The Many Faces of Travel
When we finally made the decision to take this trip around the world, a big part of the planning process became “where do we want to go?”
Each family member was given a choice of 3 priority destinations that would fulfill a lifelong dream of theirs.
If you could pick 3 places to travel in the world, where would you go?
Our loose, plan not to plan itinerary is to see the world in all its glory. Yet we realized that many of the places we wanted to see are also ones that are being threatened by over-tourism, climate change and the influence/intrusion of man.
We feel like we’re in a bit of a juxtaposition. Our goal was to intentionally visit sites that we believe might disappear in our lifetime. After seeing how tourism is affecting many of those areas, we are unsure if our attendance might be hastening their demise.
We have already witnessed it as we visited The Galapagos Islands and we have seen in again in Aguas Calientes, the base town for traveling Machu Picchu.
In the Galapagos, we opted to do a land-based visit to maintain our RTW budget and support local providers where possible. The concept of land vs cruise tours is still quite new in the Galapagos. It was very simple to book island tours for the next day, the competition becoming increasingly fierce for the tourist dollar. While the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and other government agencies are working hard on regulations around environmental considerations, amount of tourists and the way they tour, you can already see how more tourists in the Galapagos has the potential of messing with an already fragile eco-system.
A few things that really did impress me about The Galapagos:
- Tour organizers like Galapagos Alternatives work very hard at designing a personal custom tour for you WHILE ensuring that where possible the eco-impact is considered.
- The government has a limited allocation of taxis currently running with gas on the island. Any resident purchasing a car in the future on the island must purchase an electric car.
- Seymour Airport on Baltra Island is the first Ecological airport, running entirely on renewable energy resources like solar power and wind.
Machu Picchu is one of the most majestic places on earth. It truly does take your breath away when you turn the corner and see it for the first time. Unfortunately, parts of the ruins as well as the road on the way up are starting to deteriorate and the geological concerns are hitting a critical mass. Areas are starting to become off limits, walks to the Sun Gate are now restricted to 2 walks up per day and must be booked months in advance, the Intihuatana stone (The Hitching Post of the Sun) no longer allowed to be touched.
We were told that according to recent studies, the road has less than 17 months left before it will be impossible to drive up to the top. There has been consideration for a cable car up to the top but the local economy is against it, bolstered largely through the employment offered from construction, tourism and buses driving up the mountain. For Aguas Calientes their sole economy is tourism. Without it, this town has no other resources to rely on. The push for an increase in tourism will continue but at what price?
We are trying hard to be careful in how we are traveling. To support sustainable travel & local economies but without getting caught in the “vicious cycle” that plays out with popular tourist destinations where we can.
We have a few other precious destinations on our list. Patagonia is seeing many of its glaciers retreating at an alarming rate, the Great Barrier Reef is dying, the Sumatran Orangutans are endangered, pushed out of their natural habitats due to deforestation, logging and poachers and the Maldives will likely be under water within the next few decades due to climate change.
This trip is a series of life lessons we are learning along the way. One which we hope will connect for us, for our kids and for our readers alike.
Ok, so did you get the T-Shirt? That is the question that keeps circling as we make our way through South America. Every stop has weavings, pictures, purses and ‘real’ Alpaca products for sale, all handmade if you believe the tales, and dyed in the time-honoured tradition of the region. Or not. There is way too much similarity to vouch for the claims, and you wonder if this schtick is as transparent to others as it is to us. Sadly, I don’t think so, with the amount of offerings and marks milling through the markets.
This is the part of travel I don’t like. The commercialization of these magical places, the continual drive to relieve me of some currency. No, I don’t want a: hat, blanket, hammock, or picture of you in your traditional regional garb. I want to climb to the top of a mountain and imagine the footsteps of those who went before, take a picture to bolster my failing memory, and think of the journey over a glass. No T-shirt required…