Travel gets a really bad name when people are talking about how to live a more sustainable life. It is true that tourism and travel put a huge drain on national resources. I also think that is important for a sustainable future because of the education and awareness it brings.
Taking students who would otherwise never leave their home towns/states to destinations outside of their understanding has a huge impact on the rest of their lives. Leading students who grew up a world completely different from my sustainable upbringing taught me so much. I realised that others don’t think about being more sustainable because the impacts are so far away from their day-to-day lives. They simply have never thought about it.
I’ve seen first hand how the experiences from travel have changed my students into more sustainable consumers and advocates of more sustainable living within their communities.
Examples of how travel makes us more sustainable consumers:
After seeing the bike culture in Amsterdam my students led a project to implement a bike station on campus and push the university population to think about their transportation needs.
After seeing consumers use reusable shopping bags in Europe, students returned to their hometown and continued to used their own reusable bags and encouraged those around them to do the same.
After seeing Indians sort rubbish in the slums and learning about how most of the trash is shipped there from the western world created a connection to the waste they create every day.
After seeing a toucan in the diminishing rainforest in the Amazon they reconsider their paper usage, in particular, being conscious of products that use the wood from virgin forests and palm oil.
Travel has a way of waking us up and disturbing the status quo. It is so easy to sleepwalk around in our life doing unsustainable things because we don’t know any better or because nobody around us is raising the issues.
Travel also gives us a chance to reset, to start afresh and build new, better habits. When we leave and come back we have changed and feel empowered to create a little bit more of that magic world we just experienced in our everyday lives.
We must however also be more conscious when we travel and teach our students about how they can do better during their trip.
Small things have a huge impact.
Saying no to plastic water bottles is hard if you don’t have a reusable one with you.
If students go to the shops without an empty bag they will have to buy a disposable one.
If they don’t realise the benefits of walking or have the confidence to navigate without Google Maps they will jump in a taxi.
Give students information about how to be a conscious traveller and why it is important.
We are their teachers so it is important for us to light the way so that future generations can explore the marvels of the world rather than read about them in books because they no longer exist.