The idea of traveling well beyond your home and into a completely new and exciting culture is a tantalizing one. Travel has the power to show people things they never imagined and open up new ideas. Likewise, it has the power to alter how they see the world; new thoughts and perspectives can change how people look at even the simplest of things.
Though many people are eager to travel and gain these experiences, only a small portion are actually able to. In many countries, whole populations barely have the means to get by, let alone leave the country on some sort of adventure. Even within developed countries where more people are likely to be financially capable of traveling, numerous factors such as age or physical disabilities might limit the ability to realize travel goals.
Our world is also changing profoundly; climate change and human development have taken us down an uncertain path. Today, many travelers are well aware of the significant climate impact of traveling. Many strive to take advantage of sustainable travel options, but often these alternatives come at a higher price, further limiting accessibility.
Today, sustainable travel is an option for most people that are willing to consider it. In many of the most popular travel destinations, eco-friendly lodges are popping up. Typically, these lodges are operated by locals who share a belief in providing good jobs that also help conserve and promote native landscapes. However, in many areas, these remain a niche market and tend to be more expensive than many travelers can afford.
Undoubtedly, the largest carbon footprint associated with travel is linked to flights taken to go to and from travel destinations. Only a small percentage of the global population flies at all; however, the portion that does has a significant carbon footprint. This has led many sustainability-minded travelers to opt for other travel options such as taking a train or choosing a more locally accessible vacation destination.
Even if you are flying to a destination and not staying in an eco-friendly lodge, there are ways to make your trip more sustainable. Simple things like preparing your home for travel by lowering the thermostat, unplugging electronics, and packing minimalistically can make a big difference. Likewise, while traveling, doing your best to support local businesses that focus on sustainable initiatives can go a long way towards promoting a more sustainable travel experience.
Of course, issues of travel sustainability are not a concern for many people because their ability to travel at all is limited in the first place. For instance, only about 11% of the global population flew in 2018 and the majority of the annual air travel emissions stemmed from only 1% of the population. Making travel more accessible for the majority of the global population would require a massive redistribution of wealth and significant strides in global sustainability efforts.
For many, even the financial ability to travel isn’t enough to lower the barrier to doing so. Hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities struggle to travel regularly. Things that many take for granted such as getting on and off airplanes, booking a hotel room to our specifications, or traveling around a town can be a significant challenge.
Beyond even the difficulty of traveling in general, finding quality information on travel accessibility can be a major deterrent for those who would want to travel to a certain destination. Many disabled persons find it difficult to find travel agents or other knowledgeable people in the system that can help with planning a trip. Even in rich countries such as the United States, there are significant barriers to accessibility, traveling to a developing country where accessibility status is unknown can be extremely disheartening.
Fortunately, there are things that interested people can do to help both with travel sustainability and accessibility. For example, sharing information on different forums related to both causes can help spread the word. Documenting how a travel attraction addresses accessibility and sustainability concerns can help those considering travel make more informed decisions about what is going to be right for them.
Another option might be to share ways to make a trip more sustainable using your own experiences. Are you striving to reduce your carbon footprint while still seeing the world? How? Sharing your story can help inspire others to make similar changes to the way they travel. All and all, small changes can add up to make real substantial differences.
Finally, you might consider starting a non-profit or a company that is dedicated to helping people reach their travel goals. The goals of the company can be to serve people looking to travel in areas where accessibility might be a concern. It could also have a focus on doing so in a sustainable manner.
Travel is a profound experience that everyone deserves to have. Unfortunately, traveling can be a challenge for many people and can take a significant toll on our fragile environment. Creating awareness and helping people is perhaps the best way to begin addressing both of these issues.