I caught up with Laura Greenman — founder of Magnetic North Travel — to talk about how we can minimise the impact of our travels on the world around us.
What makes a vacation eco-friendly?
The term ‘eco-friendly’ has become a buzzword. While its popularity stands testament to an increasing demand for a more sustainable approach to travel, we think that it’s important to revert back to the positive intentions behind the ‘eco-friendly’ label. The original idea behind eco-travel was to act responsibly when visiting new places.
This responsibility goes beyond being eco-friendly or green. Helping locals preserve their home is equally important to preserving nature itself.
On an operational level this means that we’ll take the authenticity of the experience, its impact on the environment and local community into consideration when creating tours for our clients. Also, we select suppliers based on their ecological and social conscience.
Scandinavian countries, and Norway in particular, seem to be able to maintain a really strong connection with nature and the outdoors. What can travellers learn from the Norwegian way of life?
Friluftsliv — loosely translated as ‘free air living’ — describes the art of spending quality time outdoors. It’s a simple yet powerful philosophy emphasising the importance of enjoying nature. Rather than pushing limits in punishing conditions, time spent in nature is seen as an opportunity for leisure. A successful outdoor adventure, by Norwegian standards, is less about the mountains conquered or miles covered, it’s about the experience, the views, and the adventures.
Friluftsliv is also reflected in the Scandinavian travel style. Travellers can choose from a wide variety of soft adventures such as kayaking, hiking, dog-sledding, or snow-shoeing — each aiming to build a connection with nature. Locals and tourists travel to pick up or hone a new skill as they discover the beauty of their surroundings in an active but gentle manner.
Do eco-friendly vacations have to be expensive?
The aim of an eco-friendly vacation is to connect with nature in a mindful and responsible way — the trick is to select places and activities that have a positive impact on their surroundings. This doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in budget, it’s more about finding a host or activity provider who feels passionate about the surrounding nature.
How does travel help us to better understand the environmental issues that need our attention?
The Arctic is facing massive challenges — as its wildlife and landscapes undergo rapid changes, its impact will reach far beyond the Arctic Circle. Travel can help value these landscapes at risk, and help us to understand the complexity behind the changes. Many tour providers in those jeopardised regions share an inspirational passion and respect for the pristine landscapes surrounding them. Their enthusiasm and local knowledge offers unique insights into their everyday life and the future at stake.
While media reports on climate-change tend to take a scientific or social angle, travel often paints a more wholesome, subjective picture. These observations may encourage travellers to make small lifestyle changes, further nurture their connection with nature or raise awareness based on personal experiences.
Read more from Gareth Johnson
We want to hear your opinion
Which are the gay travel hot spots?
Need some inspiration for your travel plans?
We ran a survey of Mainly Male readers to ask gay men about their expeditions and adventures.
108 guys responded to our survey.
Here’s what they told us.
When you go on vacation, who do you generally travel with?
- By myself: 23%
- With a partner: 49%
- With friends: 14%
- With family: 11%
- I don’t travel: 3%
Which is your favourite type of vacation?
- Beach: 23%
- Somewhere warm: 15%
- Winter sports: 3%
- City-break: 12%
- Something active or outdoorsy: 9%
- Something cultural: 16%
- Something relaxing: 22%
“Some holidays that have been the best of times start with staying at a B&B and being able to go sky diving, canoeing, and a range of outdoor activities, then relaxing at night in a warm house and great dinner and bed.” — anonymous survey respondent
“Combination of someplace warm where we can explore and then have a few down days to relax on the beach.” — anonymous survey respondent
“Tend to do a mix — city to party, relax, somewhere warm, cultural, and active. Our trip this year is San Francisco to party, relax on boat travelling up the west coast, Napa, hike in the red wood forest, and Palm Springs.” — anonymous survey respondent
“Cruise!” — anonymous survey respondent
When you’re on vacation, are you interested in checking out gay bars, venues, or events?
