10 Ways Travel Could Change Post-COVID

The global pandemic nearly destroyed the travel industry, but perhaps it will return more sustainable.

Photo by Lukas Souza on Unsplash

Though the tourism sector has taken a huge hit during the global lockdown, there have been waves of good to come from it, too. 

Whether it’s seeing global fossil fuel emissions drop, habitats rebuilding themselves, or cleaner waters in the canals of Venice, there have been undeniable positive impacts during a one-year stoppage of travel.

But what if, when tourism returns, we went about it more consciously?

Here is a list of 10 simple things I’d like to see changed when we’re able to return to globetrotting and vacationing. What else would you like to see changed about our bad travel habits?

1. Slower travel.

By this, I don’t mean we have to stay longer. A one-week vacation will always be the standard.

It’s what we do in that one week that we can change. Instead of packing an itinerary full, leave some time for nothing in particular.

Go for an aimless stroll about the city. People watch. Talk with people who aren’t assisting you in one way or another.

These are all things I’d love to become more popular — not only in solo travel but family/group travel as well.

2. Better research.

This one starts before you even depart for your vacation.

By better research, I don’t mean find out how to get from point A to point B the most efficiently. I mean do meaningful research. Read and consume information that will teach you more about the place you’re traveling to beyond what will save you money or time or keep you safe.

Take a short history lesson. Learn something about religion or language. Try to connect on Facebook groups with locals or expats living there and see what they’re talking about. Have an idea of cultural norms and customs.

Get intentional about whose advice you consume and where you find it. And, to add to that, don’t only seek advice. Go for education instead. In your research, be a student first, traveler second.

3. Ground travel.

For the environment and for the experience, be a ground traveler. If at all possible, take trains, buses, cars, or bikes. Air travel is not sustainable, but if you must do so, make sure you offset your carbon footprint here.

Sustainability aside, your experience can be far greater on the ground. Sure, you might lose time on your itinerary this way but as they say,

It’s about the journey, not the destination.

4. More reflection.

This is especially true if traveling with your family or a group. Take some time for yourself. Go on a walk all alone if only just to take a breather and reflect on what you’ve experienced.

Too often in travel, we buzz through our entire itinerary without ever actually being present.

To travel, and to travel so easily, is one of the greatest privileges we have. Don’t take advantage of it by not letting it soak into your soul.

Care about the little things just as much as the activities that get your adrenaline pumping. Be open to the experience and take the time to reflect no matter the situation.

5. More secrecy.

This one is what I’m most hopeful for. Let’s make secrecy cool. Especially online.

Let’s find new ways to talk about or document our travels. We don’t need to rush to the Internet to broadcast our vacation. We don’t need to let others know — especially the masses — that we are doing something cool. Most of us know that’s a lie anyway. Travel Insta is never as good as it seems.

Over-tourism is a huge problem. To me, there is nothing sexier than a stealthy traveler. One who sees but doesn’t tell. One who finds a gem but doesn’t shout it from the rooftops. One whose Instagram isn’t a glossy touch-up of reality.

Let’s be real and let’s be more secret.

6. Intentional consumerism.

I hate (hate) the idea of souvenirs. Your memory is the souvenir. Your photos are the souvenir. Your journal is the souvenir. The taste is your souvenir. The scent is your souvenir.

What is not a souvenir is that gimmicky collection of magnets on your fridge. What is not a souvenir is the experience you missed during the time you spent shopping for stupid trinkets for your family and friends. Let’s be honest, they’ll never even look at them.

But souvenir shopping isn’t the only intentional consumerism we can concentrate on.

And this is a big one. . .

We need to get better at thinking local.

If I had it my way, the Mom & Pop hotels and restaurants of the world would be able to undercut the big chains. The flashy resorts would be replaced with quaint homestays. Humble local Airbnb hosts would dominate foreign rentals.

I believe the ‘buy local’ movement is upon us and I’d like to see it really take off when travel resumes.

7. Due diligence.

This one ties into doing better research, but it’s more focused on the in-person experience.

Think about your actions while you travel. Be a good representative for your country and tourists, in general.

Whenever I travel, I’m not proud to tell others I’m American. American tourists get a reputation for being loud, reckless, and unaware. But Americans aren’t the only ones with unfavorable travel reputations. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of many countries whose people leave good impressions where they travel.

Let’s change that. We can start by behaving like guests — because that’s what we are.

You wouldn’t make a mess of your friend’s house. You wouldn’t demand things are certain ways while you’re there. You wouldn’t fly through it like a tornado, careless about anything in your way. You wouldn’t be loud. So, don’t do it while you travel.

8. Purposeful itineraries.

Try this: Instead of looking up ‘Top things to do in (city/country)”, let’s think of a better approach.

I’ve been a travel writer for years. It’s how I make my money. I write for blogs and companies who know that they can profit off Google search keywords like ‘what to do in (city)’ or ‘top places to see in (country)’. I’ve contributed to this problem in the worst way.

Instead, let’s change that together.

Instead of looking for the top 10 things to do in the next city you travel to, I hope we can find alternatives.

Perhaps there is a narrative for your travels. Such as, you’re interested in a recent news story and want to ‘investigate’. You have researched a historic pilgrimage and you want to retrace the steps. You heard about a local food rivalry and want to weigh in on the debate.

In this way, we can all become a version of travel ‘journalists’. Let’s bring some unordinary knowledge back home with us. Let’s make our vacations unique.

9. Acts of kindness.

Recently, I watched a video about how charity:water made it cool to commit your birthday to give clean water to others.

Let’s create a trend in travel to take time for random acts of kindness.

I don’t think I need to explain much further. Actions speak for themselves. And it doesn’t need to be anything complicated. Something as simple as being a bright spot on someone’s day could go a long way.

Just as we would do acts of kindness at home, let’s remember to do them on vacation.

10. Tourism education.

The last thing I’ll mention is making tourism education more important. Before you become a traveler, tourist, vacationer, or what-have-you, take some time to educate yourself on the impact of tourism.

Not only the environmental impact tourism has, but also the effect it has on culture, economy, equality, and local life.

Tourism brings tremendous benefits all around the world. Not only for the tourists but for locals worldwide. But with the tremendous upside comes threatening downsides.

If only we used this period of global stoppage to slow down and think about the consequences of our tourism habits, perhaps we would see a better industry tomorrow. A more sustainable industry for everyone involved.

Travel could be a win-win in every sense if we do it right. I believe these 10 changes would be a great start. 

What do you think? What did I miss? What would you change about travel post-COVID?

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Originally published at https://www.adamcheshier.com/ on May 4th, 2021.

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