The Importance of Sustainable Travel

Most people think there are three distinct types of travel.

  1. There are the vacations/girlfriend getaways/ boys’ trips that almost always include beach lounge chairs and late night escapades.
  2. There’s the work trip: All board rooms, handshakes, bar meetings and wistful looks at the pool as you shuffle by.
  3. And there are volunteer trips: Filled with do-good actions like building schools and digging wells and coming home feeling good about what you’ve done but unsure you really got any “vacation.”

Over the years I’ve realized that actually there are many times these three kinds of travel become blurred.

You head to a destination with the boss but tack on a day for the beach.

You head to the island on vacation but end up seeing a business opportunity too good to pass up.

And the best kind of blur: When out of nowhere, you find yourself with an opportunity to learn something new, make a difference in the lives of others or change a person’s way of thinking (even if it’s your own) simply by being present.

It has happened to me.

Sustainable Travel: Rwanda and Congo

In Rwanda and the Congo I met conservationists at Virunga Lodge who are putting their lives on the line to protect gorillas, and their counterparts who have worked hard to ensure that otherwise forgotten communities have access to education. Just staying at the hotel or going out on a gorilla trek contributes to that effort in a positive way.

A small portion of the community gathered for the celebrations

A small portion of the community who benefits from Virunga Lodge guests.


Sustainable Travel: Cambodia

In Cambodia , my family opted for small local transport and independent guides over larger internationally owned companies and were rewarded with an in-home meal with the family affected by the very dollars I’d spent.

Friends in Cambodia Sustainable Travel

Some of the hardest working and fun guys I have ever met.


Sustainable Travel: Galapagos

In the Galapagos, we chose an outfitter that uses smaller hotels and restaurants with local owners, giving them a shot at international exposure (and dollars).

sustainable travel

Making new friends in the Galapagos

It has happened on my travels because I intentionally sought it out and it has happened completely by chance. But whenever it has happened it has been a highlight of the trip.

The World Tourism Organization defines“Sustainable Travel” as:

“Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”

But for me it’s the very simple idea that just by taking the trip you want to take, or need to take, you can – with your attitude or your wallet – make decisions that have positive effects on the places you’re visiting.

Who wouldn’t want to do this?

Sustainable Travel Galapagos Islands


A recent AIG Travel Pulse Poll suggests that most of us are craving it. More than half of the people surveyed said that it is “important to travel sustainably,” more than one third reported difficulty in doing it and more than half of those said that “not knowing how” was their biggest barrier.

In the weeks ahead I’m hoping to change that.  Here on the blog , I’ll share some of the ways that you can make your travel more meaningful even if you never buy a carbon offset or hug a tree.

And on August 9, from 9-10 pm EST(8-9 CST/6-7 PST) I’m hoping you’ll join me for the AIG Travel #WhereNext? Sustainable Travel Twitter Chat to swap tips for finding even more ways to help each other travel better.

There are great prizes on tap so be sure to register here and to follow @TravelGuard on Twitter and Facebook ahead of the chat.

Sustainable travel doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or expensive.

It can be as simple as deciding you want to make a difference in the world you’re traveling through. In my next post, I’ll show you how.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored in part by AIG ( As always the opinions and experiences are my own.