By Lisa Boonstoppel-Pot
Travelling isn’t without guilt, these days. One of the things I remember from COVID-19 was how the canals in Portugal had cleared to the point where locals could see fish in the water, something not possible when an influx of tourists pay to ride Rabelo boats through the towns.
I was thinking of this as we paid an Irish engineer/boatman to motor us to Innisfillen Island to wander the Innisfillen Abbey ruins near Ross Castle in County Kerry, Ireland. I wondered how much pollution tourism is creating in Ireland when I noted in our AirBnB guestbooks how people come from all over the world to this gorgeously green country on exhaust-spewing airlines.
And yet, I joined their ranks, depleting my travel fund to the bare minimum to fill our senses with castles, ruins, dramatic cliffs, sheep farms, nature centres, horse-riding and that fantastic Irish accent. Though I was called a “bleeding eejit” when I turned into the right lane versus the left (only once!) being called that in an Irish accent made it less a taunt and more a delight. It was an eejit/idiot move anyway. Ireland was a spectacular vacation and I cannot regret chatting with sheep farmers, gorging on seafood and being “wowed” by the coastal scenery.
They say memories are all we are left with when we reach the end of our lives and that’s what vacations create... colourful, life-changing memories that replace regret with wonder. A life lived!
But there is a cost ... a cost the planet has to bear the brunt of as we fill those seemably endless skies with gases and disturb the waterways with noise and emissions.
I have a friend who has never left the country. Is she any unhappier than myself? I would say not. Will her final years be filled with regret? Judging by her joy camping with family and friends, I don’t think that is true either.
So. Once again, I have no answers except to try and even out my need to SEE the world with protecting it by doing the best I can when I am at home. Planting trees, composting, buying less, creating a smaller footprint. Will it compensate? I do not know. ◊