5 Ways to Travel Consciously in our ‘New Normal’ World

Olivia Burton

As a European in Australia, I have dreamt about having a coffee in Paris multiple times since the borders shut to international travel over here. Clearly, I am not the only one, with one of Netflix’s most popular shows in the last few months being Emily in Paris.

Overseas travel is a common hobby for Australians, with nearly ten million Aussies doing it every year (and this figure is growing).

Flights have been getting cheaper each year, with bigger deals (oh…and bigger carbon footprints). This is also a global trend, with an approximate 56x increase of tourists (to 1.4 billion) between 1950 to 2018.

Image via Melissa Findley

Melissa-Findley Great Barrier Reef

international travel stats

The truth is, we are incredibly spoilt. Most people that travel overseas do so without question and having never been told they couldn’t – bar the limitation of money and time.

As the dust settles globally on the realisation of living in ‘the new normal’ of a COVID-19 pandemic, there have been major shifts in the way we travel. The travel industry obviously has been one of the hardest industries to be hit recently, with a projected loss of $2.1 trillion and 75 million jobs.

There have been mixed reports of what the future of travelling may hold, with many suggesting that long term we will return to ‘normal’.

But what if we shifted the way we travel long-term?

We are not only living in a global pandemic; we are living in a climate crisis and now is the time to shift the way we travel on-going. A recent article in the National Geographic noted that future travel will be more sustainably focused, inclusive, diverse, local and higher quality over quantity.

It will be fascinating to watch the travel industry (hopefully) evolve and thrive, and as consumers, we should support it, push it forward as much as we can and demand buy-in from governments.

For now, whilst we are still in the midst of COVID-19 ‘new normal’ in Australia, here’s some ideas on how to travel for now and potentially for the future (check your local government website for rules around travelling during COVID-19).

Travel Australia explore local places

Take a holiday in your own city  

I know this seems silly, but sometimes people forget how beautiful their own local city or town is. Head to your nearest city for the weekend and feel the excitement of being a tourist in your own backyard. Research local spots online (you might find something completely new!) and plan an itinerary. Even a day trip to a new area can give the same (well as close to) holiday buzz as heading on an overseas trip.

Do a house swap

I recently went away for the weekend and lent my flat to my friend and her partner (they live 20 minutes away). It was exciting to hear all the fun stuff she had planned in my local area, which then inspired me to explore some of it on my return.

I am looking forward to doing a house swap with her place in the future, getting to mix up the scenery and explore new spots around the corner from each other. If you have friends that live further away, even better – suggest a swap for the week or just the weekend and explore a change of scenery.

Bring back the road trips

Ok, I have to admit I bloody love a good road trip. The excitement of grabbing some mates, filling up the car, and spending hours talking and listening to music whilst driving down the highway.

Road trippin’ is an essential aspect of Aussie travelling, with so much to explore both inland and by the ocean.

Just in New South Wales, which is 801,150 km², I had no idea the vast amount there is to do and especially by car. The great part about road tripping is the ability to travel relatively cheaply with multiple people, whilst visiting multiple areas. If no-one has a car, rent one! The more people that travel in the car, the eco-friendlier the journey is (i.e. less emissions per person).

Support smaller communities

“We need to diversify our locations to avoid mass tourism and focus on the places that really need it…Seeing so many communities suffer during COVID-19 has brought [this issue] to light.” – Kate Newman, Travel for Difference, National Geographic, 2020

Byron Bay has enough tourists; make travelling more interesting and head to the less-crowded areas and support other local communities.

With just a little research (word of mouth or the internet), you can find some really beautiful and unique towns and areas, with cute pubs, cafes and walks. For example, recently a few friends and I headed to Coonabarabran (sitting on land traditionally owned by the Gamilaroi people). The area is only six-hours’ drive from Sydney (with plenty of fun stops along the way), this small country town just happens to be the stargazing capital of Australia.

Revel in the micro-adventure

There is nothing quite as fulfilling as a micro-adventure which global adventurer Alastair Humphreys states is, an adventure that is “small and achievable, for normal people with real lives.” I think this is even more applicable now, with people’s lives being more complicated than ever yet desperately needing connection to nature and adventure.

The meaning and itinerary of a micro-adventure is set entirely by the adventurer (you) and can include a whole family with young kids. The internet is brimming with inspirational content and advice – for Australia and New Zealand head to We Are Explorers, for the UK see tips in Nat Geo here or for Europe see Wired for Adventure. Search micro-adventures in your city/country and share them with others!

Olivia Burton

Olivia is an eco-writer, producer, science graduate & ocean enthusiast. After moving from London to Sydney, she found her love for the outdoors and recycled textiles, which led her to start writing about science and sustainable fashion. Olivia is really passionate about brands using fashion for good and innovation in the industry. She now splits her time between several not-for-profit organisations in communication roles. Olivia is also a Centre for Sustainability Leadership alumni and sits on the Fashion Revolution committee for Australia & New Zealand.