I lived in Wales for three years while studying at Swansea University, but it was 2020 that I learned the true magnificence of the country and how it is one of the finest destinations for staycation in the UK. The beauty came both in the form of breath-taking views, radiant sunsets, and the sapphire blue waters in Three Cliffs Bay but also the guilt free impact on the climate with the lack of emissions from flights and other activities related to international expeditions and holidays. Albeit this staycation was spurred more by my friends and my incompetence to coordinate a trip abroad, although we were looking to take advantage of the cheap flights to the Italian lakes caused by the pandemic. The vacation I had was far more worthwhile and has provided me with some of the most memorable moments where I truly felt like a main character. There are definite benefits to a holistay, it has been noted that international tourism has had an increasing impact on climate change, through the ever-growing demand for international flights and mass migration of gas guzzling planes that ship people across the world, tourisms impact has been increasing as our desire for international expeditions has deepened. In the last sixty years there has been an increase in international arrivals of 6.5 per cent per year, from 2.5 million people in 1950 to 940 million people in 2005.[1] Tourism is also an extremely climate-sensitive sector and therefore must be approached with the significant level of care.[2] This blog tells the story of my excursion to Wales and how I came to appreciate the real splendour of staycations, and how choices like these will help us in the struggle against the climate crisis while allowing us to still enjoy our well-deserved excursions from the pressures of life.

After a brief glance at the weather forecast, an instant message to Fin, and the stuffing of an over the shoulder sports bag filled to the seam with swim shorts, trainers, and baseball caps, I found myself ready to face the might of the welsh sun. What felt like mere moments later, I was aboard a Great Western service gliding across Wiltshire’s countryside, embracing the views in the midst of golden hour, on my way back to Swansea. That is the beauty of it, you really can just get up and go, no border controls, extensive planning, and extortionate airport parking prices. Of course, in there is a degree of planning, especially when camping or travelling somewhere new but if you forget your passport there are no consequences or money wasted. Except in my case, it would mean no pint in the Wig and Pen, our local, later that evening due to the curse of having a such a baby face when bartenders must challenge anyone that looks under the age of 25. Luckily for me, I remembered my ID and I was able that night to sink a pint to end an all in all merry evening rekindling conversation with friends that I had not seen in months due to the lockdown in the previous few months. We also safely made our way back to the house where we collapsed in a deep slumber in no time at all. All things considered; it had been a long day travelling.

Up at the break of dawn, it was both the luminous sunshine that shone through the white translucent curtains and the excitement of going to the beach that woke Fin and me that morning. After some cornflakes, a cup of tea and an attempt to squeeze a six-foot surfboard into the car we made our way to Three Cliffs Bay. We spent the day milling around in the sun, swimming the sapphire (and surprisingly warm) waters, and learning the correct technique for throwing an ultimate frisbee. We had truly made the most of the one true day of summer that Britain is awarded each year. Unfortunately, we made the promise not to go to watch the sunset that evening and to head back with everyone to get takeaway this night.

Swimming at Three Cliff Bay

Back at the car, we slyly decided to defy the wishes of our friend and egged each other on to go Rhossili that night. A rogue and out of character decision but I mean, who would be able to resist such an urge? It was the nations singular day of summer, and who could be sure if we would get to see the sun again this year. We ambled our way down the slender country lanes that carve through the Gower that head towards Worms Head and with the Arctic Monkeys full blast we chased the sunset. Upon arrival we could tell it was a special evening, the clouds rolled down the cliff edges and onto the sea below almost giving Worms Head the appearance it had not fully rendered into existence. The silence and tranquillity were only broken for a mere second when a young lad checked on the well-being of a sheep that had found itself basking in the glowing sun on the edge of cliff. As the sun slipped over the edge of the horizon, I knew the day was the start of a great weekend.

