In spite of the title, this is not meant to be a political post but, honestly, science shouldn’t be political. The fact is that over the last decade or two, the climate has changed and continues to do so. I’m not here to talk about why or how, but one does have to acknowledge that it exists. I’m in a somewhat unique position in that my travel schedule takes me to all corners of the world and everywhere I go, people talk about the same thing – the changing weather. It may mean more intense winters, sweltering summers, crazy storms and more, climate change is just that, change and people around the world are struggling to understand how to best deal with it. It also presents certain challenges to the modern traveler. We have to be more prepared than in years past, but it’s honestly been a steep learning curve. I realized that many of the changes I’ve made in my own travel habits are, somewhat, linked to climate change and so today I thought I’d share what I do different and how I prepare to travel around a planet that is undergoing odd shifts in its weather patterns.
I’m not an environmentalist, I’m certainly no scientist and my interest in the broader debate is admittedly, minimal. However, it’s obvious to me that weather patterns now are different than they were even a decade ago, which presents certain challenges to travelers. Places that used to be safe to visit at certain times are no longer that way, and annual storms consistently turn into terrible disasters. This is where proper planning comes into play. Some parts of the world are more obvious than others. If you visit the Caribbean during hurricane season that’s fine, but be prepared for hurricanes. The same holds true for monsoon season in Asia and typhoon season in the Pacific. It’s usually ok to travel during these times, but be aware that when storms happen, they’ve been much more intense lately. It’s not just stormy weather causing problems, it’s also huge fluctuations in temperatures. I was recently in Europe traveling as the continent experienced record high temperatures. From a tourist perspective, it made my life a lot more challenging than it had to be. It was physically difficult to be out and about all day baking in the sun. I’d return to my hotels in the evening (which usually didn’t have AC) physically depleted. I managed, but it was difficult. The same holds true in the winter months when parts of the world that should be cold aren’t, or winter storms that can destroy travel plans. Now, more than ever, it’s critical to be aware of what’s going on with the weather and to plan accordingly.
With these wild fluctuations in weather also comes confusion when it comes time to pack. If I’m going anywhere that has even the slightest possibility of being hot, anything made of cotton is left home. I have a set of synthetic fiber shirts and pants that have probably saved my life many times over. Super light, very quick drying and yet they look decent and maybe even fashionable – everyone should have a section of their closet devoted to dealing with the heat. One of my favorite recent additions though is a small travel fan. I love Europe and traveling around the continent can be great, but the lack of AC anywhere is a little annoying. Even hotels that technically have air conditioning don’t have units that are very powerful or even work. That’s where my little desktop fan comes in. If it’s super hot, I plug it in next to the bed and can enjoy a little more comfort on stuffy summer nights. It’s also a great white noise machine as well.
This is not an insurance post and I’m not even going to mention a company, but I do firmly believe in the benefits of travel insurance. I’ve traveled too much and have had too many things go wrong NOT to be a patron of travel insurance companies. In today’s world where a freak storm can delay or cancel a flight, it’s important to have the right policy for you and your trip. While nothing terrible has really ever happened to me traveling, (knock on wood) I have had to use my travel insurance plans on a couple of different occasions, most notably with lost luggage. The fact is, no one thinks they need travel insurance until, well, they do. Don’t be one of those amateurs left in the lurch after a hurricane has destroyed their long anticipated vacation. Travel is an investment, so protect it wisely.
All That Eco Stuff
As I mentioned at the top of this piece, I’m no environmentalist but even I can’t ignore reality. Alaska shouldn’t be sweltering, ever, intense rains in Africa shouldn’t wash out roads when it’s not even the rainy season and although it’s awesome, cruise ships probably shouldn’t be able to navigate the Northwest Passage. And yet, that’s where we are, this is our new reality and we have to learn how to best deal with it. Not surprisingly, travel and tourism is to blame for a fairly significant percentage of carbon emissions, most notably from airplanes but also in many other ways down the travel funnel. Tourism won’t stop anytime soon, nor should it, so instead we need to better understand how to mitigate our own impact on the world. Carbon offset programs are a good start and may become a requirement of the airlines in the not too distant future. We should also be mindful about how climate change affects the destinations we love. Ski resorts without snow, barrier reefs that are dying and glaciers that are melting, the places we want to see most are the ones most susceptible to minor fluctuations in global temperatures. To be honest, there is no good answer, but it seems likely the nations of the world will have to once again sit down and figure out how to best deal with it in the years to come. As travelers, all we can do is our best whether it’s being cognizant of our carbon footprint or taking more active measures to mitigate our impact, it’s important we at least are aware of what’s going on and how we, in a small way, contribute to it.