“Time is money”. I bet you’ve heard this saying more than once in your lifetime. It perfectly illustrates the way Western societies work. Because time IS literally money. People have to spend a certain amount of time at work, mostly 40 hours per week. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow things are done, hours are hours. Many have a limited amount of days off, which leaves us all with less time to spend freely from work.
We need money to be able to afford our house, which is mostly cheaper further away from work. Which means we have to spend time on commuting and money on a public transport. Or we have to buy a car. We can of course also choose to rent or buy a house close by. Often this means spending half of the salary for not even a spacious place to live. It saves time though. But it might also mean we have to spend more time working, since we need more money to pay all our bills.
With the average commuting time and a full-time working day in mind, we spend let’s say 10-14 hours a day on work. Which leaves us with not so much time for ourselves. We need to do groceries, cook, eat, clean our houses, take care of pets and kids and others. We could hire a cleaner, a babysitter or a petsitter to buy us time. Time is after all money.
People don’t get the incentives to make the right choice.
What I am trying to say is that we are stuck in a way of living. A way that is all about money, financial gain and often also about status. To achieve this, we spend more and more of our time on earning money. It seems like a never ending cycle of gaining money, spending more, needing more money to spend even more. Our lives are about Time efficiency and Financial gain.
Now you can ask: “What does this have to do with travelling?” Well, everything!
Since we don’t have that much time off, we need to schedule our holidays months in advance. If we want to have a spontaneous trip, it mostly ends in a weekend trip. And isn’t it true that we want to spend the majority of the time on our destination? To arrive there as fast as possible, we choose to fly. This is how I did it, and this is how most of the persons I know do it too (I am aware that this is from a European perspective).
In Europe it is super easy to go to another country with a different culture and environment, without travelling for days. Here, we can take the train in one country and be in another nearby country within 8 hours. Do we want to go a little bit further, we only have to spend 15 to 20 hours. Without flying. There is one problem though. Flying is super cheap. Often it is even cheaper than a train or bus ticket. I’ve been on a weekend trip a couple of times, just because the flight didn’t cost anything. Let’s go to Dublin, it costs us only 25 euro’s. What about Gdansk for 20 euro’s? Or let’s go all the way to Marrakech for 60 euro’s!
Put all the single acts from a large group of individuals together and it makes a huge difference!
People don’t get the incentives to make the right choice. Why choose for a more expensive trip that takes a longer time if we have a better alternative (for our wallets and schedule)? We want to get out of our rushed lives as fast as possible. To motivate everyone to make less harmful choices, big changes are needed. Travelling by plane needs to get more expensive, travelling by public transport needs to become cheaper and faster. Governments and companies have to invest in more sustainable options. But we have a responsibility ourselves too.
What you can do
It might feel like you are not making a difference by making other choices. It is a much heard argument, “I am not going to change, because others aren’t doing anything either. So my actions don’t make a difference”. If you look at an individual level, it is possible to say that your single act doesn’t change the world. Put all the single acts from a large group of individuals together though, and it does makes a huge difference! So this is what you can do:
The most important thing you can do is creating time to travel. If you want to travel to a far destination, take more days off. Don’t try to put a month worth travelling within one week.
Take the bus, the train or even the car. It is possible if you apply the first step. Don’t feel rushed and see the journey as a part of your travel experience!
I bet you haven’t even seen half of all the beauty your own country has to offer. If you really want to cross a border, then a visit to one of the neighbouring countries is an option as well.
Rent an electric car or scooter, buy local and avoid single use plastic.
These are all steps you can take to make your travels more sustainable. Just go for it! It will make a difference.