The eco-friendly benefits of group travel – join an overland trip today!
Yes, you are in ‘independent traveler’. Yes, you have traveled alone plenty of times before. No, you are not ‘afraid’ to travel to a place you don’t know on your own. But perhaps, just perhaps you could consider group travel just this once. If not for your own sake, then how about the planet’s?
Group travel: how it works
A bunch of like minded, time poor peeps gather together with a group leader (generally someone that knows their way around without having to carry a Lonely Planet or use Tinder to ‘find a local’) and set off on an epic adventure. The itinerary is set, group travel is often fast paced but it does surprisingly offer a lot of flexibility.
Don’t want to eat dinner together – no problem, have your own suggestion on where to eat dinner – let’s hear it! The combination of pre-booked transport and accommodation with the flexibility of meals and activities means you still tailor your trip.
There is so much more to group travel then just flexibility though. By moving and effectively living as a group, the impact to the environment is reduced.
Avoid the sky and hit the road
There are a number of ways group travel can be used to reduce our carbon footprint whilst travelling.
For example, group travel is often overland, so no jet-fuel burning aeroplanes to offset. Usually public transport (huge tick in the green category) or a large overland truck is used. These trucks, whilst gas-guzzling, transport 10-20 people on average with luggage, tents and food. The trucks are used to power lights and all the electronic gadgets that travellers these days can’t go without. When all of that is taken into account it is a lot better than taxi rides, airport transfers, private vehicles, hotels, etc.
Overland travel and camping also has the added bonus of showcasing the landscape and scenery of the area… It is about the journey and not just the destination remember.
Granted sailing, riding or walking are still the ‘greenest’ methods out there!
Camp out or sleep in
The other benefit that I just eluded to is the accommodation side of things. Group travellers tend to stay in homestays or camp. Staying in homestays not only supports local families and communities, it also ensures that locally produced food is cooked and consumed. Water and electricity consumption is shared out among a few people improving those statistics as well.
When camping, less water is consumed (no showers, running taps, flushing toilets) and no electricity is used (everything is powered by the truck). The trucks often carry big tanks of treated water so no need to purchase drinking water but instead pack a reusable bottle. If the company is a responsible one, they will ensure that not a scrap of rubbish is left behind. The campsite should be as perfect in the rearview mirror as it was through the front windscreen.
Having a buddy also means you have someone to share the experience with; and to help you put up your tent in the rain.
Shop up a storm
Travelling in a group also allows travellers to buy in bulk and thus save on packaging. I also tend to notice more travellers are willing to buy from local markets. Perhaps having a travel buddy let’s us do the things you wouldn’t necessarily do on your own.
A number of companies will keep reusable shopping bags on the truck, or in the case of a previous Intrepid Travel trip I’ve taken, will hand them out as a welcome gift. It still pays to bring your own as even local markets will try to load you up with the pesky plastic bags (except Rwanda, where plastic bags are banned!).
The vast majority of these group / overland travel companies openly state their commitments to responsible tourism on their websites. I’ve compiled a list of a few favourites below which may help when trying to decide which company to book with.
- Intrepid Travel: Intrepid ensures that all of their trips are carbon offset, that’s around 800 trips! Thus you can rest assured that your carbon footprint is neutral before you even start the journey. For a full explanation of how Intrepid likes to reduce their footprints, head to their Responsible Business page.
- G Adventures: These guys have just launched their Jane Goodall Collection, promoting up-close wildlife encounters that at the same time are conscious of their impact. With Jane Goodall being such an important icon for the conservation of wildlife, this is an exciting venture for anyone looking for an eco-friendly trip.
- Absolute Africa: I had to include these guys, not only did I have an amazing trip with them circumventing Lake Victoria, but they quote my favourite saying on their Responsible Travel page:
Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.
- Dragoman: The core values of Dragoman cover social, community and environmental impacts and I personally love their Responsible Tourism definition:
We think that responsible, sustainable, green and ethical tourism should be core to all our tours. Put simply, to us Responsible Tourism is all about trying to travel in a way that benefits the people who live in the places we visit, while making sure we try to minimise any negative impact we potentially have (on the environment, landscape, culture, the eco-system and the people).
Whatever the reason
Whether you decide on group travel because it’s your first venture overseas, you are a solo female traveler looking for some security or you are time poor but want to see everything – group travel is a great option. The added bonus of reducing your carbon footprint will keep the planet happy too.
The Footprint Scale
Overland Travel: 2/5 footprints
Obviously this depends on the company you choose, but as I mentioned above a lot seem to be moving more and more into the sustainable realm. Be mindful of your actions with rubbish and water consumption and your overland trip can be guilt free!
I would love to hear your any eco-friendly travel advice. Please comment below or send me an email with your tips and experiences. Otherwise check out my post on trekking mountain gorillas for more group travel excitement.