Dear Woman on the Road,
Earth Day (22 April) is still recent in our minds, and the news is full of stories about the environment. For years evidence of climate change and global warming has been around us but only now is it being taken seriously. Better late than never!
Everywhere we look these days, we are exhorted to be green and to reduce our carbon footprint - the impact we have on the environment.
In this issue of Women on the Road News, we look at how to keep that carbon footprint to a minimum without having to give up what we love - travel.
Women on the Road News keeps you informed of what's new on Women on the Road and in the big broad world of women's solo backpacking. I send it to you on the first Tuesday of each month.
Women on the Road News: Contents for Issue #6
- 6 Ways to Shrink Your Carbon Footprint
- What's New: Women on the Road website
- Travel News: The Most Popular European Hostels; The World's Greenest Countries
- Books: The Great Guidebook Debate
- Cause of the Month: Campaign Against Climate Change; Update on Cells in the Sky
6 Ways to Shrink Your Carbon Footprint
Here are some pretty startling facts, courtesy of sustainabletourism.net:
- the Western world - with 17% of the world's population - consumes a whopping 52% of the planet's energy
- since 1970 a third of the natural world has been destroyed by humanity
- a European uses 14 times more energy than someone living in India
- one species of plant or animal disappears from Earth every three minutes
And - each time we travel, we contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, helping destroy the planet just a little more. So - what can we do?
1. Be destination-wise.
Don't fly further than you have to. Fly part-way, and take the bus or train to finish your journey. Fly one way, use public transport overland to return. Be creative!
2. Fly carefully.
Don't fly as often. And adjust your flight times. That's right - some flights pollute more than others, for example at night or in winter. If you must fly, summer days are best.
3. Offset your emissions.
Find out how many greenhouse gases you're actually responsible for. The web is full of online calculators - try this one or simply search for "carbon footprint calculate". Or go a step further and offset your excess emissions by contributing to sustainable development projects. Try Climate Care or Carbonfund to contribute.
4. Use public transport at your destination.
When you get wherever you're going, use the bus or the subway in town. Better yet, rent a bycicle. Really keen to protect the environment? You could walk...
5. Beware of packaging.
There's a temptation to buy plenty of new things when planning a long trip - so go light on packaged goods. Buy things with little excess packaging. Or buy second-hand. Recycle something old - backpacking is a great opportunity to use up old clothes.
6. Be environmentally responsible.
Avoid disposables - use a handkerchief rather than tissues, a hiking bottle rather than disposable plastic ones. Don't be a Gretel (or Hansel) - don't leave a trail behind you.
What's New: Women on the Road Website
Dark tourism is a relatively new term that's still not well defined but involves visiting sites and places related in some way to violent death or suffering - places that might qualify as macabre. Yet most of us have at some point probably engaged in dark tourism, without even knowing it.
Pilgrimage to Santiago
El Camino, as it's often called, is a favorite of backpacking women. Whether your quest is religious, spiritual or cultural, a pilgrimage to Santiago along one of its many routes is one of those 'must-do' journeys.
International Travel Tips
If you're a first-time backpacker, these international travel tips can help point out some of the major mistakes travelers make when they begin their life on the road, and how to avoid them.
Volunteer the WWOOF Way
It stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. If you want to volunteer on a farm and you're sold on organic food, WWOOF organizes volunteer stays in dozens of countries.
Do you suffer from travel phobias?
Does anything about travel make you slither away in fear? Snakes? Spiders? Air travel? You're not alone! Phobias are curable, and there are simple steps you can take to be rid of them - or at least make them more manageable.
Travel Fitness Tips
Don't let all that scrumptious street food stretch your waistline when you travel! These travel fitness tips will help keep you fit, both before you travel and once you're on the road.
Travel News for Backpacking Women
Not All European Hostels Are Made the Same
According to travelpunk.com, some European hostels are so popular they fill up quickly and have to be booked months in advance during the high season. So if you're heading to Europe on the cheap, make sure your plans are airtight: reserve before you go, especially if you're planning to visit one of these popular hostels.
