A couple weeks ago I was in Canada for a brief visit to see family and friends. I didn’t go home for the Christmas holidays, and since my next visit wouldn’t be until the summer I thought a quick trip was in order.
Coming home to see friends and family usually leads to the same few questions being lobbed my way. One question in particular stood out on this trip, and it’s a question anyone who travels often will be familiar with them:
Where are you traveling next?
I think I was asked well over a dozen times on my quick trip home. It’s a fair question, to be honest. I do travel a lot, and I usually have something up my sleeve.
But this time, I didn’t have an answer. I have no trips coming up in the immediate future.
Aside from a work trip to TravelCon in June, and then a 7-day hike to Machu Picchu in August, I have nothing planned.
Ok, I know that hiking to Machu Picchu is an awesome, bucket-list adventure but it’s not until August. As someone who usually travels every other month, that’s a long time from now.
Yes, I know how privileged that sounds. But travel is my thing. It’s my hobby, one of my few passions in life. It’s what I spend pretty much all my money on.
To go half a year without doing something you love is a long time, no matter what that something is.
It was the first time in around a decade where I didn’t have a trip coming down the pipeline.
While part of the reason I’m traveling less right now is because I’m taking a course here in Sweden, the real reason is that I’m wrestling more and more with the impact of flying and the environmental cost of travel.
Because it’s a big one.
I’m a vegan, I don’t drink alcohol, and I live in a solar-powered house. I don’t have kids or a car, either. Yet I still have a sizeable carbon footprint because of my flights. And while I do purchase carbon offsets for my flights, the damage flying does is still real.
Recent studies from the UN are warning us that we have as little as 12 years to get our act together and curb our emissions.
That means I need to step it up.
That means I need to think twice about my flying.
And I think that means you do, too.
And that sucks.
It’s not something fun to think about. But the science is pretty clear: if we don’t change our habits then we are, as my dear mother would say, SOL.
Shit outta luck.
Travel is such a life-changing experience. And not in that clichéd, Insta-quote way but in a real, visceral sense. It’s such a positive, eye-opening web of interactions. I’ve learned some amazing lessons from travel.
I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world.
But I think I have to. Or, at least I have to start to.
Because flying is killing the planet.
And that means we need to travel less, I think. At least, those of us who travel often do. That, or we need to drastically overhaul the way we live our lives to make up for our higher carbon footprint.
I’ll be honest, I think that if we all went vegan today we could probably fix that carbon issue next week and go back to enjoying our middle seat flights. But I doubt that’s in the cards.
So what are our options? Do we all get limited to X amount of flights per year? Or flights totalling X amount of miles? Making flights more expensive is an option I’ve heard, but it won’t really work because then it will just be the rich that can travel while the poor are SOL.
Is there another option? Is there a solution lingering out there that we can use to make travel more sustainable for all of us?
I don’t have an answer, I’m afraid. I’m just grappling with the very real consequences of travel – something I love to do and something that has really improved my life. Denying that opportunity to others or encouraging them not to do it sucks and is unfair. I can’t argue that.
But the science dictates that we all need to make changes to how we are living our lives. And I think limiting our travel is one of the easiest ways of lower our impact.
I just wanted to vent and share my thoughts, because every time I browse Skyscanner (which is daily) I wrestle with these thoughts. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one.
Is there a solution? How do you think travel will change/has to change? Let me know in the comments. Because I could use your input, friends.
P.S. - Want to hear more about sustainable travel? Check out this interview I did with Josh from The All-Around Adventure Podcast!