There has been a lot of discussion lately about the negative impacts of vacation travel, including the the impact of air travel on climate change, the way that AirBnB can drive up rental costs for locals (and even drive locals out of touristy neighborhoods), and the overall ethics of travel to poor countries or neighborhoods that can sometimes feel like the privileged gawking at the poor. There is a great example of that in the film Gully Boy, a recent Indian film that is grittier than the usual Bollywood film.
I found this article in the New York Times which discusses the angst of vacationing. The writer talks about the issues and ultimately comes up with a set of guidelines which I mainly agree with. When I travel to Europe, I realize I have to fly, but once there I try to stick with trains, which I think are far more pleasant than those low cost flights anyway, or bicycles. I also am a big believer in staying in one place for longer amounts of time. Not only does that minimize fuel consumption, but I feel like I also connect better and get to know a place better. And that is a big point that this article makes – travel is a gift, but also expensive ecologically, so try to make it high value.
. Do you really need to take that many trips a year? There are platitudes aplenty about travel — it inspires, it educates, it reduces bigotry. But not all trips meet those standards: Consider an educational exchange program in Vietnam compared to a week at a resort in the Maldives. Most leisure travel, of course, falls somewhere in between. So I recommend setting a high bar for your travel, making sure any trip maximizes your connection with the place you’re visiting, whether that be through volunteer activity, seeking out a particularly responsible tour operator or traveling where you have friends who can help you live truly local.
The author, however, admits he has trouble giving up AirBnB. Sorry, but I will not go there. I hate what AirBnB is doing to so many cities, where entire buildings are now taken up with short term tourists, and neighborhoods are drained of real residents. I stay away from AirBnB and its ilk, and still have no trouble finding decent interesting places to stay.
In the end, while I think we should all be more mindful of the costs of our vacations, and try to create higher-return trips, I actually think mindless business travel is far more the culprit. I have to travel for a conference planning meeting every September, and I hate it. We could do every bit of the work via video conference. I use Webex for lots of meetings now and it works REALLY WELL. I honestly think a huge proportion of flight-heavy business travel could be eliminated and no one would ever notice a difference. That is where travel environmentalists should focus their efforts. A corporate tax on travel, perhaps?