Sustainable Travelling

Travelling is an infinite source of life, adventure and new experiences. The way we travel is as important as our final destination.


    When we mention travelling, we mostly think of something depending on time, money and bigger of smaller freedom of movement determined by the country of origin, Considering travelling as a human right allows to expand this concept and, at the same time, to become aware of the huge inequalities between different "travellers", as e.g. tourists, migrants, refugees, etc.

    "Freedom of movement, mobility rights or the right to travel is a human rights concept that the constitutions of numerous states respect. It asserts that a citizen of a state, in which that citizen is present has the liberty to travel, reside in, and/or work in any part of the state where one pleases within the limits of respect for the liberty and rights of others and to leave that state and return at any time. Some immigrants' rights advocates assert that human beings have a fundamental human right to mobility not only within a state but between states."


    "WARNING"! Travelling is a delicate topic with a high conflict potential. No one wants to see the own right of movement being criticised or being limited for external reasons (i.e. for ecological reasons). For this reason, many might react with suspect and anger when being advised of alternatives for a more sustainable way of travelling.

    Here you won’t find THE solution for this dilemma, simply because it does not exist.

    The aim is to inform about the actual costs (not only economic, but also ecological, social and cultural) while using common techniques of travelling and to give suggestions for more sustainable approaches to our trips.

    Before entering deeper into the topic, it is interesting and maybe even surprising to reflect on the one own's travelling motivations, by posing some easy questions:

    • Why do I travel?
    • What do I want to experience when I travel?
    • How much freedom of movement do I have in my country?
    • Am I allowed to travel anywhere I want in the world or are there "off-limits" country (e.g. because of visa, age, nationality)?

    There is a huge range of reasons for travelling. Here is a short list with some of the most common ones:

    • Leisure holidays
    • Business trips
    • Health holidays
    • Cultural sight-seeing
    • Study, language, cultural exchange
    • Visit of friends or family
    • Discovery of "exotic" places

    Knowing more precisely why we travel is a helpful way to understand what needs are behind it and how we can satisfy them.


    Travelling can have a much bigger impact than we think. Using this well known iceberg metaphor, it can be said that the personal perception of the impact of our travels is just the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface there are a lot more ecological, economic and social components to be considered.

    According to UN statistics:

    "CO2 emissions generated directly from the tourism sector account today for 5 per cent of global CO2 emissions but this may be higher (up to 14 per cent) if measured as radiative forcing, i.e. the warming caused by CO2 as well as other greenhouse gases. To understand the magnitude of these numbers it should be noted that if we compare tourism with the emissions of countries, tourism would be the 5th bigger polluter worldwide."

    The impact caused by flying is a very controversial topic with many different statistics, theories and motivations behind that. It can't be denied, though, that its influence on the climate in the upcoming years and decades is going to increase, as the number of passengers, airplanes, airports worldwide is growing steadily.

    © Carbon Footprint


    According to the definition of UNWTO (World Tourism Organisation - committed to Tourism, Travel and the Millennium Developments Goals),

    "Sustainable tourism should:

    1. Make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.
    2. Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.
    3. Ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.

    Sustainable tourism development requires the informed participation of all relevant stakeholders, as well as strong political leadership to ensure wide participation and consensus building. Achieving sustainable tourism is a continuous process and it requires constant monitoring of impacts, introducing the necessary preventive and/or corrective measures whenever necessary.

    Sustainable tourism should also maintain a high level of tourist satisfaction and ensure a meaningful experience to the tourists, raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst them."


    Travelling has a deep influence on the environment and on people. There are many factors which play a role while travelling: the means of transportation, the destination, our behaviours, the length and the reason for the trip. Every trip leaves a certain footprint in the environment and in the places we visit. As a first step It is important to become aware of this fact.
    Considering all this, here is a collection some ideas and suggestions to try and plan, experience and evalute more sustainable trips. Feel free to submit your own suggestions.

    5 steps for a more sustainable trip

    • why do I travel? Be clear about the motivation and the aim of the trip.
    • which is the impact of my trip? Calculate it before leaving.
    • how do I behave while travelling? Try to choose the most sustainable transportation, accomodation and alimentation. Consider for your choice, of course, also other elements as money, time, desired comfort, etc.
    • what did I learn from my travel? At the end, evaluate your trip: what was good, what was bad? How was the ecological, economic and social impact of my trip?
    • what knowledge can I share? Exchange experiences with other travellers/ couchsurfers.
    Travel behaviour Advantages


    • Use collective ground transports
    • Share a car ride
    • Use airplanes more efficiently (fly less often, stay longer if you fly to distant destinations; avoid  flights to near destinations, compensate your emissions if you considere this practicable)
    • Hitch-hiking
    • Ride a bike
    • Go on foot

    • Affordable price (depending on mean of transportation, country, season, etc.) or for free
    • Diminishing the ecological impact, up to 0
    • Many possibilities of meeting new people, socialising
    • Health and training (by bike and on foot)


    • Use hospitality exchange networks as much as possible
    • Use accomodations facilities owned directly by the locals (e.g small pensions, private rooms)
    • Camp with your tent (check the legal dispositions on camping for the place you are visiting)
    • Avoid all-inclusive holidays and hotels


    • Affordable price or for free
    • Many possibilities of meeting new people, socialising
    • Discover the "true spirit" of your destination by meeting locals


    • Try out local foods and drinks
    • Cook your own food, if you have the possibility (e.g. while surfing a couch, in a hostel)
    • Avoid international food chains

    • Discover the local food
    • Support the local producers and agriculture
    • Sharing/learning/teaching cooking skills

    Relationship with the locals and their environment

    • Inform yourself about history, politics, culture of your destination
    • Respect the local cultures, costumes and traditions
    • Try to communicate in the local language, at least a few words
    • Buy locally produced products, paying attention that they are not illegal  or  ethically dubious (e.g. endangered animal species, precious wood, ivory, etc.)
    • Respect and protect the environment and the nature

    • Easier comprehension of the local culture, minimising "culturale shocks"
    • Easier and deeper communication with the locals
    • Support the local producers and economy
    • Better protection and conservation of the environment