How can we justify travel as the planet boils?
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How can we justify travel as the planet boils?

With the climate emergency in the spotlight, it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the question of whether we, as travellers, can possibly justify flying around the world.

A travel journalist, who questioned whether “travel writing — or even traveling — [is] still morally legitimate”, seems convinced that with shifting cultural values and a bigger discussion about climate change and what we can do to stop it, his career will soon die out. I, however, wouldn’t be so sure.

I can’t ignore the growing issue of ethics surrounding this method of travel – particularly given that those places I so long to visit might not exist when I finally have the chance to see them

This might sound pessimistic, but realistically, people are selfish. I can’t see the travel industry dying out because fundamentally people like to travel. The hunger to explore the world is, for many, insatiable, and we can’t overlook the fact that holidays often provide people with a much-needed break from work and are part of the routine of our lives. So, I don’t think the answer to the problem is to expect people to stop travelling altogether.

As much as we can keep talking about the impact it has on the environment there will always be people who just don’t care and will do it anyway. But I imagine there’s also a fairly large group of people, myself included, who would feel extremely sad about the idea of never being able to visit far-flung countries that can only be reached by flying. Yet, I can’t ignore the growing issue of ethics surrounding this method of travel particularly given that those places I so long to visit might not exist when I finally have the chance to see them because of the irreversible damage the carbon output from our flights has done.

I think the biggest problem is that we have found ourselves in a world where flying has become the status-quo for how to reach a holiday destination. So, the best thing we can do is encourage people to fly less by drawing attention to the other ways of travelling.

There’s the added bonus that road trips can be incredibly fun and make great memories

Personally, I love a road trip. But more importantly, so does the environment: a group of four people in a car cuts their carbon footprint in half compared to flying. And there’s the added bonus that road trips can be incredibly fun and make great memories. This December, my family and I will be driving to Cologne to visit the Christmas markets, but in the past we’ve driven as far as Denmark, and always used to drive to the Alps to go skiing, stopping over in Paris.

Admittedly, that’s a bit further than most people would want to drive, but northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands are all in easy reach from the channel tunnel. If you live in the south of England and have a car this is a great way to travel , especially given that prices for the channel crossing start at £30.

If you don’t fancy the long drive, or don’t have a car, that doesn’t have to stop you, because the train provides you with another great way to explore. The Eurostar now goes to Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels, giving you a wider range of options than ever before. With prices starting from £29 it’s probably cheaper than flying, and has the added bonus that it can cut your carbon emissions by as much as 91%. Of course, the other popular method of travelling by train is interrailing. I did this the summer after leaving school and it’s a unique way of travelling that makes for an extremely memorable trip and allows you to visit lots of cities in a short space of time. If you plan a circular route you can avoid having to fly and still reach some pretty far-flung places.

We are lucky to live in a beautiful country, and I find it’s rare that we take the opportunity to explore the sites a bit closer to home, which are often overshadowed by the excitement of going abroad

But all this advice overlooks the option of travelling within the UK. We are lucky to live in a beautiful country, and I find it’s rare that we take the opportunity to explore the sites a bit closer to home, which are often overshadowed by the excitement of going abroad. My friend and I recently travelled to London for the weekend to go to Somerset House film festival and the V&A’s Dior exhibition, and I think we really surprised ourselves by how much more we did , we covered pretty much all of London and its major tourist attractions , and how much fun we had. Depending on where you live, you could do the same in Cornwall, the Cotswolds, Norfolk or Edinburgh, just to name a few options.

The good news is, as students, these methods of travelling are far more realistic for us anyway. As airlines keep hiking up their prices, road trips and travel by train are becoming far more cost-effective. But if by chance you’re lucky enough to have an endless budget to travel, I’d hope that this article gives you something to think about, and might just encourage you to take the eco-friendly option anyway.

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