebrities, but it’s big.
We celebrate scuba divers who have the dubious record of diving all seven continents in a year. I find it ironic that someone can have a deliberately huge CO2 footprint and call themselves an environmentalist or activist. This looks like a “Do as I say, not do as I do” approach. This year, it seems that she is more aware of her impact, as she is now traveling Europe by camper van.
I do commend her for her work in single-use plastic awareness, clean-ups, and her collab with creator designer Trieu Huynh and trshbg.
Society celebrates people for the very white privilege “achievement” of being the youngest person to visit every country in the world.
But what if this rush to see the world in a short time span is doing more harm than good? Imagine if everyone on earth started traveling all the time, flying, visiting the Arctic and Antarctica to witness the melting ice…We don’t ALL have to see it first-hand to believe it!
Two decades ago, there were barely any Chinese tourists visiting Europe and South-East Aisa. But right before COVID shut down the world, there were so many Chinese tourists that the Netherlands shut some towns to tourism and stopped advertising itself as a destination.
This post is not about China.
This is about our modern expectation that we simply must travel the world as much as we can before we die.
Is there a “better way”?
When I traveled, this is how I did it. I think it is more sustainable than many, but still has issues, of course.
I would get a job in a country and stay for between 3 months if I really hated it, but generally for 2 years.
I believe that you can get a better idea of the people, culture, real life and explore nature better when you live in a country. Even then, unless you live in someone’s actual house with their family and live using exactly the same resources as them, you will always have an outsider’s view. If you stay long enough, you stand a better chance of seeing the good and bad of life in that country, instead of the unhealthy “always perfect” instagrammable fake reality.
The truth is all countries have problems. Some problems are shared by all countries: poverty, lack of education and healthcare, plastic- and other pollution. Some countries have specific problems, like unjust political systems, extreme poverty or warfare.
In the last few years, it’s become clearer, thanks in part to Greta Thunberg, that something has to give. Even before COVID’s lockdowns, people in Europe started flying less and looking for alternate way to travel. Was this due to “flygskam“, “flight shame”?
What is the balance between freedom and travel? The balance between give and take?
If you, like me, are lucky enough to strive to be “whoever we want to be”? Should we?
What is the environmental price?
Does it sit well with you?
We can all pay lip service to icebergs meting and polar bears dying out, but what can we, as individuals do? We are all so far removed from nature and its realities these days.
Contribute to a community if you decide to travel to a country?
Accept staying for a longer period of time to reduce your footprint?
Decide to look around your own country, see the pain and social issues there, and try to make a local impact?
Simply appreciate your own country and travel within its borders to see what you haven’t yet discovered on your own doorstep.
Right now, not many people NEED to travel. It is very much a choice.
It is okay to stay at home this year. Really.