The Earth is bountiful and incredibly beautiful - beckoning to us to climb those mountains, watch wildlife at dawn, relax on that beach - after travelling half way across the planet. And there are people of exotic cultures, lovely old castles and other man-made wonders to admire. Add to that our human need to be enchanted by what is new and affordable, we have a great footloose civilisation. On an average over 8 million people fly every day, and if you travel by train, the station is so crowded that the whole world seems to be travelling. But hey, so are you!
When we googled “Mindful Travel”, what came up on top was mostly how to be careful when travelling abroad, respect other cultures, taste new foods and often, Buddhist teachings of observing, practising deep breathing, accepting and being mindful of everything we come across etc. Rarely a word about how much to travel or how to travel sustainably.
Yes, sustainable living is not easy. Thinking about sustainability and walking our talk is not just difficult, it is confusing. On the one hand travel and tourism is expected to provide livelihoods to many, so it may even be considered a bit of ‘do gooding’ to the underpriveleged. And our families and communities are scattered across the world, and shouldn’t we be close to them, visit them? Conflicting information and ideas are so common - like an article on carbon emissions on one page of the newspaper and another article in the next page extolling a must-visit destination in Europe. So much so that we stop trying to make sense of the messages we are bombarded with.
So back to our question, how much to travel and how to travel? Our writers in this issue, share different perspectives. Peter Owens muses on travelling as a pilgrim rather than as a tourist. Do we take or do we give as we travel? And when we take, how do we take - as consumers or seekers? Francesca Baker invites us to do as the locals do, rather than carry our city with us. ‘Armchair travel’ by James Strohecker shows us perhaps the best way for us to travel without travelling, and maybe, settle some of our restlessness. In similar vein, Garima Bhatia talks of ‘Birding from your Balcony’.
Subsidised aviation fuel is what has made air travel so cheap; the nexus between big airline corporates and politics of oil is merrily fuelling air traffic - to over 10,000 flights a day, while carbon emissions keep rising. Soren Andersson writes about why flying is out of the sustainability discussion.
And food is being shipped or flown across the world, sometimes back and forth with some ‘value additions’, because transportation costs are kept artificially low, and economics does not recognise or acknowledge ecology. Devinder Sharma and our young intern, Roshan Benefo unravel some of the hidden stories of how food travel thousands of kilometers before it reaches our plate.
There is much more to understand about our addiction to travelling - in the world outside as well as within ourselves. We wish you happy reading.