To travel sustainably is to sustain travelling

As students, we like to travel on a low budget – this does not have to compromise our willingness and effectiveness in being environmentally conscious

In 2019, before the pandemic hit, 99% of all the jobs available on the Caribbean island of Aruba were in the tourism and travel sector which, at that time, employed 289 million people world-wide. The importance that tourism plays in our economy is undeniable, millions depend on it to make a living. Hence, when we talk about the aviation industry’s impact on the environment, we must automatically consider the number of people that are directly and indirectly dependent on it to secure their lives. Yes, we need alternatives to kerosene-fuelled planes, but, first, a plan needs to be devised to support all those people during the transition. This raises an important question: how can we make travelling a more sustainable practice while these aircrafts still exist? Sustainable tourism is about more than planes after all! It requires the simultaneous protection of people, communities, landscapes and environment. Luckily, there are attitudes that we, as students, can adopt to make real changes in that regard. There are simply certain measures we need to take: 

When at the destination, we should choose what’s local over what’s familiar. To combat the diminishment of resources, we must eat foods made of local ingredients, buy locally fabricated clothes and turn to locals for guided tours. We need to make sure the money we spend goes into the local economy! To support chain shops and restaurants means giving your money to people who will spend it elsewhere. 

“It is really important that we start combatting the illusion that the time taken to plan a trip rigorously is a waste.”

Therefore, the next time you travel, give yourself the opportunity to weigh up options in advance. As students we only have so much money to spend, which is why it is essential to cut out the international middleman whose main aim is to profit and instead choose accommodation and restaurants with certain criteria in mind. This not only spares you on-site disappointment and frustration, but enables you to make conscious choices that represent who you are and who we need to be in order to sustain leisure travelling. If you choose to go to a hotel, how much water does it consume? How much waste does it produce? Is there a lot of plastic in use (at the breakfast buffet and in the room)? Did trees have to be removed for it to be built? Those are things that you can find out fairly quickly; if not through the individual website, then through booking or reviewing sites like tripadvisor and It is really important that we start combatting the illusion that the time taken to plan a trip rigorously is a waste. All time spent informing yourself and being active in advance is time spared on-site. 

However, one major concern for many young people is the cost of choosing sustainable options. As students, a lot of us have a certain budget in mind that we don’t want to exceed. Chances are bigger that we won’t if we know who to go with, have an idea of what we want to do on-site and pack well. What do these things have to do with sustainability? Read on to find out!

Considering sustainability as a factor to debate with friends: it’s trickier for some than others. Many people have difficulties standing up for their preferences and they go with other people’s preferences to avoid conflict. This often results in higher expenses on things that they don’t really want to pay for. It is incredibly important we find the courage to stand up for what we believe in and, if that’s an enjoyable and sustainable holiday, fight for it, because environmental concerns are the ones we need to be guided by to be able to continue enjoying our travels.

“Overall, an organised trip ensures for more control over what you want to spend your money on.”

Research: knowing in advance what you want to do once on-site ensures two important things when it comes to planning a successful and affordable trip: you can be realistic in how much you want to spend and you can spend your money consciously. If your initial budget is too small for what the destination has to offer, the only thing you will end up with is a bad conscience. Of course you are free to set your own limits, but it makes no sense to be unrealistically optimistic and deny the essential costs that your trip will require. Roughly calculating the sum of what activities and food would cost you will allow for smarter and more conscious choices. Overall, an organised trip ensures for more control over what you want to spend your money on. 

Packing: to pack well is probably the easiest of all things and a great opportunity to avoid unnecessary consumption. Pack a wardrobe that is fun to wear so that you don’t buy new clothes out of boredom. If you want to buy clothes, it should be out of interest and desire to bring home something unique that reminds you of the place. We need to be selective in what we buy. Consumption and fast fashion is something that we need to fight daily, but the urge to indulge in the brands we know is especially strong when we’re in a new place and don’t know our way around. To reiterate, if you know what to save your money for on your trip, you will be less tempted to spend it on other things. 

“We want the next people to be able to see the beauty of the place, not the tons of waste produced through ill practices and carelessness.”

Tourism has many positive impacts on countries; job creation, cultural heritage preservation, wildlife preservation and landscape restoration. For it to be able to continue offering these things, we need to be aware of the impact travelling has on our environment and how it affects the communities now. We want the next people to be able to see the beauty of the place, not the tons of waste produced through ill practices and carelessness. Nations benefit from sustainable tourism, whereas the kind of tourism that steals, pollutes, and destroys is the fastest way to turn beautifully unique destinations into barely surviving victims of global capitalism.

A trip should be something you are willing to invest your time in. Everyone has had spontaneous trips, organised on the spot, but if we want to be able to continue travelling the earth, we need to start considering it as a fortune, something that is worth treasuring. It mustn’t be a practice that spoils places. We need to be conscious in our acts and stop excusing carelessness on the grounds of being too busy to inform ourselves or having too little money to be able to choose. Especially as students, research gives us many options within our limited budget to promote a sustainable lifestyle. 

Julie Frisch

Julie Frisch is the current Student Living Editor and a Senior Sophister in English Studies.