Relocation vs. Vacation: How Long-Term Travel Helps the Planet

Environmentally conscious travel is here to stay.

May 28, 2024
legs over a nice viewlegs over a nice view

Deeper than wanderlust, traveling has shifted norms. We move about the world to fulfill curiosities, but also to nourish our appreciation for the environment. When it’s time to venture out, should “home” be a weekend escape or a place of greater permanence?

Many airlines have now moved towards showing the exact figure for carbon emissions per flight per passenger. A jet set from New York to Barcelona expends about 508kg of carbon emissions. A one-week round trip racks up a handful of memories and half a ton of carbon emissions.

woman reading on balcony

Travel has and should remain valuable, but with an asterisk. We need conscious movement in the wake of environmental changes. Experience rather than sample. By taking a beat and staying for a moment longer, we not only preserve the planet but also bear the perspective of what it’s like to really go local. We can stay for a month or more in cities such as Barcelona, Lisbon, Berlin or Madrid.

So, how can living instead of visiting help the environment?

Stay longer, experience deeper

By relocating instead of just visiting for a brief period of time, you reduce the amount of movement and, consequently, the environmental impact. The era of jam-packed itineraries and checklist travel is coming to a close. Instead of seeing five cities in one vacation, opt to visit five places in one location. The experience of the city will run deeper while also reducing your carbon foodnt. If you root where you're planted, you’ll be surprised at all the beauty that rests in your home away from home.

reading map on floor by suitcases

The fleeting rush of stamping your passport is phasing out as more and more people opt to explore a place in a deeper sense. When you stay longer, you learn about the festivals, traditions, etc. You might stumble across a local parade, especially in Catalunya where the celebrations are plenty, on your way to a co-work. Comparing this to a trip planned around traditional holidays, you might find more of the same. Read: a week-long trip during Thanksgiving won’t yield the same results as a domestic trip around the U.S. By simply staying longer, you integrate into your surroundings thus going beyond a scratched surface.

Going the Path Less Traveled

Swapping the tourist identity for a local’s badge, you’re far more likely to discover what lies underground. The top wine bars that are embedded in the whispers of those who know the area versus the global chains are guaranteed to provide a resonant experience, all while enriching the local economy.

empty street in barcelona

Buying from the mom and pop’s shop down the street that buys their milk from the dairy farm outside of the city and roasts their beans in the town over not only makes you feel like a local but helps to give back to the local economy. This helps to reduce pollution from transportation while also allowing local talent to flaunt their stuff. Besides, who wouldn’t choose a fresh and flakey pastry over a manufactured muffin? When you stay in a place for a while these hidden gems start to emerge in a way only apparent to those who linger.

Reducing Plastic

Say goodbye to the travel-sized bottles and the single-use toiletries. Living abroad allows you to plant roots. Switching to jute groceries bags that you won’t have to worry about shoving into your carry-on offer a much greener alternative than throwing away plastic bags.

stack of soap and brush

Further, you can feel free to buy regular-sized and reusable soaps and toiletries with the comfort of knowing you’ll stick around long enough to get full use of them.

The Bottom Line

Travel in all its forms provides beautiful experiences that give us a great appreciation for the world that surrounds us. It’s on us to tend to the planet while we have the chance and staying in one location for long enough to be able to order your coffee in the local language or navigate the neighborhood streets is one easy and rewarding way to give grace to the environment.