Exploring vs Impact

In 2016, I embarked on a 20 month journey across Africa and the Americas. I was blown away by the beauty of our world – the landscapes, the mountains, the valleys, the glaciers, the ice, the deserts, the sand dunes, the waterfalls, the beaches, the rain forests, the trees, the forests, the wildlife, the people, the culture, the cuisine. The list goes on. During this period, I also became acutely aware of the fragility in our ecosystem – plastic waste, overuse of fuel, overpopulation, deforestation, excessive consumption and a lot more contributing to the increase in the fragility. I too played a part in this. I flew to places, rode buses, went on tours etc. I was part of the problem. I still am.

Exploring the world is deeply meaningful to me. I don’t travel to party, to tick off a bucket list, to be popular. I explore to learn. I explore to unlearn. I explore to become a better human being. At the core of my explorations, is my philosophical approach to travel: CRAVE, a synonym for desire, is also an acronym which I coined:

C: Capture moments throught photos and videos

R: Respect local cultures without bias and prejudice

A: Absorb all the experiences that come along

V: Vocalise my opinions and views

E: Educate myself with the intent to become an enlightened person

My exploration is, to a very large extent, a driver of the kind of person I want to be.

As I deeply also care about our planet, I am painfully aware of the negative impact of my travels on our planet. Climate change is an important issue and is, in my opinion, the number 1 issue facing all generations. On the other hand, besides my own personal growth, exploration does bring positive changes to various communities across the world. Whether it is in the form of inter-cultural understanding or in the form of much needed revenues for many. There needs to be a balance. However there also needs to be accountability and ownership. I want to be a responsible traveller. I want to be a sustainable explorer.

After a very dark period in my life, where I became almost financially broke, I became quite serious about my finances. I started keeping track of all expenses in the years (2014 – 2016) so that I could make the necessary adjustments to my lifestyle and become financially viable. The same discipline carried over when I started travelling. I kept account of small items like laundry, coffee and also large items such as buses, flights etc. Having a view of where my money was going helped build a foundation for my model to mitigate my negative impact.

I estimated that 50% of all transport expenses (flights, cars, buses) are related to fuel and 25% of all tour costs are related to fuel. A tour would be taking a group tour with a company like G Adventures. Given the high costs of these tours, I estimated that a large part of the revenue is related to company profits and operating costs (such as administration, marketing, personnel). The remaining were largely allocated to hotels/hostels/camps and transport. I estimated the transport portion to be 25%. I then allocated a 5% factor to these costs to give my mitigation contribution. For example:

  1. Flights: $1000
  2. Tour: $4000
  3. Starting Fuel Contribution = 50%*1000+ 25%*4000 = $1500
  4. Mitigation Costs: 5% * 1500 = $75

This means that when I spend $5000, my estimated mitigation costs are $75. While, this might be a small number, it is related to fuel costs which contribute to carbon footprint rather than overall costs. In the future, I intend to increase my contributing factor as I become more financially sound. At the moment, it is quite difficult. In the future, I would like to include a % of accommodation costs (to include use of water/electricity) and % food costs (to include supply chain carbon effects). I aim to start including these from 2023 – the year when I intend to begin another round of extended travels.

Since 2016, I have associated myself with Planeterra. Through G adventures, a travel company I have used, I learnt about Planeterra.  You can learn more at

www.planeterra.org

Planeterra helps communities empower themselves by bringing in tourists and helping communities become self sustainable. I have eaten at the cafes, stayed at their homes, learnt about their communities from my various travels.

Personally I have contributed to an Sri lankan cafe and the Favela experiences among others

I choose to be associated with Planeterra for many reasons.

Empowering communities to be sustainable is quite meaningful.

All administrative costs are covered by G Adventures so that all our donations help the communities. This is very important to me.

I encourage you to go to their website and learn more. I also encourage you to review their annual report, their projects and and their new initiatives.

The contributions I make every year help many communities. It helps me mitigate my negative impact on the planet. It helps me continue to explore and at the same time be a sustainable explorer. It is important that we all play our part in helping our planet.

Do you have any ideas on how to keep the balance between exploring and the negative impact? Do you know of any solutions to manage the carbon footprint. I would like to know.

Thanks for reading.

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