A few weeks ago, I saw an advertisement in a magazine that read, “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” In this recession, I have been doing a lot more thinking about whether my purchases will really enrich my life, how much I really need a thing or experience I pine for, and whether I’m getting the most “bang” for every buck I spend. For instance, will my purchase also be earth-friendly, community-friendly, or serving some cause (such as wildlife preservation)?
With conspicuous consumption now out of vogue — “McMansion” and designer-anything are almost dirty words — should we travelers feel wasteful for taking a luxury cruise or spending a week at a high-end lodge? Would it weigh on our consciences a bit less if we chose instead to load up the car and go to the nearest national or state park for the weekend?
Some point out that a recession is the perfect time to take an expensive and lengthy trip — because there are bargains out there. Many travel companies and tourism service providers are slashing prices to stay afloat in these harsh economic times. And in some remote places where communities may depend almost exclusively on tourist dollars, it can even be argued that you’re doing your part to help end the worldwide recession.
Still, there’s that little voice you can’t seem to quiet, saying it’s not only the far-off, atmosphere-rich eco-lodges and foreign economies that need your bucks right now. You could take a volunteer vacation, painting a playground in Guatemala or building a well or solar-powered school in Kenya. But adventuring in your own backyard, such as in nearby conservation preserves, forests or parks, does more than shrink the cost and carbon footprint of your trip. It also supports programs that engender humankind’s respect for nature while it helps ensure that wild places remain protected — including those in your local area, so they’ll be there for you, your children and grandchildren.
As a guide in Argentina once told me, there are beautiful places everywhere in the world, even on your own block. Sometimes we forget that.
Perhaps wondering what kind of trip is appropriate during a recession is the wrong way to think. Whether you trek to the far side of the world or the far side of your county, it seems the important question is how your travels can do good — in good times and bad.
What do you think?