Last month, at the Impact Travel Alliance Melbourne (ITA Melbourne) film screening event, I had the honour of being MC. ITA is a group of change-makers and volunteers in tourism who believe it is time to mainstream sustainable travel. We chose Max and Jeremy’s “Chasing Tomorrow” to screen because it tells the story of adventurous travellers who discover people grappling with climate change and making their own future, community by community. Their travels and stories give us hope and expose us to transformational ideas.
I’m sure many of you are asking: Can travel ever be sustainable? While it isn’t simple, I think it can, because travel has the power to be transformational for both the travellers and the locals. Of course, to become sustainable it will need to change, which is why I’m part of the effort by ITA to spread that change.
So much in the travel industry is transactional when it could be transformational; with the right awareness applied. We call this “responsible travel” and people like Max and Jeremy show us how they are responsible travellers that have a global impact.
Our launch event this September was a packed event with 4 incredible speakers, including Ingrid from G Adventures, our sponsor. But for our second event we wanted to be a bit more intimate so we could have a conversation with the filmmakers. We followed the hour long inspiring documentary with a live Q&A. Max and Jeremy were so generous with their time and with honest answers to hard questions. Their passion came through even on the grainy video call from France.
One of the most challenging questions they got was how we, as digital nomads, can contribute to long term change since we are so often moving from place to place. Max and Jeremy told us how their work finding and highlighting stories has changed the conversations they have about these important topics. Before, they encountered avoidance, now they find the same people embracing the potential to change. They changed the conversation from “you should” to “you can”, because they travelled and collected stories that touched people and ignited their imaginations.
They left us with the inspiring mantra: “Find people, Break rules”.
Everywhere they went, the people making a difference had formed communities of people who cared and then broke rules to get where they needed to go. My favourite was the 72 year-old woman telling us about her edible city. She lives by the idea that when the outcome is a more liveable city, it is better to beg forgiveness than ask permission. And so far their group has been picking more fruit than eating humble pie. Because once a good idea takes root, it’s hard to fight against it, especially when you can literally pick the fruits of their labour.
As travellers, we are the collectors and sharers of stories. We bridge worlds so that our communities do not become isolated and stuck in old ways of thinking. True, we can’t all be travellers all the time, in fact that’s part of responsible travel — to stay local more often. But when we do go, we make conscious choices.
“If every one of us does as little as he can with conviction and responsibility, I assure you that we will do enormously.” -Pierre Rabhi-
- We are conscious of the costs and careful to offset our travel footprint with tools like this carbon calculator. Note that a flight emits the same emissions as if each passenger drove a car separately the same distance. So if the flight is going anyway, it is actually a better choice to fly than to drive.
- We do our research on Ecosia so that our searches plant trees. Over 43 million trees so far!
- We make sure we connect with the people providing our food, our rides and our tours. Treating them like the humans they are and observing whether our presence is helping or hurting the locals.
- We make sure we select operators that keep the money local and treat their employees well.
- We seek advice from those who have gone before, for example, to ensure we are diving with the right boats so the reefs are still there next season. Max and Jeremy recommend conservation dive operators whenever possible.
- We choose to go to less crowded destinations to ease our collective footprint. Even if that means missing some of the top 10 items on the list.
- We respect the locals when the beach is closed to repair or the trail capacity is limited to 100 per day.
- We bring our own water bottles and chopsticks.
- We spend more time in the places we visit to go beneath the surface and make a deeper connection with the land (or sea) and people
- We choose to travel when it makes a difference to who we are and to those we come in contact with.
Travel that is not just transactional but also transformational is out there, beyond the ads and beyond the cheap tickets. It’s waiting for you in your communities, led by the people you respect that are creating transformational programs. They are people like Mandeep Kour, Liz Volpe, Scott Watters and so many more.
Some of them use YouLi to share and manage these incredible experiences. I hope you’re lucky enough to be invited to one and maybe someday inspired enough to create your own.
In the meantime, follow ITA Melbourne on Facebook and keep an eye out for us at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne in Feb 2019. If you’re not in Melbourne, find your local ITA chapter or start one!
#travelwithpurpose #thisisustainable #youlivetotravel