#3 Embracing Sustainable Travel
2023 is still new to all of us. Some are either engaged in planning the year or keeping the expectations minimum to a month at a time. Amidst all this, everyone is clinging hard to their new year's resolutions or goals they've set for themselves. These goals come in a wide variety of forms, and often it's not the weight of these goals, but the societal expectations we harbor within that end up breaking these goals. These are yours to work on and for you to define, so maybe next time, keep it to yourself and see if it works.
But if I may, I would like to leave a goal with you to take and build for yourself and even share with the world if you can - a travel goal. It has nothing to do with place, season, or kind of vacation but everything to do with you and how you act while taking one. I'm asking you to take a step towards being a more responsible traveler and embrace sustainable traveling as a long-term idea.
It's a term floating around for some time, but I've hardly seen only a couple of people talk about it. Rarely do people know how to act sustainably on their vacations, but it has become a need of the hour because of the way we have been acting on our vacations and how we leave the place behind. Add to that the negative impact tourism has on places has forced cities to implement measures to protect their local ecosystem.
Take Venice as an example. It has been introducing a series of restrictions and laws to protect itself from overcrowding due to tourism. The latest one that just kicked in Jan 2023 is for day travelers to get a registration and pay a fee to visit the place. This city has been under the weight of over-tourism and had a sigh of relief during covid. It may sound weird but it makes sense to me. People, as tourists, are not well known to leave the place better when their vacation is over. One more example is Ladakh. We all know how beautiful that place is and feel out of this world. But if you go and ask the locals there, you may get a different image of how tourism has impacted their lives. While I've never been to the place myself, I'm sure they will say that tourists are a nuisance sometimes. Forcing locals to post for photographs, entering vehicles in the emerald-looking water bodies for the sake of photos, and leaving garbage behind when they are done with their trip, are some things that are destroying the ecosystem of that place.
If you've noticed, most of the trekking areas have plastic waste lying around. I think it's a mix of unregulated hawking activities at these sites coupled with the careless attitudes of people who come for trekking. And when it comes to sharing photos on social media, we all tend to crop these sights out or deliberately choose a different angle.
I guess it's time we show the world what everyone has been doing, and it's not okay to ignore it anymore. It's time we realize the impact tourism has on the place. We cannot take it for granted and assume that traveling will always be good for the locals in an economic sense. There are other social impacts that we need to consider.
While I'm not an expert, I can share my thoughts on ways we can embrace a sustainable means of travel during our vacation plans:
Carry a garbage bag everywhere. Don't throw plastics on the road or anyplace where it doesn't belong.
If you are at a sanctuary, a forest reserve, a beach, or undertaking water activities, remember that you are a mere spectator. Don't impose yourself on animals just for photos. Also, don't disturb their home.
Whenever possible, choose local means of transport rather than private vehicles.
Don't disturb the local environment & culture. Engage with locals to learn and understand their world and not impose yours on them.
Ditch plastic bottles and carry a reusable steel one.
Lose the attitude that if you've paid for something, you have all the right to behave the way you want. You are merely a guest in someone's home. Behave accordingly.
We all are smart enough to understand that if we do not act sensibly, we may end up destroying many places to the point of no return. Imagine if Ladakh loses its charm because we continue to pollute it without taking any responsibility. There won't be a Ladakh that we know of today left for our future generation.
If we don't step up to be more responsible soon we'll start seeing restrictions in India too to protect the local ecosystem from over-tourism.
I hope we all make 2023 a sustainable travel year in our little ways. If you have ideas to practice sustainable travel, do let me know.
Until next month