When there are “too” many tourists

Machu Picchu crowds

I find it mildly amusing when I read other travel bloggers state how there are “too many tourists”Β now at a particular destination. Umm, did I enter a parallel universe in which these travel bloggers are not tourists themselves? I know they like to think of themselves as different, as more worldly than those individuals who only have the time or means (or desire!) to travel to a destination for a week or so. They think that by eschewing material goods and having everything they need in a 60-liter backpack so that they can flit about the world never having that “stolid” 9-5 daily grind of an existence, they’re not tourists, they’re not outsiders. But the fact remains that they are.

As a language major and someone who has always been fascinated by other languages (in my dream life I’d be a polyglot), a key determinant in weeding out tourists from people who “belong” is if you can speak the local language. Now I’m sure some of you are thinking, “I’m never in a million years going to learnΒ how to speak or read Thai fluently,” and yet that’s exactly my point. In bemoaning the fact that Thailand’s gorgeous white sand beaches are becoming inundated with more and more tourists each year, thus losing that hidden tropical paradise feel, you don’t really have a right to wish that “those” tourists would let your hidden paradise stay that way.

When there are "too" many tourists

You actually thought you’d have the Spanish Steps to yourself?

I’m not saying that there aren’t those travelers who display more reverence towards the culture and the people of the country they’re visiting. I know this is very much a fact as I’ve seen it first hand. And yes, many of those who traverse the globe with a limited number of possessions probably do know and care more about the culture behind a destination they’re visiting versus those individuals who are journeying somewhere for a week and anxious take as many pretty pictures as they can. But (some) backpackers also have a pretty notorious reputation around the world when it comes to things like partying. Being drunk off of cheap beer and shots while in the midst of countless other inebriated individuals doesn’t really seem authentic to me.

I get it. When we travel someplace, we of course want to have the feeling that it’s just us there, that we’re the only ones who know about it. That we’re these savvy globe trotters who are the first people to have “discovered” something. But the fact of the matter is it’s 2015, not 1870. So as much as you want that Thai beach or Cambodian temple to be deserted, it’s not necessarily going to be. And I know that any major city that is immensely popular with tourists (Paris, Venice) is never going to be devoid of them. And you know what? It is what is it. And I certainly don’t dwell on it. Rather, I enjoy myself to the fullest.

When there are "too" many tourists

Can you spot the dozens of brightly colored things in this picture? Those would be scores of visitors at Machu Picchu.

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  • Reply
    Daisy @ Simplicity Relished
    April 19, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    This is such a good point. I haven’t come across a lot of travelers who snub tourists, but I think that there can be a bit of snobbery among people who’ve traveled a lot. At the end of the day, travel is a luxury that requires sacrifices and not everyone can make them. I also completely agree that while there are different styles of tourism, visiting a place that is not your own is being a tourist, and that’s okay!
    Daisy @ Simplicity Relished recently posted…Lessons I Learned From Traveling as a ChildMy Profile

    • Reply
      April 20, 2015 at 9:58 am

      Personally I haven’t either, I’ve just read scores of these types of comments and opinions in the Web 2.0 world πŸ™‚ And yes, they generally are always the ones who are on round the world trips or have visited more countries than I can even begin to fathom (and they’re around my age).

      And, wonderful point about travel being a luxury. I think many people fail to realize this which sometimes adds to the disconnect between travelers.

  • Reply
    April 21, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    I just read a post by Waegook Tom that reminded me I never commented on this post! At the end of it, he said, “…most of the stereotypical, touristy stuff is worth doing, so if you’re worried about looking like a tourist, take off your hipster hat and remember that a) you are a tourist and b) people love that stuff for a reason.”

    I TOTALLY agree with you! If you are not from a place and/or you’re not living there, you are a tourist, so just suck it up. But hey, call yourself by whatever name or title makes you feel better. The really beautiful/historical/super fun/absolutely incredible stuff is going to be crowded!
    Rachel recently posted…That Time I Brought Bagged Salad to a Fancy Dinner PartyMy Profile

    • Reply
      April 24, 2015 at 3:59 pm

      Waegook Tom is a wise man! Those are words that anyone who travels should definitely live by.

      I can’t stand anyone thinking that they’re “superior” to others, especially when we’re talking about the institution of travel. And yes, those “popular” things became popular and heavily visited for a reason πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    nicole | the wondernuts
    May 5, 2015 at 1:22 am

    We totally addressed this, too: we’re all tourists, so, ya’ know, enjoy it.
    nicole | the wondernuts recently posted…Pink Everywhere! in JapanMy Profile

    • Reply
      May 7, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      Amen sistah! There’s definitely no changing that πŸ™‚

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