Is there a “right” way to travel? Travelers vs. Tourists.
So, I’ve been seeing it a lot lately, “the right way to travel”. At first, I just decided to ignore the subject lines and headlines and read on for some new tips (hey, everyone can use some new tips and tricks now and again), but recently it’s starting to bother me. In the travel world, there is a divide between so-called travelers and tourists. The idea is that travelers want more authentic experiences and tend to stray from the beaten path, whereas tourists tend to stay in cities and visit tourist attractions, while spending incredible amounts of money. While this may be the case, is it really fair to say one form of travel is better than another? Are people who want to see the places they’ve read about in their history books
wrong? Does a person have to be one or the other? Absolutely not.
I’d like to argue that there is no one way to travel, that there is no way that is better than the rest. They are simply different. Some people only have a week to travel abroad and thus lack the time necessary to really stray from the beaten path, some may just be uninterested, and that’s okay! Some don’t consider it traveling unless they’ve had a unique experience that no one else has ever had, and that’s okay too! Some people are a mixture of both extremes and for still more, it depends on the particular trip and the location they’ve chosen. Some like all-inclusive resorts where they simply relax and others opt
for crazy, non-stop adventure. Some encompass all of these (I am in that category). I’d love to see all forms of travel embraced and accepted by the travel community. Just because someone chooses to travel in a different way, doesn’t mean their inferior. So, let’s stop putting each other down and start helping each other out. Let’s be more accepting!
Are certain types of travel more harmful to the environment and the people?
On a related note, I’ve been hearing a lot about how travel destroys the wonders we’ve all read about in history. From tourists scrawling their names into the walls of the Coliseum to taking pieces of history home as souvenirs. Of course, most “normal” people are in an uproar about these news stories (as they should be… don’t intentionally destroy things!) However, it isn’t just these blatantly wrong acts that are destroying the world as we know it. Even people with the best intentions may accidently bring destruction. For example, many travelers pride themselves in going off the beaten path and finding some magnificent beach or small village, untouched by tourism. Many of these same travelers happen to be travel bloggers, who then write about these locations and how to get to them. Over the
years, and sometimes even within a few months, these areas become completely overrun with people who are not local to the area. It changes entire communities and landscapes, for better or for worse.
I am, of course, a huge proponent of travel, but we must keep in mind we are guests. There’s a beautiful concept of taking “only memories” when you travel. I realize many want to write (and read) about the wonderful places they’ve visited and how everyone should check out this little diner or this secluded beach, but keep in mind that doing so may
completely change the place from what it is, to something entirely different, something you might not recommend to your friends and family in the future. I’m not saying don’t write about your experiences or not to travel to a place someone has recommended. I’m just saying to be conscious of your actions and try to tread as lightly as possible so these lands and precious under-explored areas can remain enchanting for our kids and grand-kids when they wish to visit.