Ethical travel trends for the New Year.
Many of us globe-trotting individuals, including myself, had to cancel travel plans during 2020. The pandemic left us all feeling out of sorts and altogether discombobulated. Now I know that in 2020 not being able to travel was honestly a privileged issue to have. Some people lost loved ones. Some people were homeless and broke as hell (me, for one). We all have had a shifting perspective, and canceling travel plans does sit at the “Least Concern” end of the “Crap Storm of Things That Went Wrong in 2020” spectrum.
However, vacations are beautiful things to look forward to for many reasons, and having to cancel them is never fun. For some of us, traveling is how we connect with our fellow humans and connect with the world around us. Travel is even the livelihood of several of you reading- a highly likely occurrence, considering the travel industry makes up 11% of the global economy.
2021 is upon us, and January is the perfect time to reflect. Now is the time that most of us are sitting back and wondering when we can travel again. Not only when we can travel, but also how we can travel in an ethical and sustainably-minded way. It is important to note that eco-travel and sustainability are two different ideas, but I’ve included trends in each category.
To that end, Here are two eco-friendly and sustainable travel trends for the ethically minded travelers among us. These are trends to keep an eye on during your 2021 travel planning and beyond.
What good is a trend list if you don’t know how to implement it, though? Great question! Each option includes suggestions on how to take advantage of these trends, for that exact reason.
Slowing Down and Becoming a Local
Perhaps the most significant travel trend in 2021 (and 2020, honestly) is slow travel. Slow travel is ideal for digital nomads, business travelers, those on sabbatical, and people who just want to slow the heck down for a change.
With most destinations still requiring a 14-day quarantine (or at least a negative COVID-19 test), the idea of slow travel suddenly sounds a lot better. Why not head to a destination and quarantine on a beach (or in the mountains, in a villa, etc.) for 14 days. Then spend the next several weeks or months getting to know the area like a local. With the quarantine out of the way and masks in hand, the world is far more open to your wanderlust-induced explorations.
Now, not everyone can afford to travel this way. However, there are many options that allow individuals, couples, and families to travel slowly. Working from home was a big push in 2020. It isn’t much of a stretch to take “working from home” sometimes to “working from anywhere” often. Get creative and combine business with leisure in this way.
One Option on How to Make it Work: If digital nomadism isn’t your thing, you can still slow travel on your annual two-week vacation. 2021 is all about settling in and seeing a place in depth. For your next vacation, become a TrustedHouseSitter: Housesit someone’s pets and abode anywhere in the world that tickles your fancy. During your two weeks, visit the local farmers’ markets. Get to know the city in-depth via bicycle. Learn a few phrases in the local language. Stay in one place for your entire trip, and take a train on day trips close to your temporary home base. Take your time, live like a local, and enjoy.
Giving Back While You Travel: “ReWilding” and Beyond
Sustainable travel is out, my friends. Don’t freak out yet, though. The new gospel is regenerative travel. If the 2020 pandemic and all that has come with it taught us anything, it led the travel industry to realize that something has got to change. It is no longer simply enough not to destroy the place you vacation. Instead, the trend is to preserve, improve, and lift the areas where we go on holiday.
You can blame this trend, in part, on sustainable popular thought leaders like Greta Thunberg, influencing a new generation of travelers. A good thing! For instance, Greta recently took a trip to New York via sailboat to avoid adding carbon into an already overloaded atmosphere. Is everyone going to hop on this sailboat extravaganza? Probably not, but it is a crucial indicator of where travel is headed: into the realm of regeneration.
Regeneration means a lot of things. The concept of “rewilding” is not necessarily tourism-specific. It is a global movement focused on restoring natural ecosystems. In travel, the rewilding movement focuses on supporting these places financially and otherwise, encouraging the practice. Closely linked to this concept are bio positive wildlife practices, where tourists who want to experience wildlife do so in a sustainable, eco-friendly way.
That means going above and beyond when booking wildlife-themed adventures so as not to end up giving money to places like the scandalous Chang Mai Tiger Temple, which shut down due to animal abuse. After letting tourists snap selfies with tigers, it turns out they had dead cubs hidden in their freezers. Big yikes. Try an organization like Natural World Safaris instead, which seeks to bridge travel and conservation by supporting grassroots conservation efforts in the wildlife sphere.
Other forms of regenerative travel include volunteering during your travels. There can be issues with voluntourism, of course. Going to a country to pose with impoverished children to make you look good on social media is a horrible thing to do. However, there are many fantastic options for giving back while on holiday, including operations like Hope Floats, an organization that matches cruise ship travelers with volunteer projects while at the port.
One Travel Itinerary Option: The world of voluntourism abounds, but why not try your hand at volunteering in paradise? Flights to Hawaii are relatively cheap at the moment. Once there, spend a day with Malama Hawai (which means to care for Hawaii in Native Hawaiian).
Volunteer projects include making Hawaiin quilts for Kupuna (elders), self-directed beach cleanups, and tree planting. There are quite a few airlines and hotels around the islands that partner with Malama to make your voluntourism project smooth. Win-win-win!
Sustainable Travel Trends: A Recap
Traveling slowly is a great way to escape COVID restrictions while deep-diving into the culture. Voluntourism efforts focus on giving back to the destinations that host us. Eating locally in a global setting builds up smaller economies. Traveling to get away from it all can boost local economies during economically challenging times.
Where will travel take you in 2021? Are you taking this opportunity to ensure that your journey is healing, regenerative, and ethical? Are you on board with these two trends?