The Common Good

Tread Lightly During Spring Break Travel

My family, while I was growing up, was not much for spring breaks. As other families we know flitted about preparing for palm trees and sand, my sister and I would pout and lament to my mother that we had the worst lives on the planet because we were not going to Florida. My Mom (and I now love her for this) really didn’t care. Her basic attitude was that we had more than enough adventure in our lives so suck it up and stop whining. Call another friend who stayed home and get out of the house.

The worst, of course, were all the stories you had to suffer through that first Monday back at school. Tales of sailing or lavish resorts, beach parties and sunburns. I remember to this very day watching the kid from my Algebra class pick the peeling skin off his arms and drop it onto the floor during a lecture. Completely gross.

My Mom’s wisdom paid off. We did have plenty of adventures and never once regretted the time spent at home. Turns out most of the country indeed does not travel for spring break. In fact, most of the planet does not even know what spring break is. Gotta love how the adolescent world warps our perspective.

I finally hit what I thought was the spring break jackpot when I entered college. As a freshman, I saved up money and headed south with a pile of my gal pals. In our minds it would be like MTV”s spring break footage (which, as a parent, now completely freaks me out). Instead we ended up on a charter bus with frat boys and fast food heading to Florida where “unseasonably cold weather” made the headlines. I remember playing beach volleyball with my teeth chattering and longing for home. It was 10 years before I would dare to enter the state of Florida again.

This year I’m skipping town. My parents are celebrating 40 years of marriage and, God bless them, they think it will be fun to haul all their children and grandchildren along for the ride. I could pinch myself. And as I pack, I am reminded that while most of us on the planet don’t take a spring break, millions of Americans hop off to another destination this time of year, and I’ve got a few green tips for those who go. Just a little way to travel smarter if we can:

  1. Visit the locals. Get out of the resort and off the travel brochure. Take a look around at the real vibe and feel of the place you are visiting. Whether stateside or across the world, you can learn so much more about life when you venture off the map and connect with the real culture. Look people in the eyes and ask a few stories.
  2. If staying at a resort, take them up on their efforts to conserve water and energy. Use those little signs that say you are happy to use the same towels and sheets for a few days rather than send them off for laundry.
  3. Take home unused toiletries and finish them up at home or donate them to a local homeless shelter or food pantry once you get home.
  4. Bring along your own reusable water bottles and bags to diminish your waste stream.
  5. Keep it all in perspective. To dash off on spring break is a luxury that most of the planet will never realize. People who live on $1.00 per day don’t travel much (and the ones who live in our vacation destinations do not experience these places the way we do). So be thankful. Travel grateful and carefully. Tread lightly on the lives and land of the place we visit. And as you stand in line at an airport or a traffic jam on an interstate, remember the simple joy of getting to travel at all. You get to travel!

Share your travel stories and ideas here!

portrait-tracey-bianchiTracey Bianchi blogs about finding a saner, greener life from the heart of the Chicago suburbs. She wrote Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet (Zondervan 2009) and blogs at traceybianchi.com.

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