I have to do my mea culpa, in the last 10 years I have certainly taken too many planes and I have travelled too far. I know I can’t do anything to reduce the carbon footprint I left on those trips. I was a vegetarian, now I’m a vegan and I used this as a nice excuse to fly. In fact, I thought I was already doing something for the planet. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. We like to buy ourselfs a good conscience, thinking that we are already making efforts … However, environmental protection should not be seen as an “effort”, but as a change of life, normal and natural. The day I decided to stop flying, I realized that actually I didn’t like long trips that much.
7 reasons why I think distant travel is a scam
1) Jet lag fatigue.
I know that some people may not be sensitive to it. But if my body feels a difference of few hours (regardless of the clock direction) for at least a week, I feel as if I were awake in the middle of the night. I almost have to slap myself so I don’t fall asleep during the days. Which means that the first week, even if I visit something, I don’t remember anything at all. I feel like in a dream: everything is strange, dizzy and nothing surprises me. This means that the places I visit don’t impress me as much as they should because I think I’m in the middle of a dream. Ah! And even though for the rest of the trip I’m in better shape, when I go home, history repeats itself. I am foggy a week after my return.
2) Temperature changes.
Maybe it’s just me, but my body doesn’t adapt well to the big temperature changes. My origin in northern Poland certainly does not help me in this area. I grew up in a temperate climate (not to say “cool”) and such conditions are necessary for my vital functions to remain stable. I need a gradual change in temperature – I need all spring to prepare for the arrival of a hot summer… and again… I’m not always as ready as I should be. But being in the middle of winter and suddenly being in a hot country with a temperature difference of over 30°C in a few hours is not very natural for me. And if you add air conditioning in hotels, I catch a more than impressive cold..
3) We are not discovering a new culture.
Of course, we can notice some differences in behaviour between our cultures. But reading a few pages of the guide before going on a trip and observing the people around us does not make of us anthropologists. We will not understand the subtleties of another culture in just a few days/weeks. Let’s not forget that half of the people that we meet on our way are those who work in the tourism sector and who try to adapt to our needs. On the contrary, it’s more often we who disturb the people of other countries by our ignorance of good conduct. If our goal is really to discover another culture, then there is one known way: anthropological books or novels written by writers from these countries. Movies can also serve the same purpose. And we don’t have to spend 12 hours travelling to do that. You can easily read them on the beach where we can go by train.
4) We don’t become a good photographer either.
Being thousands of miles away from home does not make of us professional photographers. I have to admit that I also lent myself to this game, believing that I could take beautiful pictures. I have bad news : if you’re not an artist, you’re not an artist. And photographing the same subject as thousands of other people from around the world becomes boring. Even if we try to find the “original” angle, we can quickly see that there are hundreds of similar photos on Instagram, often better than ours. Oh, and let’s not forget: our friends don’t want to see our 5,000 photos taken during our month-long trip. And a nod to some: if you take a “artistic” picture of a “blur” and you say: Saigon, summer 2015… For others it’s just a “blur”. And we don’t care.
5) Planning too tight.
Some people say that by travelling far away they are creating more memories and that they will be graved in their memories throughout their lives. No, we do not create more memories if we are far away. Our brain has exactly the same capacity, whether we’re 100 km from home or 10,000 km from home. Also, from my own experience, I can say that I have a lot more good memories of my “local” trips. First of all: airports and planes, it’s not a really nice experience (I’m 6 feet tall and I have to “fold” everything for a few hours). Second, I am so tired of jet lag and climat differences that I barely remember half of my stay. Third, we are trying to see everything worth seeing … If we got so far wa can’t miss anything important to see. And sometimes, after 10 temples in a row, you forget the beauty of half of them. We do n’t have time to rest… And if we add the great fatigue, our memories are not even so pleasant.
6) The illusion of internal change.
No, travelling to distant countries does not “enrich” us in any particular way. We are not “explorers”… Unless you are really a researcher and you are going to go away for a year to do anthropological or historical research, etc. Yes, in that case, your journey will enrich not only yourself, but also the rest of humanity. But flying to a country that serves us as a great private holiday club doesn’t make us travelers. We are tourists. We cannot say that this kind of holiday serves us as a transcendent experience. And if we want to travel to change things in our “inner world” – well… we have to make an “internal” journey. No need to be in the jungle in the Amazon for that.
7) We don’t spend quality time together.
A tight schedule, too much to see, the fatigue and pressure of having a good time (since we are so far away and it cost us an eye) does not bring us closer to one another. For me, the best experience is to travel by train (ok, I admit that sometimes it is a trip by car). There is nothing better than to have a lot of quality time and a lot of serenity to enjoy long days with people dear to our heart. And we don’t have to travel a few thousand kilometers to walk in nature, see wonderful things, discover a different culture, live very strong human experiences. Everything is within our reach. The only thing that prevents us from enjoying a “local” stay is our “ego” and our need to compare ourselves to others.
And what about you ? You have anything to add to this list ? Are you ready to focus on local travel for the benefit of the planet? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment.
This post is also available in: French