Written by Duane Storey
I live a fortunate life. I have a profession that effectively lets me work from anywhere in the world, all while making an income generally in North American dollars. Popularized by such ‘visionaries’ as Tim Ferriss, my lifestyle, and the lifestyle of potentially a billion people by the year 2035, is likely a new world norm. No longer are people like me stuck in offices – we can get on airplanes and work from anywhere in the world – from the remote jungles of Vietnam to the beautiful mountains of Spain’s Canary Islands, to the wineries within a few stone’s throws from Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. All it takes is an airplane ride and we are off visiting somewhere new.
Over the last ten years, I’ve visited over 44 countries. It’s been a life-changing experience, and I’m truly humbled by all I’ve learned and encountered by traveling the world. But it’s also not lost on me that I’m changing and damaging the very aspects of this world I cherish. Tourism in many ways is the anti-thesis to travel – we tend to explore a place in a non-sustainable way, tarnishing the very culture we are there to observe.
This is why many areas of the world are starting to clamp down on tourism – Machu Picchu in Peru is restricting travelers, Maya Bay in Thailand is effectively closed, Amsterdam is pulling back on advertisements, and Venice is soon going to restrict accommodation and overnighters in the city centre.
All of this points to one glaring fact – travel is not sustainable, and by continuing to partake in it, we are damaging the very things we hold dear.
Of course this ties into a much larger and more immediate problem – we are destroying our planet, and are on the edge of a potentially once-in-a-lifetime non-recoverable climate event. The science behind this is absolutely clear and incontrovertible. And the truth is the time for action is long overdue, and it’s up to all of us to try and stop this runaway train. Last estimates show we only have 12 years before the changes become irreversible.
So what can we do? The truth is, we can do a lot, especially because location-independent travelers are some of the most privileged people on this planet. But we need to start now.
Reduce Meat Consumption
This doesn’t mean going vegetarian or vegan, but it’s pretty clear most omnivores and carnivores eat too much meat. Even on a keto or low-carb diet, a person should only be getting upwards of 25% of their calories from meat. So take a look at your consumption and see if you can reduce it.
Minimize Your Water And Electricity Usage
Go through all your lights and replace them with LEDs. Try and wash with only cold water. Run your dishwasher only once or twice a week (and dishwashers are actually way more efficient than washing by hand). Keep showers to a minimum. Unplug electronics at night or put them all on a power bar and flip the master switch so they don’t draw phantom power.
This isn’t that much a problem for my digital nomad friends – most of them don’t have cars. But whenever possible try to walk or take a bike instead of a taxi.
Minimize Your Air Travel When Possible
There’s been this recent trend of shaming people for airline travel. Some of my peers have pushed back against it, but I actually think it’s justified. Air travel is one of the most harmful activities in terms of carbon dioxide output on the planet. And most of my peers are comparatively well-off in terms of finances, or at least the ability to generate income. So all of us, myself included, should be doing better in this respect. And while carbon offsets aren’t the long term solution we need, they are a temporary solution, and at the bare minimum all of us location-independent workers and digital nomads should be offsetting 100% of our travel.
One counter-argument I hear routinely against the idea of carbon offsets is “how do I know that money will actually go towards offsetting my carbon footprint?” It’s a good question, but to me, mostly meaningless. Doing something is better than doing nothing, and it’s clear we can no longer do nothing.
We need to stop looking at the cost of our travel, the price displayed to us on internet travel sites, as the actual cost – the actual cost includes our environmental impact as well, and we need to start offsetting it – immediately. I personally would never travel to a foreign country anymore without travel insurance, and neither would most of my friends. We need to look at environmental costs the same way – that $1,000 flight to that co-living place in Colombia *must* include $50 of health insurance and $50 of carbon offsets. To travel without either is irresponsible. Sure, we can hit GoFundMe when we have a travel accident and move our health burdens onto our friends irresponsibly – but there’s no equivalent safety-net for the planet, and we need to take the responsibility of doing our part seriously.
Duane has pledged to be 100% carbon neutral going forward, making adjustments at home, offsetting 100% of his flights, and posting all receipts for his carbon offsets online, encouraging others to do the same. If you want to follow his journey and join him in the effort of making the world a better place, join the Facebook Group he created – Neutral Nomads. You can also read more about Duane on his blog: www.duanestorey.com.