I find it mildly amusing when I read other travel bloggers state how there are “too many tourists” 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 learn 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.
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.