to travel or not to travel
Earlier today I was scrolling through the (actual) news feed on my phone and happened to see a headline from CNN about places you should not go to this year. Part of me was annoyed by the clickbait title but, as someone who has travel plans, I clicked through anyway. I assumed that the article was listing travel destinations that were thought to be dangerous, places that were dealing with negative relationships with the US, or going through possibly hazardous situations. Instead, the article was discussing places that have seen an influx of tourists and are dealing with issues to their ecosystems or infrastructures.
I'm going to be totally honest here- part of me hates this article and part of me really wants to shout it from the rooftops. So, here I am. I'm going to essentially do both. Because, fellow humans, we have a problem.
I hate the idea that certain places are off limits. One of the best things about modern travel is being able to experience and witness new things that we wouldn't normally have access to. Most of us don't live close to incredible places, be it national parks or foreign lands. While there is certainly beauty to behold everywhere, let's be honest - most of us just don't have a ton of opportunities to see some of the most wonderful spots that mother nature has to offer. There are no national parks in Georgia. While there are state and local parks, most of us have to drive quite a ways to get anywhere that wasn't manmade. I'm sure that a lot of other states have similar issues. To act like certain parts of the world are restricted to those who happened to be born close by is heartbreaking.
One of the biggest perks of modern, affordable travel is that most people can make it almost anywhere. Gone are the days when people stay in one place forever. Now, plenty of people travel all over the globe. We can jet off to the other side of the country or the globe and see incredible things that our parents or grandparents never would have been able to do. And that is AMAZING.
It is breaking down walls between cultures and allowing new levels of compassion and understanding. We are finding comfort in nature like never before and gaining Teddy Roosevelt-level love of the lands around us. We, as a society, are learning more and more about the ways that nature effects us for the better and are, in part, becoming more in touch with it.
I've heard many people bemoan the number of people in parks or tourists in popular spots. While I understand that it is good to get away from people, let's be honest, there are so few places for us to go. I don't know about you, but everywhere I look (in the ATL suburbs) is paved lots for new houses and stores. Where can we go to actually experience nature? PARKS and other gorgeous less-touched locations. Where can we go to get out of our comfort zone and see new places? Foreign countries and cities.
Now, I get what the main idea is. Really. Some people can't handle themselves while they're in public and that is damn shame. Destroying property, graffiti, public urination (seriously, wtf!), and all of those related things are inexcusable and disgusting displays of ignorance and entitlement. (If you behave that way honestly anywhere, stay home.)
I get frustrated by the swarms of people who don't seem to appreciate the things I appreciate in the ways I think they should be appreciated. But, on the other side, where else do we go? Why do we think we are entitled to some places and not others? Why do we need to limit ourselves from the experiences we crave because some people are assholes who shouldn't be in public anyway?
This article seriously struck a chord with me (obviously). But I think it's a great and necessary conversation for us to have. We need to be able to travel, to explore, to have these really important experiences. But we also need to behave ourselves. We need to be responsible to these places because we aren't going to get them back. We need to show respect for the people who live around these places. Period. But we also (all of us as human beings) should be able to witness the incredible majesty of places that are unique to this planet.
So, if you are a respectful and responsible human, GO FORTH and have an amazing time. If you are a jackass, stay home and stop ruining things for the rest of us (or maybe just grow the hell up, honestly).
Oh, and if you need a good introduction to Leave No Trace (spoiler alert: if you go outside, you need this), go check out this amazing article from my photographer-friends Cedar & Pines.
If you like to travel, please take that as a cue from the universe that you should be a champion for the environment, for foreign places, and other humans who inhabit those places. If you want to keep traveling and having amazing, transcendent experiences, those people and places need to thrive.