The current crisis is forcing me to think differently about the future of travel... I'm actually quite positive about the possibilities for change.
Mass tourism has some really ugly side effects - one international flight can be equal to several months of my usual entire carbon emissions. We have all seen those amazing photos of the now pristine canals of Venice, smog free LA, wildlife recovering in national parks. The effect that I'm having on the environment is even more undeniable now.
Up to 80% of the money I spend on a resort holiday goes to large off-shore international corporations instead of benefiting the local economy and there is very little positive impact from cruise ship visits.
Tourism industry advertising often doesn't live up to its advertised promises. I've discovered, on arrival, that the paradise I paid to visit is in fact, full of selfie snapping tour groups, adjacent to an ugly new shopping centre just like the one at home, or hidden for two years by scaffolding, or scattered with discarded plastic rubbish. Or I find the elephants are in small enclosures, the orangutans’ habitat destroyed, the local cuisine displaced by global chains and the artisanal crafts replaced by plastic junk manufactured elsewhere.
The COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation has forced me to re-think the importance of things I must admit I have been taking for granted in recent years. I have a greater appreciation of human connection, freedom and adventure. I'm craving the chance to express this through travel - but I know I need to do it differently.
Travelling can show us the magic of the world, and it can teach us the truth of staggering human inequality and a planet in peril.
How I choose to travel can have permanent repercussions.
That's why when I do get to travel again (probably some local trips before international borders open up again) I'll be travelling deeper.
That means that I'll be mindful of how my choices of location, accommodation, activities, effect local communities. I'll be choosing small operators so I know my money stays in the communities. I'll be seeking opportunities to connect with people and the environment. And I'll be reflecting on how I can be the best version of myself.
Slowly, our world will reconnect — border by border — and open up. And yet, returning to how it was before should not be our metric for success, because mass global tourism had some very ugly side effects. We must resist the inevitable mass market advertising and government encouragement and stop looking to “recover” the tourist industry but rather, work to transition travel and tourism to a truly sustainable level.