Away from people, closer to nature: 12 ways to travel eco-friendly

    21 Jul 2021

    Vaccination is in full swing in many countries, and travelers are preparing to set off again soon. And while the borders are closed, it is worth thinking about the impact of mass tourism on our planet. Can we travel more environmentally – and not only not harm the environment but also help preserve it? Journalists from National Geographic believe: unequivocally yes.

    In December 2020, National Geographic, in conjunction with Morning Consult, conducted a survey among its readers on how the coronavirus pandemic has changed their attitudes toward travel. The majority of respondents (42%) answered that they plan to go to nature more often in the new year because they feel safe there.

    Employees of National Geographic Traveler promise to travel consciously in 2021. This means we will try to reduce our carbon footprint, avoid popular tourist destinations, stay longer in each place, respect cultural differences, support local communities, and admire nature in national parks.

    In other words, in 2021, let’s plan to make every trip environmentally friendly. Here are 12 ways to achieve this goal.

    Method 1. Investigate what is above your head

    George Stone

    I’ve been focused on what’s happening on Earth for most of my life, but now I’m more and more interested in the moon and the stars. I even started taking pictures of the moon through a telescope on my iPhone. It’s very simple, and the result will exceed your expectations! Watching the moon brings me peace. I feel part of something bigger. Space delights me. I admire scientists who study the universe and astrologers who help us understand ourselves.

    What is the starting point. National Geographic Society member Andrew Fazekas has compiled a list of ten interesting celestial phenomena that can be observed in 2021. Planetary rapprochements, meteor showers, and a bloody moon await us.

    Unfortunately, 80% of Americans are unable to observe the Milky Way due to light pollution, the level of which continues to rise. To admire the stars, you will have to organize a trip to one of the parks or reserves approved by the International Dark Sky Association.

    Method 2. Enjoy natural diversity

    Starlight Williams

    I grew up in Georgia and always hated relaxing in nature – both fishing on the lake with my father and spending the night in a tent with friends. I am sick of the smell of a wet dog, which begins to exude skin after an extended stay in the sun. But last year, because of the pandemic, I (a young black woman) had no choice but to admire the waterfalls and cross the deserts – and I finally appreciated the incredible beauty of nature. This year I am going to visit national parks and other wildlife more often. Maybe I’ll even finally spend the night outdoors.

    What is the starting point. We need to increase ethnic diversity among travelers.

    In 2020, James Edward Mills wrote about a campaign to promote outdoor recreation among the colorful population of the United States. Even though African Americans make up 13.4% of the United States population, according to a report published by the George Wright Forum in 2018, their share of visitors to national parks is only 2%.

    But the situation is changing. Organizations such as  Color Outside, Black Girls Hiking, and Outdoor Afro help ethnic minorities to visit nature more often.

    Method 3. Explore national parks (responsibly)

    Rachel Brown

    I have always enjoyed spending time in nature. But when I started reporting on national parks, I realized how difficult it is to preserve them. During the coronavirus pandemic, the number of people visiting national reserves increased dramatically. Many of them are beginners and do not know the rules of conduct in such places.

    During my hikes in the mountains, I often see piles of garbage and trampled plants. As a regular visitor to the local park, I feel obligated to spend more time studying and caring for its history in the new year.

    What is the starting point. Overtourism, walks outside the trails, destruction of soil, and unquenched fires – all this cause a negative impact on the landscape. Learn how to become a responsible visitor (clean up after yourself, stay away from animals, respect other guests), and avoid large crowds. Better go to one of these little-known places.

    Method 4. Become a science volunteer

    Brooke Sabine

    Before I started writing about travel, I was interested in science. Throughout the last semester of college, I constantly carried a parabolic microphone with me to record the wedding call of whistling quacks. Then biology receded into the background. But recently, I found a way to combine my passion for biology with travel – to go on a volunteer research trip.

    Before the pandemic, I was on an Earthwatch expedition to Andorra, where we walked the beautiful mountains and collected data to help scientists determine the impact of climate change on biodiversity. In 2020, many scientists could not reach the sites they were studying and lost data for an entire year. As soon as travel becomes possible again, I’m going to hit the road right away. But I will most likely leave the microphone at home.

    What is the starting point. It is unnecessary to have special education to become a volunteer and participate in civil science projects. Desire to help is enough.

    Nonprofits (NGOs) such as Earthwatch and Biosphere Expeditions help volunteers find research projects worldwide, from beekeeping in Costa Rica to clearing beaches in Bali.

    The civil science hub SciStarter, founded by Darlin Cavalier, a member of the National Geographic Society, offers more than 3,000 projects to choose from. In some, you can participate without leaving home. This will be great preparation for a future expedition.

    Method 5. Practice ethical shopping

    Jennifer Barger

    I used to be a fashion editor, that is actually, I earned my living by going shopping. I still have a habit of paying attention to what people in other countries buy, produce and wear: sky-blue scarves of desert nomads in Morocco, bright flip-flops of surfers in Hawaii, exquisite carpets in hotels in Turkey.

    When travel becomes possible again, I will return to my observations. But now, I will only buy local products that have been produced under ethical standards.

    What is the starting point. The best way to make sure you buy goods made following fair trade and ethical; that principles are to go directly to the artisans who make Peruvian blankets, Appalachian wicker baskets, and Japanese paper lanterns. It will not be superfluous to take a short course to learn more about the craft and lifestyle of the people involved.

    A few years ago, I spent the day learning to spin and dye silk at the Ok Pop Tok craft center in Luang Prabang, Laos. This year I want to try to master the art of woodcut in Jaipur (Indy) or enroll through  Vacation with an Artist for a mini-course in Japanese calligraphy, Portuguese ceramics, or other traditional craft.

