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The Dark Side of Travel…

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One of the wonderful aspects of traveling is seeing the world, as it really is. We get to step outside of our respective bubbles that we have created for ourselves, and take a high level overview of what is happening in the world.

Having traveled my entire adult life, I have the blessed perspective to observe how it’s changing. And sometimes it hurts me to observe what is happening.

Twelve years ago, before Thailand became the go-to destination for boozing adolescents, wanting to get off their faces on anything they can get their hands on, it was a gentler, wilder place. The locals were kinder and sweeter, and didn’t view westerners as the money-fountains they now regard us as.

Ten years ago Guatemala was cleaner, kinder and gentler, the roads were rockier and more dangerous, you often couldn’t find hotel to stay in, and mostly ended up for a couple of nights with various families in the villages you visited. Now, the tourism industry is rife and the locals are prepared to try and sell you anything, even though much of their merchandise has been shipped from other parts of the world and are not even handicrafts, because it’s cheaper for them. Same in Morocco. And countless other developing countries.

Eight years ago, Bali was for the hippies and the surfers, who joined together at night over small fires on the beach, accompanied by guitars and songs and Litre bottles of beer. Now the main areas are a wasteland of trashy humans who are there to talk loudly is nauseating accents, drink their weight in beer and flaunt the triple tires around their waists as they burn in the midday sun.

My comparisons are harsh and not the complete picture, I admit. And surely even more seasoned travellers than I, can tell you stories of how it was 20 and 30 years ago.

Yes, you can still find idyllic places full of natural beauty and unmarred locals, but they’re getting harder and harder to find. And as we search for this authentic taste of culture deeper and deeper into undiscovered trails, they are being thrust into the grips of our western ways and think that they too, want a piece of the capitalist-pie.

These changes are happening all over the world, as a kind of homeosis is occurring. A globalisation of cultures and ways of being. No matter where I go in the world, I can find the same junk repeated over and over; baba pants, arm jingles and plastic souvenirs, all made in China and India. Except I know how much they actually cost in their respective countries. I fear I have become jaded. This I what happens sometimes.

And I have started hating tourists. For their ignorance. For their insensitivity. For their unconscious destructive nature. For their loud voices, and socks with sandals, and frickin’ ugly hiking boots when they’re just going for a walk around a village. I hate them for stepping on the volatile reef systems, and for disrupting the sensitive eco-systems of places with natural beauty. I hate them for not knowing and not caring enough, how to respect the local culture. I hate them for wanting to bring their own behaviors and habits wherever they go, rather than listening, and learning and expanding from those they visit and explore.

 

Most of all, I hate them for wanting to see the beauty of the world and for destroying the fragility of it all, without actually leaving their comfort zones, and thereby placing a veil between themselves and the place that they are visiting, through five star hotels and inter-continental menus, never experiencing those exotic places in their full actuality.

 
And this is where I take some responsibility. If it was not for adventurers and explorers like myself, who take those first gilded steps into places yet undiscovered, paving the way for the herds, maybe global tourism wouldn’t have happened quite so quickly. Maybe then, not every half-hearted young thing would bear their pack so quickly, denounce their belongings and shimmy onto a silver plane to get their own taste of worlds unknown. Maybe, if we hadn’t told such tales of wonder and enchantment about the places we have been, there would have been less of a vigor to hasten to the highest ruined temples, or the most entrenched souks, the emptiest beaches with pristine waters or the clearest lagoons and jungles of the world.

But, I am not one to roll about in what if’s or could haves.

I know that there are many things that I can’t change, and that the madness of humanity must go through these phases in order to heal itself. And I’m also aware that every little thing I do, think and say, has an impact. So I’m in the business of finding solutions.

I believe in the future and that we all are responsible for our actions and words, and so this is where I implore my tribe. The gypsetters of the world around. We are not tourists, and we are not backpackers. We are travelers of a different kind. And we are the hallowed guardians of the Earth. Which means we do things differently.

  • We tread softly on the ground, leaving each and every place, without a trace, or better, than when we arrived.
  • Neither tourist, nor backpacker, we immerse ourselves in the places we visit, and become one with its culture and people, blending in with our conduct and demeanor, if not with our hair and our eyes. We are chameleons.
  • We hold a guardianship over nature, and tend for it and care for it and protect it, in whichever ways we can.
  • Softly, tenderly, we acquiescence to our intuitions and the forces unseen, to sweep us from place to place, slowly, always following our hearts.
  • We are here to learn, to leave behind what doesn’t serve and to be open to what other cultures teach us.
  • Instead of seeking out the new, we see the old with new eyes, and adventure, and exploration is always only in the eyes of the beholder. Instead of finding that which has not yet been seen, we rediscover that which has been seen many, many times before. The trodden dark alleys of Barrio Gotico, the idyllic paths ways of local market places, the oft walked meadows and country lanes that still belong to the farmers and locals alone.
  • We recognise that the journey we are on is a journey within, as much as a journey without, and real stillness, and presence, is all that is required to fully take in the wonders of the world.

Remember my darlings, that every action, every word spoken, every act of either kindness or malice has a ripple effect on our world. And you are the special ones, the ones full of light and love and gratitude, who are pressing up against the edges of your comfort zones, who act as guardians of the earth and all it encompasses, that can help heal and change the world we live in. Which is why you are one of us, and why we travel the way that we do. To give back, to spread the love, to enlighten those who do not know yet and to strengthen the light of the ones on the same path. Aho!

 

4 Responses to The Dark Side of Travel…

  1. I know Sian. New Zealand is one of the true gems remaining. sshhhhh! Don’t tell anyone about it! It’s so disheartening to see how destructive people can be. It’s not exactly their fault: they’re super unconscious as well as uneducated before they go traveling, and unfortunate tourism is a big money-maker for many places, so instead of keeping their integrity lots of people culture choose to sell out for the short term cash injection. However as these places loose their natural beauty, as its been ravaged, the tourism moves elsewhere and the locals are left essentially raped; no ecology and no money. It’s sad but true!

  2. Love this post.
    I can’t say I’ve travelled as much as you, but I can see stuff happening here in NZ that pisses me off… Just attempts to ‘accomodate’ the tourists more. To me it seems stupid, so I really (really) hope that NZ stays the still semi-unknown, pure little place that it currently is.

    I think I’m (FINALLY) almost ready to head off on some overseas travel, so this is totally the kind of stuff I want to be conscious about.

    Keep it real girl! xx