At the end of the decade, most of us have two thoughts in mind: how was 2019 and what could we do to make new year and new decade even better.
We tend to welcome the new year as a new beginning. Even if most of the New Year’s traditions may have lost their meaning at an adult age, I believe many of us still maintain one of them: New Year’s resolutions.
Some of us are more serious with their resolutions and the fresh start, some not. Some even say New Year’s resolutions are made for reneging.
Those who are committed to their New Year’s resolutions truly want the change. We promise to reduce stress, stop smoking, lose weight, eat healthier or start exercising regularly.
And they are all good resolutions.
I promise to travel more and more often… Or will I?
Travelling is another popular topic in New Year’s resolutions. I recently read a Finnish article about our most popular New Year’s resolutions and out of top 10 resolutions, six related to travel.
Travelling to a new country was number four on the list, followed by gaining new experiences about new cultures. Living one’s passions through travelling was number seven on the list, getting to know a familiar destination from a new perspective was number eight. Two last ones on the list included learning a new language and using all holidays earned for the new year.
The closer the New Year’s Eve, the more travel-related posts gush on my social feeds. Lists of past year’s trips and destinations, travel plans for 2020 and travel dreams for the new decade. Some travel influencers openly admit they’ve travelled so much this year they can’t even be bothered to count the number of their trips.
As tempting and ideal the latter might sound, believe me when I say; Looking at this from the perspective of our living environment and our future, it’s everything but ideal. Now it’s the time for us travellers to take responsibility for the choices we make and more importantly, the way we communicate about our travels.
If travelling is a regular topic in your New Year’s resolutions too, could you consider changing your perspective? Rather than aiming to increase the number of new countries, could you promise to change the way you travel instead?
To give you ideas on how and why I wanted to suggest 10 traveller’s New Year’s resolutions that are worth keeping in 2020. Pick one from this list or if possible, pick them all. The more committed we’re to conscious and sustainable travel, the better for everyone: the globe, the destinations as well as us travellers.
To lighten the heavy reading, I’ll decorate my post with the most beautiful sunsets I witnessed in 2019 – the most stunning ones here in Finland.
Conscious traveller’s New Year’s resolutions worth keeping in 2020
1 – Promise to travel more rarely but longer
Why? Because decreasing flying is one of the most efficient ways for individuals to reduce carbon footprint in the middle of a climate crisis. However, it’s not the only reason.
The longer you stay in your destination and explore the surrounding areas, the better you learn to know the destination and the life of the locals as well as the local culture. A longer stay brings along more economic benefits to the destination, ensuring the subsistence and development of tourism services.
2 – Promise to combine work and leisure trips whenever possible
Why? Partly for the same reasons as above: you’ll fly less, get to know your destination better and bring more money and work for the local community. One long trip is always a better option than several short getaways. As possibilities for remote working keep increasing, you don’t necessarily need to use all your holidays for prolonging your short business trip.
3 – Promise to reduce the number of flights
Why? Because flying is the fastest growing and most harmful cause of the environmental crisis that we, as individuals, can affect with our choices. Another Finnish article I recently read stated that even if we discussed global warming more than ever, it doesn’t show in the flight statistics. The number of flight journeys to and from Finland increased by one million compared to 2018. To put this into perspective, Finland has 5,5 million inhabitants.
I’m sure we’re not the only country in the world whose statistics show this kind of increase.
Why not promise to travel only to destinations that you can reach with direct flights from your nearest airport? If you have to change the plane, promise at least to spend a few days in your stopover destination. Whenever possible, continue your journey by train or bus instead of flying. Many airlines have already made this easy by offering combined flight and train tickets. The two previous suggestions are also great and simple ways to reduce the number of flights.
4 – Promise to travel lighter and pack only the items you need
Why? Because the more unnecessary stuff we cram into our luggage, the more emissions we cause and the more trash we leave behind to our destinations.
