Can You See The World Without Destroying It?

By Jane | September 22, 2012

Travel Books

Next year, a chapter in my life is drawing to a close. Partly out of necessity and partly by choice, I’ll be leaving the City of Angels. I’d be super bitter about this (I love LA) except…

I’m going to spend next year travelling.

I love travelling. The constant change, the unpredictability, the battle to be understood in tongue-twisting languages, the food… mamma mia! The food!

But mingling with my excitement is an underlying distaste for busses, planes, rental cars, and “American-style” hotels spewing their fumes unhindered into someone else’s pristine landscape.

I want to see the world without destroying it in the process.

Big Business Travel

During my past few trips (mostly for work, when I haven’t managed to convince the powers-that-be that teleconferencing will work just fine, thank you), I’ve become a waste-generating machine.

When you add up all the food packages, to-go containers, paper towels, and those little plastic airplane cups, the garbage created at the airport alone is astounding. My bamboo fork and knife set seem sort of pathetic placed next to all the things I’ll throw away over a few days.

Then there are the corporate-approved hotels: over-air-conditioned, fluorescent-lighted monstrosoties, where eco-friendly means washing your towels every other day.

And then there’s the truly tragic volume of CO2 released for every flight.

Monumental. Depressing.

The World From Two Wheels

All this thinking led me to consider my favorite form of near zero-impact travel. Bicycling!

Every time I get on my bike, a goofy grin spreads across my face as I feel the wind whip past me. I revel in the smiles I get from pajama’d neighbors as I witness their early morning rituals: picking up the paper; watering a garden; walking the dog. In the car I feel separate, insular; on a bike I feel deeply connected to my neighborhood.

What if I could become this connected to the places I visit?

Turns out, that’s what bike touring is for!

Bicycle touring is heightened awareness. It’s the difference between microwaving and cooking a meal from scratch. It’s the difference between standing awe-struck in front of a painting and clicking past it on the internet. Now imagine this feeling every day, all day. Something as simple as THE GROUND becomes very important. Is it level? Soft? Wet? You really begin to SEE the ground. You see people. And landscapes. And food. You might even see yourself.
– RJ, An Adventure Called Bicycling

With a bike, a tent, a cookset, and the wind at your back, you can visit country after country while making less impact on the enviroment than you would sitting at home.

You might choose to fly to point A, but points B through Z come from pedal power. Fuel is provided by the groceries you buy at the local market and air conditioning is the wind in your hair.

You can even generate your own electricity.

Lately, I have been immersed in Tara and Tyler’s Going Slowly blog, on which they posted a daily journal from their two-year cycling adventure.

I am dreaming. I am planning. I am researching. I can’t wait to start sharing my discoveries with all of you.

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Got a few more minutes? Read these posts.

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[column size=”one-half” last=”true”]Thousands of Dead FishShould I Eat This? Part 5: Fish
Even if you don’t travel anywhere, your choices can impact far-flung destination you may never see yourself.[/column]

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6 comments

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  5. Comment by ann

    ann Reply September 22, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    the happiest days of all our travels were 2.scootering around mykonos, greece 3. scootering around udaipur, india 4. scootering around penang, malaysia but the NUMBER ONE ever was 1. cycling near Flam, Norway. pity we didn’t do it more.

    • Comment by JaneM

      JaneM September 23, 2012 at 11:11 am

      I will always remember a day of cycling with Stephen around Dingle, Ireland in the pouring rain (which would have been shortly after we met you). And the day we cycled together in Cappadocia – which started in a huge fight, but was still fun by the end!

      But the best day of our travels ever was cycling in the countryside outside of Luxor. Mostly we hated Egypt, but this was like entering a different world, where people didn’t just see you as a walking wallet, and we didn’t just see the people as being there to either scam or help us. We were all just people.

      If I can recapture any part of that day, this trip will be a success!

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