April 22 is Earth day, so naturally, this is an especially appropriate month to consider all the ways we can help preserve our natural resources. April also brings nice weather in the Northern hemisphere and our thoughts go to summer trips we may want to take.
You can travel in a way that serves your health and the planet – I call it win-win travel. Just because you’re over 60 doesn’t mean your travel has to be limited to plane journeys, bus-tours, cruises, car or motor home trips, all of which have a large carbon footprint.
Let me introduce you to active travel, that is, seeing the world while using your body to move around. Walk, hike, kayak, bike, row, float – use any way of travel that doesn’t involve burning a lot of fossil fuels.
The formula to keep it interesting is to transport yourself to a new place where you do any of the above activities to explore the area.
True, you’re still using fossil fuels to reach your destination, but you reduce your carbon footprint by getting around on your own power once you arrive there. You can always stay close to home and burn some calories while exploring new things in the area.
I travel by plane sometimes, but because I walk, hike or bike when I’m home and at my travel destinations, and I am careful with what I consume in goods, food and home energy, I find that my yearly carbon footprint is low.
A quick calculation shows that with all the air travel to fascinating places and faraway family, my carbon footprint is still 25% lower than the average consumer. Here are some examples of active win-win travel.
If you want to discover a new place, going on foot is a wonderful way to get to know it. While visiting family in Europe, I took a 12-day side trip to Morocco and hiked 8 of the 12 days.
I hiked through a rock desert where nomadic Moroccans live. More or less I lived like the nomads – walking, camping and eating simple food along the way, while mules carried most of our belongings.
Taking in the world at two miles an hour is good for my brain: I have time to think, to observe, to smell and feel all that is going on around me. I could not have seen what I saw from a car window since there were no roads where we hiked.
The opportunities for walking and hiking are abundant and I don’t think I’ll run out of places to visit and learn from. As long as I walk and hike, I’m taking care of my health and will be able to keep doing this form of travel longer.
Moving around on water opens a different world – a world we rarely get to see from our car or train windows. I have kayaked on lakes, and I have kayaked on the sea of Cortez, moving from island to island, camping at night, watching whales and wild life all day long.
As with walking and hiking, when moving on water, it’s not about covering distance, it’s about having an experience of the world you’re in. I come back from such trips filled with wonder, strong of body, and a few pounds lighter because of the active lifestyle.
Once I took a group of rowers on a tour of the Netherlands, rowing through waterways and across lakes, from town to town, while sleeping on a barge. It’s a way to get a view of the country most tourists don’t get.
Floating down a river is another low carbon footprint way to travel. For centuries, people have floated long stretches of the Mississippi, camping along the way.
Bicycle touring will take you on the less traveled roads of any country. And, if you choose, on bike paths away from roads. This speedier way of travel allows you to cover more ground and see more, while stimulating all of your senses.
You can do active vacations at varying levels of difficulty. Let your desire and ability determine your activity, from easy to hard. You can stay in hotels or B&B’s at night, and walk, bike or kayak from place to place. You can stay in one place and take walks, hikes or bike rides each day.
By taking an active vacation, you take care of your body and the planet. Happy Earth Day to us!
Do you like to travel? Have you ever done an active travel adventure? What kind of travel do you do that reduces your carbon footprint and connects you with nature? Please share your favorite forms of eco-friendly travel in the comments below.