Why do we travel?

Travelling, backpacking, hiking to the North Pole, a year long cruise around the world…

It has become more and more common for people to elect to take a year out to go and explore the world. Whether before or after University, as is the choice favored by millennials on their Gap Yaaahs, and it is often a joke that the gap year is a chance to ‘find ourselves’, to discover who we really are or who we want to be before we enter into the adult world.

It seems there is something therapeutic about simply packing a bag and abandoning the life you have, turning away from the stresses of work and the unescapable social media that plagues every minute of our lives. Or perhaps it is something more than that…

Every day the newspaper is full of stories about our dying planet – the animals are going extinct, the ice caps are melting, the deserts are expanding, and the Amazon rainforest is burning alive. We are killing our planet, and at an alarming rate.

To a certain extent, it is the younger generations who are most aware, most angry, and most vocal about it – there is a reason why David Attenborough made a guest appearance at Glastonbury and was cheered louder than the artists. Just as it is this group who seem to care the most, it is this group who do the most travelling; a study by Expedia Media Solutions revealed that millennials (24-35 year olds) travel an average of 35 days a year, with Generation Z (18 to 24 year olds) in second place at 29 days a year.

It makes sense that those who care about the earth so passionately should also want to see it and experience it. Not to mention the increasing cultural acceptance of the younger generations, who have championed the LGBTQ+ community and have helped create Pride into the great celebration it now is, and so it is natural that these generations have no qualms about getting involved with and learning about new cultures.

Without a doubt, broadcasting our world to family and friends will help to raise awareness of the state it is in, hopefully helping to save our earth before it is too late. However, there is one key issue;

Travel is not sustainable. Travel is also harming the earth.

Not many people realise quite how damaging travel can be on the earth and its resources. Just one transatlantic flight eliminates the efforts of almost 20 years of recycling. Greta Thunberg has recently travelled to the UN meetings to discuss climate change, choosing to go by boat across the dangerous seas between Europe and America as this was the least harmful transport. The problems don’t end with the flight though - many resorts use excessive quantities of water and energy to keep their guests happy, often at the expense of the local community.

Perhaps the gap year is a chance to ‘find yourself’ by experiencing new cultures and different ways of life – a way of grounding yourself to your true roots and identity. Perhaps for many it is a way to championing conservation and all things eco-warrior. Or, perhaps we are just all too aware that time is running out, and that in a few years time, there just won’t be any rainforest to visit at all.

I am painfully conscious of the impact travelling has on the earth, and as I head off into the Costa Rican jungle on my first of 3 internships for my Year Abroad, I am searching for the best way to travel for the environment – from beauty products to clothes to getting around, I have a secret ambition to become the most annoying, environment conscious eco-warrior I can be. 

Stay tuned for all the tips of eco-friendly, sustainable travel!