Every April, when the publicity surrounding Earth Day begins to pick up, I’m reminded of a phrase that originated decades ago in reference to exploring the outdoors.

“Take only photographs, leave only footprints” became the popular mantra for generations of campers and backpackers, and eventually for wilderness tourism in general. At the time, I had no idea of the huge role that travel and tourism would come to play in my own life.

For many of us, including our Baby Boomer guests who can remember being in college when the whole concept began in 1970, Earth Day marked the dawning of our environmental awareness. Never before had there been such a concerted effort to spread the word about ecology and the direct impact that our actions have on our planet’s present and future.

At Classic Journeys, we’ve been conscious of the impact we’re having on the regions we visit for 16 years. Walking, by its very nature, helps minimize wear and tear on the natural world, and we’ve been determined to make sure the footprints we’re leaving are positive ones. Seeing the world from the ground up, especially in small groups led by local guides who know each path like the back of their hands, is the basis of what sustainable travel is all about.

Group walking in Provence

Take our walking tour of Costa Rica and our family vacation in Costa Rica for example. In a country that’s become the world’s poster child for biodiversity, we knew our head tour guide had to be equally awe-inspiring. All of which led us to Jorge, a tico (Costa Rican native) who received his degree in International Relations in the U.S. He’s now a naturalist and practicing biologist whose gentle lessons in botany, zoology and even political science have endeared him to our guests for years.

Over the course of a week, we visit the private cloud forest owned by the former president of Costa Rica, take in Arenal volcano and the ever-present lava snaking down its slopes, go river rafting on the Savegre and kayaking in the mangrove swamps. Cultural connections are key, from spending an hour or two at a village school (a particular hit with the kids on tour) to sampling sugar cane on a sustainable eco-farm and sipping homegrown blends from a friend’s coffee plantation.

Kayaking in Coast Rica

But Costa Rica is just one of 31 amazing countries in our portfolio. From our walking tour of New Zealand to our walking safari in Zambia, we’re committed to sustainable travel and supporting local communities. On any given day, you can find Classic Journeys guests tasting the products of family-owned wineries, cheesemakers, and olive growers and paying private visits to local artisans like potters, weavers and lacemakers. Even the cooking instructions on our culinary tours feature locally sourced produce from village markets that we scour ourselves.

It really is true that what goes around comes around, especially as we revisit Earth Day with annual activities at our children’s schools. By assuring that our guests take away a new respect and appreciation for the fragility of the world’s ecosystems and our vested interest in preserving them, we hope to repay the Earth in kind.

I hope you’ll join us at Classic Journeys in celebrating Earth Day’s 41 years of caring for our planet. We’re delighted to be able to say that each time our guests lace up their shoes and head out for yet another eye-opening walk, they’re already miles ahead of the pack.

If you’ve taken the kind of trip, global or domestic, that made you feel good about the Earth and doing your part to protect it, drop me a note at blog@classicjourneys.com.