The idea of meandering my way around the planet at a leisurely pace, allowing enough time to soak up the minutia of each locale, is a veritable wet dream of mine. Though, a close examination of my travel history would make me sound like a liar. Ok, maybe you would not have to look that closely.
Life has become a series of races to the finish line. Deadline after deadline, project after project, goal after goal have etched a groove into my subconscious routine, resulting in a mad rush to produce as much as super humanly possible within the shortest amount of time conceivable. Slowing down my pace sounds lovely, and feels like a failure.
This full steam ahead approach to my regular life also drives how I roll on vacation. While I am packing it all in, overstuffing a travel day with as much sightseeing as tour schedules and speed limits allow, I am also leaving a trail of burnt fossil fuels behind me. Invisible but often smelly particles drifting their way into the atmosphere, turning clear days into hazy days to be later inhaled by innocent bystanders.
I am not terribly happy with how my transportation choices inflate the size of my travel footprint. So, it is time to do something about it and slow things down. This is a list of changes I am going to make to help me get there:
Pack lighter A smaller bag is less of a deterrent to walking, cycling, or taking public transport in lieu of taxis or renting a car. I will endeavour to pack no more than what I would need for 1 week. Also, there will be less room for souvenirs that will live a short while on someone’s book shelf before finding their inevitable demise in a trash heap half way around the world.
Stay put longer Instead of passing through town after city after village, stopping only long enough to glimpse the sights, I will find a cosy spot to call home for at least a few days. I will be able to do laundry, helping with my decision to pack lighter. I will be able to cook for myself with fresh, local ingredients, reducing the amount of waste I produce with packaged meals. I will have the time to find the organic markets, to see how other people incorporate ‘greener’ practices into their own routines, and to hunt out businesses that go the extra ecological mile.
Take public transit No more taxis! The difference in time saved by using a taxi instead of a bus is often less than I think. Also, taxi drivers are notoriously sneaky when it comes to overcharging for their service no matter where you are in the world.
Cycle I have read many lovely stories of cycling through France and Italy. I will keep my eyes open for a used bicycle when I am in an area where cycling from one quaint village to the next looks enjoyable (think long, flat coastlines with frequent stops at cafés, and less alpine/Tour de France style).
Walk more Find walking tours instead of bus tours, or design my own walking tours.
Reusable lunch box and water bottle So I can carry my own lunches and further control how much I rely on packaged meals and bottled water. Also comes in handy when taking away leftovers from a restaurant.
Limit air travel Definitely choose an alternative method of transport over land. I am tentatively flirting with the idea of travelling from Canada to Europe via boat to reduce the biggest fuel suck of my trip. But, I my enthusiasm for sea travel is curbed by visions of rough water, capsized ships, rammed whales and a glistening trail of spilt oil behind us… I am not yet sure which is the lesser evil of the two options, more research is needed on this one.
Spend less money A side benefit to many of these changes to my travel style is a reduction in travel expenses. I will be travelling for 12 months, I am not independently wealthy and do not have a pile of cash to burn, so in my case money is a precious resource.
Slowing down my travel pace shifts the focus from quantity to quality. It provides me with options to reduce my draw on the planet’s resources and increase the richness of my experiences. Sounds fantastic in writing. Let us see how well I do in practice.