The Co-Authors of ‘Clean Breaks’ Share Their Inspiration

  • Richard Hammond and Jeremy Smith
  • 3 August 2009

The joint authors of Clean Breaks share the reasons why they have written this worldwide guide to holidays that are good for local people and the planet


Richard Hammond

Freelance Travel Journalist
Founder, GreenTraveller


Key “ecotourism” or “responsible travel” into an internet search engine and you’re likely to find thousands of results, from remote ecolodges and luxury hotels to safari holidays and voluntourism. But how can you be sure that any are the genuine article? Similar search terms, such as “ethical” and “sustainable” are becoming just as overused (and abused) by tourism companies looking to cash in on the green wave. An increasing number of websites claim to point you in the right direction yet often these are merely portals to places that claim they are green; few websites have actually sent anyone to check. Travellers’ feedback forums can be useful but you’ll rarely find authoritative reviews on how green a place is. After all, who wants to spend their holidays sticking their noses into recycling bins or asking hotel managers about ethical procurement policies?

It was for this reason that I teamed up with Jeremy to write a guide to genuinely green holidays based on our experiences of what really works.

I first saw the benefits of genuine ecotourism while on a conservation volunteering holiday with Raleigh International to the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues in 1993. Since then I have visited and reported on hundreds of clean breaks for travel magazines and newspapers, principally as The Guardian‘s eco-travel correspondent and as the founder of GreenTraveller, an online guide to low-impact travel worldwide. So often the media coverage of ethical travel has concentrated on the negative impacts of tourism, but while it is important to highlight tourism’s ills, I wanted to show how travellers can continue to see the world in a way that has less of an impact on the environment and makes a genuine difference to destinations – in terms of conservation and by putting money into local economies.

Most importantly, I wanted to show how easy it can be to go green, and that it doesn’t necessarily mean travellers have to sacrifice on notions of comfort or adventure. We have also included numerous experiences that focus on the unique of the destination – staying in family-run hotels, visiting local markets and festivals, and hiring local guides so that your tourism dollars benefit the destination. We’ve taken the train from London to Vietnam, snow-shoed over the Pyrenees, learned natural horsemanship in Sweden, trekked with Amazonian tribes and monitored whales in the Bahamas.

We both feel that these kinds of trips make for better travel experiences. After all, the most inspiring person to take you on safari is likely to be a local guide whose ancestors have lived on the land for thousands of years; your dinner tends to be better when the cook has grown and harvested the ingredients; and the most suitable person to take you to meet remote tribes is someone who understands their cultures, speaks their languages and is committed to their welfare.

Finally, why call it Clean Breaks? Because we wanted to show that going green doesn’t have to be a hard slog. It is simply a more progressive, more thoughtful way to travel. And best of all, it’s fun!


Jeremy Smith

Freelance Writer
Former Editor, The Ecologist


After six years working behind a desk at The Ecologist, I was really keen to get out and see some of the world again. Richard was looking for someone to write a book with him that focused on genuinely green holidays, and I was keen to find out more about different forms of ecotourism, a topic we’d never really touched at The Ecologist, where we’d always focused rather on the negative impacts of tourism. Yet all my life I’ve loved travelling. So many of the most important moments in my life are connected with my experiences away from home. I was therefore desperately keen to see for myself if there really was such as thing as ‘good tourism’, if it was possible for me to have some amazing experiences and to do it in ways that were not just environmentally sustainable, but actually helped the local people and areas I went to in some way as well.

What I didn’t want to do was lecture people about the issues. I hoped that if I could find some really inspiring people and places that were making a positive difference, and share these stories with a wider audience, then that might enable more people to get excited about taking these sort of holidays, and when they did they might find that not only did thy have a better time, they’d possibly find themselves more receptive to the underlying issues too.

Put it this way: what is going to bring home the importance of preserving local distinctiveness and biodiversity more? Is it reading an article I might write about destructive modern monocultural agricultural practices or  going on holiday and spending a few days in a remote and unspoiled Romanian village, walking through wildflower-rich meadows that have never seen a pesticide and spending evenings sharing homemade cheeses, breads and meats and drinking wine and brandy below the vines from which they were pressed, all of it prepared by the very people sitting around the table with you?

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