I’ve always been one to tout the benefits of travel. It pushes us, opens our eyes, drops our jaws and challenges our perspectives. It makes us better versions of ourselves, and for me at least, I fell in love with travel because of the person I became when I traveled.
But with everything that’s happened as a result of recent events, I’ve started reading headlines like this:
And it’s made me really start to think about how the impact of travel is considerably greater than just on me. These headlines are the screaming alarm your sleepy fingers fumble to silence in the morning. It’s time to stop silencing them. It’s time to talk about why time is up on the way we travel at the moment, and how change is coming whether we like it or not.
So what happens exactly when travel bans are lifted around the world?
Well I’m as confident in my prediction at the moment as I’ve ever been in a tigerair flight taking off on time (that’s not at all), but that won’t stop me looking to the skies for a silver lining.
social distance makes the heart grow fonder and my hope is that once signs of life-before-lockdown start to re-emerge, with them will also come a new found appreciation for travel, and a new found appreciation for the big wide world out their waiting to be travelled.
This means people will spend more time thinking about where they’re going (it’s all I’ve been doing for the last few months), for more reasons then just what will fit into their Instagram feed. People will think about the impact they will have once they’re there, on the environment, the communities, even the economy. Would you still want to visit Venice aboard a cruise now you know what they do to the colour of the canals?
There will be a rise in the retreat – places that help us to relax, slow down and indulge in nothingness. A lesson that lockdown has forced us to learn.
There will be a rise in eco-concious experiences – ones that don’t send species extinct, or turn cultural significance into nothing more than a photo op.
And there will be a rise in places that are nothing but nature – large, expansive stretches of scenery that fill the lungs with fresh air and the eyes with awe.
A year ago I looked into booking a trip to Bhutan. If it’s not on your bucket list, add it. One thing that drew me the Land of the Thunder Dragon is that they consider their Gross National Happiness more important than their GDP. Yeah. What’s more, their law states that at least 60% of the country must remain forested, and as a result they actually absorb considerably more carbon than they emit.
So why didn’t I book a ticket straight away? Well, this is where it gets interesting. They have a low volume, high value approach to tourism. This means tourists are required to pay a tariff of at least $250 a day. Per person. While this may cover the cost of a guide, food, transport and accommodation, it still blows it out of budget for most travellers. Last year Rome’s Colosseum alone clocked six million visitors, while the entire Kingdom of Bhutan had just over 70,000.
Now, wouldn’t it be nice to cut and paste this approach to other places. The truth, though, is it just wouldn’t work. There are far too many countries that count on the tourist dollar to survive (here’s looking at you, Sicily).
But that doesn’t mean that us as travellers can’t take that approach. To spread ourselves more evenly across the globe, and leave those pigeon-filled plazas to the birds. To toss out trends and go to places for more reasons than simply that the price was right.
Look for far flung lands, and names you can’t pronounce. Go somewhere because other people haven’t, not because they have, and find tours that do good, because they’ll make you feel even better.
It’s a good thing that time is up on travel as we know it, because the travel that’s around the corner might be so much better than we’ve ever known.