As part of our Tell Us Your Story campaign, we caught up with travel blogger Lauren of Justin Plus Lauren to talk about coronavirus and all things travel.
Justin Plus Lauren is a travel blog, following the adventures of a Canadian couple called – you guessed it – Justin and Lauren. They are passionate about ethical and eco-friendly travel, themes that are gaining traction with the global community as environmental issues make the headlines and we reflect on how we can travel more sustainably in a post-Covid world. We chatted with Lauren to understand more about her experience of coronavirus, and what it could mean for travel in the future.
Q: You’ve been travelling the world and blogging about it for more than seven years now. Covid-19 has brought travelling to a sudden stop and you have since turned to explore even more of your native Ontario. What are your recommendations for others wanting to explore their own backyard so to speak?
A: I recommend exploring your own backyard just as you would any other destination that's far away. Research the area and look for those things that speak to your interests, whether it's something in nature, a historic attraction, local food and drink, or something else that you love. It's possible to find similar experiences right at home that you might have overseas. For instance, I recently discovered that there's a waterfall in my own city that I didn't know existed (even having lived here for over ten years). I love trying new coffee shops and craft beer as I travel, so I've tried ones in my own neighbourhood. Try to see your own city and region through the eyes of a traveller, and that can change everything!
Q: Sustainable and kind travel is an important part of your travel routine – what do these words mean to you?
A: My motto for Justin Plus Lauren is "adventures and kind travel". Kind travel means travelling in a way that's kind to people, animals and the planet. It's important that we try our best to lead a responsible and sustainable lifestyle to protect the planet and everyone who lives here. There are so many ways that we can incorporate sustainable and kind travel into our trips. For instance, we can choose to get around by walking, cycling or taking public transportation as much as possible. We can bring our own metal straws or cutlery in place of plastic, disposable ones. Those are some small changes that we can make. I recommend choosing excursions and activities that are not harmful to animals or the environment. Spending some time in each place, staying at local hotels, dining at local restaurants, and supporting small businesses are all ways that we can help the local economies of the places that we visit. Lastly, I choose to follow a vegan diet and lifestyle because it causes the least amount of harm to the environment and animals, plus it's great for my own health, too!
Q: While most travel at the moment is domestic, how are you currently living this principle?
A: While I am staying close to home, I love going for hikes and exploring nature in southern Ontario, Canada. I'm participating in lots of fantastic outdoor activities this summer, like kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and cycling. These are all sustainable, eco-friendly and great ways to appreciate your natural surroundings. It's always a good idea to bring a reusable bag and some gloves while you're hitting the trails. Sadly, it's often pretty easy to fill up a bag of garbage that others have chosen to leave behind while enjoying nature. Also, I am supporting and writing about small businesses where I can find a great meal or cup of coffee. I'm so grateful to live in a multicultural city like Toronto where we have just about every kind of food and restaurant that you can imagine. Being able to eat meals that come from different countries around the world is the next best thing to being able to travel there!
Q: Do you think responsible travel will become the “new normal” in the future?
A: I certainly hope so. I hope that we don't return to our old ways of travel because there are so many ways that we can collectively improve upon these practices. Ideally, we can move towards more responsible experiences rather than zipping through countries and ticking them off our lists. We need to be more mindful of our impact on places and the people that live there when we visit them. Hopefully, we can take this time away from travel to reflect on how we can become more responsible and sustainable when we are able to go back to traveling.
Q: Canada’s borders remain closed for non-essential travel. Do you have tentative dates and plans in mind to restart your international adventures?
A: As much as I'd love to hop on the next plane and get back to travelling, I don't have any tentative dates or plans for international travel. I'm anxiously awaiting a vaccine or something that can ensure my safety because I don't want to risk getting sick while abroad. For now, I'm enjoying local travel and hopefully will be able to travel farther within Canada soon. There's so much to see in this massive country, so I'm taking advantage of the opportunity when it's possible.
Q: A lot of us are itching to travel again. Do you have any tips on how to choose your next destination, be it domestic or international?
A: If there's a local gem or place within your region/country that you haven't visited yet, I suggest building a trip around that. For instance, maybe you've always wanted to visit a certain beach, winery or natural wonder. You can build your trip around that. Plan to visit that one place that's on your list, and see what else is available nearby. There might be a charming little town you've never heard about or some great restaurants. There could be some other hiking trails or natural features that are also wonderful to experience. Before long, you'll probably have too many things to do and you'll need to narrow down your list!
Even if you can't participate in international travel right now, it's a great time to research any upcoming trips for next year and beyond. If you've always wanted to visit a particular country in the world, we have lots of time to research those plans. Read those travel guides, browse through travel blogs, and soak up the beautiful imagery on social media. Then, when it's safe to travel again, you'll know exactly what you want to see and do (and how to make it happen!).
Top image: Lauren on the Isle of Skye, Scotland © private archive