Growing up in Yellowknife, northern Canada, travel has always been a big part of my life as the closest big city was nearly 1500 km south and ‘getting away’ was no easy feat. Regardless, my sense of wanderlust continued to grow and as I ventured farther and farther from home, my eyes were opened to mountain tops, beaches, valleys and deserts that stretch across my memory with some of the best moments made with friends and family. When I started teaching yoga, I could not wait to use it as a tool to become more aware of my surroundings when it came to traveling and having my comfort zone pushed with new experiences.
Yoga and travel have become a way to connect deeply with the natural world around me in all of its extremes. With each country I visit and culture I experience, the recognition of how differently we live and yet, how so many similarities connect us is always one of my favorite lessons.
One of the main reasons I run yoga retreats is the opportunity it offers others to witness these same connecting forces that remind us just how closely linked we all are.
Somewhere along the way, I experienced a shift in my motivation for bringing people to beautiful places. I think it may have started in one of my first interactions with my now mother-in-law. My partner and I had called to chat about our travel plans to visit his home and family in New Zealand over Christmas break. We were already getting excited at the thought of escaping one of Vancouver's rainiest months for the peak of their summer. As we wrapped up the call, she sweetly exclaimed, "Okay I'll be planting trees for you!"
I laughed not really knowing what that meant as we hung up."Why is she planting trees?" I asked Sam.
"Oh, my Mum plants trees every time we fly somewhere. It's her way of reducing the carbon footprint that our travel causes."
I sat stunned for a few reasons. Firstly, that was easily one of the sweetest things I had ever heard, and second I felt almost frozen in shame for having never really thought about my traveling from that perspective.
From that day on, I couldn't board a flight without picturing her planting another little seedling somewhere in her backyard or down along the river. The routines of my lifestyle and how I went about my day-to-day started to change as I paid more attention to my own impact on these beautiful places I was a visitor to. What I discovered quickly was that it really wasn't that difficult to change how I traveled in order to be more conscious of my footprint and those changes have followed into my daily life at home as well!
For me, it feels like the more we travel around this beautiful planet, the more obvious it becomes that we must be actively protect it. Here are some steps I take to lower my environmental impact when I travel:
1. Find ways to offset the carbon emissions from your flights.
International travel and transportation can significantly increases your carbon footprint. However, there are now ways to balance out the tons of pollution and gases created by the plane, car, train or boat to reach your destination! Some airlines give you options right as you book your flight to offset your emissions with a small extra charge, while there are also calculators that can add up the total of your trip and direct you to projects that will help eliminate or reduce that amount of emissions. I was shocked when I flew to New Zealand from Vancouver and it cost me less than $100 to offset my emissions for a return flight!
To offset your emissions, here is a great resource to discover projects you can support -
2. Travel with a reusable water bottle, to-go coffee mug and even reusable bags or cutlery.
Many airports, hotels and resorts are offering fill-up stations and a travel mug can carry a smoothie, latte or soup keeping it warm, or cold, while you head off to your next adventure! With some countries yet to have establish plastic recycling facilities and plastic being the number one threat our marine ecosystem, remember that stunning snorkeling or surfing spot before grabbing another plastic water bottle.
3. Shop local, Eat local, Support local!
Where it’s possible, enjoy the local markets and hire local guides to really immerse yourself in the experience. Rather than searching out the chain stores or buying the products you eat at home, traveling gives you a chance to try something new! Not to mention that eating locally grown food will support the farmers and families who live where you are visiting. Also, more and more tourist destinations have programs or groups that take volunteers for projects such as beach clean ups, community development and other opportunities to give back to the local economy. Ask your guide, hotel manager or trip organizer about how you can lend a hand during your trip!
Ready for your next retreat adventure?
Put some of these eco-friendly tip into actions. Join me for my upcoming retreat to Sayulita, Mexico this November!