Image: New Africa /Adobe Stock
If there is one thing the 'lost year' - 2020 - has taught humankind, it's that we learn to adapt. To a lot. But missing out on travel is probably the one thing that had many chafing at the bit. The benefits that accrued to the environment by the pause on human activity, including travel, was also too dramatic to be missed. As the world starts to open up, there are two questions on every peripatetic soul's mind concerning travel: (1) Is it irresponsible to travel while the pandemic continues to rage and (2) Is it irresponsible to the planet to travel at all, again? Here are some insights that may help you make up your mind for rather than against the idea.
Travel is all set to open up in 2021
It has to! For one, the travel and hospitality industries desperately need to get back on their feet and millions around the world cannot wait to shake off the lethargy of 2020.
Many countries have already eased restrictions or established travel bubbles to allow visitors to freely enter and exit. Many more will follow suit as vaccination passports become the new norm. Tourism sectors across the world are laying out the red carpet to visitors with the lure of cheap stay and freebies. You will likely be able to enjoy some of the world's favourite tourist spots relatively crowd-free in the coming months as it will be a while before everyone shakes off the fear of the virus and starts indulging their wanderlust once more.
Why You Should Never Give Up on Travel
What kind of traveller are you? The one who religiously studies the travel guides and looks up everything you possibly can so that you miss out on nothing at your destination? Or the kind that hits the 'top 10 attractions' and takes plenty of pictures for Instagram and be done with it? The good news is, there's no wrong way to travel. But to truly make your travels count, here are two words to swear by:
(1) Awe; and
Whenever you plan to travel, look for something that will put you in awe. And something that makes you acutely uncomfortable.
Surely there must be something that leaves you speechless with awe. Whether it's glitzy buildings or snow-capped mountains, pick the place that makes you feel grateful to be alive in the moment - to be able to witness something so grand and spectacular; to be able to partake in that wonder; simply to be able to enjoy that moment. There is something that happens when you are so in awe - it makes life a tad more worth living. It makes life about being experienced and not just about being lived.
The second keyword is discomfort. The very first time you leave your comfortable surroundings, you may see how different life is from what you see and experience every day. It may cause you some discomfort. But each time you tide over that moment of discomfort and move forward - ask a stranger for directions, ask a shopkeeper to repeat what they said because you can't follow their accent; make your peace with the basic sandwich that tastes different, you grow.
The awe and discomfort experienced during travel shapes you into a being who appreciates the diversity this world offers. Someone who understands how people are different and yet the same. How there is novelty around every corner but there is no reason why you can't take it in your stride. In short, you grow, in ways, you may not have anticipated.
Why You Shouldn't Feel Guilty About Wanting to Travel
Are you putting yourself or others at risk? Are you harming the environment by rushing back into travel? These are some questions that are plaguing eager travellers across the globe right now. The answer to the first question is, the risk is all around you and everyone else. Even if you are out buying essentials at the nearby supermarket. There is nowhere that is 100% safe and yet, the world is getting back on its feet as it needs to. Whether or not to travel is an entirely personal choice and as with everything else, take necessary precautions and follow safety protocols wherever you are and whatever you're doing. As to harming the environment, responsible travel was anyhow going to be the need of the hour - coronavirus or no coronavirus. Here are some tips on how to travel responsibly so you don't have to carry a huge burden of guilt in your backpack, the next time you are out and about.
Some Tips for Responsible Travel
- Go shorter distances: 2021 is going to be a great year to look inwards - surely there is much in your own country that you haven't sufficiently explored? Avoiding air travel if possible and shortening the distance you intend to go are among the greatest steps to decreasing your carbon footprint. Why not draw up a list of everything you are yet to explore within your own borders and go about conquering that list before you embark on international travel?
- Rethink your travel choices: A short-haul flight might save you time in getting to your destination but in the interests of the environment, why not look at alternatives like trains or even making a road trip of it? You will have a lot more to see on the way, a lot many more little experiences that add to the quality of your vacation.
- Make a friend in your destination: Why not give the hotels and resorts a miss and reach out to a local host who might be able to give not just fantastic accommodation but also insight into the local culture and unmissable sights. This will give you a unique travel experience, help revitalise the local economy and put more money into the hands of individuals. Patronise a local eatery and shop where the locals shop. This will give you an amazing immersive experience of the area you are visiting.
- Leave nothing behind: Try and pack your toiletries in reusable packaging instead of leaving little plastic containers behind everywhere you go. Buy yourself a travel water bottle and a reusable straw and carry them everywhere with you. These are little steps that can make a big difference.
Travel is an invaluable aspect of the human experience and there's no reason to not resume it when things are back to whatever strikes you as being normal. Just be sure to act responsibly for your own sake and the sake of the planet. And in the light of the pandemic, always, always follow the mandatory social distancing and mask policies as prescribed by your host region’s authorities. This is not just good travel etiquette; it is basic human decency.