“Travel experiences, hotels or destinations that have a positive impact on local lives, community, indigenous culture and the environment will always surpass those that don’t. Travel can be a force for good if we know where to turn. In today’s world, ridden with climate, biodiversity and social crises, there’s no time to do it any other way.”
– Holly Tuppen
After circumnavigating the world without flying in 2008, Holly Tuppen’s passion for responsible travel kicked into high gear. The next decade of her life was spent writing about her adventures, the inspiring landscapes she traveled through, and the authentic human stories she encountered on her journey. While sharing her incredible stories with a global audience, writing for publications like Condé Nast Traveller, The Guardian, Family Traveller, and The Telegraph, Holly fell deeper and deeper into the intricate world of sustainable travel. She worked as the Editor of Green Hotelier, Communications Manager for the International Tourism Partnership, and developed sustainable practice and no-fly travel guides for Green Traveller. During this time, Holly gained an in-depth understanding of the world of sustainable travel, spending hours researching and understanding regenerative and responsible travel innovations from all over the world.
In 2021, she launched her debut book, Sustainable Travel, which lifts the lid on the concept and offers a comprehensive guide for those wanting to make a difference. By sharing information with travelers on how to reduce carbon emissions, embrace slow travel, pack responsibly, and ask the right question when booking with travel companies, Holly hopes to encourage more people to seek out regenerative travel experiences. Also included in the book are inspiring interviews and conversations with experts, information on conservation-minded tours, community-led initiatives, alternative adventures, responsible destinations and green places to stay.
Holly speaks our language and we were over the moon when she agreed to join us around the campfire for a chat.
We didn’t travel much as young kids, but I remember spending hours studying an old, battered Atlas with my Granny asking a million questions. I’m sure that fuelled some wanderlust. A map is still my starting point when plotting adventures.
I first got on a plane at seven. We went on a naff package holiday to the Algarve, but I remember it feeling a million miles away from home in London; the rusty orange cliffs, soft sand, and unfathomably clear sea. On our last day, the waves tossed and churned over our heads, and I couldn’t be persuaded out of the water; it was so exhilarating.
Adventure is all about perspective.
Having spent a couple of years working in London saving our pennies, my partner and I bought a giant map and stuck it on our bedroom wall. We started to mark things we wanted to see and do — the Tran Siberian Railway, the Great Wall of China, the Camino de Santiago and so on. One day we drew a line between them and wondered if we could circumnavigate the world without flying. After a quick bit of research into ocean crossings, we decided that was the adventure for us.
Once we told everyone, plans got more and more elaborate. We rode a tandem up The Rockies, sailed across The Atlantic, hitchhiked around the Taklamakan Desert, and ran an Ice Marathon across Lake Baikal. The whole circumnavigation took 22 months. The best thing about going overland is the unexpected places and situations you end up in.
We queued with hundreds of Mexicans crossing the border into El Paso, we danced the night away at a Nepali wedding, and were followed by a minke whale for five days in the middle of The Atlantic. In Morocco, we lived in fishing port El Jadida for two weeks fixing up our boat, and we slept in the hull of cargo boats between Caribbean islands. I hope I’ll never forget how kind, helpful, and welcoming 99 percent of people we came across were.
Travelling near and far often provides the space, perspective and inspiration needed to make changes to the way we live and work. It’s why it’s such a privilege, and why it’s so important. I feel incredibly lucky that through my work as a travel writer, I get to fast track to the heart of a place or an issue – whether meeting rewilding champions on my doorstep in Sussex or students benefiting from education charities in Morocco.
It’s always people that inspire the greatest change, which is why we all need to get out there and connect with the changemakers in real life!
There are so many examples and case studies in the book that I’m still itching to do and visit. I particularly loved researching the chapter about the role travel and tourism has played in rebuilding places after natural or manmade disasters.
Alongside examples including gorilla conservation in Uganda and rebuilding Hurricane Maria-battered Dominica is The Peaks of the Balkans, a transnational 192-km hiking route that spans three formerly war-torn countries – Kosovo, Montenegro, and Albania. Using ancient shepherd paths, the trail provides income for rural communities and is symbolic of cooperation between the three countries. I love how something as simple and ancient as a walking trail can symbolise so much.
Right now, I’ve been tied to my desk for what feels like weeks so I’m itching to get out onto the South Downs where I live, ideally with a gaggle of friends and a hip flask for a walk along the Seven Sisters cliffs on a cold, crisp day.
The simplicity of walking from A to B is often top of my list. In 2021, volunteers finished creating a 514-mile hiking route that spans the length of Armenia in the Caucasian Mountains (part of the Transcaucasian Trail) and I’d love to do some of that.
I’m also enjoying Europe’s train renaissance. Last year I took my kids from London to Rome by train and next year I’d like to head by rail and boat to Corsica — a nugget of France dropped into the Mediterranean.
I’m also lucky enough to work for conservation-led travel movement The Long Run and look forward to meeting some of its members next year. Plans are underway for a regional meeting in Kenya where I’ll hopefully get the chance to experience the 4Cs — Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce — in action.
That social media self-destructs, that Covid leaves us all in peace, and that everyone gets the chance to spend more time in nature.
Scrutinise what we eat, particularly when it comes to meat and dairy. Hold brands and governments to account when they don’t walk the talk. Listen to young people and help them be heard.
Holly Tuppen’s book Sustainable Travel: The essential guide to positive-impact adventures is available from all major booksellers including Amazon and Bookshop.org.
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