March 8, 2013

The Traveler's Dilemma

I have yet to see significant changes in the amount N. Americans travel

What do you do when you want to see friends, but they live 1500 km away? It is a simple living dilemma. Stay and we don't get to see valued co-conspirators, go and increase our carbon footprint.

The Offer

Recently our beautiful, generous mates in the next province over invited us to come and see them. Problem is, we live 1500 km away from each other.

How generous are they? They offered to pay for our air fare, our room and board for as long as we want to stay, and a car for our own personal use while we are there.

The Dilemma

In seven years we have only left Vancouver Island once, for my brothers wedding. Even then, the event was only two ferry sails from home. Other than that trip, we have kept to within about a 50 km radius of our home since moving here.

Our no-travel living is quite a change from our previous life of near-constant car travel. We enjoyed a life of adventure and discovery out on the open road during our leisure time, and daily commuting was a part of having full time jobs in the city.

But then we asked ourselves what our lives might look like in a post-oil world. We asked, "Where do we want to be when we make the change to a low-carbon lifestyle, and can't travel as easily any more?

Our answer was the west coast of Canada, a place we have long loved for its natural, semi-wild setting.  We moved, and stopped traveling. We didn't really plan it that way, it just kind of happened as we were  slowly entranced by our locality, and felt less of a need to be somewhere else.

Then there is the expense, and the amount of carbon produced while using fossil fuel dependent modes of transportation.

One of the big problems facing humanity right now is climate change caused by the intense use of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution.

A great deal of those emissions were produced in the transportation sector.
"The combustion of fossil fuels. such as gasoline and diesel to transport people and goods is the second largest source of CO2 emissions, accounting for about 31% of total U.S. CO2 emissions and 26% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. This category includes transportation sources such as highway vehicles, air travel, marine transportation, and rail." - source
The Solutions?

As carbon is part of the problem, reducing carbon-intensive activity is part of the solution. So does this mean we can't travel to see friends any more? Visiting friends and family is the number one reason most people give for the purpose of their travel.

We would really like to see people, but they are all far away, and we can't easily walk, bike, or ride horses to traverse the distances between us, as much fun as that might be.

But the current offer on the table is so very generous and enticing.

We have the time, and they have the money. But can the planet handle our recreational, non-critical travel?

Do we miss our friends, or increase our carbon footprint? Should we stay, or should we go?

It's The Traveler's Dilemma. 


  1. Anonymous3/08/2013

    I think the fact you have to ask this question may be a sign you have gone over the tipping point. Relationships with friends and family are important. Live life a little. IT is really great to be environmentally conscious and to live local, but don't take it so far that you isolate yourself from the important people in your life. Believe it or not, the planet will not implode if you leave the island twice in 7 years. And when you get back home you can get right back to your regular environmentally responsible ways. Plus, maybe you can spread your message to the next province over.

    1. Living more sustainably means sacrifices need to be made, but I get your point. Friends are important.

      We are hardly isolated from loved ones. We keep in touch with friends all over the world without having to go any farther than our computer. I still send letters from time to time, and Linda likes to touch base via phone calls. And we have many wonderful friends right here in our very own neighbourhood.

      Are you sure the planet won't implode if we dare to leave our little enclave in the rain forest twice in almost a decade? It is imploding for some already.

      However, the friends in question are very dear to us, so we are giving this a lot of thought. As far as spreading the message in Oilberta? That could be a tough sell, although they have launched into austerity mode there, so who knows.

      We appreciated your thoughts in this discussion.

  2. Anonymous3/08/2013

    It is a dilemma; a dance that we all must do to keep things in balance. But in my humble opinion, enjoy this opportunity while it's present, it may not come again (trust me).

    I'm finding that we can't get so caught up in saving the world that we forget the middle way.

    1. The middle way - thank you for bringing me back to this. It is very important in life, but does it apply to the environment?

      "No Middle Way On The Environment"

      It is an interesting read, and speaks to the importance of changing our behaviours in high-consumption nations now rather than later, or not at all.

      Still, as you highlight, it is possible to take things too far.

  3. The fact that you haven't left in seven years shows how dedicated you are to living a simpler life. I can not lie - traveling is the one thing my husband and I love to do and I don't think I could make it seven years. The anonymous commenter makes a great point with regard to relationships and as Miss Maria commented, balance is key.

    You may in fact never get to see tomorrow let alone your friends ever again and wouldn't that be such a shame?


    1. We also love travel, but have found we don't miss it that much. Often when we traveled before, it was to come here. Now that we are here, there is nowhere to go.

      It would be a shame. I had a dream the other night that one of the friends in question was giving me a big old bear hug. And boy, did it feel great.

      Is it a sign?

    2. Anonymous3/09/2013

      Yes! Go on your trip, enjoy your friends, and don't feel guilty. :)


    3. Anonymous3/09/2013

      I would call it a sign. To quote Mark Twain (I have this hanging over my workspace): "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than the ones you did do." I think one of the saddest things in this new, technologically connected world is that, although we "communicate" more than we ever have, we don't really talk to each other. We have gone from talking face to face and taking the time to write letters across the void to conversing on the phone and emailing each other. People don't even use phones to hear each others voices any longer--they text. You are likely a little young to remember the old adverts about the joy of hearing someone's voice across the miles when inter-continental long-distance calling first became a reality--we stopped saving up to go visit family every five years because, heck, we can talk to them on the phone once a month. Go visit your friends and feel, really FEEL that bearhug.

    4. Jen - we are working on a plan.

      Anon - It is an interesting path that we have been on for decades now that leads us to be more mobile and physically separated from each other.

      I loved being in European nations and experiencing a different way of life where the people are outside in town squares playing dominoes, drinking coffee, and basically rubbing shoulders with their neighbours.

      The "Reach Out and Touch Someone" slogan was coined in 1979 (the year I graduated from high school) for advertising long-distance telephone service. That isn't the kind of "touch" for which most people are looking.

      We do want to feel, really FEEL.

  4. Anonymous3/10/2013

    I applaud your thoughtfulness and commitment to protecting the environment. Perhaps you could total up how much your trip costs your carbon foot print and when you get home (or while you are traveling) find ways to "make it up" to the Earth. Planting trees come to mind though I am are there are many other ways (though you are already doing alot). This might help to balance out the rare trip.

    1. K - great ideas.

      We are looking at ways we can mitigate the impacts of our travel to "make it up" as you say. Hopefully we can come to some sort of balance, or even come out ahead. We love trees.


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