Non-destructive Travel

There has been a lot of fuzz about our “carbon footprint” and most articles on non-destructive traveling start and end with quoting our unsustainably high carbon dioxide emissions on international flights. The obvious result of these well-intended pieces is that readers can’t hear it any longer and lose interest in non-destructive travel altogether.

The climate isn’t getting any cooler but our heads should. You should have a warm interest in leaving behind a healthier planet, or this article is not for you.
So, are you still with me? “Non-destructive travel” is about reducing the depletion of resources we leave in our wake as we live our lives. We all contribute our share to the trashing of this planet, the stripping of minerals, fossil fuels, groundwater, biodiversity, fresh air, glaciers, rainforests, fish, lakes, reefs, river deltas, peet swamps, tundras, everything we f*cking destroy. Watch the brilliant series “The Story of Stuff” on a small, energy-efficient screen for more.
– So non-destructive travel is refusing to continue this bullshit at least while you’re out of your home.

We know there is a necessary transformation we have to make at home, but things aren’t just so flexible there. The paperwork for your new solar panel is late, you can’t afford replacing that old boiler, there’s not enough cash in your clunker, using rainwater for the garden seems far-fetched, you have no idea where to dispose of your batteries, non-toxic detergent is too expensive, the kids keep nagging, and so on.

While traveling we have a unique chance to try out all this good stuff. We can start sharing a little, go to a less westernized hotel, experiment with vegetarian or vegan food, take a bus instead of a rental car, cook with a small stove, save water and drink from the source rather than a plastic bottle, or, heck, if we are intrepid adventurers we hitchhike, camp and couchsurf our way to everywhere, bathing in the river using a small piece of organic soap, eating raw food and telling folks we meet about this lifestyle that is a curiosity now, but a necessity tomorrow.

Chuckle over the irony here as I provide you with loads of “resources” to get you started on non-destructive travel:

Food
You should consume local food, preferably produce that needs little water and fertilizer. Avoid meat and processed food. Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables. Say no to herbicidal gene-crops, do eat fermented food. Prepare food in large quantities in advance to reduce energy consumption.
Here’s a collaborative list of Organic Farmer’s markets in Australia, Canada, South Africa, UK, US
See also http://www.ifoam.org/.

Here’s a fun footprint/foodprint calculator, showing you how many acres it takes to support your lifestyle, and how many planets it would take if every human being would live your standard of living: http://www.footprintnetwork.org

Shelter
Couchsurfing all the way! For those worried about CS going corporate, check out the alternatives (bewelcome, hospitalityclub, wwoof, workaway etc). Spread the message of non-destructive traveling as you travel by convincing your hosts. Use blankets instead of room heating, sleep in one room and don’t heat the other. Sit in shade and do not use air-con. Cook together.
For high-end travelers, research an eco-lodge and demand solid environmental impact data before spending the night there.
For low-end travelers, information about where it’s safe to camp outside is easy to find, and a survival handbook on your e-reader (see below) can be very useful.

Move
Try to avoid flying. Long-distance buses are the champions of fossil fuel efficiency, and flexible to organize, but you can easily go beyond that.
Try joining as a crewmember on a yacht (google’s a good resource) or start browsing “Couchsailing” (!)
Hitchhiking will never be the same with hitchwiki.org and hundreds of blogs by experienced hitch-hikers like
followtheroad.com. Blogs about bicycle trips crossing the Americas from Anchorage to Ushuaia or Africa from Cairo to Capetown, or Eurasia from Paris to Beijing are easy to find and provide a great resource, even if you only go part of the way.
Or just walk, here’s the longest possible road to travel on foot: http://www.odysseyxxi.com/

Entertain
Buy an ebook-reader! Virtually everything published more than 70 years ago is freely at your disposal in PDF format through www.gutenberg.org. Also create wiki-books of open-source travel guidebooks like wikitravel.org. You have all the distraction you need, e-readers don’t consume any paper and hardly any electricity, especially if you use a portable solar charger.
If carrying books: exchange, swap, share! It’s a great way to connect and spread the vital message of non-destructive traveling.

Suggestions are welcome, and could you share this non-destructive post, please?

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February 23. Guesthouse Goedehoop.

We leave Gaborone today, after a lazy morning and a warm goodbye to Sheldon and Gudrun. Up on the main road with thumbs in the air and some smiling policemen take care of us. Our remaining Pulas bring us neatly to the border. Stamping and re-entering the RSA is a whistle of a cent, but catching a ride down to Gauteng is a greater challenge.
“Good-day sir, we are looking for a ride but we are really on a budget here, so we’d ask you to do us a favor.”
-“A favor? No, thanks.”
Rather driving with an empty seat than giving a stranger you trust (since a payed lift would have been no problem) a helping hand. However many true and justifying sentences there are to describe what is going on in that driver’s mind, this does hold and is pretty ugly. Anyway, we walk into the North West province a bit and a speeding Volkswagen pulls over and rolls back towards us in a cloud of dust.
“He guys, jump in!”
Sean is doing about 3000 kilometers a week for his job, marketing copper cables and just like himself, the company is flying on the verge of the world cup. He comfortably does 160 km/h and we are in Zeerust in a wink.
“Just wait 15 minutes and you’ll find a ride to Joburg.”
After five hours we decide to crash in a guesthouse because it is getting dark. Goedehoop offers a comfortable room and a hot shower – we are first class hitchhikers after all.

