After a long travel hiatus due to the pandemic, many have made the resolution to reinvent the way they travel, and limit the impact they have on the planet. From foregoing flights for romantic railway adventures, to investing in plastic-free, money-saving backpack items – making small, mindful changes to the way we travel can be both exciting and budget-friendly.
But Aren’t Trains Expensive?
One of the biggest barriers to going flight-free is the relative expense of alternative travel. With budget airlines increasingly offering ludicrously cheap airfares (such as Ryanair’s infamous €4.99 flights), it can be tough for travellers on a budget to justify the expense of covering the distance by land. However, it largely requires an adjustment of mindset. Why do we travel if not for the experience of the unknown, or the joys of the journey?
If planning a trip from Vienna to Istanbul, consider the journey between the two as a core part of the adventure, using websites such as Rome2Rio to find the cheapest land route possible. For instance, a flight may take 5 hours and cost roughly €80, but a night train can be as little as €35 and, a two-night adventure in a compartment with friends is likely to be much more romantic, exciting and memorable.
Ultimately, it takes as little as a simple google to establish alternative options when you travel, and in so doing – unlock the potential for a whole other adventure you may never have anticipated. Maybe you can’t avoid the odd flight every now and then, but pushing yourself to find an alternative first may see you embracing the land-loving life more than you expected. It certainly gives you a greater understanding of the distance we travel, and the way the world is connected, when you see your journey from the comfort of a train or bus window.
But Aren’t Eco-Hotels Expensive?
Sure, there can be some pretty hefty price-tags for some of the world’s most luxurious eco lodges. But stays from all ends of the budget spectrum are swapping fossil fuels for solar panels and reducing their waste. From hostels to local homestays, don’t just take their word for it (the dreaded “greenwashing” marketing technique) – call them up, and don’t be afraid to ask about their power generators, recycling systems or local partnerships. Alternatively, why not plan your trip around a hotel or guesthouse you know makes good on their eco-promises? Below is a list of stays whose eco-friendly practices have us raving:
These hostels range from majority to 100% self-sufficiency in renewable energy, due to solar panels and purpose-built generators. They are also leaders in waste management and recycling schemes, making your stay guilt-free and damage neutral.
Jetpak Eco Lodge – Berlin, Germany (from €16.20)
Hostel Trastevere – Rome, Italy (from €16.74)
Rivertime Resort and Eco Lodge – Vientiane, Laos (from €7.67)
These homestays are perfect examples of local, eco-conscious living. Boasting self-sufficient gardens, recycling systems and conscious excursions and activities, they are wonderful ways to meet others and have a mindful travel experience in a peaceful, beautiful home.
Chilekatessen house – Vaplarasio, Chile (from €15)
Shanta Ghar – Narayani, Nepal (from €17)
Swell Eco-Lodge – Wild Coast, South Africa (€35.71)
But Isn’t Eco-Friendly Equipment Expensive?
With sustainability very much in vogue, one can’t move for eye-wateringly expensive “eco products” on the market today. From €20 beeswax sandwich wraps to bespoke bamboo toothbrush delivery services, it’s easy to equate going eco to going broke. However, once you whittle down your packing list to the essentials, you can easily stock up on products that will actually save you money in the long run – particularly those that can be used again and again and again. Below is a list of items that will help you save the planet and your purse strings:
Reusable water bottle – It’s a classic, but everyone’s got to have one. Forget the bulky (not to mention loud) chilly’s bottles, and go for one that is lightweight, sleek and practical, like the oh-so-satisfying Dopper, with unscrewable cup – perfect for water, wine or any other drink for your travels!
Shampoo bar – This is practical in every sense of the word. Far smaller and more portable than bulky (and expensive) shampoo and conditioner bottles, or those hugely wasteful airport mini bottles, this hip little bar will leave your hair silky smooth, with no wasteful plastic to discard at the end of your trip.
Mesh shopping bags – Nothing makes you look like more of a local than bringing your own bags with you. Whether it be perusing a pile of juicy oranges in a local market, or buying up groceries in a supermarket, make sure you’ve brought enough of these reusable shoppers to cover your needs. They also come in very handy for storing nick-nacks, laundry or overnight clothes during your trip.
Tupperware containers - Put a little too much on your plate at your hostel buffet breakfast? Or has your homestay family kindly offered to send you away with leftovers from last night’s dinner? Save money on lunches and prevent food waste with a handy Tupperware container to snap up any snacks for the road.
Finally – When in Doubt, Go Local!
The beautiful thing about opting to travel more sustainably, is that it is also the best and most rewarding way to travel. Swap mega-hotels for local experiences, and you’ll also likely save a tonne of money. It might not be quite as luxurious, but it will give you a better appreciation of the world around you. From local restaurants, to guesthouses, to souvenir shops, anything that is small and privately owned is going to be a more rewarding experience for you, and a better use of your precious tourist dollar.
Challenge yourself to get as off-the-beaten-track as possible, skipping the Instagram-traps for local cafes and family businesses. Ask around, get lost and be curious. Remember, seeking “authenticity” is an exercise in futility – we’re all caught up in a world of globalisation and frankly, it is often tourism itself that has kept traditional cultural practices and performances alive in the first place. There’s nothing wrong with playing the tourist, it’s from tourists that countless local families make their livelihoods. Let locals guide you how they wish, pay them for their time and enjoy the experience of two contrasting cultures interacting.