Starting over. It’s a delicious prospect, isn’t it? A do-over, begin again and step into the unknown.

Some start over with a new year’s goal, or spring cleaning, the marker of a significant birthday, wedding, or death. Looking at it that way, it easy to see that we can start again anytime we want but being creatures of habit, or ritual or peer pressure, we cling to traditions. I’m starting a new one with a list about going forward to travel well.

How to Update Your Travel

It’s finally possible to travel again, but we need to do it differently – with more consciousness of place and people; with more care for our compatriots – those we visit and travel with, as well as for ourselves, and with a responsible attitude when we choose our modes of transportation.

1. How we travel is more important than ever.

We’re way past ‘flight shaming’ but studies show that airplane travel is one of the greatest pollutants of greenhouse gases and releases damaging particulates at higher altitudes. Nomadic Matt put together a deep article about the impact of flights and, if I may quote, says:

At the end of the day, flying less is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint. Taking lots of flights a year… is still going to cause your personal footprint to be huge.

In fact, the majority of emissions come from just 1% of travelers — avid fliers who take multiple flights per month. So, if you’re only taking a couple flights per year for your standard vacation, you shouldn’t beat yourself up. There are worse offenders out there who we should be focusing on. – Nomadic Matt

Travel well using rail and flights - Artwork in the Denver Airport

Travel well using rail and flights – Artwork in the Denver Airport

2. Trip Extensions

Savvy business travelers have been doing this for some time. They tack on a few days at the beginning or end of work travel to do something else, like see friends or more of a nearby destination. Extending a trip reduces travel pollution if you can travel by land rather than fly; by taking fewer flights and using trains for example. I did so when on a press trip in Birmingham. After my fellow travel writers left, I spent a day seeing museums and especially the incredible National Landmark, Sloss Furnaces. Check out this short video about the experience.

3. Bundle Bucket Trips

This is related to #3 but a bit different. I have trouble with the ‘bucket list’ term (I don’t tick things off a list, an objectification of destinations and cultures, but we don’t have to get into that right now.) However, perhaps like me, you’ve started prioritizing the trips you want to make while you can. I really admire those who plan far into the future but can manage to set trips up six months or a year out at best.

Bundling for me, means making a big trip – say to a certain conference in Greece next spring – then extending to include a trip, the trip of my lifetime, to travel the Nile. I’ve wanted to go since I was a child and, dating myself here, I watched the technicolor glories of Elizabeth Taylor in her Cleopatra regalia. It was the scale of the sets that drew my attention as well. Now, decades later, standing in front of the Sphinx is as high priority as the Valley of the Kings, Abu Simel and Luxor. Depending on how much time I can get away, I would like to travel from Greece to northern Africa by ferry, then go overland. With less time and budget, which is more likely, I’ll fly from Athens to Cairo – a relatively cheap and short flight, then return home from Cairo. That’s the goal anyway and it will save me the expense, as well as carbon loading, of two future long-haul flights.

Travel well using local solutions. A dive boat pulled by tractor in Cabo Pulmo, Mexico

Travel well using local solutions. A dive boat pulled by tractor in Cabo Pulmo, Mexico

4. All Together Now to Travel Well

When driving, bring friends or family along rather than each flying to your destination. I traded in my 12 year old Corolla Toyota at the beginning of the pandemic for a Hybrid SUV – my first big car since I drove around in a station wagon as a young mom. It’s been a life changer – I get much better mileage than with my old, smaller car! I’m able to take four people with their gear in the car. Traveling with two or three is my goal on road trips into the future.

5. Travel Well Slowly

I know well that not everyone can take three weeks away from home to drive across the country but was thrilled to do so last May – collecting stories and videos along the way. My sister and I drove from Las Vegas to Kansas City, then turned around to stop in Denver. She went home from there and I picked up my husband to see several National Parks before the summer heat and crowds descended. It was a glorious time and with so much to see, still felt like a whirlwind. I now long to cross the country by train – a week long trip direct but much longer with stops. Here’s a previous piece I wrote about day train trips.

Food truck in the Valle Guadalupe

Food truck in the Valle Guadalupe

6. Hometown Advantages

It’s crazy that I see more of San Diego when visitors are in town than the rest of the year. One excuse is that my work is solitary, and demands hours online, so I drive little most weeks and getting out takes planning.

I have set a resolution after all! This year will feature more hometown explorations.There are new museums, performance spaces, public art installations, and restaurants to experience.

San Diego is also close to the border and I need to work my Sentri Pass before it expires. It’s one of five Trusted Traveler programs available to US Passport holders. If you drive across the southern border into Mexico (works great when walking across as well) or north into Canada, the pass is a great help and lasts for five years. There are a few hoops to jump through and it’s an additional expense to apply, but I’ve found it saves me a lot of time whenever I visit friends in Rosarito, go wine tasting in the Valle Guadalupe, or see my Tijuana dentist.

Fishing panga near Akumal on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.

Fishing panga near Akumal on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.

7. Go Local

San Diego has been blessed with nine new trolley stops around our large county. It’s easier than ever to get out of the car to visit the beach (Moonlight Beach is four short blocks from the train stop,) to shop (The UTC Mall, Fashion Mall, and La Mesa shopping districts are steps from Trolley stops,) to see concerts, sporting events and theater (Stops are close to the University, the Stadium, Convention Center, and the new Epstein Family Amphitheater in UCSD.) We also have Sprinter trains and Amtrak stops, although some are being repaired. It’s a robust way to get around and skip the freeways.

I hope that these ideas help you plan your travels in the coming months. Our world is full of uncertainties, it keeps us ‘on our toes,’ but travel especially makes us feel more alive with our senses on high alert. I look forward to more of that feeling whether I’m globe-trotting or crossing San Diego county.