Is Traveling For Pleasure Ethical?

When you read this I’ll be in Tanzania spending two weeks with my husband and our friends at a lodge near Mount Kilimanjaro run by former Manitoba residents Darryl and Shirley Peters. 

Before I left someone asked me if I didn’t think it was selfish to travel. They were feeling pressure from their religious community to curtail personal pleasure trips because of their harmful environmental impact. Should responsible world citizens just stay home? 

I thought about that as I packed for Tanzania. Although I knew my trip would contribute to the warming of the planet many things I’d do if I stayed home would be ecologically unfriendly too, like turning up the heat in my condo, driving my car, and eating imported foods. 

Visiting a school for street children in Dehli India

Travel has expanded my worldview and taught me so many important lessons. I can’t imagine giving it up. I know you can read about other countries, and watch films about them, but I’ve discovered those things pale in comparison to the new understandings and insights you gain from actually visiting a place. 

I made friends with this woman on my Yangtze River cruise even though we didn’t speak one another’s languages. We had so much fun together.

I think international travel helps you become more open-minded and progressive. It fosters relationships that can bring about positive change in our world. I was not surprised to learn the American states with the highest percentage of Donald Trump voters were the same states with the lowest percentage of people with passports. 

Visiting Hiroshima gives you a lesson in working for peace you probably couldn’t receive anywhere else

I attended a panel discussion hosted by Canadian Mennonite University after 9/11. One panellist proposed world peace might best be achieved if every eighteen-year-old on the planet was sent to live and travel in a different country for a year. 

I know we all need to make personal sacrifices to aid environmental sustainability but the changes that must happen to really turn things around are huge alterations in infrastructure systems, manufacturing systems and delivery systems. Those require committed governments.

Perhaps far more influential an act on my part than cancelling my Tanzania trip is to cast my vote for political parties that take global warming seriously and are investing in things like cleaner and cheaper methods of transportation. 

For those of us who choose to still travel to international destinations, there are things we can do to mitigate its negative environmental impact. 

Fly economy class. A first-class or business ticket creates four times the amount of carbon emissions. Flying economy is what makes travel affordable for my husband and me.

Reduce your luggage. The heavier it is the more fuel is burned carrying it. Just having carry-on luggage seems the best for us. That way our bags can’t get lost either. 

Spending a whole month in the same neighborhood in Runaway Bay Jamaica helped us build relationships there.

Stay in one place rather than continually travelling. We have discovered that spending longer periods of time in one location is the best way to get to know a country and connect with the people living there. 

Take a close look at the places you will be staying. At Dashir Lodge, where are spending our time in Tanzania they generate 95% of their energy from wind and solar sources.

I am posing with one of the mango trees at Dashir where they grow their own lemons, limes, bananas, strawberries, grapes, papayas, pomegranates, avocados and mangos.

Dashir water is recycled to irrigate their banana plantation. The vegetables and herbs and fruit they serve guests are grown in their own organic gardens.

Dave and I beside the Dashir fish pond
The Dashir chickens that provide eggs for our breakfasts

Dashir provides employment to more than forty local people and they have recently built a medical centre on site to serve the community. The clinic is completely staffed by Tanzanian doctors and nurses.

Dave and I with the lab technician, nurses and doctor at the Dashir Clinic. The staff gave us a tour of the facilities.

It might be best for the planet if I stayed close to home for the rest of my life.  But I’m not prepared to make that choice right now and I’m pretty sure feeling guilty about it is not at all helpful.  

I look forward to the day when we can travel in a way that is less damaging to nature and humanity. In the meantime, I’ll do what I can to make my travels as environmentally friendly as possible. 


Filed under Africa, Travel

5 responses to “Is Traveling For Pleasure Ethical?

  1. Cheryl

    Thanks, MaryLou, for this very thoughtful post regarding something i’ve been grappling with myself..
    Safe travels.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You made the right choice. Appreciate your discussion on this important topic. Dashir looks like an amazing spot. Look forward to learning more about the former Manitobans who operate it in a future post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Credit Where Credit Is Due | What Next?

  4. Mary Toews

    MayLou you are so Blessed to be able to travel and take in so much of God’s beautiful creation of landscape and people. You and Dave have such a vast knowledge of different cultures. I do not have the means to travel, but I sure can dream! I am a scenic freak!! I get a big high from nature! Enjoy your travels while you can. Some of us get to enjoy it through your posts!
    Sincerely, Mary Toews


    • Dear Mary, I love your perspective here ! Thanks for the affirmation and encouragement. I know I’ve been lucky to travel but don’t want to take that privilege for granted. I hope you may get a chance to travel too one day. There is lots of natural beauty all around us right here in Manitoba too for a scenic freak like you. Thanks so much for this response Mary and thanks for reading my blog. Love MaryLou


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