Part Three of the 2021 Ethical Travel Trends Series
Photo by Jordan Pulmano on Unsplash
I know that many of us globe-trotters had to cancel travel plans in 2021. The pandemic threw a wrench in the best-laid plans of every single one of us. Fact of life. I know that in 2020 not being able to travel was a pretty privileged issue to have - some people (including me) were homeless, broke, or lost loved ones. That puts canceling travel on the zero-end of the “Holy Crap 2020 Sucked” spectrum.
The travel industry makes up something like 11% of the global economy though. That means that many people worldwide rely on travel to literally help them eat. Not to mention, traveling is a wonderful thing to look forward to. Who else here feels more connected to fellow humans and their cultures when you travel?
So, let’s discuss the future of travel. 2021 is finally here (January is almost over - holy crap). Right now most people are wondering when travel is going to happen again. A vaccine is close at hand. A new administration. Soon, we’re thinking, right?
We want to make sure that when we do travel in 2021 our travel is ethical and sustainable. Better yet, regenerative. So how can we do that? This is part of a three-part series on the future of travel trends. You can find parts one and two here.
So here’s part three. I’ve included ways to integrate these trends into your upcoming travel plans so that you can take advantage of travel in all of its forms in 2021.
Flight-shame is a real thing, and it is internalized. Known by the Swedes as flygskam, flight-shame is the feeling that you get when you realize your flight was unnecessary - and unnecessarily bad for the planet.
To start, this is not something you do to other people. For some working class humans, or those on a budget, flying might be the only option. This is not a movement where one belittles others. Instead, it is an invitation to observe your own privilege: did you really need to book that flight, when a train would have worked better? The idea here goes even deeper. Could you have taken a public bus, instead of renting a car? What about a bike, or on foot to that local area? Flygskam ecompasses the ideas of avoiding frivolous carbon emissions just for the sake of our own comfort.
Often, and especially in places like Europe and Japan, taking the high-speed train is often cheaper and even more convenient. It is also far more environmentally friendly. Millennials and Gen-Z travelers are getting on board for this trend in droves, many touting it as a luxurious and adventurous way to travel. The only problem for most people is that the train, bus, or bike options exalted by anti-fliers tend to be far more time-consuming than flight.
It is important to consider the trade-offs and this brand new, incredibly old way of thinking: the journey is just as important as the destination.
Taking the Slow Route and Avoiding the Plane: In America, we might not have the high-speed trains of Japan or Europe. We do, however, have Amtrak, and it serves far more of the country than you might otherwise think. At the time of this writing, a one-way trip from Santa Fe, NM to LA was cheaper on Amtrak by around $20 per person. The ride takes longer, but why not splurge on a sleeper car, and make the trip part of the experience? All sleeper cars on Amtrak trains come with complimentary meal service and your own concierge. Talk about classy.
Carbon Neutral Hotels and Green Living Spaces
Long gone are the days when a hotel chain asking you to “Please hang up your towels” is considered eco-friendly. These days, it’s considered the absolute bare minimum, and travelers are making it clear that they need more. Hotels, hostels, and other vacation rentals have to work far harder for the stamp of approval from conscientious travelers. That doesn’t mean they aren’t trying, however.
Green living spaces, net-zero hostels, and carbon-neutral hotels are no longer a thing of the past. Those looking to rest their head in 2021 at a green accommodation have plenty of options to choose from. This includes luxury boutique hotels, run-of-the-mill hotel chains, and even budget hostels.
To find accommodations going green, don’t rely simply on eco certifications. Although there are plenty of options, and they are worth staying at, they do not encompass all there is in the world of sustainable travel stays.
Indeed, often these certifications are just too pricy for small hotels. Instead, take a look at how they discuss themselves. Do they mention the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals? Perhaps they are a Certified B Corps or a member of 1% for the Planet. Dig a bit deeper into your nightly stays to find places genuinely trying to give back and do good, without greenwashing the public.
How to Dream Green Around the Globe: Next time you’re booking a stay somewhere in Europe on the ever-popular Airbnb why not just skip on over to their best and most ethical competition? The aptly-named Fairbnb uses 50% of its platform fee to fund community projects of your choice in the communities you visit. Airbnb has gotten some flak over the years about exacerbating inequality in cities. So if you want a locals perspective at a quaint vacation rental, look no further.
2021: Travel Trends Recap
There were six total travel trends spread throughout this series on ethical travel, each with their own suggestions on how to put them into practice.
- Anti-Flight Travel
- Carbon Neutral Hotels and Green Living Spaces
- Slow Travel and Living Like a Local
- “Rewilding”, Voluntourism, and Bio Positive Wildlife Travel
- Farm to Fork, Pro-Nature Menu
- Off-Season and Off-Grid Travel
No matter which of these trends appeal to you, they all have one thing in common: they are certainly the future of travel. Clearly, the world needs some kind of change. The travel industry was hit hard by the pandemic. That lead to a lot of brainstorming about how the industry can become more earth-friendly, economical, culturally aware, and sustainable overall.
Which of these trends are you planning on participating in during the upcoming year?