In my life, I am very fortunate to have been able to travel (all over the USA, and to a few other countries as well). Growing up in a military family, travel came with the territory! We drove cross-country from one duty station to the next, and camped at national parks and state parks along the way. I did a good bit of traveling as an adult too: to England, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Mexico, Jamaica, Australia, Malaysia, Canada. I even got to live in Japan for five years, back in the 1990s.
At this point in my life, and in our planet’s life, I am choosing to limit my travel. As I’ve mentioned before, I am just about 100% committed to no more flying. And, I retroactively purchased carbon offsets for every flight I could remember taking in my adult life — and padded the numbers for good measure.
That said, having had so many opportunities to experience the wonder of different places and cultures, I don’t feel I have any right to tell other people not to travel. (Exception: my many tweets and other posts unabashedly telling country leaders they need to stop having climate conferences in person. That I will stick to! As the meme said, “If there’s any event that should have been done by Zoom …”)
What I can do is share resources for mitigating the eco footprint of your travel if you like. (Gold Standard carbon offsets are the top choice of eco-minded folk I know and trust.)
Also, I can share some powerful writing that helped me understand the damaging cultural and economic impacts of travel, and how I could mitigate those. I learned the term “decolonizing travel”; learned that colonialism infects a lot of our travel; and that tourism causes a lot of the same problems as gentrification. (My favorite article on the problematic aspects of tourism is “Lovely Hula Hands,” an acclaimed piece by Haunani Kay-Trask. Other writing that’s opened my eyes is linked in my “Thoughts on Tourism” series, which you can find in the Further Reading section below.)
OK, so now onward to the immediate topic of this post! This past week I stumbled, via Facebook-wander, upon a company that leads people on virtual trips. The company employs guides that are local to each place, and the virtual tourists get to watch local artisans at work, and then, if they like, buy handcrafted items from the artisans. All virtually!
Now, some people might say, “Meh, that’s not the same as real travel!” And, OK, it’s not. But on the other hand, meatspace travel has always had its serious downsides, both for the visitor and for the host locale.
And look at the times we’re living in now! Pandemics, biospheric crisis, political unrest, and people everywhere feeling really squeezed for time and money. Not to mention the extreme weather that’s grounding more and more flights these days. And let’s face it: Even at the best of times, in-person travel comes with some very real stress factors.
I tend to agree with what I read on the virtual travel company’s site, that virtual is the future of travel. It’s ethical; it’s safe; and I have a feeling I’m going to sign up for a trip sometime! Something like this might just be enough to satisfy my urge to visit (say, for example) Tashkent or Samarkand or Peru or India.
Now to put in a plug for the company. It’s called Local Purse; it was founded by a woman named Lola Akinmade Åkerström; and it’s won an award for being a hot startup for 2022. Go check out Local Purse! (Website ; and Facebook page ). From Marrakech to Cuzco to Nigeria and beyond, Local Purse offers some very tempting tours that are affordable both money-wise and time-wise. And of course there is that nice low eco footprint.
As I mentioned, I found Local Purse by the Facebook-hopping random-walk thing (which I probably do too much, but then again I always end up stumbling on such great people and info). So now I’d also like to put in a plug for the person whose ad led me to Local Purse, and that is a digital-nomad lifestyle writer named Nora Dunn who calls herself The Professional Hobo. She offers good advice, so if you’re a digital nomad, or think you might want to be, check out her Facebook page and her website theprofessionalhobo.com! (Here’s a post where she interviews Lola Akinmade Åkerström.)
And finally, a thought for artisans and entrepreneurs everywhere: We can all get in on virtual travel, by offering tours of our own places too!
• My post “Thoughts On Tourism (Reading List)”. Includes link to Haunani Kay-Trask’s article “Lovely Hula Hands” mentioned above.
• My post “Thoughts on Tourism (Reading List — More)”.
• “Thoughts on Tourism: Air Travel”. A mere 1% of the population causes half of global aviation emissions. Should this 1% pay — out of their own pockets — to offset their aviation admissions?” My response: Yes! They should. (We should, I mean, because at one point in my working life, I was part of this 1%, flying up to 11 times a year for a total of over 40k miles a year.) In this post I share how I have handled my air-travel footprint.