Traveling is a wonderful reality for some of us, an elusive dream for others. It’s a world of endless possibilities: a weekend camping trip, an all inclusive resort in Cancun, a 3 month unplanned excursion to Indonesia, a pilgrimage to a religious site in Rome, a jungle trip in the Amazon, and on and on. We travel to escape the routine of our everyday lives, experience places we’ve read or dreamed about, and to renew and recharge. But it’s healthy for the world if we recognize that our vacations and travel are taking place in a world that’s under incredible pressures from population growth, economic development, and so much more. Our travel itself contributes to this pressure: fossil fuel for your car or plane? Resource & energy use to produce the “necessary” travel gear in your suitcase or backpack? Luxury “ecolodges” in remote and “pristine” jungles justified by our demand to have AC, clean towels, and bug-free dinners? Like a great deal of modern life, you can’t escape some aspect of the dualism that’s part of our travel.
We DO NEED vacations, and the world NEEDS tourists. It’s okay to want to experience other cultures and perspectives, or to add to your life-list of birds. Travel, and the generation of sustainable economies fueled by tourism dollars, is helping to pay for a lot of good things. Tourism has allowed many cultures to resurrect traditions that had been in danger of slipping away. It also generates a great deal of money for conservation projects, land preservation, and environmental and cultural research. Let’s face it, take away tourism, and many parks in the world…and cultures…would be in serious trouble.
It’s also okay to allow the travel experience to wake you up a bit, to recognize that not all is paradise in paradise, and that your travel does come with a price tag beyond your airplane ticket and hotel bill. It’s even better if that realization inspires a change in your outlook or every day practices. It’s impossible not to be affected when you visit an indigenous community in Latin America, and see how a deforestation or a planned hydro facility is changing their lives. It’s impossible to canoe the Rio Grande river through incredible canyons without seeing the invasive reed grass that is choking the river. You can’t visit beaches in Malaysia, Mexico, Maine, or Maui, see the incredible shoreline development that’s occurred, and wonder how a sea turtle can find a square foot for it to lay its eggs in.
Our goal is to inspire you to look below the surface of a travel or adventure experience. And if you’re open to looking and learning, then you’re open to helping to being part of the solution. There’s so much we can do in our everyday lives….energy conservation, support of local food production, reigning in our hunger for collecting more and more “stuff”, supporting nonprofit organizations, donating our time and energy to causes at home and abroad. Even when you travel, there’s ways to minimize your impact, from adopting “leave no trace” ethics, to buying one less item before your trip that you’re not sure you’ll use on the trip, and definitely won’t use back home.