International travel’s back, but there’s good reason to explore at home

All of a sudden, travel has sprung back to life. You can once again hear the excited buzz of conversations in bars and cafes and at the water cooler at work. “I’m going to Bali for three weeks – I can barely believe it!” or “I’ve just come back from Egypt – it is so amazing to be able to travel again.”

And there’s no doubt that it is. For the past two years our world shrank down to the local, the domestic, the isolated COVID-induced reality of restricted and locked down lives. Those of us with the privilege of being able to travel for much of our adult lives were suddenly waylaid, immobilised, forced to stand still.

But now, almost unbelievably, the world has opened up again. Hallelujah – we can travel again. For some it’s the excitement of new destinations, new horizons, new cultures to explore.

For others it is something more – re-establishing long-missed old friendships or even reconnecting with beloved family. Travel has always been the elixir that opens new doorways, breaks old domestic routines, wakes our souls from static slumber.

But as the world lurches from extreme weather events and climate breakdown – the will to travel for me is now tinged with the question – can this travel actually be justified? In seeking to expand our own worlds are we inadvertently harming others in more climate vulnerable countries, or limiting the options of future generations?

As well as holidaying, I was also travelling as a reporter writing about the coral reefs in Timor Leste, which are some of the most biodiverse in the world and remarkably intact from coral bleaching. I also visited Balibo where five Australian journalists were killed by the occupying Indonesian military in 1975.

So while I am the first to admit I have done more than my fair share of travelling purely for fun and relaxation in the past, my new resolve is that I will only travel when I have a compelling reason to do so, and where possible I will keep my travel closer to home.

In these climate impacted times, I just don’t want to blithely join throngs of Australian tourists circumnavigating the globe pointlessly, getting drunk in generic bars or lounging on beaches all day while the planet burns.

It is my hope that now that we have finally returned to COVID-normal and the blessing of global travel is open to us again – let’s go back to the days when global travel was something we would do with real purpose – as mindful of our carbon footprint as we are of ticking new destinations off our personal bucket list.

First published in The Age / SMH

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