I took my first trip from the cornfields of Iowa to the mountains of Montana with my parents during the summer when I was twelve. We spent two days driving out to my uncle’s house, stopping at all the typical touristy destinations along the way. The Corn Palace of Mitchell, South Dakota. Wall Drug. Badlands National Park. Mount Rushmore. After spending a few days with my uncle we drove home through Yellowstone National Park and visited Devil’s Tower in Wyoming as our final destination before heading home to the Midwest. The trip opened my eyes to the beauty of the West, and I begged my parents to take me back again the next summer.
As I entered my teenage years, I began to develop two passions, a love of nature and a deep commitment to environmental responsibility. As a young child, I regularly participated in my town’s Earth Day celebration and picked up litter along the lakeshore near my house all year round. I helped maintain the recycling program in my school, and I volunteered at a city garden.
My family continued to travel regularly, and we made five more trips back to the West throughout my high school and college years. It wasn’t until the most recent trip to Glacier National Park that I realized my two passions could not merely coexist. I began to realize the devastating impact tourism often has on a landscape, and this sparked the question that my blog will explore: How can average-income, environmentally-conscious Midwesterners eco-travel?
Throughout this blog series, my aim is to explore how the average person can travel in an environmentally-friendly manner without necessarily needing to plan to travel to specifically “eco-friendly” destinations, which, ironically often require a plane flight to access. I want to discover how to enjoy the natural world without exploiting it, and I hope that you will come on this journey with me.