Green Travel Manifesto

How to reduce ecological and social impacts when traveling – and still get the most out of your voyages? This travel menifesto, hence incomplete and not always fulfilled, tries to give an answer. From A like airplane to Z like zig zag.

  • 1. The way is the destination!
    1. The way is the destination!
  • 2. Take your time, not the plane!
    2. Take your time, not the plane!
  • 4. Be inventive!
    4. Be inventive!
  • 5. Traveling should be a human right!
    5. Traveling should be a human right!
  • 8. Less luggage, better holidays!
    8. Less luggage, better holidays!
  • 9. Trust and be trusted!
    9. Trust and be trusted!
  • 12. Know the risks!
    12. Know the risks!
  • 13. Enjoy!
    13. Enjoy!
  • 16. Find a place called home!
    16. Find a place called home!

For those in a hurry, here is Andy’s favourite manifesto in a nutshell:

1. look good!

2. have fun!

3. be safe!

And – same same, but different – here is a longer version:

1. Take your time, …

If you think you have already seen it all, consider changing your mode of transport. I have not left Europe before my 23rd birthday and have not even taken the plane more than twice until then. Meanwhile, it looks slightly different, but my most intense travel memories still are: paddling across the Baltic Sea in a kayak, jumping off a moving train at the “stop” of a Romanian Roma village, zig zagging Buenos Aires for several months, cycling from deep Eastern to deep Western Germany (all the while experiencing “Germany in 100 dialects”), hitchhiking to Marseille and taking market buses across Bolivia – other people’s chickens and children on my lap.

2. …not the plane!

There is no way to talk our way out: Whenever we take the plane, we mess up our ecological footprint. At least we can donate for climate protection somewhere else – modern indulgences, but still better than nothing. Whereas professionally I cannot avoid certain flights, I do not use private short- and medium-haul flights privately. Spending some 38 hours with labor migrants in the bus to Romania or with Erasmus students in night trains to Barcelona, with a stopover in Paris, is really a good start for an adventurous trip and lets you get a better idea about the actual distance.

3. See the beauty next door!

It does not have to be a staycation or a voyage around your room, but many adventures lurk just outside the front door, or at least on our own continent.

4. Be inventive!

Create your own tours – you don’t need more than a more than an idée fixe and a map. (Topographic maps for the US are available for free here >>)

5. Traveling is a human right!

Well, not really, but it should be; your parents or children will sure be happy about a common journey; get some inspiration by the blogging Family Without Borders.

6. The journey starts at home!

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going”, the US American travel author Paul Theroux is supposed to have said. I never understood why people study illustrated travel guides; doesn’t that spoil all the suspense? To me it looks like reading the end of a thriller first. On my solo tour through Latin America I carried a phonebookish Lonely Planet along, but I mostly followed the advice of locals and other backpackers. I literally avoided photos; that’s how I could run around Machu Picchu in awe for a whole day, because I didn’t have any concrete expectations.

Literature is different though. Short stories and novels of local authors dive into the mentality and history of a region without giving too much away. If you don’t have a country expert or a literary critic among your friends, you might want to have a look here: international literature festival berlin or at Haus der Kulturen der Welt/International Literature Award. I really appreciated the novels Hungry Tide (Amitav Ghosh) for the Indian Sundarbans, Broken April (Ismail Kadare) for Albania, One Hundred Days (Lukas Bärfuss) for Rwanda and The White King (György Dragomán) for Romania.

7. Be prepared!

If you are traveling outdoors for days, you should not only take enough food, but also some basic medical knowledge. First aid courses can be taken almost any time in any city – and those skills also come in handy in the urban wildeness. Thus, the chance to survive a cardiac arrest is only 5 percent in New York, but 62 percent in Seattle – among other things, because residents of Seattle regularly attend first aid courses >>

8. Less luggage, more holidays!

How often did you really use those second pair of trousers during an outdoor tour? Exactly. But although I’ve often groaned under 60-pound backpacks, I continue to do it wrong. The most ridiculous things I’ve ever taken on hikes: party patch (instead of blister plasters), an 8-pound telephoto lens that I have not used, and summer dresses – plenty of them.

9. Trust and be trusted!

The world is no zoo or museum and respecting the locals should be a matter of course. Otherwise, the Thai/Bolivians/Swedish will run their tourists down one day just like the Berliners already do – and the former will have good reasons. If someone takes your picture without asking, you’re probably not thrilled; if he is awaiting a nod or talks to you – maybe even in your mother tongue – you would probably agree.

Many people we meet when traveling are overwhelmingly hospitable. After several Romanians had warned us that we would be robbed in the Roma village mentioned above, of course the opposite happened: We were invited for dinner and even given a present: a refrigerator magnet with a Jesus figure on it 😉 In that moment I really wished I had taken small gifts or photos of my family with me. Since then I do.

10. Greed is not cool!

In Latin America I met several other tourists who complained about being „ripped off“ by bus drivers who try to charge gring@s higher prices. However, when I think that we probably earn about 50 times his salary, I have no desire to bargain with that clever driver. Community tourism projects have a lot more (insights) to offer than international hotel chains – and their earnings benefit the locals directly.

11. Leave no trace!

Official outdoor rule. Hat off to my friends Inma and Troy, who even take out bags of garbage on their hiking and surfing trips.

12. Don’t take risks Know the risks!

Knowing and accepting your own limits is vital. Before our first wilderness trips in Northern Sweden, we trained just behind the house, in the Göttingen Forest.

13. Enjoy!

Outdoor tours shouldn’t be a competition – although some hikers and climbers behave as though they are. Those tours can be tough enough even without that pressure.

14. Sharing is caring!

„Humans“, two hikers cried, when they spotted us in the Northern California mountains; they had probably rather expected bears. Off the beaten tracks and out of season days may pass until you meet other people. Use these encounters and exchanges some information on the way ahead and behind you. And if a hike has considerably changed, write to the author of your guide book. Other hikers will appreciate! Towards the end of a three-day tour in Death Valley we suddenly stood in front of a 10-meter cliff – a place where the riverbed had probably been completely eroded in a heavy rain. Had we not made our way over steep boulder walls, we would have had to return with little residual water for two days.

15. Don’t boast!

No matter how much of the world you have seen: Don’t forget that traveling is a priviledge that is made possible by the welcoming attitude of the countries you visit, by your money, time, health, youth and independance. These are no personal merits, but mere luck.

16. Find a place called home!

Infinitively living in transit is not fulfilling. I enjoy traveling more if I know that I can come back somewhere. In his narration The Riddle of the Ivy the British author G. K. Chesterton makes a man from Battersea say: “I am going to Battersea, […] to Battersea via Paris, Belfort, Heidelberg, and Frankfort. […] The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”

17. There are no rules 😉