6 Ways Sustainable Travel Can Help With The Planet’s Health and Yours

Thanks to a certain C word, the words "Stay at Home" have been most countries’ motto for over 2 years now and while our backpacks have been sat gathering dust, our beautiful planet has slowly been reaping the rewards of humanity stuck indoors.

From a reduction in pollution as cars sat on driveways, to nature flourishing in cities thanks to the sudden peace and tranquillity. For some, adapting to this new normal has been a welcomed blessing, because it’s forced us to slow down and appreciate the little things. There are no longer lengthy commutes, we can work in our PJs and suddenly have all the time in the world to plan adventures.

So with this extra time, we’re asking a special favour. Instead of rushing to your nearest airport at the first sniff of freedom, we would like you to appreciate this slower pace of life.

Instead of counting countries, absorb each other city fully. Instead of hostel hopping, dive deep into conversations with locals. Travel in your own country, before escaping to the next. You’ll soon realise, not only is travelling sustainably better for the planet’s health – it’s better for your health too. Here’s how…

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Slow down and plan less..

There are two kinds of travellers – those with the excel spreadsheet itineraries who arrive at the airport with 3 hours spare, and those that pack an hour before their flight. I’ll let you guess which one I am. Any opportunity to plan less, I am onboard with and travelling slower is one of those opportunities!

Calculating budgets, organising transport, and arranging accommodation is a much bigger task when you’re visiting 3 cities in one week. By travelling slower, it not only takes away that stress but also the rush of skipping from one place to the next in fear of missing your next check in. It’s not only a win on your mental health, but one for the planet too.

Related blog post: Stop counting countries: Travel slow and travel further

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Follow the locals

When competing with jam-packed itineraries, it’s likely you won't have any chances to see beyond the touristy highlights, to get to know the locals or head off the beaten path. Consider a Workaway host your personal tour guide. By living with a local you’ll learn far more from their everyday way of life than you ever will from those guidebooks.

You can appreciate the real culture that country has to offer, not just the parts tourism boards throw money at. You will discover things like authentic tasty dishes, where to find the best beer, shortcuts and hidden beaches that only locals would know and most importantly, only those who seek to travel differently can discover.

Related blog post: Tips for Travelling Like a Local and Blending In

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Avoid over-tourism

We’ve all seen the horror stories in the news of plastic covered beaches, or hotels replacing rainforests to keep up with tourist demand, however it doesn't need to be that way. Explore off the beaten track to find those hidden gems and try to avoid visiting those tourist spots during popular times or high seasons.

Over-tourism is causing devastation to our seas, forests and local communities. Sustainable travel means you can give local businesses a chance, rather than the overpriced tourist traps who can afford the rent in these hot spots.

Now more than ever, small businesses need our help whether it is local coffee shops or farmers markets – spend your money where it can make a difference instead of hitting the same places every tourist guide tells you to.

Related blog post: 8 Great Ways to Support the Travel Industry From Home

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Give something back

Sustainable travel is more than just the destination, it’s a mindset. Alongside learning more from the locals, by being just a bit more mindful you can give something in return too. These cultural exchanges are vital in order for local economies and humanity to recover.

Living through a time where hugs have been banned and social distancing encouraged, human connection is more important now than ever. Nothing connects humans like kindness. Whether it’s helping locals practise English, sharing your top social media hacks with a local business or simply teaching others about where you’ve come from. What you leave behind in a country is just as important as what you gain, and travelling sustainably means exactly that. 

Related blog post: How Workaway Can Save the Day When Loneliness Strikes  

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Make eco conscious choices

From last minute flights to fast food, convenience usually comes at a cost and not just to the planet but to your bank balance.

Make conscious effort to opt for local markets instead to save on overpriced, plastic souvenirs. Look for accommodation with access to a kitchen to avoid expensive takeaways and the chance to experiment with local dishes. Take train journeys instead of flights so you can appreciate the surrounding scenery while saving some dollar. Renting bikes are cheaper than car rental, not to mention the scenic routes not accessible by car.

These small changes will not only save you money but allow you to travel like a local instead of arriving and leaving as yet another tourist.

Related blog post: Sustainable travel: 10 simple tips to become a responsible traveller

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Make more real connections

There is nothing worse when you meet someone and instantly click, then realise you have a flight to catch tomorrow. Allowing yourself to stay longer in one place, means you have time for plans to change. You have time to recover if you get unwell, or if the weather is terrible there’s always tomorrow.

The luxury of extra time will not only mean you avoid burn out but you’ll create more genuine connections than you would rushing from one stop to the next.  To us sustainable travel is all about the connection whether to nature, people, food or culture.

It is far more respectful to locals to arrive with enough time to appreciate what they offer instead of a whistle stop tour. You will also avoid that post-trip exhaustion because you had time to make the most of each moment and not worry when life doesn’t go to plan.

Related blog post: Getting Over The Post-Travel Blues: Readjusting to life back home

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While a global pandemic is not the answer to saving the planet, it has allowed us time to pause and reflect on the future of travel going forward. After spending over a year craving connection being stuck behind screens, it should be more important now than ever to approach travel more thoughtfully with connection in mind.

Through platforms such as Workaway we are able to gain a more meaningful understanding of culture and learn from those who are different than us. Instead of rushing to move onto your next bucket list destination, consider what you’re leaving behind.

Have you made a positive impact or a negative one? Did you teach or learn something? Did you spend money with local businesses who need it most, or large corporations? While this “new normal” might only be temporary, a new approach to travel doesn’t need to be and travelling sustainably will ensure there is a future for travel at all. 

Related blog post: Life Lessons From Travelling & Workawaying Around the World

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About Lauren

Growing up in a small coastal village in Scotland inspired Lauren to seek adventure and challenge the norm. Armed with just her backpack and trusty travel companion Darren, she quit her day job to liv... show more...

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