I can’t believe I’m saying this, but…are we traveling too much?
In 2017, travelers made 1.3 billion international trips, and the numbers are only going to keep growing. This has given rise to the newest buzzword in travel: overtourism.
You can see overtourism firsthand anytime you find yourself standing for hours in a long entrance line, or pushing your way through the crowd around a single painting at an art museum, or jostling for position to get a picture of a view without a stranger’s head in the middle of it. The more pernicious effects of overtourism are harder to see: environmental and structural damage, rising prices that push out locals, and the loss of a place’s essential character.
Popular destinations have noticed that they have a problem. Venice banned new hotels in the city center to try to cut down on their 60,000 daily visitors. The Philippines closed a beach for six months (and closed many of the beach’s hotels permanently) to clean it up. Machu Picchu has limited the number of daily visitors and how long you can stay.
We have to take some responsibility for this, too. In some cases, the only truly sustainable way to visit a destination is to skip it. Fortunately, there are other enchanting towns in Italy. There are other Incan ruins in Peru. There are other beaches – well, everywhere. Flex your adventurer muscles and go somewhere new – you’ll be a richer person for it. And while you’re at it, go sometime other than July. If you can travel in the off-season, you’ll do the destination a favor, and you’ll have a better experience, too.
No, I don’t think we’re traveling too much, but we do need to be thoughtful about where and when we go. As you think about your travel aspirations for 2019, resolve to eschew the “must see” and “top 10” lists that fill travel magazines and blogs. Avoid destinations that you think you have to see because everybody else has been there. Go off the beaten trail a bit. Focus on places that truly speak to you, that exert a pull on your imagination and your curiosity.
Your travels will be more rewarding and the world will be a better place for it – so we can all keep traveling.