The Uncalculated Costs of Travel
Wanderlust in the light of the climate crisis9 min read

Exploring the world, trying new foods, seeing new places, admiring new landscapes, getting to know new cultures. As Globonauts, which might be easy for you to guess, we love to travel. Not only do we love it as a past-time, we consider it a valuable experience for every human being. In our eyes, travelling is beneficial on multiple levels. It helps us to broaden our view on the world and challenges our own cultural values by showing different traditions and cultural habits. Not only does it help us gain independence, it invites us to get to know ourselves better. It creates a more open-minded way of living and it can change the way you look at the world. Travelling is truly an enrichment for your life.

But at the same time, most of us don’t seem very aware of the downsides of travel. Honestly, have you thought about the impact of your visit to Venice on the local inhabitants? Or were you aware that geotagging your picture of that beautiful spot you found can contribute to overtourism? And have you ever considered the ecological footprint of your six months of travel though South East Asia, including several flights and long trips on an incredibly cheap scooter? To be completely honest: we hadn’t.

Marijke poses on a scooter in South East Asia

The environmental impact of travel

As much as we love to recommend travelling and exploring this beautiful planet, we increasingly feel urged to also shine a light on the environmental impact of travelling. We want to raise awareness of the dramatic condition of our planet. And not in the least, to think about ways to respect our planet and to make sure this earth will remain to be a livable place for the next generations. That is why we feel the need to share documentaries, websites and social media accounts that tackle the issue of environmental pollution. We decided to research and share ideas on lifestyle and travel choices, and tell you about a few brilliant initiatives. But first: what exactly is going on with our planet?

So, What’s Going On?

The Facts

To put it frankly: so many places we love to visit and explore are on the verge of disappearing because of climate change. Experts expect the planet to warm up 2 to 4 degrees in the next 50 years, causing a tremendous change in climate and weather. Sea corals are bound to die, half of the planet is condemned to become hot and dry beyond livability, and the other half of the planet is awaiting an increase in extreme weather. Think of massive heat waves, heavy rainfall, crazy hurricanes and life-threatening flooding. If we’re not going to step up to stop global warming, Earth will be soon be devastated.

Evidently, I will be impossible to thoroughly talk you through all facts about the climate crisis. So much is already clear, so many people are doing research and so many documentaries and articles have already been created. We could never possibly write a complete overview that addresses all that information. That’s why we, Marijke and Janine, decided to work together and instead share some of the sources that we found incredibly helpful to inform ourselves.

Insightful Documentaries About Climate Change

There are some excellent documentaries on the subject of climate change out there, several of which you can find on Netflix! Here’s a list of our favourites:

  • An Inconvenient Truth. This documentary by All Gore has had an enormous impact on the political agenda on this subject. It clearly lines out the facts and makes it personal. It’s a must-see documentary.
  • Before the Flood is a documentary about the climate crisis, pointing out facts about the causes of global warming and showing the frightening effects of climate change on nature and people. (Did you know, for example, that some island populations are already looking for another place to live because of severe flooding?)
  • Chasing Ice is an documentary about the melting of ice all over the planet, clearly showing the impact of global warming. The producer himself used to be skeptical about the issue, but changed his mind after seeing what was filmed.
  • A Plastic Ocean takes you from the surface of our planet to the underwater world, showing the alarming state of our oceans, full of plastic.
  • Chasing Coral is a documentary that shows another part of our oceans: the depressing state of the sea corals, suffering from pollution and rising temperatures.

Documentaries about our impact on the environment

These two documentaries are very insightful if you’d like to learn more about the impact of lifestyle choices on the environment:

  • Cowspiracy shows that animal agriculture is having a big impact on climate change, and that there are choices we can make in our diets that can cause positive change. For example: did you know that eating chicken is way less harming than eating beef?
  • The True Cost shows the impact of the fast-fashion industry on the environment AND on the lives of the manufacturers in Bangladesh. The process of making leather, for example , is one of the most polluting industries on earth.
A collage of six different documentaries that we mention in the article

What Can We Do?

#ecoanxiety

So, after we’ve figured out the facts, what can we do? Isn’t the climate issue just too big and too far gone for us to be able to do something about it? Understandably, a lot of people feel overwhelmed by the facts and tend to think that there’s nothing more they can do about it as individuals. They feel paralyzed and this makes it difficult to make any first steps at all. We all understand the feeling of being overwhelmed, it’s a type of ‘eco-anxiety’ that leaves you feeling helpless.

Feelings of helplessness and eco-anxiety are understandable. Yet, you have to try and zoom in on your own life; minimise the scale. Why? Because you’re not solely responsible for the entire issue. You don’t have to solve the climate crisis all by yourself. But you are responsible for the choices you make in your own life. Take yourself and your decisions seriously.

It’s true, the climate crisis touches on so many different topics. But don’t feel lost. You can do something. Try to zoom in on your own life; minimise the scale. Why? Because you’re not solely responsible for the entire issue. That also means that you don’t have to solve the climate crisis all by yourself (and that’s not possible either). But you are responsible for the choices you make in your own life. All you have to do is take some steps in the right direction. If we all try, it adds up and leads to bigger changes. Every step matters and you don’t need to be a perfect environmentalist. And here’s the good news: making the first few steps isn’t that difficult.

