They say that travel changes you, and for me the cliche is definitely true.
Hi, I’m Ellie Cleary. But you probably know that by now! So next…
Fan of long train journeys (especially ones where the windows and doors are still open…), sunshine, yoga, good food and a good view, here’s a little bit of background on me and how I came to be writing Soul Travel Blog.
I started working in the travel industry (in hotels to be specific) twelve years ago in London, UK – where I’m from. In those twelve years my love of all things travel has grown. Seven years ago I moved from hotels to work for an OTA (Online Travel Agency), and to live in beautiful Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
I took my first trip outside Europe in 2006 to South East Asia. I spent three months teaching English in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. There, I discovered first hand some of the pitfalls of volunteering, and how travel can have negative (and usually unintended) impacts as well as the good. You can read about my story about my time in Cambodia here.
Fast forward 9 years in an office.
In 2015 I took six months out from work and returned to Asia. I travelled around Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos and got my first taste of travel in India. I pressed ‘publish’ on this blog during that trip – although did not write half as much as I’d intended to!
I returned to Amsterdam and to work in January 2016, going back to my full time office job. But I felt like my life had begun unravelling. I didn’t fit in to a ‘corporate’ work environment anymore. My own vision of travel was very different from the one I saw promoted on a daily basis. Those of you who’ve been on long trips abroad likely know what i’m talking about—the difficulty in coming ‘home’.
I felt the need to do more, to do something that mattered in a wider sense, and most of all to generate more awareness of responsible travel / sustainable travel / mindful travel. These are the things that Soul Travel Blog looks to address and provide guidance on.
So in June 2016 I decided to leave my office job. Shortly after, I decided to leave my home in Amsterdam. I’m now a nomad, working full time on Soul Travel Blog and other sustainable travel initiatives.
I believe that travel offers one of the best opportunities in life, though I know that travel is still not open to everyone as it should be. Travel allows us to grow, personally, like few other things do. So it’s for that reason that I want to protect travel.
The simple facts are that given the current growth rate in traveller numbers and the predictions that there will be 1.8 billion international arrivals by 2030, mean that travel places extreme pressure on our world and our resources, and can have a negative influence on societies and communities too. It’s those things I’m now (and there are many others involved in this too!) looking to address.
My goal through this blog is to explore how it is possible to travel sustainably and mindfully. To see how, as we all travel around the world, our travel can create a positive impact for ourselves and on the places we visit.
Soul Travel Blog’s Mission:
Soul Travel Blog’s Mission is to help spread awareness of all things Responsible & Sustainable Travel related.
I have set up Soul Travel Blog to facilitate discussion on what sustainable and mindful travel are; how we can (all) do it; what some of our key choices are when it comes to travel, and what the benefit of those can be – to both ourselves and the destinations that we visit.
Above all, I believe that travel presents amazing opportunities for self-growth and positive exchange.
How do I Travel Sustainably?
Some people might say it would be better to simply stay at home. Travel Bloggers tend to travel a lot, myself included, so how is that compatible with the idea of Sustainable Travel?
To keep it short(ish..), there are a few things I do:
- Avoid flying whenever I can. Flying makes up for 80% of Carbon Emissions caused by travel so is easily the worst culprit. It helps that I’m a train fan, so I need little encouragement to take the train from London to Paris, New York to Washington DC, or New Delhi to Mumbai instead of flying. There are of course times when we have to fly – due to time constraints or for longer haul trips. In those cases I try to use airlines who I know are doing something to research greener fuels, or who have an active CSR program. You also won’t find me partnering with an airline for this blog. You can see more in my airline comparison here.
- I research in advance. Knowledge is nearly everything. When I’ve found myself accidentally supporting mass or un-sustainable tourism, it’s been because I hadn’t read up properly before hand. We don’t have to plan everything in advance, but taking time even to read the lonely planet (and other resources) helps prepare us for what to expect, and what to look out for when travelling in places with very different cultures than what we are used to.
- I avoid chains in general (unless it’s a group that’s making remarkable commitments to sustainability) as I believe that supporting local businesses: restaurants, hotels, etc is far more beneficial in the long run. With local businesses the money that you spend stays local. With international chains that’s not likely to be the case.
- I stay in accommodation that is eco-friendly or is reinvesting into the local community wherever possible. Where these options don’t exist, I stay in small, family owned guesthouses or B&B’s. Read tips on how to find sustainable accommodation here.
- I don’t go on all-inclusive holidays. While these can be convenient, they’re a bit of a disaster for local economies. On an all inclusive holiday, very little of your hard earned cash actually stays in the destination. On the other hand, venturing out to local restaurants, bars and attractions, and heading away from the places frequented by tourists helps to spread the benefit and impact of tourism.
- I don’t go on cruises. I’m talking about large cruise ships here, not small operations. Floating environmental hazards, more than one cruise company has been fined for dumping of fuel at sea in recent years. Many cruise liners also burn fuel out at sea that is worse than jet fuel. The cruise industry is also responsible for poor working conditions for staff, and for creating problems with mass tourism by essentially dumping thousands of passengers in small towns or resorts who swamp the place for a few hours and then leave again. For more about this problem you can read here, here or here.
- I try to Travel Slowly whenever I can – which means spending longer in a place, going off the beaten track, turning off my phone for a bit, and making efforts to familiarise myself with the culture. A great way to do this is to stay with a local family if you can or give couch surfing or hosted airbnb’s a try.
Read more about my definition of “What is sustainable Travel” here.
Soul Travel Blog believes that the only future of travel is Sustainable Travel.
How do I Afford to Travel?
Saving the best for last… so how do I afford to travel regularly? First up, don’t believe anyone that tells you you can get rich quick through Travel Blogging. They’re probably trying to sell you something…
Secondly, Travel Blogging is very different to being on vacation. Travel Blogging is not a holiday. Despite appearances from what’s posted on Instagram, Facebook, or any other social media channel, most travel bloggers I know work extremely hard. I now work more hours in a week now than I ever have before. Glamorous as it may sound, running around town in scorching heat looking for wifi that actually works to try and meet a self-imposed deadline can be a challenge.
Currently Soul Travel Blog is not my main source of income, I have many work ‘hats’ that I wear. I work as a freelance travel writer, virtual assistant, recruiter for a responsible travel website, and as a consultant for sustainable travel brands, all on a part time/ad hoc basis.
Being a freelancer means low stability, but high flexibility, which makes it easier to travel. Especially when work can be done from anywhere. With a reliable internet connection that is…
Last but not least I sometimes get invited by tourism boards, hotels and tour companies on complimentary trips where they are keen to show what they are doing. I don’t go on any old press trip, it has to be related to sustainable/responsible travel.
I Want to Hear Your Views!
If you made it this far… congrats! Seriously, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you with your thoughts, comments, suggestions or questions. Just contact me through the contact page of this website.
Happy soul travelling!