It’s hard to imagine what travelling will look like as restrictions lift. But one thing is for sure – things are going to be different. And those differences are, in many ways, going to be good. We all know that the planet’s resources can’t support our fancy-free jet-setting dreams forever. And, post-corona, it’s likely that how we feel about our desire to travel will shift, too. After so long at home, this is an opportunity to rejoin the world with a gentler approach, to be more compassionate and holistic in our outlook and to align the way we travel with the efforts we make to live sustainably, healthily and thoughtfully at home. It’s time to make a practical and personal shift to travel better – better for communities in the places we visit, better for us to connect with destinations in positive and meaningful ways, and better for the natural world. And we’re here to help kickstart the journey. So when you do start preparing for your next holiday, here are 10 things to consider.
1. TAKE MORE STAYCATIONS
While we wait for flights to officially resume for the UK, any non-essential international travel should be avoided. Luckily for us in the UK, we have beautiful countryside to explore, coastlines to roam and cities to wander, so when restrictions ease, why not take time to really discover our green and pleasant land? Access is easy – by train, bike or on foot – and a staycation can be anything from a one-mile trip from your doorstep to a weekend break in an unexplored region. The many benefits include being able to pack and go spontaneously, spending less, and knowing that it’s the most environmentally-friendly way to travel. Check out low-key-lovely self check-in accommodation options at Kip Hideaways and Canopy and Stars.
2. BUY FEWER TOXIC TRAVEL PRODUCTS
There’s nothing like a global pandemic to remind us that the world around us is not immune to our behaviour. Detoxifying the products we take with us is not only healthier for humans but better for the destinations we visit, where water supplies and protected natural reserves can be adversely affected by products such as sun cream and shampoo, and where waste-disposal systems struggle to cope with plastic waste from cosmetics. Seek out natural brands (we like Neal’s Yard, Pai and The Soap Co), and refillable packaging, avoid additional plastic and never, never take the hotel minis.
Go green at home with these sustainable subscriptions
3. RETHINK FLYING
For many of us, the grounding of planes has led to instant relief from noise pollution as well as clearing some of the worst kinds of air pollution. It’s suggested that when aviation starts to pick up again, travellers will be met with long queues, health checks and higher prices, so minimising time at airports and on planes is something many of us will want to keep doing, regardless of when restrictions lift. All of which will force us to think hard about where we want to fly, and why. Airlines that survive must be the ones that prioritise their staff’s physical and economic wellbeing, as well as embracing the opportunity to use new technology to make flying greener and healthier – for those in the plane as well as on the ground. Etihad, for example, has been quick off the mark on these fronts – it’s been at the forefront of developing more fuel-efficient planes and reducing waste on flights and has been trialling new airport technology designed to help identify medically at-risk travellers.
Read this piece on 5 things everyone should consider when we can fly again
4. CONSIDER SLOW TRAVEL
Now we know that aviation will never be the same, we can and should embrace other methods of transport. Think travel with the aching, unhurried intensity of Normal People, and you’ll start to understand the inimitable joy of taking a train or boat, or even setting out on two wheels. The delayed gratification and anticipation of travelling in this way creates new opportunities for seeing the world, and proves all the clichés about the journey being as important as the destination.
5. CONSIDER LOCALS
Too often, relationships between tourists and locals are transactional and imbalanced. But the simple fact is that we need each other. This new world order provides an opportunity to develop more mutually beneficial relationships and a more symbiotic sharing of money, skills, local knowledge and experiences, which will leave us all enriched rather than depleted by tourism. Many companies, such as Village Ways in the Himalayas and Wild Philanthropy in East Africa, have these values embedded in their operations – they should become the benchmarks for the future.
6. STAY AT HOTELS ROOTED IN COMMUNITY
When our travel is focused on forging new connections, it makes sense that the best places to stay are smaller, locally owned and community based. Properties that form a vital part of a local ecosystem of course tend to operate more thoughtfully when it comes to the environment too. Authenticity is easy to spot – hotels that speak warmly about their staff (Castara Retreats in Tobago) or their community activity (Jakes in Jamaica) have something to offer that the luxury chains struggle to recreate.
7. NO MORE ANIMALS
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of wet markets, a greater consciousness that animals don’t exist simply to meet our whims is an important part of travelling more consciously. Wild animals get incredibly stressed by human presence (that picture of the elephant with his ears out is the elephant saying ‘Go away, I feel threatened’) and it’s easy for us to disrupt their natural breeding or feeding activity simply by our presence. Not touching, not photographing and, ideally, not eating, animals is a huge step in helping rebalance delicate systems as well as minimising our footprint. We can still enjoy watching animals from afar and should support innovative conservation projects genuinely working to protect their existence.
Take a look at these beautiful portraits of endangered animals
8. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE CARBON FOOTPRINT
Travelling better is not just about what we do to lower our carbon footprints on an individual trip in terms of emissions or plastic reduction, but in the thought we put into the legacy we leave behind – worker’s rights, staff experiences, inclusivity for visitors and the economic impact of our trip. Conscious luxury will now embrace all of these things, not just pay token gestures to ‘supporting’ local education projects, but genuinely operating holistically.
9. TRAVEL TO THE RIGHT DESTINATIONS
With wellbeing and care as motivations, destinations at the forefront of reducing their carbon footprints will likely be the ones best placed to adapt to a new kind of travel and to offer real opportunities for holidays without harm. Working out how to straddle the needs of nature, local business and travellers is not without challenges, so supporting destinations such as Copenhagen (which has already developed huge outdoor opportunities that allow for individual space and exercise as well as innovative eco management) or Belize (which has some of the world’s most authentic eco hotels) is a good way to to begin your travel-better planning.
10. AIM FOR LOW-VOLUME TOURISM
As people move around the planet less and become more selective, the silver lining of post-pandemic travel is that overtourism will become less of an issue. Places such as Palau and Finland, which have always followed a lower-impact model and invested in their natural habitats (73 per cent of Finland is covered by forest and development is restricted) are pros when it comes to low-volume tourism, so they’re good choices if you’re looking to escape the crowds. Seek out these more rural places to find solitude and a sense of calm.
by EMILY MATHIESON for Conde Nast Traveller