Worm’s Head rendering into view

As Friday rolled into Saturday, we found ourselves on yet another adventure. After lunch, Fin decided to take me to Henryd falls in the Brecon Beacons. In the sweltering heat, a waterfall was certainly appealing, and it did not disappoint. Dodging the other tourists, we sauntered our way down the valley, over the rickety bridges, and slippery slopes, we explored all the crevasses along the river in search of all the different waterfalls. Even a quick unintentional dip occurred. Despite how wonderful the waterfalls were, it was soon to be outshone. The next stop was the big one, you cannot claim to have lived in Wales if you have not clambered up Pen Y Fan at least once during your time here. A quick search for a beer, we both equipped ourselves with a Staropramen and were ready to meet the others at the foot of the mountain. A little time passed, and there was no sign of one of the two cars, ruthlessly we made the decision to go one without them. Stressed out, we mercilessly marched up the trail, passing hikers on the left and right to ensure we saw the sun go down. In a mere thirty minutes we had made it. By the point, the sky had transcended into a canvas streaked with intense red, orange and a radiant glow lit the face of Pen y Fan. There was only one thing we could do now to embrace this event, we had to sip our Staropramen and play the Lion King theme tune “Circle of Life/Nants’ Ingonyama” by Brown Lindiwe Mkhize and Lebo M. Just as the sun slide into Sunday, the rest of the gang came over the brow of the hill, looking defeated they managed to catch the last few seconds of the sun. Despite this, Wales had delivered one of the best weekends of the summer of 2020, and all without having to leave the country.

Sunday morning, on the train home, I realised I had learned the how wonderful a staycation could be. It had shown me that it was possible to have worthwhile holidays at home. In a world where tourism is growing, there is a need to make responsible decisions. It has been highlighted by Chelsea Harvey, tourism produced the equivalent to 4.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2013 alone, with a fifth of these emissions being caused by air travel.[3] As Gross Domestic product increases, and the wealth of nations increase per capita we are likely to see rises in global tourism and the emissions.[4] For example, a ten per cent increase in wealth results in a thirteen per cent increase in emissions.[5] Unfortunately, tourism is also a major means of improving local economies and therefore a vital lifeline for business that depend of the influx of people during peak seasons. A lot of regions are also susceptible to the issues set to arise and are already occurring globally because of the climate crisis. What I call for is not the eradication of tourism but shift in tourist destinations. Alongside the use of greener transport such as railways, tourists should be encouraged to travel domestically. If we fail to curb the emissions caused by international tourism, we may not make the Paris Agreement targets.[6] Mitigation attempts such as carbon taxes on flights may help entice people to travel locally, helping to reduce the emissions caused by aviation, there is little evidence to suggest this will have a meaningful impact. It has been highlighted that it would likely only reduce demand by 5 per cent, which is unfortunately not enough.[7] There needs to reform, and reconsideration when dealing with the issues international tourism presents, and this trip has highlighted how staycations are a possible means of reducing the emissions caused by aviation.

All in all, this weekend helped me learn the treasures that a staycation can uncover, there is a definite need to shift towards local holidays using lower emitting transport and investing into local economies. We need to make responsible choices and embrace what we have before it is gone. While this weekend really opened my eyes, months later, when reminiscing over welsh weekend away, I turned and asked Fin whether he remembered the visit, he responded ‘what weekend was this again?’. Josie then stated what we were all thinking, ‘I don’t think the weekend meant as much to Fin as it did you’. It may have had a lasting a profound impact on my outlook on holidays, it obviously was no more than a normal weekend for Fin.

[1] Daniel Scott, Stefan Gössling, and C. Michael Hall (2012) ‘International tourism and climate change’, WIREs Climate Change, 3(3), p. 213, Available at https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.165, Accessed 28th January 2021.

[2] Daniel Scott, Stefan Gössling, and C. Michael Hall (2012) ‘International tourism and climate change’, WIREs Climate Change, 3(3), p. 213, Available at https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.165, Accessed 28th January 2021.

[3] Chelsea Harvey (2018), ‘Global Tourism Has a Bigger Share of Carbon Emissions than Thought’, Scientific American, Available at Global Tourism Has a Bigger Share of Carbon Emissions Than Thought — Scientific American. Accessed January 28th 2021.

[4] Chelsea Harvey (2018), ‘Global Tourism Has a Bigger Share of Carbon Emissions than Thought’, Scientific American, Available at Global Tourism Has a Bigger Share of Carbon Emissions Than Thought — Scientific American. Accessed January 28th 2021.

[5] Chelsea Harvey (2018), ‘Global Tourism Has a Bigger Share of Carbon Emissions than Thought’, Scientific American, Available at Global Tourism Has a Bigger Share of Carbon Emissions Than Thought — Scientific American. Accessed January 28th 2021.

[6] Urmi Goswani, (2019), ‘Reducing Tourism-related emissions key to check climate change impacts on tourism’, The Economic Times, Available at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/services/travel/reducing-tourism-related-emissions-key-to-check-climate-change-impacts-on-tourism/articleshow/72410291.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst, Accessed 28th January 2021.

[7] Daniel Scott, Stefan Gössling, and C. Michael Hall (2012) ‘International tourism and climate change’, WIREs Climate Change, 3(3), p. 223, Available at https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.165, Accessed 28th January 2021.