Ecotourism is a big industry these days, which is encouraging from the perspective that this equates to high demand for greener options when people make travel decisions. It is still early days, however, and further development is due in order to firm-up the terminology and definitions that make up the movement.
When it came to the specifics of how we planned to conduct ourselves during our travels, we decided to adopt our own approach – slow, simple, sustainable – which could then guide our decisions when on the road. Here is some more on what that means to us.
Wherever possible, choose to travel by land and water rather than air, and then by public transport. This provides an opportunity to see more of the countries we’re travelling through as well as mix with local people. We’re looking seriously at cycling as well, having met an inspiring retired Canadian couple on their journey from British Colombia to Tierra del Fuego by recumbent bicycle!
In general, we have tried to adopt a ‘slow’ approach to visiting places that is the antithesis of the notion of having a checklist of things to do and trying to hop between them as quickly as possible. Spending longer in a smaller area means you get to see the small details as well as reducing your impact.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop & look around once in a while you could miss it”
– Ferris Bueller
There are numerous sources of online inspiration for those interested in travelling with minimal baggage. We’ve taken a lot of it on board but are still very much in the early stages when it comes to implementation! We initially packed for a week (plus a bit in Roger’s case!) and seven months down the line this has proven to be more than enough. We’re looking at ways we can downsize further at the moment – more on that later.
We also apply ‘simple’ as a general rule to accommodation choices. We tend to seek the more basic of private rooms (we’re a bit beyond shared dorms these days!) or even the occasional tent – as long as we can sleep and wash, we’re pretty much happy.
Many of the places we’ve visited are natural wonders and we’d prefer them to stay that way! In the second month of our travels we set out to do our best to avoid plastic waste, using Plastic Free July to get us moving. We found the Nordics and Costa Rica to be exceptionally clean, with local people clearly engaged with governments in supporting this. Now that we’ve moved on from Costa Rica, however, we regularly see the sad sight of large piles of rubbish on the side of the road and all along beach tide lines (clearly deposited from sea). The main content of this waste is plastic bottles, something we’ve largely avoided contributing to for some time now with our drinking bottles, but we still seek ways that we can have a greater positive impact.
We have found numerous hostels and hotels that support local causes, such as environmental or social concerns, some even nonprofit. Another option we’ve explored on the social side is to stay in Airbnb rooms/apartments or with local families. One particular example for us was a homestay we did whilst volunteering in Costa Rica. This is great for immersion as well as being sure you’re contributing directly into the local economy.
Other ways in which we’ve aimed to contribute to local economies – as opposed to multi-nationals – include eating and drinking in locally owned establishments and buying locally sourced goods from markets or independent stores.
As mentioned, we try to minimise flying, seeking means of transport with less of an impact. The buses, taxis and boats we travel by are all obviously unclean too, so this is still very much a work in progress for us. Cycling and electric motorcycles are two avenues of exploration for the near future and we’ll post further updates on them as they happen.
As a final aspect to minimising our impact, we are striving towards a plant-based diet, although in Central America we’ve had to settle for ‘just’ vegetarianism as it is extremely difficult to find foods without meat that also contain no dairy or eggs! We will be doing our best to partake in Veganuary though.
We’re sure that many of you will have your own sustainable travel experiences, so please post any hints or tips that you may have.