Please rethink your resolution to travel more in 2019.
It may sound harsh, but it’s time that we push back against a narrative that proposes that we need to visit new places simply because we can. So, I’ll say it again: please remove “travel for travel’s sake” from your list of goals this year. What the world needs right now isn’t necessarily more stamps in passports; it needs more individuals who understand the value that those experiences bring to their lives as well as the effects of the travel industry on the environment and on local populations.
This year calls for more well-intentioned travelers.
As a travel photographer and the founder of a travel media company, I am actively encouraging people to travel less — so I understand the irony of this introduction. That being said, I have found myself increasingly at a moral crossroads when it comes to this topic. I used to be one of those travelers who went from place to place, who wasn’t as thoughtful in their movements. I now look back and cringe at the traveler I was, but also recognize that it was part of my evolution. It’s what brought me to the following questions: As a society, do we need to be traveling more? Do we need to be consuming as much as we do? Or can we encourage a new era of mindfulness around these topics? Can we encourage individuals to seek out meaningful experiences closer to home and only travel in instances where their comfort zones are stretched and their passions ignited?
Places aren’t trophies that you put on a shelf; they aren’t likes for you to collect. And once you’ve stepped foot in a place, you don’t get to just move on to the next, viewing it as a checkpoint along a path of privilege.
While each of the pieces published on Passion Passport are weighed against these questions and are tied directly to topics relating to creativity, sustainability, understanding, and our connection to various cultures and landscapes, we can still do better. As a travel company, we need to take a clear stance on this matter.
We live in an age of unparalleled stimulation and accessible information, a time when we are faced with the constant reminder of opportunity cost (also known as FOMO). We see where our family, friends, and colleagues are traveling, and track the movements of celebrities and social media influencers. Our screens tell us about everything — job changes and promotions, home life, romantic partnerships — and through them, we are granted glimpses into previously unheard of parts of people’s lives.
In the realm of travel, this “power” has resulted in a hunger for likeness, a stamp of “global citizen-ness,” a badge of approval for social media and online personas. Well-traveled individuals are now seen as more educated, more worldly, so there is a need to prove that we fit into that category and have access to these same opportunities. Social media appears to have fed into something that has been ingrained in our society for many years and shifted it into overdrive.
But places aren’t trophies that you put on a shelf; they aren’t likes for you to collect. And once you’ve stepped foot in a place, you don’t get to just move on to the next, viewing it as a checkpoint along a path of privilege. Places need to be appreciated, and our travels should be considered carefully with each iteration.
In recent years, I have discovered the value in taking fewer, more impactful trips and trying to align a clear purpose with each one and I’d encourage you to think along the same lines. Rather than travel to destinations on impulse or for the sake of outdoing our peers, we must evaluate why we want to travel. Even though travel has become (and to a certain extent, has always been) a status symbol, it is up to us to treat with it with respect and consideration.
And with the obvious and detrimental effects that travel has on climate change — tourism is responsible for nearly one-tenth of the world’s carbon emissions — my staunch belief is that we must limit the number of places we visit in 2019 and make sure that every boarding pass we acquire leads us toward intentional connections, meaningful contributions, and experiences that make us come alive.
So, sure — dream about those far-flung destinations, but take time to think before you book your next trip. Decide which location will move you the most, and what role you can play in its community. And when you finally go, remember to slow down and travel mindfully.
As you consider your travel options for the year ahead and embark on the trips of your choosing, I urge you to stay present. We don’t need to share each and every moment of our experiences on social media. Perhaps we don’t even need to post anything until we’ve returned and had time to reflect on what we learned, shared, or created. Or, better yet, perhaps we can even keep some of those sacred moments to ourselves.
Travel is about introducing ourselves to new experiences, cultures, and ideas. These experiences have the power to shape and teach us. The moment it becomes about stamps, photos, likes, or symbols of status, it’s time to reconsider our motives and think about exploring closer to home instead.
So, I’ll say it once more, please don’t vow to travel more in 2019. Simply travel with more meaning, passion, and awareness.