    Method 6. Go on a genealogical tour

    Anna Kim-D’Annibal

    My father loves to sing popular songs of his youth spent in South Korea. During quarantine, he used his karaoke to the fullest. I usually join him on holidays, but I couldn’t come to him in Los Angeles from Washington last year like many others.

    I hope that this year, thanks to the advent of the vaccine, we will all finally be able to go to our historic homeland. This time we plan to book karaoke boxing in Yeosu, my father’s hometown.

    What is the starting point. Use these tips to learn more about your ancestors. Buy a ticket from one of the companies specializing in genealogical tourism, such as My China Roots and Spector Travel. . They will help you connect with local historians, find lost relatives and overcome the language barrier.

    Method 7. Go on a tour of the city in which you live

    Nathan Strauss

    Although I’ve lived in Washington for almost ten years, I haven’t really explored nature in or around the city. For the past few years, I have only been able to visit Kenilworth Park and Water Gardens, and the National Arboretum. Now that I have a car (and a dog!), I’m going to go a little further – to Maryland and Virginia.

    What is the starting point. I learned about the exciting places that are nearby from most of the stories of acquaintances. So I learned, for example, about Huntley Meadows Park in Virginia and Cedarville State Preserve in Maryland. You can also find helpful information on online resources such as Reddit and All Trails, as well as in local guides. I was given a guide to the District of Columbia, which I will definitely use in the next few years.

    Wherever you go, don’t forget the precautions that will help you stay safe while hiking.

    Method 8. Expand your horizons with books

    Amy Alipio

    In quarantine 2020, the books became my pass to the world. They helped me to discover a variety of places – from Iran (“Saffron Kitchen” by Yasmin Crowther) to Kamchatka (“Disappearing Land” by Julia Phillips). Unfortunately, most of the books I read were written in English. If we draw analogies with the kitchen, these works are Americanized versions of Chinese or Mexican food.

    In 2021, I intend to diversify my book menu with authors writing in their native languages so that I can read them only in translation.

    What is the starting point. Contact your local bookstore by mail or phone and ask which translated books they recommend. TripFiction site helps you find books that describe the place you choose.

    There is no need to limit yourself to the Earth – these fantastic books will help you explore other worlds.

    Method 9: Reduce your carbon footprint by traveling virtually

    Maura Friedman

    Museums are windows to the world. Behind the artifacts collected in them is history. But, as one woman in the queue in front of the National Museum of African American History and Culture once told me, “museums reflect both the era of the objects they collect and the era in which they were built.”

    I’ve been thinking a lot about these words for the last few months. They helped me maintain an interest in art, even though I could not visit museums in person.

    Today, many museums offer the opportunity to see their exhibits online, so I can be in a new place every night after work while reducing my carbon footprint.

    What is the starting point. Choose the place where you would like to spend the day and subscribe to the newsletters of the organizations located there. I use this method to follow the virtual program of the New York Museum of Contemporary Art and the performances of the authors in the Square Books bookstore. You can find out about specific exhibitions on Google Arts & Culture, which provides access to museum collections worldwide.

    Method 10. Help children become researchers

    Brendan McCabe

    Last year, due to the pandemic, I had to cancel several trips, including an annual family trip to New York, where we visit relatives, eat dims, and walk-in Central Park. The only place we managed to go was Sandbridge Beach in southeastern Virginia.

    This trip, taken in the middle of the chaotic 2020, brought me a sense of peace. My children and I searched for crabs, watched dolphins, and surfed. I want our travels to be the same in 2021.

    What is the starting point. Find out what inspires you and your family to travel, and build your trips around it. If you love horses, book a tour at Equitours; if you are interested in history – at Go Native Tours.

    Method 11. Learn something new

    Rebecca Barlas

    As I watched my mother gradually lose her hearing over the past 30 years, I realized how difficult it is to live without one of the five senses. Movies, TV shows, and online videos without subtitles are nothing more than pantomime. And family dinners are just noise.

    My mother never learned sign language, but looking at her, I started learning it myself, as I am also slowly losing my hearing. I was lucky to live in Washington, D.C., where the University of Galloda and a large community of deaf people. I hope to take advantage of the opportunities they provide and not only learn sign language but also get to know the rich history and culture that are associated with it.

    What is the starting point. Subscribe on social media to people with hearing disabilities. On YouTube, I subscribe to Sign Duo and Bill Vicars, and on Instagram, to Deafies in Drag and ASL Connect accounts at the University of Galloda, where you can find free videos for beginners learning sign language. You can also use the ASL App, in which the material is divided into topics.

    Method 12. Travel more with your family

    Rosemary Wardley

    Ever since I became a mother of two children, my travels have gained new momentum. I will never forget how we got on a plane with child car seats and a playpen. Therefore, short trips during the pandemic were a real discovery for me. I’ve been to Shenandoah National Park and the beaches of Delaware, but there are many more exciting towns, natural and cultural places within an hour’s drive of Washington.

    In addition, when you look at the world through the eyes of a three-year-old, you learn to enjoy simple things: for example, the fact that you were able to identify several different species of mushrooms on a walk in Rock Creek Park.

    What is the starting point. Our family has definitely become a freefootslive. In the backyard of our house, there is a campfire and warm blankets to make it more comfortable to spend time outdoors when it is cold outside.

    Who would have thought that watching pandas from the Smithsonian National Zoo via webcam was almost as fascinating as watching them with your own eyes?

    You may read our author’s column about how tourists can thank the wildlife for the experience here.Also, you may check the European idea of slow tourism or ​​a deliberate, leisurely vacation here.

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