Last weekend my latest story for The Sydney Morning Herald made it onto the cover of the travel section - which felt like a coup for responsible travel because it's about 25 ways to travel with a conscience. My dream is that one day there'll be no such thing as "sustainable travel" or "eco travel" - because low-impact travel will be the norm. Until then, read on for ideas on how we can all minimise our travel footprints...
Tip #5: Buy locally made souvenirs
Think big, start small
Not so long ago, responsible travel meant taking only photographs and leaving only footprints.
Then came ecotourism, ethical travel, voluntourism and sustainability measures introduced by just about every player in the travel game from airlines to cruise ships to high-end resorts. Now travelling responsibly is more broadly defined than ever.
Don't be put off by the killjoy term "responsible". It's all about being sensitive to your surroundings, remembering that everything is connected and making choices to travel in ways that are environmentally, socially, culturally and economically sustainable.
As Linda McCormick, the Melbourne-based founder of one of the world's first ecotravel blogs, Eco Traveller Guide, puts it, minimising your footprint when you travel "doesn't necessarily mean never flying, sacrificing luxury or volunteering during your holiday; just travelling with a different attitude and looking at how your travels impact this well-trodden world".
Tip #24: Travel under your own steam
And let's not forget that tourism can have positive impacts by, for instance, supporting developing economies and generating funds to protect threatened species and pristine places.
There are hundreds of ways to make your travel make a difference without adversely affecting the natural wonders we want to experience, the people and cultures that change our world views, the wild animals we safari to see.
It starts with respecting the environment and people we're visiting, and supporting organisations (whether they be hotels, tour operators or transport providers) that do the same. Beyond that, here are 25 tips to help you tread lightly on your next trip.
I go every year, but this year’s selection of 11 short films, ranging in length from 2 minutes to 44 minutes, are the best I can remember. Here's the trailer:
Some are epics, like the one about disabled climbing
team The Gimp Monkeys – three climbers with four legs and five arms between them – tackling El
Capitan in Yosemite.
There's Scottish trials rider Danny Macaskill’s incredible balletic bike skills in an old ironworks, in Industrial Revolutions. Some are exploratory - about whitewater kayaking in NZ, and first descents of slot canyons in the Grand Canyon.
out of the Cremorne Orpheum (where it was a full house, I might add), I felt
like running all the way home (which would have taken a while) and was still buzzing this morning. So
I thought I'd revisit three of the films still whirring around in my head...
Pic by Cas and Jonesy
1. Crossing the Ice, which won three awards at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in November. "Epic" doesn't even come close. This sequel to Crossing the Ditch, in which best mates Cas and Jonesy kayaked from Australia to New Zealand, is about their 89-day, world-first, unsupported trek 2275km from the edge of Antarctica to the South
Pole – and back. It’s honest, raw, funny and moving; there’s even a crazy
Norwegian, Aleksander Gamme, providing some narrative tension to rival Scott and Amundsen 's race for the pole 100 years ago.
2. Honnold 3.0 is about uber-free-climber Alex Honnold’s latest big “objective”: climbing the three biggest walls in Yosemite - Mt Watkins, El Capitan and
Half Dome - within 24 hours. A-ma-zing.
3. Lily Shreds Trailside – about a Jack Russell terrier who loves to chase
mountain bikes – on single track. She runs so fast, she flies through the air
on jumps and even banks on turns. Click the link to watch Lily fly. So cool.
If ever there was a celebration of being alive on Earth, this digital record of people doing astounding things in wild and spectacular natural places is it. The only thing missing is water - unless you count the clip of another crazy Norwegian diving into some while ice-skating. Those Norwegians...
For those of you arriving here from the Grand Tours Project (more on this in a moment) welcome to No Impact land. Please, make yourselves at home. For No Impact Girl followers, meet the Grand Tours Project - which is not the name of a steampunk band but the brainchild of Keith Tuffley, an Australian now living in Switzerland and embracing the European obsession with all things two-wheeled.
