How to Go
There are many ways to travel — alone or in groups, with friends or family. No matter what kind of trip you plan, do some research. Not only will you be able to make better use of your time and resources, it's always more enjoyable to be familiar with your surroundings — not to mention that learning ahead of time makes for a great game of, “did you know?”
Going It Alone
You may be a planner ready to prepare your own green vacation, possibly going with a group of friends or family or alone. Thanks to the Internet and local libraries, there are plenty of resources available to help plan a trip. Ask others who have visited the area what they liked most or what they would change if they traveled there again. See if they have any recommendations for must-do side trips. Also, consider contacting local guides or outfitters and asking questions. Using local businesses not only supports their economy, it often gives you the best information.
Many more people, especially women, are traveling alone these days. When traveling solo, take precautions. It's a good idea to leave an itinerary of where you are staying and to know ahead of time where you are headed. Solo travelers may want to hold off announcing to strangers that they are traveling alone.
The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) works with the Rainforest Alliance, helping both tourists and tour operators with sustainable travel. The organizations provide information to travelers on how to be a green tourist and on the different travel opportunities available. Check out bulletin boards online where travelers can share information on different trips they have made. One example is Ecotravel.com.
Using a Travel Agent
Because ecotravel has become so popular, many travel agents include it in the gamut of trips they offer. Certain travel agents may specialize solely in ecotravel. Some agents may not understand the difference between ecotravel and adventure travel, leaving it up to the traveler to make the distinction. The Center on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development (www.ecotourismcesd.org) recommends the following online companies to find an eco-friendly travel agent:
Solimar Travel, www.solimartravel.com
Preferred Adventures Ltd., www.preferredadventures.com
Adventure Life, www.adventurelife.com
GAP Adventures, www.gapadventures.com
Humanitarian and Working Vacations
If you are not one to kick back and relax, even during vacation, you may want to consider a working vacation. These vacations allow people to volunteer their time while experiencing another culture or environment. These trips could range from blazing trails and patrolling forests in national parks to recording whale migration patterns. They could be organized or sponsored by local churches, humanitarian groups, or volunteer networks that give those looking for the opportunity a chance to volunteer away from home.
The American Hiking Society organizes vacations where volunteers help rebuild paths, cabins, and shelters in parks in thirty different states. Vacation assignments cost members $100; nonmembers pay $130. Volunteers sleep at camp and hike to the work site every morning. Find more information at their Web site, www.americanhiking.org.
Even though travelers are working during their vacation, payment usually comes in the form of feeling rewarded. The cost of working or volunteer vacations is comparable to other vacations. Some Web sites offer tips on how to raise money to pay for humanitarian or working trips, and chances are that friends and family may be willing to contribute, too. Because of the volunteer nature of the trip and the work performed, the costs of working vacations are usually tax-deductible.
Environmental Group Trips
If you aren't up to planning your own trip and would like to take advantage of having an expert on hand, consider booking a trip with an environmental group. Groups like the Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy arrange trips all over the world. Trips usually include hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, and other activities and are led by an expert guide who shares information on the local environment and wildlife.
Like any other group activity, there may not be a lot of extra room in the schedule or flexibility for deviation or side trips, but travelers, especially those new to the locale, benefit by being led by a professional who knows the area and how to get around. Combining all the travelers into one group eliminates the need for personal vehicles, which allows passengers to see the sites and get to know each other rather than navigate unknown territory.
If you are looking for a relaxing vacation, a retreat may fit the bill. Retreats are usually located in secluded areas. They can focus on themes such as all-women, yoga and meditation, or vegetarian cooking and (better yet) eating. They usually include workshops and educational classes. Some include menus and classes to body detoxification, to cleanse the toxins and stress from everyday life. Retreats like this might include fasting and fitness workouts as well as massage. These vacations tend to cater more toward relaxation and rejuvenation rather than ecological or sustainable travel.