How to Travel Gently

Travel Guides
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Beyond Green's four-step guide to treading lightly.

It’s been a long year, we know. But as challenging as the pandemic has been, it’s also provided valuable lessons and a much-needed timeout to consider what type of world we’d all like to live in moving forward – and how we’d like to travel. As global lockdowns start to lift, “people are looking at life with a deeper sense of purpose and meaning,” says Costas Christ, Beyond Green’s co-founder. “This means slowing down to enjoy each moment, embracing the beauty of nature, caring about others, and protecting our planet.” The future of travel, he adds, should focus on how we all can travel gently, a philosophy that’s at the heart of Beyond Green’s approach to leaving a positive impact on the places we visit. Here, Christ’s best advice for creating a kinder, gentler world when we travel.

Costas Christ, Beyond Green's co-founder, traveling gently in the remote Canadian Arctic.

Costas Christ, Beyond Green’s co-founder, traveling gently in the remote Canadian Arctic.

Travel with Gratitude

I’m deeply fortunate – and grateful – that my travels once led me to a meeting with the Dalai Lama. During our discussion about the pursuit of happiness in New Delhi, he told me that gratitude and trust lead to a happy life. Over the years, I’ve thought much about this insight, often recalling the time I was traveling decades ago in Belize and tore my pants during a rainforest hike. When I returned to town, a smiling elderly woman called out from her doorstep and told me she’d stich my pants in her home, where I waited in another room (covered in a towel) as her son brought me a cup of tea.

In our fast-paced lives, we sometimes forget the power and purpose of gratitude and trust, but when I do, I’m brought back to that scene in Belize. After my pants were finished, the three of us talked for about an hour and then, before I left, I offered the woman money for her work. She graciously refused, however, and said she was happy to help. Even after traveling to more than 100 countries, stories like this are my favorite travel memories: moments in time that make the world a better place. To travel gently and with gratitude means never forgetting we’re in someone else’s home, community, and country. And it means always being grateful for the privilege of being there.

Travel with Respect

Before the pandemic, respect, sadly, was in short supply in many popular travel destinations. In places such as Venice, where huge crowds of travelers regularly descended, protests erupted against overtourism and the type of travels that tend to take more than they give. Travel and tourism should never be about conquering the places we visit, however. A better path, sustainable travel focuses on celebrating cultural heritage and showing respect for the local people we meet. Similarly, when that respect extends to our fellow travelers, and to our relationship with nature, it shows our collective human decency and builds a desire to make the world a better place for all.

Quiet Venice without the crowds.

Quiet Venice without the crowds.

Travel with Impact

Despite the temporary pause in travel brought on by the pandemic, the truth is that we have more places to visit and more ways to get there than ever before – today there’s hardly any part of the planet that we as travelers cannot reach. In the truest sense, the world is our canvas. And with this realization comes an even greater responsibility to travel gently and consider what our impact will be on the people and places we visit. When we travel the sustainable way – the Beyond Green way – travel becomes a force for good, helping to support local livelihoods, protect nature, and safeguard cultural heritage for future generations. It all comes back to setting our minds on making a positive impact.

Travel with Renewal

One of the most important understandings to come from the pandemic is that we’ll never have personal health and wellbeing without planetary health and wellbeing. As we travel with a sense of renewal in our own lives, we also need to remember that our individual renewal is connected to the need for collective renewal for the planet. Somewhere along the way, we lost this connection. We’ve come to see nature as being “over there somewhere,” perhaps in a national park, or as part of a tropical jungle far from our homes. But we need to remember that we – humans – are part of nature. Nature is us. Beyond Green is all about fostering a renewal of this understanding – that when we harm nature, we harm ourselves, and when we protect nature, we also protect ourselves.

Christ connecting with local community members in Bhutan's Phobjikha Valley.

Christ connecting with local community members in Bhutan's Phobjikha Valley.