My job, as a travel blogger, is to travel.
Since I started travelling at the end of 2012, I have barely stopped. I have visited numerous countries and lived in three different ones during that period.
Travelling is a huge part of my life and that is something that I don’t see changing. However, I still have reservations about the life that I lead.
Being a travel blogger means that I am encouraging others to travel. In a world where climate change is wreaking havoc with the world and mass extinctions are becoming a distinct possibility, it does feel somewhat irresponsible to encourage others to contribute to the problem.
On average, a plane produces a little over 53 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) a mile. A flight from New York to Los Angeles at around 2,450 miles would release just over 65 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.
This is just one route. When you add in the numerous flights that are taken every day, the total number reaches 20,000. With this number expected to exceed by 50,000 by 2040, the climate will continue to suffer.
As someone that cares about the environment and the impact, we as a species are having upon it, these statistics don’t sit well with me. They present me with an ethical dilemma.
I love travelling, but by doing what I love, and encouraging others to do so, I only make the problem worse. Travelling is going to be a part of my life going forward, so what can I do to solve this dilemma?
I am not in a position to tell people what they can and cannot do. My blog exists as a resource to help people to get the most out of their travels.
If I was to suddenly turn around and say that you shouldn’t go travelling because of concerns over the environment, I would be a huge hypocrite! It’s simply not feasible.
A better strategy is to educate people about the impact travelling has on the environment and then they can make their own decision about what to do from there.
The example above is a case in point. Flying is terrible for the environment, there is no getting away from that. Almost every mode of transport will release some CO2 into the atmosphere, but some emit less than others.
Travelling overland by bus and train are much better for the environment. It may take longer to get to your destination, but you are reducing your carbon footprint.
Another thing that gets passed over with flying is the rigamarole in regards to checking in. Your flight may only be 2 hours, but you have to get to the airport a few hours beforehand to drop your bags off and go through security.
Then once you are at your destination, you have to go through customs and collect your luggage. In reality, it’s more like 4 to 6 hours in total once you have factored all this in.
Travelling by train and bus is much simpler. You show up at the station, show your ticket, load your baggage on and you’re good to go. Some stations may operate a check-in process, but it’s nowhere near as time-consuming or arduous as those at airports.
If possible, next time you plan a trip, see if you can do it overland instead. Travelling overland can be long, but it is more comfortable than flying, where you are confined to a fuselage for a set period of time!
Think About Your Footprint, Literally!
One of the things about the social media age is that even the most obscure of destinations become noteworthy. Influencers can post a snap of some unknown beach in Southeast Asia and within a year or two, it becomes a tourist hotspot.
This was the case with the popular Italian beachside town of Cinque Terre. Through photos on Instagram and word of mouth, the town became a swamped with tourists.
It was estimated that 2.5 million tourists visited the town in Italy’s northwest in 2015. That is a staggering number of people going to a tiny town.
Don’t get me wrong, this is somewhere I would like to visit, but all these people flocking to the same place create a number of issues. Tourists can be like locusts. They all flock to the same place, without much regard for what impact they are having on the local environment collectively.
This is what led the authorities at Cinque Terre to bring in a ticketing system to limit the number of tourists that can visit the town at 1.5 million a year. This is the price that we have to pay in the Instagram age of travelling.
The world is becoming ever smaller, but our footprints are becoming larger. The impact we have on the world is growing ever larger, by travelling to these places we are contributing to the problem.
Places such as Cinque Terre were not designed to accommodate the sheer number of visitors that flock there every year. The footfall will lead to erosion of coastal walks and diminish the local culture.
When we travel, we need to consider the impact we are having on the places we visit. They are more than just places to go for an Instagram shot, they are living, breathing entities that are much more delicate than we realise.
Reduce Your Waste
One problem with travelling is that you do not possess the luxuries you do when you are at home. In England, I can drink from the tap without fear of getting stomach issues.
When I am abroad, this is no the case. I remember going to the Philippines blissfully unaware that you couldn’t drink the tap water and coming down with a bad case of gastroenteritis. That means you have to buy bottled water, otherwise, you will spend the majority of your trip in bed and on the toilet!
The problem is that plastic waste is a huge problem. Bottled water is one culprit. I despise buying it when I travel, but I also despise being stuck on the toilet for days on end while my stomach is doing somersaults.
It is a tricky balancing act. In some countries such as Australia and Spain, there are a plethora of water fountains where you can refill your bottle. This completely cuts out the need to buy bottled water, but not all countries are like this.
According to Forbes, a million plastic bottles are bought every minute, out of which, only 10% are recycled. This is an insane number. If this continues it is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than marine life!
That is a terrifying thought!
Travelling necessitates you being wasteful. Even though I have cut down on this a lot in recent years, I still find myself falling back into old habits sometimes.
By encouraging others to travel, am I making this problem worse? Will there be more plastic in the oceans because of my blog? I have no way of knowing, but it’s an uncomfortable thought nonetheless.
You Can’t Stop Travelling
One thing I have realised as I have been writing this post is that if people want to travel they will travel. I can write about all these issues, but if someone really wants to visit Cinque Terre, they are going to visit.
In my role as a travel blogger, I have a responsibility to encourage people to travel more responsibly and consider the impact they have on the environment they are visiting and its wider impact on the globe.
Even if one person takes something away from this post and from existing and future posts on my blog, then I will be happy. I cannot influence everyone, but if I can influence a few people to reflect and look at their travel habits with introspection, then I have done my job.
Travelling is an amazing experience and it made me a much better person. Before I got hit by a car and decided to go to Australia, my life was going nowhere. I would love people to have the same experiences as me, but there is a tradeoff.
We are facing an uncertain future, where climate change could wreak havoc on the planet and destroy many of the most beautiful spots we have come to love.
To sit idly by and not try to influence people’s behaviour for the better would be a crime. It was one I don’t intend to commit.