Listen to the Podcast here
Before I started travelling around Asia, I watched a German documentary, called “Weit”. This documentary was about a couple who did a world trip starting from their city, Freiburg, most of the time hitchhiking. Their plan was, whatever it could happen, they would never take an aeroplane. They spend 4 years of their life until they came back home: in the last stretch of their path, they walked from Barcelona back to Freiburg! but I won’t make you more spoiler… This documentary made me reflex about what it means to travel and to be sustainable at the same time, especially in terms of transportation.
The majority of the population who can afford travelling, only have some weeks to enjoy the holidays each year. As if we were in a supermarket, where we can buy any food from any country, when it is about travelling to a new destination, we don’t think differently: the more exotic and further, the better. But being very honest about this topic and seeing what many of us, backpackers, don’t want to see… flying is a big per cent consumer of our ecological footprint!!!
Do you think mother earth is very happy about so much smoke and unnecessary movements?
BACKPACKING: THE DOUBLE-EDGE SWORD IN ECOTOURISM
Why a double-edged sword? Usually, backpackers are people who want to discover the world, cultures and grow as human beings. But sometimes we just forget to keep in mind some things. Don’t worry, we are here to remain them to you.
#1 RULE NUMBER ONE OF A GOOD BACKPACKER: TAKE YOUR TIME!!!!!
Backpackers are usually conscious people willing to learn about nature, cultures, anything possible. But…you are not an environmental sustainable backpacker if you are rushing to go everywhere, to see every place, and if your goal is to visit as many countries as possible, so that you can have your Instagram or Facebook full of pictures and stories from all the countries you have been in…it can make you a cool person, but YOU ARE NEITHER SUSTAINABLE NOR ECO WARRIOR!!! So where is tipping your scale? Sustainability? Or making people jealous?
The time stops when you are contemplating such a sunset. It is not about making a photo of a person, but of a memory…
#2 AVOID TAKING PLANES…TRY TO USE BETTER ROAD TRANSPORTATION OR BOATS
As a backpacker, you love improvising and taking last time decisions, but let me tell you something. Being in Argentina and suddenly deciding you want to do next Colombia IS NOT SUSTAINABLE…Why not going to Chile? Or Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay, or Brazil… Just be consequent with your decisions, and don’t fly unnecessarily!!! Only when you feel it is absolutely needed 😊. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an eco-friendly flight. It’s not just the amount of fuel per passenger, it’s the fact that you can go further and faster than any other form of transport, meaning a huge amount of fuel is used to transport you and your luggage to your destination.
There is also this Spanish guy, Nacho Dean, who has done the world trip walking, or many people doing their journeys in a bicycle. Another option also quite eco is doing hitchhiking. I have never done hitchhiking because I am very afraid of it, but moving doing hitchhiking it’s very sustainable; anyway, those people are already moving somewhere and they are just taking you with them.
You can walk…it is definitely very sustainable
The bicycle is also a very sustainable option, and faster than walking
There are also boats as a fair option
#3 NO NEED TO TELL: REDUCE YOUR PLASTIC CONSUMPTION
I guess a person who is already avoiding plastic at home will be also doing it while travelling. And the other way around. One thing you realize when you start travelling is that plastic bags consumption is at least 10 times bigger in many Asian countries as it is in Europe, but if you tell them before you get the item or food: “no plastic bag, thank you” or “no straw, thank you”, they will not give it to you!!! Some people will think that you are crazy because you go so uncomfortable with your hand full of things, but some of them will admire you because they will see why you refused… I mean, they also see at the beaches the consequences of their overuse of plastic! Especially because their waste management system is not as effective as the one we have in developed countries.
Just on the side of the road to be found…for weeks without nobody picking it up!
Refillable water bottle in your backpack will be an essential, much better if it has a good purifying filter so you will never need to buy plastic bottles. The filter in your bottle can be key because in some countries, like Vietnam, there are almost no places to refill your water bottle with drinking water. If you have a good filter, you will reduce considerably your plastic consumption!
