‘Going anywhere nice for your holidays?’. I wonder how many times that question gets asked by hairdressers around the country at this time of the year… And what’s your answer? Are you going anywhere nice for your holidays?
If you haven’t made your plans yet, then chances are now is the time you’re doing some serious thinking around the issue. There are many things to think about: Do we want activities or lazing on the beach? What will keep everyone happy? How long can we go away for? How far do we want to travel? How much will it cost?
But there are other questions that we might want to start thinking about too: will the local people benefit from my holiday? Will it end up costing the environment more than if I’d done something else? Will the money spent on my holiday go towards supporting a national leadership that is oppressing its people? Am I going to a place where there are water shortages, caused partly by the tourism that happens there? Are the hotels and golf courses in that area taking over wetland and other natural sites that wildlife depends on for its survival?
The sad truth is that, whilst it may bring us pleasure and relaxation, the vast majority of our holidays take place at the expense of the land and the people who live there.
Don’t get me wrong: I love going on holiday! And it seems like I’m not the only one. In fact, globally, tourism is the biggest industry in the world. In the UK alone, around 70 million visits abroad are made by UK residents each year, with Spain the number one holiday destination of choice. And, whilst the recession may have changed some tourist patterns, the fact remains that we all want to go on holiday.
But it’s been dawning on me that if I want to live lightly in this world then that has to apply to every area of my life, including how I holiday. So, jumping on an aeroplane for a packaged holiday every year (or more) is simply out of the question as far as I’m concerned. The result is that we have had great fun finding ways of doing our holidays a bit differently. So, one year we stayed in a friend’s house near Lyme Regis and enjoyed a traditional English beach holiday. Another year we went to Ireland, travelling there by rail and ferry (the SailRail deal is great). Some years we have had the most wonderfully beautiful holidays in a yurt in the Cotswolds, and most recently we’ve discovered the inspiration of Bardsey Island. This year we have a rather exciting oversees trip planned, but since it is seven years since we last flew as a family I figure our carbon budget might stretch to that…
So here are my top tips for having a fantastically happy holiday:
- Next time you book a holiday, investigate it fully. For more details on questions to ask your tourist operator, and on the issues around tourism in general, contact Tourism Concern.
- Be prepared to bite the bullet on flying. Could you agree only to fly once every five years? Or to reduce the amount you fly by half? And, when you do fly, make an appropriate contribution to Climate Stewards.
- Do you feel your lifestyle demands regular holidays throughout the year? Think how you might build smaller ‘pitstops’ into your life to make you less holiday-reliant. Just for once, stay at home instead, giving the money you would have spent to friends who cannot afford to go away so often.
- Take your holiday somewhere that you can get to by boat/train/car. See the journey there as part of the holiday, rather than as a way of getting to your holiday. www.seat61.com is a fantastically inspiring and practical website that shows you how you can travel overland to, and within, places that you thought were only accessible by plane.
- Holiday with friends you don’t see much by visiting them in their homes, whether UK or abroad.
Wherever we go let’s make sure that our holidays reflect our love of God and our love of all that he has made. Oh, and have fun too!