February 23. Guesthouse Goedehoop.

We leave Gaborone today, after a lazy morning and a warm goodbye to Sheldon and Gudrun. Up on the main road with thumbs in the air and some smiling policemen take care of us. Our remaining Pulas bring us neatly to the border. Stamping and re-entering the RSA is a whistle of a cent, but catching a ride down to Gauteng is a greater challenge.
“Good-day sir, we are looking for a ride but we are really on a budget here, so we’d ask you to do us a favor.”
-“A favor? No, thanks.”
Rather driving with an empty seat than giving a stranger you trust (since a payed lift would have been no problem) a helping hand. However many true and justifying sentences there are to describe what is going on in that driver’s mind, this does hold and is pretty ugly. Anyway, we walk into the North West province a bit and a speeding Volkswagen pulls over and rolls back towards us in a cloud of dust.
“He guys, jump in!”
Sean is doing about 3000 kilometers a week for his job, marketing copper cables and just like himself, the company is flying on the verge of the world cup. He comfortably does 160 km/h and we are in Zeerust in a wink.
“Just wait 15 minutes and you’ll find a ride to Joburg.”
After five hours we decide to crash in a guesthouse because it is getting dark. Goedehoop offers a comfortable room and a hot shower – we are first class hitchhikers after all.

February 18. Hitching it off.

Charles is driving a big truck all the way down to Gaborone. The Chinese-built road cuts sharply through the endless arid plains of Botswana. He spots some elephants trotting along the road with an intense crimson sunset in the background. He arrives in Gaborone ahead of schedule, as early as 3:50 in the morning. He has to refuel once near Francistown: 400 liters of diesel fuel and 400 milliliters of redbull. Charles likes his job, driving the endless roads without a boss looking over his shoulders, listening to his favorite music as the seat of his modern truck gently moves up and down. Today is a little different though. For the first time in six years he has picked up some hitchhikers, a harmless looking couple.

It is our lucky day. We start in the rain a few blocks away from our overpriced Victoria Falls lodge, and see cars passing. We want to catch a free ride, not because we want to be stingy but because we want to promote the concept. Our umbrella doesn’t keep us dry and we start singing as we hold on to our bags and slowly get soaked. A tall SUV finally pulls over and the driver introduces himself as a pastor, implying his willingness to help us. His assistant drives us to the border, where we have a déja vu on the main road that would takes us down to Gaborone. An adventurous cyclist greets us about half an hour before Charles picks us up. We greet him back when our truck overtakes him, and leave him alone with his courageous mission and the dim horizon.

February 18. Hitching it off.

Charles is driving a big truck all the way down to Gaborone. The Chinese-built road cuts sharply through the endless arid plains of Botswana. He spots some elephants trotting along the road with an intense crimson sunset in the background. He arrives in Gaborone ahead of schedule, as early as 3:50 in the morning. He has to refuel once near Francistown: 400 liters of diesel fuel and 400 milliliters of redbull. Charles likes his job, driving the endless roads without a boss looking over his shoulders, listening to his favorite music as the seat of his modern truck gently moves up and down. Today is a little different though. For the first time in six years he has picked up some hitchhikers, a harmless looking couple.

It is our lucky day. We start in the rain a few blocks away from our overpriced Victoria Falls lodge, and see cars passing. We want to catch a free ride, not because we want to be stingy but because we want to promote the concept. Our umbrella doesn’t keep us dry and we start singing as we hold on to our bags and slowly get soaked. A tall SUV finally pulls over and the driver introduces himself as a pastor, implying his willingness to help us. His assistant drives us to the border, where we have a déja vu on the main road that would takes us down to Gaborone. An adventurous cyclist greets us about half an hour before Charles picks us up. We greet him back when our truck overtakes him, and leave him alone with his courageous mission and the dim horizon.

February 10. Zimbabwe.

We enter Zimbabwe safe and simply by hitchhiking. A couple takes us all the way for a minor gas contribution. We end up in a typical Zimbabwean household, the head of it introduces himself as an entrepreneur waiting to make his next move as he struggles with the symptoms of the dictatorial regime. He calls our host Bruno who comes to pick us up with a comfortable car and welcomes us to a nice home where we will use the guestroom. It’s fantastic, it’s Gold Card couchsurfing, we indulge, we relax, we cook on one occasion, jump in the swimming pool on another, converse about our mutual interest of charitable works. They – Bruno and Thomas – are NGO professionals we admire for their professionality. The Belgian NGO Volens has sent them here and they are working on capacity building, the single most important thing we need to spur the emancipation of Africa.

February 10. Zimbabwe.

We enter Zimbabwe safe and simply by hitchhiking. A couple takes us all the way for a minor gas contribution. We end up in a typical Zimbabwean household, the head of it introduces himself as an entrepreneur waiting to make his next move as he struggles with the symptoms of the dictatorial regime. He calls our host Bruno who comes to pick us up with a comfortable car and welcomes us to a nice home where we will use the guestroom. It’s fantastic, it’s Gold Card couchsurfing, we indulge, we relax, we cook on one occasion, jump in the swimming pool on another, converse about our mutual interest of charitable works. They – Bruno and Thomas – are NGO professionals we admire for their professionality. The Belgian NGO Volens has sent them here and they are working on capacity building, the single most important thing we need to spur the emancipation of Africa.