Sarah and I spent our early twenties adventuring around the world and catching lots of flights.
We had the travel bug, and travelled well. But it was on these trips overseas when we truly saw some of the horrific environmental damage taking place around the world.
One particular trip had taken me to Hanoi, Vietnam. The air pollution was often so thick you’d be lucky to see 100 metres ahead, your eyes and ears black with all the chemical and organic matter just floating around. Your hair fell out because of the polluted water and the lakes bobbed with bloated, dead fish.
There was virtually nothing wild and living inside the city so the closest national park received a constant exodus of city-dwellers, resulting in piles of rubbish every 5 metres, like termite mounds, and the whole ecosystem on verge of collapse.
It was impossible to ignore the impact humankind was having.
I got back from this trip sobered and open-eyed. Whilst it was virtually impossible to find scenes like that of Asia back at home, I understood that it was all the circumstances of our own personal choices.
It was 2017, and, though there was far less information than there is now, I understood that flying to South East Asia produced more carbon emissions than whole villages in developing countries would produce in a year. The answer seemed obvious and so I decided to clip my wings. It actually had a greater impact than I could have ever imagined.
To begin with, we were worried it would hinder exploration or our outdoor passions, but it’s actually done the complete opposite. We’ve become obsessed with outdoor pursuits and human-powered adventures, and have realised the real excitement is in the journey, rather than the destination. That’s something you can easily forget with today’s simplistic flying culture.
Over the next few years Sarah and I completed the gruelling UK Three Peaks Challenge by bike, and before COVID showed its face we were 1,000 miles into a UK to India cycling challenge.
I’ve not flown for more than three years, but in that time I feel like I’ve discovered more than during the nearly two decades of flying previously. It really did change my life.
My personal experience has taught me that we really don’t need to fly so much. In the UK we are blessed to be surrounded by awesome landscapes and opportunities that many of us overlook. Now is the time to embrace them because it’s our responsibility to look at our individual lifestyles and make choices which prioritise the environment.
Stopping flying actually opened a world of possibilities and it’s a decision we’re proud to have made.
Read more from Josh and Sarah at their website, Veggie Vagabonds.