This is what EthicalWanders is about. It is not about choosing an ethical way to live and travel and maintain our ways consistently. It’s not about following a guideline about what is ethical and simply sticking to it. So how can you travel ethically? It’s about questionning ourselves, every step of the way. It’s about taking the time to think and question ourselves : What is the best way to eat here and now? What is the best way to move around here and now? What is the best way to sleep and find accomodation here and now?
It does not mean that we are perfect or that we will always be able to make the most ethical choices (there is rarely a clear, undebatable answer to these questions), but we will make the most ethical choices, to the best of our knowledge and abilities. When discussing issues such as the environment, feminism or veganism, people often get scared or discouraged: ‘’How can I do the right thing?’’. I know it’s easy to feel like everything we do is wrong or feel overwhelmed by everything we need to consider and get informed about once we fall down the rabbit hole of conscientisation. In reality, it is easier than it seems. It’s just a matter of habit. We just need to get used to questioning ourselves and using our critical thinking to make our own minds about things.
Of course, in the beginning it won’t be as easy as it won’t be a reflex yet and you might be overwhelmed by all the new information you will get. But fast, you will gain more knowledge about what matters to you and as you do, your habits will change. As your habits change, following a reflexion process leading to an informed decision about your actions, you will start to feel better and empowered. This is the démarche underlying our travel lifestyle. Although we did not start this way and did not have the information or even ask ourselves these questions before, after a few months of travelling, we took some decisions. This is also why I emphasis ethics as a thought process. It’s not about when and where you start, and it’s not about shaming each other for not all acting the same way. It’s just about being conscious of our impact on the world and trying to act in concordance with our values. When we came to Europe, we both booked a plane without thinking twice about it. I mean, this is the only way, right? We now know it is not and have not traveled by plane since. Still, we are far from perfect.
The hard part
It is always hard to realize we are wrong, or even worst, that we are causing harm without realizing. For example, if you asked me about veganism 5 years ago, when I first moved out of my parents’ houses, I probably would have had the same thoughts most people have :
-What about proteins?
-It’s just too hard!
And, like most people, I probably would have simply dismissed the incomfort inside of me with matter of fact ‘’logic ‘’, we need animal products to live. Don’t we?
In fact, about a year after moving out (granting me the ability to choose what I ate), I became vegetarian. I remember saying, when asked by my relatives, that I ‘’would not become vegan as that is too extreme’’. You might see this one coming, but about 6 months later I started my transition towards veganism.
So, what happened?
Like most people, I was raised in an omnivore environment and was taught that animal products are essential for our growth and health. Meat for proteins and milk for calcium, right?
Even as a kid, I was always very eco-concious. Needless to say I was shocked when a 4 pictures BD taught me that all my daily efforts to reduce my impact on the environment were vain. Indeed, while I was not even letting the water run between rinse and wash in the shower, eating one pound of beef meant I was wasting more water than I would in a whole year of taking full showers every day*. This was the first time I actually considered this type of argument.
Still, I had years of cristallized learning to unravel. So, I started searching for information. Was it true? Is eating meat that polluting? It is. When I saw the amount of published and concordant information there was, my resistance weakened. Maybe ‘’they’’ had a point. A few weeks later, I fell on a short video highlighting the ethical and environmental problems brought by the consumption of animal products. I didn’t have any arguments left, I knew I had to change. Yet, as you can see, it did not happen overnight, and even as I started changing my diet, it was still hard to go against the social norm, hence my first statement towards veganism. Like anything, it became completely easy and natural over time. The more information I got, the more I was conviced. In our western world, the great great great majority of animals suffer terrible ‘’life’’conditions (wheter it’s to produce meat, eggs or milk), generate a terrible amount of pollution in the process and, what’s worst, their consumption is not necessary**, but actually unhealty.
At this point, just like I did before, you might wonder; if this is true, why would the majority think otherwise? As unbelivable and frustrating as it might sound, these facts are well known by the experts in those fields, and even the meat and dairy lobbies recognize some of it. Why is it not known then? Well, I will ask you a simple question. Where does your information come from? When you say that we need to eat meat for proteins or milk for calcium, how do you know this? Unfortunately, a lot of our habits are highly influenced by media and publicities instead of facts, especially when it comes to food. Actually, meat and dairy companies are spending millions** every year to make you believe you need to eat their products, and that doing so will give you a healthy and happy life. Although nothing is further from the truth, nothing can protect us from this influence, except educating ourselves and each other, and, most of all, our critical sense.
Same goes for issues related to gender, homophobia, transphobia, racism, xenophobia, etc. It is hard to step out of the boxes with have learned to think with. Despite how self-centered and ethnocentric it is, we have learned to think of the way we live (and eat) and the way our societies are organized as ‘’natural’’. Therefore, anything confronting our labels will feel uncomfortable to us as we don’t know how to react to it. Most importantly, it will be threatening as it will force us to question ourselves. Unfortunately, our first reaction will often be to ignore or minimize the problem, but as we educate ourselves and learn to question ourselves, we should try to go beyond that initial reaction and just stop to think and get real information, even for just 5 minutes. Don’t have money to share with someone in need, or unsure about how you feel about giving money? Just stop and talk to them. That’s how we met Abdala, a senegalese man in Morocco who still writes to us every week. This is an example, but basically our message is this : don’t let yourself get stuck in prejudice or popular but irrelevant arguments. Stop and think for yourself. Even when it’s hard, taking time to get informed and make decisions that are right for you can only lead to a better place and state of mind. This is how our travel style went from average backpacker hoping between cheap accomodation, to visit a few specific cities or areas, to a much more free (in both meanings of the word) and humane travel lifestyle, which makes us much happier. Basically, this is how we found the right way to travel, for us.
It all comes down to this, to find the best way to travel, but also to live: A thought process, being critical and questionning yourself.
* Reference: http://www.vegsource.com/articles/factoids.htm
** For the average person (not considering specific medical conditions I might be unaware of) and, of course, granting that you have access to food and the liberty to choose what to eat. For more information, one book I liked: The Food Revolution and movies: Cowspiracy or Forks over knives.