The green traveller is a new book about sustainable travel by Richard Hammond, an author who resembles his former Top Gear namesake in only one way – he is always firing on all cylinders when it comes to promoting, informing and inspiring people to travel sustainably. I use the word ‘inspiring’ carefully in travel, because it’s one of those big editorial no-nos. However, I met Richard when I was doing my Masters in Responsible Tourism and was hoping to pursue a career writing about it and I felt that, after that, he became my mentor and has, most definitely, always inspired me. Richard’s latest book has just polished that pedestal to an even shinier level.
With so much greenwashing going on at the moment, as well as endless academic musings on what sustainable tourism really means, it is such a relief to read something that is to the point, but also does what is most important – it guides tourists to places and people working in tourism who live and breathe sustainable hospitality, and who are leaders in their own right. As travel journalists, one of the great joys of our jobs is being able to help give these people a platform, a voice and, ultimately – if we do our jobs well – an income, so that they can keep doing the jobs they are doing.
One of Richard’s many skills as a journalist and author is that he exudes empathy while also demonstrating an in-depth understanding of sustainable tourism. He has been doing this for a long time now, and he has seen the green, good, bad and the ugly. The current ugly is, of course, the climate crisis and, as Richard says himself: “This book is about how to travel in a way that is sensitive to the climate and nature emergencies.” Consequently, the focus is on the UK and Europe, and places that are accessible without flying, although he does also have two short but important sections on volunteering abroad and positive impact holidays such as gorilla trekking and rainforest regeneration.
Richard is also a fine writer, has a wry sense of humour and doesn’t suffer greenwashers gladly. His green criteria include the usual three Rs of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, but he also includes Rethinking – transport, Refusing – single use plastic and Repairing – gear.
From a practical standpoint, the book gives great tips on how to book cheap train tickets, and I know for a fact that Richard knows the booking systems almost as well as Mark Smith, the Man at Seat 61 – Richard won’t mind me saying that because we all know that Smith is unbeatable in this regard. He gives tips on coaches and charging points, sleeper trains and taking bikes on trains, ferries and foraging.
Then, he does what every person I know asks of a travel writer – he answers ‘What’s your favourite place you have ever been to? He lists them as ‘Ten of the best’ in true travel writer style – we love our top tens. Top ten treehouses, top ten campsites reachable by public transport, top ten hostels near railway stations, ten of the best off-grid sites, ten of the best green places to stay in cities and, one of my favourites, ten of the best community-run enterprises. And, why does it not surprise me that Richard, a big fan of open water swimming, has included a section on ‘paddleboarding by public transport.’ He did, rightly, resist a section on top gear.
If this book doesn’t make you dig out your walking boots, book a train, switch off your phone and go meet people who lead the way in transforming tourism as we know it, nothing will. It is worth noting that Richard also runs a media agency of the same name, Green Traveller, promoting his passion through words, photos and film. Like I said, on all cylinders.