A couple of years ago, Keith rode in the Tour de France - not as a competitor, just for fun. Apparently keen cyclists can ride the Tour de France course, doing each "stage" the very same day as the professionals, on one condition: you have to start and finish before they come through. Last year, he did the same with the second biggest European road race, the Giro d'Italia.
Gratuitous bike shot: mountain biking (not road racing) in Tasmania (not Europe)
Doing just one race a year is a big deal. Each one is a three-week, 3000-odd kilometre odyssey across Europe - up and down mountains, past excited spectators, through pretty villages.
This year, Keith plans to ride in both of these plus the third "grand tour": the Vuelta a Espana (in Spain). Hence the "Grand Tours Project". You can read more about why he's doing it on his website, but one important reason is to raise awareness of sustainability and environmental issues.
That's where I come in.
Every day of this first race, the Giro d'Italia, which started on Saturday (4 May) and ends on 26 May, there'll be a fresh new Eco Story - written by me - on the Grand Tours website, covering everything from the best eco-movies and most beautiful eco-lodges, to the latest electric cars and sustainable living ideas.
Here are the links to my first two Eco Stories, which are now live:
It is about the bike
Why the planet needs more cyclists + 10 more reasons to ride
Welcome to the Grand Tours Project’s daily eco-blog. While Keith has his pedals to the, er, asphalt of Europe’s roads, you can swing by here to read up on environmental issues. Every morning there’ll be a fresh new post here full of inspiration, innovation, information, eco-travel ideas, sustainable living tips – all with the intention of motivating us all to do our bit towards a cleaner, healthier planet. Read the full post here
We're all going on an eco-holiday
10 back-to-nature European vacations
Sure, you could ride a bike 3,524 kilometres around Italy. But (sorry, Keith) there are plenty of other ways to have an environmentally conscious holiday. Here are 10 eco-holiday ideas in and around continental Europe. Walk, paddle or climb this way…Read the full post here
When I was in Cambodia a couple of months ago, I noticed two things: the country wears its dark past on its sleeve, and there's an incredible array of ways to help. So many ways, in fact, that I wondered if it would be possible to NGO-hop across the country, helping as any tourist might just by visiting certain shops, restaurants and such.
That became the guiding principle for my 10-day trip there, and it made me love Cambodia even more than I already did.
My latest piece for the Sydney Morning Herald, the cover story in this weekend's travel section, is about the rise of charitable tourism in Cambodia. Here's an excerpt:
S-21 survivor Bou Meng
Every country has a dark side. Cambodia's is just more visible than most, and more recent - decades of civil war, genocide and foreign occupation that ended only in 1993 - but that's part of its appeal. The country's uniqueness lies in its stories and the spirit of its people. And, increasingly, tourism is playing a part in its recovery ...
Behind the welcoming smiles of the Cambodians you meet there, however, it's impossible to ignore the signs that all is still not well. You see people with limbs stolen by landmines. Anyone over about 40 - a tuk-tuk driver, a vendor at Phnom Penh's Russian Market - remembers the Khmer Rouge's brutal regime (1975-1979). There is widespread poverty, child abuse and HIV infection (Cambodia has the highest incidence of HIV in south-east Asia).
Then there are places such as the Killing Fields, just outside Phnom Penh, that break your heart and inspire you to help in some way. Read the full story here.
I've also just finished reading Survival in the Killing Fields by Haing S. Ngor, the Cambodian doctor who lived through the Khmer Rouge years, just, before being forced to flee over the border to Thailand with hundreds of thousands of other Cambodian refugees.
He eventually moved to the US, to Los Angeles, and by chance happened to land the role of Cambodian translator Dith Pran in The Killing Fields (1984), for which he won an Academy Award. (A classic movie, by the way, winner of three Academy Awards and directed by Roland Joffe.) It's a compelling book, beautifully co-written by journalist and historian Roger Warner, and has been called "the best book on Cambodia that has ever been published". If you haven't yet been to Cambodia, go. And before you do, see The Killing Fields and read Ngor's book. It'll give you a greater understanding of this beautiful little country and the humanity of its people.