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Low-Impact Vacationing

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Vacations are opportunities to focus on relaxation, fun, and personal and spiritual growth. For many of us, vacations are limited to a few weeks per year and further constrained by financial, family, and health-related factors.

Vacations are opportunities to focus on relaxation, fun, and personal and spiritual growth. For many of us, vacations are limited to a few weeks per year and further constrained by financial, family, and health-related factors.

There are a myriad of travel options available to would-be vacationers, a seemingly endless list spanning a broad spectrum of human interest. And yet, we often hear someone say, "I could use another vacation to recover from my trip!"

Low-impact vacationing is "low-impact" in two important ways. First, it's about minimizing the effect on the environment by using energy and other resources conservatively and by leaving the places you visit in as good or better shape than you found them. Second, it's about minimizing the personal stresses involved in travel.

Great vacations can be had where we live. Whether home is in the city or country, mountains or prairie, beach or desert, chances are there is a lifetime worth of unexplored places within a day's walk, cycle, paddle, or drive from your front door.

By vacationing close to home, you avoid the stresses associated with long-distance travel, like jetlag, extreme climate differences, culture shock, safety issues, or health-care uncertainties.

If, however, you desire a dramatic change of scenery or relish the challenge of exploring a different culture, there are still many low-impact options.

Here are some ways to create a low-impact, high-satisfaction vacation regardless of whether your trip takes you near or far:

  • Walk, cycle, or paddle. When you explore on your own power, the pace slows and there's time to take in sights and sounds that you would otherwise miss.
  • Where possible, travel by train. Rail travel uses much less energy than planes, and there's usually more stops of interest along the way. Train travel also gives travelers the flexibility to create their own itineraries based on personal interests, time limitations, and budget.
  • Keep accommodations simple. Camping can be low-impact, and give you the option of staying overnight almost anywhere. If you want a more solid roof over your head, there are other low-impact alternatives to traditional hotels and motels. Hostels tend to offer the basics in comfort without the excesses of tourist hospitality. For a more authentic cultural experience, stay in a bed-and-breakfast or with a local family. A house exchange not only provides a low-impact solution to your accommodation needs, but in turn lets other travelers use your home for the same purpose while you're away.

Many low-impact vacation services exist. Travel agencies and adventure companies offer a wide assortment of eco-tours, sustainable travel, and the like. However, it's a good idea to double check the details of these vacations to ensure that their idea of a low-impact vacation corresponds to yours.

By being well-informed and keeping your aim on planning a vacation that's truly low-impact in all senses of the term, your next vacation can be relaxing, fun, and rejuvenating.

Happy trails!

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