According to the calculations by Finnair, we could have saved 1,2 million kilograms of kerosine if every Finnair passenger had packed 1 kg less in 2018. It means 20 flights between Helsinki and Tokio. Imagine the kerosine and emissions saved if every single passenger in the world committed to packing 1 kg less.
Not to forget the fact that the lighter we pack, the more pleasant travelling feels to us, travellers. Practical tips for packing lighter will follow in 2020.
5 – Promise to replace at least one (preferably several) journeys abroad with a domestic trip
Why? Environmental factors are one of the main reasons, but not the only one. We tend to long for long-distant adventures without bothering to familiarise ourselves with our surroundings. I could name a thousand times and ways how my hometown and neighbouring towns have pleasantly surprised me with something amazing I didn’t know existed.
Why not promise to let your own country surprise you at least once this year instead of a foreign land?
6 – Promise to change your mindset from ‘budget first’ to ‘locals first’
Why? Because the only way to ensure our travels bring along more pros than cons is to pay attention to where we spend our money. If we don’t, we might support international (and even illegal) businesses that don’t care for the local rules or local people, don’t pay decent salary for their employees and won’t leave a dime to the destination. In the worst scenario, all the money we spend will float directly out of the destination and even the country.
So instead of saving a dime or two, promise to think to whom you’re paying for.
7 – Promise to support small local businesses home and away
Why? Preferring small local businesses is the best way to help entrepreneurs preserve and develop their services and support the whole community. Staying in a local, family-run hotel or guesthouse gives you a much better perspective for local life and culture, more authentic travel experience and more personal service. The same applies to any product or service you spend money on. Why would you travel to Venice and purchase your souvenirs from a foreign junk-dealer whose products are far away from local, authentic and quality?
8 – Promise to book accommodation directly with the hotel/hostel/guesthouse
Why? Because direct booking brings along more benefits for the company itself but also you. Massive booking sites like Booking.com and Hotels.com are great tools for narrowing down your options, but after choosing your accommodation, it’s best to book directly with the business in question.
Often hotels (or any other type of accommodation) have to list their rooms on booking sites with too low rates. On top of this, they have to pay a considerable commission for the booking site. The availability and selection of rooms, as well as bespoke services, are extremely limited on these booking sites. When you book directly with the hotel, they are more likely to match the price of the room (or possibly an upgraded one) found on the booking site. Also, you’re more likely to have better conditions and additional services when booking directly.
9 – Promise to avoid destinations that don’t want you there
Why? Because a large number of destinations around the globe suffer from problems caused by overtourism. The most popular destinations receive more tourist than their infrastructure can handle. The twisted market for short-term rentals force locals out of their homes, people in big cities don’t have clean air for breathing, beaches drown on waste, and badly-behaving tourists drive locals to insanity.
Venice is a typical destination with serious problems caused by overtourism. If you want to know more about the topic, please read my conscious traveller’s guide to Venice here. The post is worth reading even if you’re not planning a visit to Venice; many destinations suffer from similar problems. The article helps you understand these problems and gives you valuable tips on how to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
10 – Promise to behave like you’d expect tourists to behave in your neighbourhood
Why? I don’t feel like the last point on this list needs any explaining. Unfortunately, daily news from all over the globe disagrees with me. Adults can be stupid, horrible and childish, and sometimes they multiply their bad behaviour as soon as they step their foot on foreign land. The worse we behave in our destination, the more likely destinations are to close their borders from tourists permanently.
It’s worth remembering that wherever in the world we travel, our destination is always home to someone. Respect it and more importantly, show your respect. If you don’t wish tourist pissing on your porch, shouting and fighting under your window in the middle of the night, lingering outside your front door in the hope of a perfect Instagram picture or having a naked, drunken dip in your favourite park’s fountain, don’t do it yourself. Anywhere.
Tomorrow we’ll all have a new beginning, a new decade. It’s time to start travelling accordingly.
I wish you a fantastic and more responsible New Year!