Lifestyle Choices

One of the easiest steps you can take, is about lifestyle choices. Make some small changes in your daily habits. Start with one thing at a time and add something new once you’re used to it. We’ve outlined some of the easiest changes you can make:

  • Take your own shopping bags with you when (grocery) shopping instead of buying plastic bags.
  • Choose vegetables that are not covered in plastic and use reusable fruit- and vegetable bags instead.
  • Buy more locally produced (and thus seasonal) veggies.
  • Introduce some meatless or animal-products-free days and try out some plant-based recipes.
  • Drink tap water from a reusable bottle and take your bread or lunch in reusable lunch bags.
  • Refuse plastic cutlery and put a set of reusable ones in your bag instead.
  • Think twice before taking the car and take the bus, train or bike a little more often.
  • Consider spending the holidays in your own country.

None of these are major changes, but still impactful if everyone would start adopting them. What you buy, for example, also influences what is being produced and sold. So changing your consumer behavior is easy but still influences bigger systems.

A flatlay of reusable bags and a bottle

Travel Choices

Of course, there are also choices in the realm of travel. We are not going to tell you to not travel anymore. Travelling can be great and so can tourism. It brings us closer to people from other nations and races, making us feel more connected and involved with others. More understanding between people and cultures on an international level is crucially important. If we want to truly solve the climate crisis, we need global cooperation. In that respect, connecting with other cultures trough travel isn’t a bad thing at all.

But when you travel, consider how you travel. The way you travel influences the environment. Travelling by plane is clearly exhaustive for the environment, so taking night trains or long bus rides instead cuts down on your carbon footprint. And if you fly, staying abroad for a couple of months is more environmentally friendly than taking a plane for just a weekend city trip two European countries away. Taking your own cups, cutlery and refillable bottles and toiletries allows you to refuse single-use plastics. Eat local to cut down on your carbon footprint even more. This handy article we found discusses tips like these in more detail. We definitely recommend reading it!

Do you know the uncalculated costs of travel?

Inspiring Initiatives

Thankfully, we’re not the only ones concerned about the current climate situation. Many people and businesses are already working on wonderful projects and worthwhile initiatives. Here are three examples.

Greta Thunberg is an incredible example of the impact one person can have, no matter your age or background. This Swedish girl was only fifteen years old when she decided to skip class after the summer until the Swedish parliament elections in September to raise awareness for the climate crisis. Her “school strike for climate” has now been picked up by media and has spread around the world as a global climate movement. Every Friday, students from all over the world are skipping class to protest outside the parliament building of their country to ask attention for the climate crisis.

Lightyear is an inspiring example of a company that tries to make a difference. Lightyear is a Dutch startup company working on a four-wheel drive solar-powered car. The roof of the car consists of five square meters of solar panels, making it possible to recharge your car by exposing it to the sun. According to the company, the car allows you to drive months without charging. Lightyear was named after the 9.500.000.000.000 kilometers that all cars on earth together drive in one year on fossil fuels. They’re very passionate about making a change, so that in 2030 one light year will have been driven electric.

A Liquid Future

Last but not least, we want to introduce you to a non-profit organisation operating in Indonesia. A Liquid Future uses surf tourism to save marine ecosystems and improve lives across Indonesia. With tourism approaching isolated island communities, locals are often left behind. They don’t always know about the possibilities of tourism and how they can turn them into opportunities. Through experiential learning programmes in Communication and Creative Media; The Ocean; Technology, Social Media and Entrepreneurism, communities gain the confidence and the skills to be a part and benefit from the changes tourism brings while simultaneously saving marine ecosystems. And, importantly, that includes an equal engagement of women.

The current state of our planet desperately needs empowered local communities acting in their and their natural environments’ best interests, with women playing a prominent role.

Lizzie Murray, founder of A Liquid Future
A liquid future team with Indonesian local kids

More Inspiration

Do you want more inspiration about well-meaning and hopeful initiatives, startups and companies? The following websites and Instagram accounts are inspiring too!

  • Hetkanwel.nl (@hetkanwel.nl) is a Dutch website focused on sustainability and green living. They regularly post articles about startups, inventions, tips and tricks to live a more sustainable life and products to support sustainability (such as sustainable fashion and lifestyle products).
  • Travel for difference (@travelfordifferenceblog) is a blog dedicated to sustainability and travelling. Inspiring articles and thought-provoking captures on Insta.
  • Hazaar the bazaar (@hazaarthebazaar) is another blog focused on ethical travel. Adopting a wider view on sustainability (taking cultural, social and economic sustainability into account), this is a very good blog to follow!
  • Nowhere and everywhere (@nowhereandeverywhere_) is a company taking on environment education. On Instagram they serve facts about what happened in the world environmentally on a weekly basis. It keeps you aware of the subject and motivated to keep making changes!

Concluding Remarks: Where Do We Go From Here?

After outlining all these sources, tips and inspiration, we hope you feel inspired to look at travel differently and perhaps pick your next destination more thoughtfully. Take yourself and your decisions seriously and be aware of the impact you and your choices have on the planet. Take responsibility and be an example for others. Talking about the climate crisis is one of the most important thing anyone can do right now for the planet and for humanity. But as we all know: actions do speak louder than words.

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