- Flying Pig, Amsterdam, Netherlands (18-40 years only)
- Kabul Hostel, Barcelona, Spain (dorms only)
- Jetpack Original, Berlin, Germany (ecofriendly, 24hr WIFI)
- Budget Backpackers, Edinburgh, Scotland (good kitchens)
- Cat's Hostel, Madrid, Spain (17th century palace)
- Aloha Hostel, Paris, France (central, lockout 11-5)
- The Yellow, Rome, Italy (stylish, 18-40)
- Picadilly Backpackers, London, England (internet cafe, central)
- Balmers Herberge, Interlaken, Switzerland (clean, popular bar, outdoor sports)
- Wombat's City Hostel, Vienna, Austria (clean, free linen, individual bathrooms, free drink voucher)
The World's Greenest Countries
According to Newsweek magazine, Yale University has ranked 149 countries based on an EPI - an environmental performance index. What does that mean? It ranks countries according to how much carbon and sulphur they emit, how pure their water is, and how solid their conservation practices are.
Here are the top 10 countries - some of them may surprise you!
1. Switzerland 95.5
2. Sweden 93.1
3. Norway 93.1
4. Finland 91.4
5. Costa Rica 90.5
6. Austria 89.4
7. New Zealand 88.9
8. Latvia 88.8
9. Colombia 88.3
10. France 87.8
Books: The Great Guidebook Debate
Anyone browsing travel and news blogs these past few weeks has by now caught up with Thomas Kohnstamm, the Lonely Planet author who wrote part of the LP's Colombia guide without having set foot in the country. In reality, his job was to do desk research so travel to the country wasn't a prerequisite. The entire 'scandal' has been a bit of a tempest in a teapot.
What it does is illustrate a long-simmering debate about guidebooks - on their timeliness, and their accuracy.
Some are published a year after the information is collected, and many much later than that. As a result a lot of guidebook publishers are going online, with dowloadable chapters and updated online versions.
Another point raised by the Kohnstamm furore is accuracy. How can underpaid, inexperienced guidebook writers be expected to deliver a high-quality product? Sadly, publishers can find 'talent' cheaply and easily, undermining a time-honored genre that has been with us since Baedeker first starting publishing travel guides nearly two centuries ago.
Not every guidebook writer falls into this category. Some are seasoned writers and researchers, who get paid what they're worth. Alas, they are no longer in the majority. And if mediocre writing and research increasingly becomes the norm, as it often does, who will pay $20 or more for a guidebook when they can find more recent information on the web for free?
Many bloggers and reviewers contend the end of the printed guidebook is upon us. Could they be right?
I for one would hate to see the guidebook go.
Cause of the Month: Climate Change
Since we're concentrating on being 'green' this month, perhaps we can do even more to help avert climate change. All experts agree there is still time to reverse global warming, but only a few years. The window of opportunity is closing fast.
Joining a climate change campaign is one more way of making a contribution to keeping our planet from deteriorating. Nearly every country has national and local campaigns, and several global campaigns also exist.
Greenpeace's Climate Change Campaign provides plenty of ways you can contribute to keeping global warming at bay.
So do these other campaigns:
WWF Climate Change Campaign
Campaign Against Climate Change
Friends of the Earth
Update on Cells in the Sky
While Europe continues to support noisy skies, at least one US Representative has had the foresight to propose that cells on planes might not be such a great idea.
If you're an American citizen and don't want inflight phone calls, you can help!
Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon has introduced H.R. 5788, the HANG UP Act. (HANG UP stands for Halting Airplane Noise to Give Us Peace). The act would prohibit inflight cellphone conversations - but allow Internet access. The best of both worlds!
Inflight cellphone use is banned in the US right now, but that could change. So please, if you'd like to keep skies quiet, write to your Representative in Congress - ask them to cosponsor H.R. 5788, or at least support it! And then, we can turn our sights on Europe.
Unusual modes of travel - it's not just about flying!
Thank you again for your pages!
More than a dozen of you have contributed a page to Women on the Road since I've started adding forms to parts of the site.
I'm looking forward to more! Readers love to hear about your experiences on the road so please, don't hesitate to share your stories and thoughts with the rest of us.
As always, I'll try to fulfill your requests for topics - two new pages on dark tourism and disaster tourism are the result of questions from readers.
To let me know what you'd like, just Reply to this email or contact me here.
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Happy travels! Leyla