- Yes: 62%
- No: 14%
- It depends who I’m with: 24%
When you’re on vacation, are you interested in staying in a gay-friendly hotel or accommodation?
- Yes: 58%
- No: 19%
- It depends who I’m with: 23%
Which destinations are at the top of your travel wish-list?
- Responses to this question weren’t particularly cut and dried, as people listed both countries and specific cities in their answers — in some cases respondents listed entire continents. We’ve manually reviewed the answers to draw together the common themes.
- Spain featured prominently on the wish-list of a lot of our respondents. When we include beach-side destinations such as Sitges, Ibiza, and Gran Canaria, 8% of respondents had Spain on their wish-list
- Italy polled strongly, with 4% of respondents reporting that Italy was on their wish-list. As did Australia, and Germany — both of these destinations also appeared on the travel wish-list of 4% of respondents.
- An additional 4% of respondents simply nominated Europe as being on their wish-list, which would translate to further interest in destinations such as Spain, Italy, and Germany.
- Iceland polled strongly — featuring on the travel wish-list of 3% of survey respondents.
- Other destinations that respondents had high on their wish-list included New York City, Greece, Mexico, London, South America, France, Chicago, Japan, New Zealand, and San Francisco.
- Key take-out: Australia, Iceland, and European destinations are at the top of mind for gay travellers. When it comes to the US, gay travellers tend to focus on the specific cities that they want to visit, such as New York City and San Francisco.
Which destination will you be going to for your next vacation?
- Looking at the specific destinations that respondents reported, the big winner was Paris — however it’s clear that this was influenced by the timing of the survey. Respondents were completing the survey just ahead of the Gay Games hosted by Paris.
- When we look at the results at a country level, somewhere in the United States was where a large proportion (21%) of respondents were spending their next vacation — most of this seemed to be fuelled by domestic travel. Australia (9%)is a popular destination for gay travellers, as is Spain (12%) and Italy (8%).
- Key take-out: Like all travel, there are seasonal factors that influence the choices of gay travellers — for example, the beach resorts of Spain are popular in Summer. What we’d perhaps underestimated is how event-driven travel is a big factor in the choices being made by gay men.
Where do you get your travel inspirations?
- Friends and family: 29%
- Personal research: 49%
- Travel articles or features: 19%
- Advertising: 3%
“A lot of it depends on price as well, I use Skyscanner and see what cheap flights are available so if there’s a cheap flight to be taken advantage of, then why not?” — anonymous survey respondent
“I also love to read about history, so that too give me ideas about travelling.” — anonymous survey respondent
- Gay travellers are influenced by seasonal and event-driven considerations when planning their vacation destinations. Although winter sports options seem to be fairly low on the priority list.
- European destinations are popular with gay travellers, as well as destinations such as Australia, Iceland, and North American cities such as San Francisco and New York City.
- We were surprised by the number of gay men who reported that they generally travel by themselves — 23% of respondents.
- Gay travellers are interested in staying in accommodation that demonstrates that it is gay-friendly.
- On vacation, gay travellers are interested in experiencing the local gay nightlife of bars, clubs, and venues.
- The most effective way to draw a gay traveller’s attention to a specific destination is to help them feel that it’s their idea. In sci-fi terms, it’s inception — supporting the initial ‘discovery’ with positive reinforcement from friends and family, travel articles, and advertising.
Every Tuesday we take a look at a destination or experience that you might want to consider adding to your travel wish-list. Here’s some of our recent Travel Tuesday features:
- The survey was conducted across a four-week period in July 2018.
- Respondents were recruited via Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. No incentives were offered for respondents to complete the survey.
- We used Survey Monkey to collect the survey responses, and then analysed the results manually
- Comments from respondents were captured during the survey process.
“I was walking straight into a trap…”
“I was now earning £12 per day…”
“I wasn’t about to crawl back into the closet…”
“I felt like I had turned a corner…”
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