Traveling & Sustainability? Illusion or a perfect match?

Read Time 7 Minutes I #lifestyle #travel
Yep, I did it, I threw the word “sustainable travel” in here.

My heart basically beats for the travel world and I don’t mean that in a writing “travel” as a passion
in your dating profile kinda way, but more in a grabbing every chance to explore our beautiful planet
kinda way. And this is already exactly my point: our beautiful planet. Isn’t it absolutely fascinating
how freakin' beautiful this planet can be? I sometimes (or in every chance that I can get) sit in the
middle of natural scenery and get the feeling that someone put me on a postcard because it’s just
unrealistically wonderful. I call those moments “postcard moments”.

But before I rumble on for ages with different synonyms of the word “beautiful”, I’ll get to the chase:
why on earth would we want to destroy those places and those moments? I get that we want to
explore this planet, want to get to know the unknown, and experience something special, but
can’t we do this in a sustainable way? Otherwise, that “something special” will be gone. 

In my opinion, sustainable travel should be the new norm.

It’s just logical to take care of something that you love and enjoy exploring. So, we need to find ways
to keep the travel world in the long term without harming the environment. Or maybe we can even
improve things? How crazy would that be! 

No worries, I am not gonna pressure you to go completely eco-friendly in 4 days or lecture you to do
everything perfectly. I am also not gonna give you a list of Dos and Don’ts to save our planet
because you can easily do that research on your own. BUT I am gonna tell you a few of my travel
experiences and how I learned to travel more sustainably bit by bit (it’s a never-ending process of learning)
and maybe you can take a few things from it.

We are so used to having tons of choices all the time, sometimes even to the extent that we can feel
overwhelmed and aren’t able to make decisions. Travelling is also basically a set of different choices
that need to be made. Where should we stay? How do we get from one place to another? How are we
spending our time? So many questions!

Having so many different options can be overwhelming and it’s definitely time-consuming to do
the research. The clue is that we are actually able to make all those decisions. Along the way of
my different travel stories, I found out a few things.

1 I love doing research and digging deep into all those options - it’s worth it in the end.

2 There is (almost) always a more eco-friendly way to go

3 Values are important - what does the organization stand for? Can I truly support that? 

Deciding to invest that time for research and to go for the more sustainable option can really
create incredible experiences. Staying at an eco-friendly campsite in Albania led to an evening
filled with wonderful people and interesting conversations and some quality time with really
cool chickens. Exploring Sri Lanka by bus was a very big part of the whole experience, I met so
many inspiring people along the way and sometimes felt like traveling to other planets. Moving
away from typical tourist attractions and supporting local social organizations can leave you
speechless and makes you want to do even more. And it’s really just up to you to make those decisions. 
One more thing and something I also had to learn the hard way:
watch out for greenwashing!

My backpack’s name is Ida, I usually give things I have a special connection with names and
my backpack is definitely something truly special and has already accompanied me
all over the world. Looking back at the last years, Ida was always with me, but my way of
packing definitely changed. And here are my packing learnings so far.

Reusable containers

I started taking reusable bottles, coffee cups, and food containers (there are those awesome foldable ones I might get a bit too excited about), and they proved to be perfectly useful. It can make a big difference if you always have your alternative option to more plastic.

Light packing

I used to use every possible centimeter of my backpack
to take as much stuff as possible and had to learn in the end,
that I actually didn’t need all those things.
Carrying a super heavy backpack is extremely exhausting
(and my back wasn’t pleased with it all). That’s one thing,
but it also increases your personal environmental impact
while air traveling. Everyone knows it,
air travel is no walk in the park for the environment.
But there are a few things to make it a bit better,
packing light is one of them.

Pack sustainable & useful

My bathroom bag has massively decreased in size over the years
just because I really thought it through.
One thing I am always recommending is the shower soap:
one little thing, easily packed and
can replace several bottles of shower stuff. 

Give & get

Only buy something new
if you give one thing of yours to somebody else rule.
We already have so many things and buying something new
only makes you carry it around again. Therefore I have that rule,
that I can only buy myself something new
if I give away one of my things to a person that needs it.
Try it out, it makes you think twice.

Talking about things that could/should be done better can be inconvenient, that’s a fact
and I’ve experienced it tons of times. But in my opinion, it’s okay to be inconvenient.
Last year I went on a Balkan camping trip and wanted to buy some fruits and vegetables
at a supermarket. My friend and I brought our own bags to put everything in
but the employees just insisted on using a lot of plastic bags for it because that’s just how it is done.
We had some communication problems and the whole thing ended up in a very long and confusing
discussion people looked at us like we are true weirdos. But in the end, we marched out of
there without any little piece of plastic. Just a little thing, but maybe it made some people
in there think and it definitely gave me a better feeling. 

Somewhere along the way getting lost got associated with something negative.
'Who actually said that? I love to get lost in places and dive into new spheres.
I made the promise to myself to really get to know the places that I am going to.
That’s this authentic and local experience everyone is talking about. Let’s not be naive,
I know that being a traveler still means that you are foreign to that place, but you can make
the best out of it. I am really into local shops and markets: drinking tea on a little stool
at the street corner with a group of locals in Nepal, accidentally finding this little eco-café in
Montenegro with the most amazing view, eating the best Banh Mi in Vietnam at this little
inconspicuous shop, accidentally bumping into live music concerts in non-touristic neighborhoods and
always going to local food markets (most of the time they got the best stuff to buy and
the best stories to tell). It’s also so important to make yourself familiar with the situation and
act accordingly. For example, going to places with water shortages - maybe you should decide
to go for accommodations without a pool and really restrict your water usage in your best way.
It’s nice to get lost in the experience, but it’s crucial to be aware of the place
where you want to get lost.

Another thing that I have gotten into the habit of in the last years is the attempt to leave places
more beautiful than you found them. Sadly, almost everywhere you go, you can find trash
lying around. It can be also fun to take yourself an hour and collect all the trash around you as a group.
I remember one scene of my friend and me camping in a forest in Kosovo and we started to
collect the trash around us. Singing a little bit along, telling stories, it’s not that bad. After a while,
a local family came by and we started talking about the topic, discussing things that could be done better
and they even started to help us collect the trash. It’s not much, but never underestimate the power of
inspiring people, bigger impacts can also be made of several small ones (maybe that should be a wall sticker!).

Okay, my storytelling time is over for now.
Just one more thing:
I have this picture in my mind of my 80-years old self
still traveling the world (of course with Ida) and
I would love it if there were tons of untouched beautiful places to go.
So, let’s keep an eye on our planet and
try to be the best sustainable traveler that we can be. 

Who’s in?