December 3, 2023

Travel Hawaii

It's Your Travel Hawaii

Collapsed Oahu Home Is an Unavoidable Reminder We Must Change Our Travel Habits Now

North Shore home collapse at Rocky Point

This North Shore home recently collapsed near Rocky Point. Photo: Screenshot//Maui Now

When a house collapsed on Oahu’s North Shore less than a month ago, hearts sank as, once again, rapidly rising sea levels proved they can’t be ignored. Shoreline erosion is just one of the many noticeable effects that accompany Earth’s rising seas and temperatures. And, though climate change is by no means a new issue, it becomes increasingly more urgent every day. 

Hawaii is literally shrinking: over the past century, more than a quarter of Hawaii’s beaches have disappeared. On Maui, 85 percent of shorelines are eroding. And this problem is far from limited to the islands: California, France, and the UK are all losing precious land to coastal erosion. Worst of all, not only do we lose the beaches as shorelines erode, we reveal old landfills and release toxic waste. 

One of the biggest factors to blame for rising sea levels remains the sheer amount of carbon emissions, or greenhouse gas, put into the atmosphere. While this may be obvious, it is easy to neglect our own contribution to this glaring problem — and one of those contributions is traveling. In fact, transportation makes up the largest portion of all greenhouse gas emissions. So it’s probably time to change how we travel.

Transportation is a fact of life: people have to get places, and that’s not going to change. But travel, especially to faraway places, is not necessarily a fact of life. It’s a choice; a luxury, even. And I’m not here to tell anyone not to travel: I understand that, to surfers, travel is arguably a fact of life, too. But the way we travel doesn’t have to be set in stone. Maybe an entire house collapsing is enough to spur a quick review, and maybe even a few revisions, of our own travel habits. 

What I’m saying is that you can still go to Teahupo’o, but there are better and worse ways to go about it. Traveling intentionally ensures there’s still some Hawaii left to see a couple decades from now.

All travel begins with planning, and now, more than ever, those plans are essential for both your trip and our shared world’s future. Nine times out of ten, the location you pick is the most important part of the trip, but the place is the most important aspect in terms of sustainability, too. 

Put simply, the closer, the better. The fewer miles you go, the smaller your carbon footprint. Are there places closer to home that provide some of the same thrills offered by a more exotic looking destination? Some of the allure of faraway places lies in the mystery, but there are ways to make local travel more adventurous. Going alone, with less advanced technology, or even just packing less stuff can make an otherwise mundane trip a lot more challenging, and, a lot more rewarding for both you and the environment. Maybe there’s a spot you’ve surfed before but never camped at? Or a spot you’ve been drooling over but you never quite booked the boat to get there? Or, maybe you’ve always dreamt of checking out every single break and driving the entire Californian coast? Which leads me to the next sustainable travel tip: slow travel. 

In simplest terms, slow travel emphasizes quality over quantity when it comes to experiences. You could feasibly check out three totally different countries in a week. And people do! But you’d have to fly, of course. Or you could spend a month in Indonesia, checking out a different island each week. Both trips are going to be memorable, but one may be more connected and allow for a deeper immersion into local culture — and isn’t that one of the best parts of exploring a new place, anyway? 

Surf Tripping Europe by Train and How My Missteps Can Help You

A better way to surf? Photo: Unsplash

Any time you can avoid flying, do. And these days, there are some truly great alternatives: for example, you can travel across the ocean on a cargo ship. People are still surfing Europe by train. Besides Europe, the train is an excellent option in India, China, and Southeast Asia (not to mention California). 

If you do choose to fly, you can also choose to offset your carbon emissions.  

And, of course, once you’ve made it to your destination, the way you get around matters, too. Walking, biking, and making use of public transportation is always the best choice, but there are usually some interesting alternatives (like riding a scooter in Bali). 

And, instead of staying at an energy-guzzling, all inclusive, you could try camping or staying at an eco-resort. Frankly, it’s more fun, and it helps support local businesses. A true win-win. 

Travel is exciting and glamorous. But the effects of travel: the shrinking islands, collapsing houses, and ruined waves, are nothing but ugly. If we want places to dream about for years to come, we need to start traveling intentionally — stepping back, reviewing our options, and maybe even exercising a little bit of moderation. We have our whole lives to see the world, and traveling intentionally ensures we’ll still have a world to see.