Staycation, or why you can make the world a better place by spending your vacation close to home.
Dreaming of summer while sunbathing on our balconies or backyards to avoid the spread of a pandemic does not seem a particularly difficult gesture of global solidarity to make. But as much as we look forward to traveling again and getting back to ‘normal’, let’s look on the bright side of things and appreciate how sometimes, by simply changing our habits, we have the wonderful power to shape the future for the better. What if, instead of going back to normal, we move forward?
Since the novel COVID-19 pandemic has lessened human activity, the environment has begun to rebuild itself. However, it has also led scientists to a negative realization: the ongoing climate crisis could ultimately lead to much worse pandemics in the future. According to a paper written by The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES): “rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development, as well as the exploitation of wild species have created a ‘perfect storm’ for the spillover of diseases from wildlife to people”. As former Vice President of the U.S., Al Gore, said in an interview on MSNBC: “on the way out of this crisis, we need to rebuild in a way that keeps the air cleaner and stops causing horrendous consequences that scientists have been shouting from the rooftops warning us against”. Basically, if we do not change our ways, things could get significantly worse. Given this apparently bleak picture, what can we do about it? Should we give up all those sunny days ahead? Absolutely not, but we can make equally valid and environmentally friendly options “sexy” again.
Staycation is a neologism that we use to talk about vacations that we take at home or near our home rather than traveling to another place. It is synonymous with less pollution, saving money and not contributing to the overwhelming chaos that takes place in some of the world’s most touristic areas. Because the truth is that we do not always have to leave the country to go on holiday. Sometimes, it is just about taking time out and seeing what is on our doorstep, rediscovering the town we live in and relaxing. Just as much fun is to be had, but without all the stress of packing, travelling and getting up very early in the morning to catch a flight.
Staycation is a great way of spending joyful vacations while helping the environment, as it keeps harmful GHG emissions in the ground. It is a form of alternative tourism that is fully in line with the slow life trend. It invites us to live in the present moment, encouraging us to take our time, discover nearby landscapes, reconnect and spend more time outdoors in nature with the people we enjoy. Besides, staycations are evolving, with a tendency towards more remote settings and standalone accommodation, as the key words here are “isolation” and “exclusivity”, away from crowds.
Of course, we are not implying that we should give up traveling to farway, exotic places, because we know that there is no substitute for the thrill of the sights, sounds and smells of a foreign country when it comes to escaping the office and the mobile phone. But the current situation forces us to see things from a different perspective, and gives us the opportunity to try new ways of doing things, to be more aware of the interconnection that exists between all corners of the planet, to reflect on our way of being in the world and, with a bit of luck, not to yearn for a return to normality, but to move forward.
“The moment of seclusion makes us, in some way, reassess our lives. It is an invitation to review our priorities and values. Life gave us a shake and made us look not only into ourselves, but at how we act and relate to each other. We have to be well so that the other is also well; after all, in this universe, we are all connected. What happens in one place is reflected in another. “In the words of Gisele Bündchen, a lifelong environmentalist: So it is with nature, it so with people”.
We are an indivisible part of nature. And, just as there are changes that are not within our reach, there are small gestures that, in the long run, can make a significant difference to our well-being and the future of our planet.
Let’s not go back to normal, because normalcy was part of the problem. Let’s move forward and build a better future together, for us and for future generations.