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Lifestyle,  Travel

The rise of the couch potato. 3 sustainable travel trends in 2021

2021 might be the Year of the Ox in the Chinese Calendar, but it’s rather the Year of the Rising of The Couch Potato for the rest of the world. And that’s because people are tired of staying home all day long and are eager to travel again. But after such a tough period of time, the good news is that they become more aware of the uncontrollable phenomena and want to do their part in reducing the risks. After the pandemic, global warming and sea pollution could cause the next disaster.

How does that reflect in traveling? By focusing on sustainable travel trends such as slow tourism, staycation, or awareness traveling. If you are not familiar with these terms, here what they are all about:

Slow tourism

Slow tourism is the opposite of mass tourism. An example? Instead of going to Venice during the most crowded period of the year, you’re going to Annecy because it’s also a canal city, but fairly unknown.

This trend is characterized by taking time to explore local history and culture and dive into a genuine experience, not precisely for the love of Instagram. The result is you :

  • protecting the environment (not contributing to polluting Venice),
  • helping emerging economies (buying locally), and
  • popularizing unmarketed places that have the potential to offer great services and experiences (you can still post on social media, though). 

The concept emerged from the Italian Slow Food movement and the Cittaslow movement. If your mind goes wandering to fast food versus slow food, you are right. Slow tourism follows the same concept of not hurrying but rather taking the time to deeply enjoy a healthy vacation. Healthy for you, healthy for the locals, and healthy especially for the environment.

Tourist in a venetian boat

Even the authorities have taken actions to limit mass tourism and build a different approach on the most loved areas on the planet. Speaking of Venice, the Italian authorities have banned giant cruise ships near its shore. Instead, they require them to take a circuitous route around the far end of the 552-square kilometer lagoon, following a canal used by commercial shipping. This way, they avoid pollution, smoke, damaging architectural and cultural heritage, and affecting the environment. Unfortunately, sinking Venice is not a myth anymore.


Staycation is not the same thing as staying on your sofa any longer. It means limiting your travel routes to one-day trips or to local vacations. Why? This way, you are limiting your carbon footprint, you are creating less plastic waste and you are reducing flight traffic, which along with the meat production, causes great environmental damage.

Staycation can also be fun. Traveling in your own country could be a bonding experience for your family or your group because you focus on activities rather than sightseeing. Besides, there are a lot of personal benefits involved. Staycations are likely to be less expensive than a vacation involving traveling abroad. No need for plane tickets, losing money while exchanging it, or paying foreign guides. Besides, staycations involve less jet lag, packing, long drives, language barriers, or long queues at the airport.

And it’s also helping the local economy. Buying crafty objects, eating at a traditional restaurant, or renting a room at a nice B&B could keep a local kid in school.

Staycation has become one of the major sustainable travel trends in 2021 also because of the pandemic. Not being able to travel too far, people have discovered their local countries and areas and started to enjoy these experiences.

Awareness traveling

The ultimate goal of traveling is relaxing. Disconnecting from all those stress sources that keep you awake at night. Just thinking of all those doing-nothing afternoons with a yummy Margarita on a beautiful beach makes you feel better. But what if traveling would also imply learning more about environmental problems? About the troubles that the host community might be facing? About the poor conditions that the locals are bound to live in every day?

“Research has shown that empathy is not simply inborn, but can actually be taught,” writes psychotherapist F. Diane Barth in Psychology Today. And traveling can be a great source of empathy because you have the opportunity to understand and sometimes live among troubled people or animals. 

Awareness traveling means keeping the relaxation part of your trip and adding a knowledge perspective to your visiting to help the people or the environment in any way. What if, instead of going to a circus during your vacation, you visit an animal sanctuary where you can learn more about the aggressions and malnutrition animals suffer at thematic parks, circuses, events, or even zoos? For example, you can learn more about the rescued bears at the Zarnesti Sanctuary in Romania.

Bear in the forest

Or you can visit the elephant sanctuary in Phuket, Thailand.

And you can donate to contribute to their wellbeing. Just make sure that the organization you are collaborating with or visiting is not a scammer, and their actions are truly helping rescued animals, endangered species, and good causes in general.

How can you travel in a sustainable manner in 2021?

woman canoeing on the river

There are a lot more sustainable travel trends in 2021, but you can start changing your attitude as a traveler by:

  • Choosing less mainstream destinations, less crowded places, and less luxurious accommodations to check-in;
  • Learning more about the local community and respecting their customs, lifestyle, and intimacy;
  • Avoid tourist traps, exploited animal places, tourist restaurants, and focusing on authentic experiences;
  • Creating less plastic waste, booking fewer plane tickets, and eating less meat while on vacation;
  • Focusing on quality rather than quantity when it comes to vacation time, vacation activities, and vacation places;

What are your travel plans for 2021? Do you wish to come back to your traveling style before the pandemic or are you thinking of doing some changes? If so, what are your reasons? Economical, environmental, or pandemic-wise?

Let me know in a comment below. I’d love to know more about your perspective and help you with more news, recommendations, or interesting trends.

*photo source: Unsplash

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