I am about to a become part of the problem associated with the tourism boom of the last decade.
I am currently reading “Do Travel Writers Go to Hell” as recommended by Nomadic Matt’s Book Club.
It makes for a depressing read about traveling and backpacking culture. When I was in South East Asia 4 years ago, I definitely fell into this trap of partying alcohol and drugs but I’m not interested in that anymore.
I am very aware that despite desperately wanting to travel and loving writing about it, there is a saturation of travel bloggers but also travelers. Travel is beginning to ruin sites such as the Galapagos and the Inca Trail, two things I desperately want to visit but how can I avoid being part of the Tourist problem?
The Beach is a great example of how popularising a place can lead to its destruction and pollution. I love Leo but the movie cause untold destruction to the area around Maya Bay and Ko Phi Phi when it was filmed in 2000. In the years since the movie’s success, many tourists have flocked there and now 4,000 tourists visit EVERY DAY. The Thai government is considering closing or restricting access to the “The Beach” as the environmental damage has become so severe. The irony, a movie about a man that wanted the ultimate off the beaten track travel experience has turned into the biggest cliched trip of the last 10 years.
Some 77 percent of coral reefs in Thailand’s waters has been devastated by destruction linked to tourism, up 30 percent from 10 years ago. The problem is, not local people have become reliant on tourist income, they do not have an alternative means of income.
Tourism can be great for local economies but sometimes, after traveling for a bit, souvenirs lose all integrity. The same mass produced tat is sold everywhere in the world with a different name. In the Cayman Islands, for example, they sell statues of elephants and dolphins, when in fact there are no elephants here and dolphins are a rare sight.
Since arriving in Mexico, I have drank through straws despite not using them in Cayman. So among all of the Spanish phrases, I am prioritising “No nescito un paja” (I don’t need a straw) is top of the list. No necito un bolsa de plastico is another one- I don’t need a plastic bag. I have my reusable water bottle but also need water to live and am forced to buy plastic bottles- I am just trying to keep it to a minimum. In case you don’t know, plastic straws are doing untold damage to the environment. Plastic lasts forever but we use it for only a few minutes.
I was also vegan for two months and just felt ill for the last week or two. This was only because I was eating vegan rubbish and feeling like rubbish. It is perfectly possible to be healthy on a vegan diet- you just need access to the right foods, which unfortunately I don’t right now. I also don’t have access to good Spanish so really it’s pretty impossible at the moment for me without sacrificing my health. (My decision to be vegan was based purely on sustainability- that’s in a another blog)
I don’t know what else to do- every day we are contributing to ruining the planet in some small way. In poorer countries, they simply aren’t even aware of the problem yet. The use of disposable plastic here is rife- one place I ate in in Cancun wraps its plates in cling film, then discards the cling film to save on washing!
So I’m not out drinking beers tonight with the rest of the backpackers. I am in worrying about the burden we are placing on the planet while booking my next hostel.