Vaccine passports, closures of beloved mom-and-pop sites, shuttered museums, and country-specific safety restrictions may be the new normal post-pandemic, according to travel activist, author and television personality Rick Steves. Travel enthusiasts can learn ethical approaches to travel, including tips for reducing their carbon footprint, through “The Future of Travel with Rick Steves,”a recorded interview conducted by global education expert Karin Fischer now available through event host, The Fund for Education Abroad (FEA).
Steves explained how to properly prepare for travel and engage meaningfully with a destination, and spoke to the ongoing importance of travel in expanding one’s worldview, with globalization and technology making our world smaller and more connected every year.
Predicting how the COVID-19 pandemic could affect travel as it begins to resume, Steves observed that developed countries would likely receive vaccines and herd immunity sooner. Commenting on the possible shuttering of beloved mom-and-pop restaurants, small local sites and museums, he commented that travel guide publishers and tour providers like himself will have to travel the world to see which businesses and sites survived and update guidebooks and offerings accordingly.
“A friend of mine runs a museum in Arkansas. He figures a good percentage of museums who have had to close will not re-open. That’s my biggest worry…all the little mom-and-pops. These are the charming entrepreneurial ventures that make traveling fun,” explained Steves. “Once this is over, that will be the biggest challenge for companies like ours. We will have to travel all over the world to see which small businesses are still open.”
The virtual event, hosted by FEA Scholar Alumnus and Trustee John Gabelus, was the first of FEAtured Perspectives, a series of conversations on travel, education and access hosted by FEA in celebration of 10 years increasing access to international experiences through scholarships for students underrepresented in the US study abroad population.
Via video, three current FEA Scholars provided first-hand reports of their experiences of travel, life and study abroad during the pandemic: Julie Kim of Temple University from Rome; Joy Bernal of the University of South Carolina from Barcelona; and Shadia Amir of Western Washington University from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Explaining the need for ethical travel practices on an industrial scale and predicting next-generation travelers will demand them, Steves shared how his company works to offset its carbon footprint: “I made too much money, because nobody made me pay for the carbon. So, I gave myself a carbon tax of $30 per person. We invested $1 million in 10 different organizations in the developing world helping farmers employ climate-smart agricultural practices and organizations that are helping with reforestation and protecting forests. By investing in those organizations, we offset all the carbon it took to take 30,000 travelers to Europe and back. And the consumer gets the good feeling of knowing they went to Europe, at least as far as the flights are concerned, carbon-neutral. There’s nothing heroic on my part for doing this, it’s just ethical.”