As we say in our podcast with @abettertomorrowpodcast, using eco-friendly personal hygiene items, such as plastic-free shampoo soap, toothpaste, bamboo toothbrush, etc. will also help the environment as we are avoiding one single-use plastic…we have here near us, in Dumaguete city, one Zerowate shop, @lipaymundo , have a check at all the things they have!
And…if you are a woman, don’t forget to pack the menstrual cup. You won’t regret it!
There are so many options when it is about going zero waste!
#4 WHERE TO SLEEP, WHERE TO STAY AND WHERE TO VISIT IF YOU WANT TO BE ECO-FRIENDLY
There is a very tempting option for those who want to feel one with nature: camping. Camping is amazing and it can be harmless to nature as long as you follow like the bible the sentence: “Take only pictures, leave only footprints”.
Camping is very cheap and doesn’t increase your footprint at all
If you are afraid of snakes, then better you get the chance of being in green buildings, and AVOIDING aircon will reduce your footprint. Air conditioning usually accounts for over 50% of hostel energy bills, and each degree cooler will increase energy consumption by 5-10%. Ideally, you should use fan rooms instead of A/C. Our rooms in Mango Tree Eco Hostel are made out of bamboo and native materials, allowing the wind to go through and cool the space. With a fan it is more than enough…and in my personal case, I don’t even need the fan!
If you want to visit some special animals, see whale sharks or discover some caves, never forget to be sure that those animals are being treated properly, that human beings are not destroying the ecosystem where those animals are, and that nobody and nothing is getting harmed…for example, I would never ever go to see the elephants in Thailand because in most of the cases, not so say all of them, they are in captivity and they are taught to be docile through violence. Do you want to be a part of it? I am sure you don’t… Here in our area in the Philippines, the problem is with the Whale sharks. They are being fed and not emigrating as they should do. This destroys the ecosystem and stops other fishes species going with them during their emigration. We cannot support such a practice…
We are in the XXI century, please…
#5 OTHER FACT MANY OF US DON’T WANT TO SEE: NORMAL TOURISM HELPS GLOBALIZATION
The main reason why some tribes or isolated groups get in touch with the rest of civilization is because of tourism. There are many documentaries about how some young indigenous people don’t want to have anymore their traditional clothes, the Apatani young ladies don’t want to wear their piercings in the nose, etc. The reason of this denying of their tradition is globalization…they all want to look the same as the western people. If we are going to very touristy spots, we cannot feel anymore the real essence of the place, because the local culture is very modified by the tourism that has adapted the place to make those tourists feel very comfortable. Knowing this fact, Mango Tree Eco Hostel wants to create a place which affects as less as possible to the local culture but still allows locals to get to broaden their horizons through backpackers being aware of such problems. Just being aware is the key, so let’s arise awareness around as much as we can!
As a good example, this tribe in Laos is now only wearing their clothes to get some money from the tourist
#6 LAST BUT NOT LEAST: IF YOU WANT TO COMPENSATE THE GLOBALIZATION YOU ARE CREATING WHEN TRAVELLING, THERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU CAN ACTUALLY DO!
We know globalization has some very bad things, but also some VERY GOOD ONES. And we will focus on them at this point :).
Try to choose always the fair trading options, the most sustainable ones. Get always inform about the place you are going to, there are thousands of blogs and information about everything, we are in an era where anyone who is willing to, can be informed.
Try to set your example about love and respect from nature in front of everyone. There is the only way you can actually make the most effective impact in everyone around you: through your example!
Avoiding the very touristy places will allow you to meet real places where the real culture and essence of the country can be found…don’t be afraid of missing things because you never know what you may suddenly and unexpectedly find!
Imagine how special moments you can give to those little villages where they are not used to see new faces…and how special for you can be to see how they eat, how they spend their time, and how their houses look like. It’s a win-win!
They feel amazed because seeing a person like you is very uncommon for them!
This is not a touristy place…nothing to envy to a touristy one!!
Whether you are currently backpacking or reading this article from home, what do you do to help protect and conserve the environment? We would be very happy to hear some tips also from you!