I asked myself this question after a reader commented on my destination piece – “I wish people would stop sharing it”…“when does it get to be too much of a good thing?” This got me thinking, was I positively engaging with the world? Or was I another self-absorbed pleasure seeker, hastening the fall of destinations by enticing others to sap their innocence?
I quickly rationalised such thoughts with, no, I’m a travel evangelist – a person who entices people to get off the couch and wander amidst our incredible planet. This, I reasoned, helps make a person wiser, happier in themselves, which filters through society, resulting in more informed political decisions, even a better vibrational energy within the world. Heck, even your cornflakes could taste more delightful when made by a traveller.
Furthermore, population growth is inevitable, therefore, so is discovery. Besides, small destinations rely on tourism. They need travellers!
While I felt I’d raised some fair points, something still didn’t sit right. It’s inevitable some places are going to change for the worse, and spreading the good word will invariably facilitate that change, encouraging all manner of folk – some who will contribute to distasteful refurbishing, rampant capitalism and even the trashing of a place.
As more and more people travel (which, as a travel evangelist, I’m helping to do), countries and communities are changing to the demands of travellers (western or otherwise), ramping up shops, real estate, using more land – to cash in on their newfound revenue, tourism. Completely understandable, but it’s this change that many of us are loathing to see.
Hopefully, as travellers’ interests evolve (generally speaking) towards culture and environment, these places will handle being “too much of a good thing” a little better. I also think places coming into their own just now will have learnt from places like the Gili Islands – where dynamite fishing decimated the coral, Ko Chang – which has left barely a grain of sand free from development, or even Byron Bay – which has scarred its face to boost its takings.
While it’s often out of our hands, travel evangelists can help shape a destination by focusing more on culture/environment and less on hedonistic indulgences. Although, the line can still be tricky with what is talked about at all. I live in a small town, just down the road from ‘secret’ beaches that locals prefer I didn’t write about. In fact, when I told my neighbour I was going she said “don’t write about them.”
Although, you would want to know about them, right? Perhaps travel evangelists should leave some places to be discovered by chance, or by the relatively obscure network of whispering trees that lie in the physical world. Although again, deciding just where this line lies can be tricky, and of course these places make for a great story.
What do you think? Should we, as travellers and travel writers, keep some places a secret? Should we use our knowledge responsibly and encourage more thoughtful engagement with destinations? Does it even matter? Let me know your thoughts!