It’s all about the connection, Baby

6.27.2008
by gregor

Keep it simple to really travel sustainably

There’s no question that the incredible amount of press that going green has gotten lately is a good thing, an eye-opener for the masses and a call to arms. The only real negative that I can see is that the massive amount of information being thrown around (much of it just plain wrong) is so overwhelming that it’s started creating confusion in some and absolute shut-me-down panic in others. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and relax for a second. Yes, suddenly realizing after 200 years that there are other ways of living can be quite an eye-opener. Waking up and having to take responsibility for your actions after a lifetime of care-free existence can take some getting used to but let’s keep things in perspective and embrace the incredible new options that we have available to us. Listen to me: It’s not your fault. Seriously. It’s not your fault. You are not killing the polar bears. You are not going to flood the coastal cities. You are not to blame. Now you know and can make things better and lessen your impact. We all have the ability to live lightly so I’ll let far more experienced people tell you how to go about your daily life in a more sustainable way and I’ll focus on what I know.

As I’ve said before one of the major problems with sustainable travel is that there is no universally accepted definition of what sustainable travel really is. I’ll spend some serious time in the coming months discussing the different facets of sustainability in the travel industry so instead of giving you another checklist of all the things you’re doing wrong I’ll give you a suggestion that will have you traveling clean and green in no time. There is only one step to getting the GBC Sustainable Travel certificate:

Focus on connecting with your destination

That’s it. We can get into offsetting your carbon footprint and other more advanced concepts later. The best way to travel responsibly is to stay in locally owned hotels, eat local food, interact with the local environment and keep it simple. The initial advantage to eco-lodges was that their construction and existence didn’t interfere with the wildlife in an area. Think about yourself in the same terms…make yourself a transient part of the local environment and it will be very hard to tread destructively. This may be simple but it works. Far too many people go to a destination and stay either within the gates of their hotel or venture no further than the tourism-based bars, restaurants and shops on the main strip. Spend some time before your trip learning a little bit of the local language, the history of the destination and something about the environment. Then get out there and see all you can see, meet locals on the bus and at the bar and support businesses that take pride in their community and want to share it with you.

The best and easiest way to make a real connection with a place is to stay in a hotel or lodge that is truly vested in the location, not just the people that are visiting. This is as true in New York City as it is in Patagonia. Luckily it seems that most properties that take their sustainability very seriously also work closely with the local community. This is win-win for everyone involved because not only are the employees of the hotel a perfect resource but they also can point you in the right direction for all of your explorations. Eat Cioppino in San Francisco, steak in Argentina and oranges in Valencia. Make the connection your number one priority and you’ll really begin to understand what makes the people and the place tick. OK, you get it but how do you actually find the right places to stay? That’s the easiest part of all: go to Global Basecamps home page and take your pick, we’ve already done the work for you.

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