If vacations allowed the granting of impossible wishes, our trips would allow us to postpone each and every one of our worldly cares without consequence. But this is reality, so unfortunately, leaving home doesn’t stop our actions from having an effect on the environment. Travelers looking to keep their footprint to a minimum while globetrotting may well enjoy these five locations, not just for their picturesque beauty, but for the hosts’ efforts to provide a sustainability experience. These are not meant to be advertisements for particular commercial destinations, but they are a few examples of what thoughtful and well-meaning travelers can find around the world.
Kyrenia, North Cyprus
For three months each year, the island of Cyprus plays hosts to a visitors like no others. Alagadi Beach on North Cyprus is where endangered green and loggerhead sea turtles come to hatch their young. Only about 400 Green and 2,000 loggerhead females breed every year across the Mediterranean. People interested in spending their vacation helping save a species might want to volunteer with the Society for the Protection of Turtles. Be aware, however: volunteering can mean up to a three month commitment, and international volunteers must cover their own expenses.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
The temperature of the mineral-rich waters at the Blue Lagoon’s outdoor spa is 40 degrees Celsius, and perfect for a dip. Bathing there is advertised as providing relief from psoriasis, and providing a host of other dermatological benefits. To heat its waters and power its facilities, Blue Lagoon draws 100% clean geothermal energy from 2,000 meter deep wells. Both the spa and resort are designed to blend seamlessly with nature, and the entire structure is surrounded by beautifully patterned lava rock.
Rancho La Puerta, México
Since 1940, Rancho La Puerta has taken pride in its status as a green destination. The resort boasts a massive compost garden that grows vegetables fresh picked and prepared in dishes served by the resort’s kitchen. Rancho La Puerta also doubles as a nature sanctuary where flocks of migrating birds gather among over 200 plant species. The resort’s eco-friendly initiatives benefit the community as well; for example, every year after Christmas, community members can drop off their Christmas trees to be turned into mulch for the property.
Sundance Resort, Utah
Sundance Resort is ideal for skiers seeking to hone their connection with nature. Its accommodations are inspired by a deep-forest aesthetic, and resemble a blend of wood cabin and Native American wigwam. Amenities are sourced organically; in addition, the resort assists with natural conservation by laying down erosion control blankets and restoring plant life. Glassblowers residing at Sundance also pitch in by turning old glass products into furnishings for the resort.
The Canadian Arctic
Those who dream of venturing into the wild may well enjoy a trip into the far reaches of the arctic, perhaps with a Nunavut based company called Arctic Kingdom, which does devote a portion of its income to local philanthropy. Its voyages consist of small caravans of 4 to 12 people guided by an expert, often a native Inuit, experienced in observing Arctic wildlife without intrusion, and connecting travelers with sights of a magnificence that few would ever otherwise see in person. One tour, for example, involves watching newborn polar bear cubs leave their dens for the first time. When night falls, guests who stay during the winter season, also have a good chance of experiencing the magical glow of the Northern Lights.
Of those who envision journeying far from home to experience snow capped peaks, vibrant wildlife or bustling cities, many hesitate to take the leap–and thus miss out–because they believe such travels to be beyond their financial reach. But cost saving strategies do exist, and with a bit of research coupled with a willingness to try something different, anyone craving adventure may well be able to find an affordable way to make their daydreams come true.
Look for cheap destinations
Countries like Thailand, Nepal, India, as well as many Latin American locales, offer accommodations at a fraction of the cost of pricier tourist traps. A day’s worth of food and shelter often costs the equivalent of a few US dollars, even in places that play host to many of the world’s breathtaking sights. Certain countries in Europe also have hostels that charge a affordable prices. The key is to utilize online resources like Hostelworld or AirBnB to track down discount accommodations. Deals on flights can be located using tools such as Skyscanner, which lets you search for a destination using only a departure point.
Take things slow
Shelling out for busses, trains and planes can rack up a considerable bill. Of those, the options that minimize travel times are often the most expensive. Riding a first class train from Beijing, for example, costs about three times as much as traveling third class. Taking travel slow and easy also allows for better immersion in the journey and the destination, as it’s easier to absorb and reflect on where you are when you’re there for a longer period of time.
Planning to stick strictly to carry ons will avoid unnecessary fees, and keep you from spending money on nonessentials. Norwegian Air and other budget airlines allow those with no checked baggage to catch a flight without paying carry on charges. When moving in crowded places, it’s also much easier to keep track of your belongings if there is only one bag.
Avoid tourist hotspots
The fact that a place is widely mentioned in travel guides is likely not lost on its management. When it comes to shops, bars and restaurants, prices often reflect the frequency with which they are noted in popular sources of travel info. Getting to know the locals can open you up to the hidden gems they frequent, and prices that aren’t stifling. If all else fails, picking up fresh veggies, meats and cheese at a local market is generally a much cheaper–and often tastier–option than frequenting restaurants recommended for tourists.
