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Is travelling selfish?

Travel Forums General Talk Is travelling selfish?

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1. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 10y

Dear all,

I have been lecturing many of you in the Europe and South America forums over the past few weeks on their flying habits, which I labelled 'irresponsible travel'.

Some people reacted to that by saying that it was none of my business how they cared to spoil the environment during their holidays and gap years. Apart from the fact that I clearly disagree, and consider it my obligation as an 'intellectually gifted inhabitant' of this planet to point other people to the consequences of their behaviour, these responses made me curious about the following:


I am hoping for ALL kinds of responses, not just environmental arguments pro and con!

Niels (Amsterdam)

2. Posted by ikey (Full Member 172 posts) 10y

Of course travelling is selfish, but almost everything we do as humans is selfish. Whether it's catching a train into town, eating a packet of chips or using the internet, they all have a negative impact on the environment and consequently those around us.
I have noticed you "lecturing many of (us) in the Europe and South America forums", as you put it, about travelling by plane and I have one question- you have said you wanted to move to Buenos Aires, how do you plan on getting yourself and your belongings there? You couldn't catch a plane/train/boat/car/bus because that would be "irresponsible travel" right?
To answer your question, yes, travelling is selfish in an environmental aspect, but it's too much fun to stop!

3. Posted by Peter (Admin 5767 posts) 10y

Indeed, to get from the Netherlands to South America, the MOST environmentally friendly option would be a plane :) (a sailboat might be better, but I'm guessing that's not a likely option)

But of course, even better for the environment would be to stay at home.

To be honest, I think that some of the benefits of travel outweigh some of the harmful effects. I agree that travelling is severely detrimental to our environment, but I think that the social awareness it can bring outweighs that. And I also think that it is more important to consider our regular behaviours at home above all else. (food sources, electricity, transportation, clothing, etc..). Yes, a healthy attitude to travel is important. First though, should come a healthy attitude to the environment in general.

Travel is usually selfish, but it can also help develop people who are less selfish. Most people I see trying to help out less privileged people in other countries have had to travel to be aware of the problems in the first place. Watching it on TV simply doesn't have the same effect.

If travelling develops more aware people less inclined to bomb other countries to bits, I think that is both good for our environment and our society.

4. Posted by snatterand (Travel Guru 454 posts) 10y

I wouldn't say that travelling in itself is selfish. But how some people do it is selfish. Flying between continents is sometimes the only option (though I know people who are gonna bike it down to Australia from England!!!) but some people try to cover a huge amount of land (for example South America) in a very short time, just to be able to "see it all". That's very irresponsible and selfish.

I mean, first of all, you won't be able to see much while moving so fast. It's a wellknown fact that you don't get to know a place properly unless you are spending quite some time in the same place. Most people maintain that they are travelling in order to "get to know new places", right? So, does anyone really think that you would get to know the whole of South America in, say, 5 weeks? Why don't you guys instead go spend 5 weeks in just one country, and really get to know that country instead!?? I don't get it. It's such a contradiction.

And it's irresponsible because 1) you are neglecting the wellbeing of the planet, the planet that you claim that "you want to get to know". And 2) travelling like that in poor countries is setting a bad example for the people living there.

My point is: I don't think we all should refrain from travelling. I just want all of you to START THINKING while doing it. See what I mean?


5. Posted by Jase007 (Travel Guru 8870 posts) 10y


6. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 10y

You'd care to elaborate on that rather compact statement of yours, Jase? :-)

And a short reply to Ikey; I don't believe that only those who are 'free of sin' themselves are allowed to lecture others. Yes, I too fly occasionally, and yes, my ecological footprint is way too large, too. However, I sincerely try to limit my flights (I cross the oceans roughly once a year), don't fly intracontinentally at all, and try to 'compensate' for the burden I exert on the environment by making other people aware, volunteering in a number of environmental initiatives, etc.

Of course I am not saying that no-one should fly, even though that would be a most effective way to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses. I merely want the travelling community to think about the way they move around, and not just consider the world your own cultural snackbar that you can go to, eat at, pay and leave behind your rubbish, so to speak. And that doesn't just apply to the environmental impact of travellers' behaviour, but also to cultural and economical effects.


[ Edit: Edited at Jun 7, 2006 2:15 AM by bentivogli ]

7. Posted by Clarabell (Travel Guru 1696 posts) 10y

If you are going halfway round the world most people have little choice but to fly. OK, so flying shorter distances when its not necessary is a problem.

However, not everyone has the option to go everywhere overland. Does this mean that people who can only get, say 2 weeks off work, should just stay at home and stop being selfish? Because wouldn't that mean a lot of travel is only possible for the few people priviledged enough to quit their jobs and bus/sail/cycle/walk around the world for months?

8. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 10y

no; it means that you should adapt your travel plans to your time frame. If you have only two weeks, why not just travel neighbouring countries, or, in the case of the US, states? I bet there's a lot to be seen and learnt, even when staying closer to home. People should stop the ridiculous 'the farther the better'-doctrine rightaway.

9. Posted by Peter (Admin 5767 posts) 10y

I think what is more interesting is what you buy on a daily basis. How much of the stuff you buy has had to be shipped/flown half way across the world? Most people have no idea or even any reasonable way of finding out.

I personally feel that buying local is a more effective/useful cause.

It's interesting how often this topic has come up recently though. And it's good to see people thinking more about their effect on the environment.

I'm making up for my emissions by purchasing carbon offsets (in the form of trees) from Greenfleet I'm sure other guilt ridden travellers can do the same where they live ;)

10. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 10y

good one, Peter!

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