A story of sustainable journeying

By Felicia Palmer, Berlin Travel Festival

This article is published in The Beam #5 — Subscribe now for more on the topic

Where do you start when you want to travel in a more responsible way? How can you make a positive impact when you visit a new place? And what should you focus on — the local culture, the environment? These are hard questions to answer. And questions that elicit many different responses and approaches. In general, sustainable travel can be divided into three areas: social, economic, and environmental. And while some people choose to offset their carbon footprint, others choose to support local businesses. If one thing is clear though, the world is changing at a shocking rate and we must make a shift in our behaviour today.

Travel is an excellent place to start this change. The human desire to see and experience new places is a beautiful, positive thing — and it’s a growing business. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, “1.2 billion people made an international trip in 2015 — (and) this is expected to increase 50% to more than 1.8 billion world travellers over the next 10 years.” As the number of travellers increases, so too will their impact on the world around them.

We recently caught up with Cecilie Dawes, founder of Food Studio, an incubator for sustainable living located in Oslo, Norway. An avid traveller for most of her life, Ms. Dawes decided to stop flying in January, 2017. “I never saw myself as a traveller,” she told us, “I have this spirit in me. But I have travelled my whole life. When I was in high school, I went to Tanzania to build a school for girls. And during my studies later on, I used my student loans to buy an around-the-world ticket. So, if I look at my footprint, I’m probably one of the worst.”

Founded in 2011, Food Studio is not just a think-tank for sustainable living, it is also known for its otherworldly, one-off events. A summer dinner out on the island of Awaji, Japan made from locally foraged foods. Or a getaway on the beaches of Hoddevika, Norway to promote awareness around the future of our oceans. Ms. Dawes explained, “One of my strongest beliefs on how to create change is through networks and sharing knowledge. So, I had been telling myself, you have to travel.”

But after four years of working with Food Studio, Ms. Dawes realised that she would have to change her own behavior in order to inspire change among others, “I got to a point where I had to say this isn’t working. It’s just talk. That’s when I started understanding that change comes through action. You can’t just tell someone to stop eating meat every day. It starts with seeing other people doing it. They inspire you and then you take a tiny step on your own.”

It was then that Ms. Dawes decided to stop flying, as a one year project. “It has really changed my perspective on the speed of travel and the rhythm of movement in life,” she told us. “It feels more like a transition process and that I won’t go back to my old way of living.” More than that, it helped solidify another deep belief of hers: to truly bring about change, don’t do it alone. “If you want to shift toward sustainable living,” she explained, “stop talking, start doing, and don’t do it by yourself. Do it collectively. Connect in a way where you are taking care together.”

While there are many viable approaches to sustainable travel — social, economic, and environmental — we hold the same belief: the first step toward positive change is to find other like-minded travelers and do it as a community. The first Berlin Travel Festival, in March of 2018, will be our way to bring together a new generation of travellers and the travel world, and take strides toward a better future hand-in-hand.