An opportunity to tour the US is one that no traveler should pass up. From New York skyscrapers to small town southern charm; from white-capped Rocky Mountains to the west coast’s sparkling shores, America is positively teeming with potential for great trips.
When approached with a certain mentality, however, US travel could offer something of a limited experience–especially for Americans who have never ventured beyond their own borders. The goal here, then, is to suggest another way of framing a trip across the US, from the lens of an American who appreciates the effort involved in making the most of a European journey.
Many travelers view their trips as an opportunity for expanding one’s cultural horizons. In the case of Europe, part of that expansion involves mastering the basic expressions and cultural norms of a particular country.
From afar, America seems to have a cultural uniformity not present in Europe, but such a conclusion is only skin deep. Most Americans can verify that our culture varies dramatically between locations in terms of values, pastimes, cuisine and even language. Exploring the differences between a Louisiana bayou town and upper Manhattan, for example, will reveal cultures and lifestyles adapted to unique (natural and man-made) environments.
When we travel out-of-state for vacation, many of us prefer to take the vacationer’s mindset: we tune-out to our surroundings, cast aside life’s worries, and focus on relaxation. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, especially if having a pleasurable time is all you expect from travel. However, those seeking to maximize their experience might consider–at least temporarily–discarding this “getaway” mentality.
Americans who carry such an attitude throughout their travels in Europe may be the reason that years ago, the term “Ugly American” arose. This unfortunate stereotype refers to the ethnocentrist pleasure seeker, who acts with little respect or regard for native culture. Such a traveler might complain about small inconveniences, or denigrate customs they don’t understand.They make little effort to communicate with local people and often move in packs, so as to be shielded from anything too unusual.
Things like the general lack of a language barrier, and a relatively uniform set of norms for body language make it easier for Americans vacationing in the US to focus purely on pleasure without coming across as rude. Most Americans can travel out-of-state and have their needs fulfilled, no local cultural familiarity required. The same cannot be said for many places in Europe, where natives expect American visitors to show at least a modicum of investment in their customs, language and heritage.
Generally, Americans on a US trip usually won’t have to manage the hurdle of foreign language and culture; that is, unless they make the effort to do so. I believe that the advantages gained by delving into a culture are enormous, no matter where one happens to travel. Differences are always present, and learning why they exist grants a greater appreciation for our core, human similarities. By maintaining a mindset of discovery and cultural openness, it’s possible to turn even an interstate trip into a growth experience.
About Peter Jutro
Peter Jutro has a passion for travel and exploration, as well as cartography and the history of maps. Having traveled extensively over the past 50 years, Peter has had the opportunity to learn a great deal about people and the world as a whole. He is a firm believer in his wife Ellen’s adage that “the more you travel, the bigger the world gets.”
Whether traveling for business or pleasure, Peter Jutro is always excited about the opportunities that a new place and culture have to offer. Some of his fondest memories include his honeymoon in Switzerland, a country that has felt like a second home to his family, as well as a research trip to Central Siberia where he had the exciting opportunity to work with the Russians on environmental issues.
An intently curious individual, Peter Jutro is continually looking to explore what exists around the world. While he may be learning about a culture’s history, studying its environmental concerns, or he and his wife might be hiking and scuba diving in one of a number of countries for pleasure, Peter always appreciates how travel serves as a catalyst for education, personal growth, and developing friendships.
Biodiversity In The Florida Keys
Peter Jutro is currently in the process of writing a book about Lignumvitae Key, an island in the Florida Keys. He has been involved in research and in the preservation of this area since the early 1970’s. Dr. Jutro finds it an incredibly fascinating place for historical, political, and biological reasons. The Lignumvitae Key Aquatic Preserve encompasses 7,000 acres of seagrass meadows, deep water channels, hard bottom communities, and mangrove wetlands. The island itself includes the last pristine lowland tropical forest remaining in the United States.
Berlin: A Family Connection
Of German-Jewish descent, Peter Jutro has an extremely personal connection to Berlin, the city from which his family emigrated to the United States. Just prior to World War II, his late father spent several months as a concentration camp prisoner in a Berlin suburb. Recently, Peter was excited to find a journal among his family’s historical documents; This journal had been written in by his father in 1939, and detailed life in the concentration camp. This inside look at the concentration camp, as well as the close personal connection with the author, makes this find a unique historical document. Peter is currently in the process of transcribing and translating the manuscript into English so that his father’s experiences can be broadly shared.
Peter Jutro dedicated more than 35 years to Federal service, serving in a variety of positions involved with Environmental Policy and National Security. Most recently, Dr. Jutro was Acting Associate EPA Administrator for Homeland Security. Before that, he was Deputy Director for Science and Policy and Director of the Washington office of EPA’s National Homeland Security Research Center. This group is responsible for the research needed to provide the science and technology behind the EPA’s disaster mandates, which fall primarily in the areas of decontamination, water protection, risk assessment, and resilience. His earlier work in academia, on Congressional Staff, and with Federal Agencies, dealt largely with risk assessment, global climate change and biological diversity.