As the world went into lockdown mode, nature unraveled herself. The air became cleaner. Water bodies became plastic and pollutant-free. Different birds and animals started slinking into our backyard. Some of us were treated to otherwise elusive sights like waking up to the snow-clad Mt Everest for residents of Kathmandu or the Himalayan range for those in Jalandhar, Punjab. We could spot stars in the sky and dolphins in the sea.
It was Mother Nature in all her glory, giving us a vivid realisation of the impact of our actions. And it is unfortunate that it took a pandemic for this realisation to seep in; to put a halt to our fast-paced globetrotting Instagrammable lives and take a moment to reflect on the consequences of our actions. With the ability to travel taken away from us, it perhaps calls for an introspection on how we should travel whenever we do end up travelling.
Here are five small changes we can all adopt in our travels and lives to protect and enjoy the beautiful world we live in!
- Go local
Whenever we start travelling again, nurturing local communities is key. Ensure your local experiences and tours are well-researched and those that truly support locals. This is a big win-win as you get the authentic experiences you are seeking, and at the same time local communities thrive. Airbnb is a great option to support local communities – it is environmentally more sustainable than hotels, it supports local hosts, and when you try the host recommendations on restaurants, local shops and tours, you empower the local businesses in that destination. Of course, safety is key in the times we are living in, so research your homes well and discuss your queries on cleaning protocols with hosts before booking.
- Opt for eco-friendly accommodations
If a homestay is not your cup of tea, pick eco-friendly accommodations. From boutique hotels to luxury hotels, pick a hotel that is conscious of the environment and is playing its part to be sustainable. For instance, ITC Hotels has always been known for its responsible luxury. Accor Hotels uses the savings made on energy and water to fund tree plantations. Opt for a hotel with a conscience to lower the carbon footprint of your trip.
- Be conscious of your mode of transport
Driving holidays are going to be a popular option post the lockdown. But I hope this trend is here to stay. Take more domestic vacations if you can, and drive or use trains to get to your destination. Having said that, it would be impractical to rule out air travel altogether; the idea here is to be mindful and make choices accordingly. For example: sometimes intra-country travel and even inter-country travel can easily be done by rail or road. When you do choose to travel by air, consider portals like Carbonfund, Grow Trees, and Ecosia to offset your carbon footprint by contributing to an environment conservation project.
- Say no to single-use plastic
While travelling and even in our day-to-day life, make a conscious effort to reduce and reuse single-use plastic. Carry your own bottle of drinking water while travelling and do not use disposable plastic water bottles. You can also invest in Life Straw, a portable water filter which comes in handy if you’re ever in an area with no access to filtered water. Use eco-friendly cloth bags when you shop and say no to plastic bags. You can even carry reusable metal cutlery including metal straws to avoid using plastic cutlery when you’re on-the-go. Switch to soap and shampoo bars instead of shower gels and shampoo bottles. Remember every piece of plastic you avoid is one less plastic item floating around in our oceans or sitting in a landfill.
- Give minimalism a shot
One of the biggest things that the lockdown has taught us is how we can lead perfectly happy and healthy lives with the bare minimum – that we don’t need all the things we’re told we do. So next time you’re about to make an impulsive purchase online, pause and ask yourself if you really need it. Even when you’re travelling, travel and pack light. When you travel by air, the lighter you pack, the lesser the fuel burn of the aircraft. Lighter suitcases are followed by lighter itineraries – slow down and appreciate the destination. When you have more time to do fewer things, you truly connect with the people, culture, and nature of a place.
The idea here is not to overhaul everything you do, but to become conscious of your actions and gradually make smart choices wherever you can to do your bit for the environment. I’m also fairly new to this and taking small steps. So, start slow – every small action counts. Every carpool ride you take, every local entrepreneur you empower, every piece of plastic you avoid – it all adds up!