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An Open Letter to Travelers

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When you do too much tourism: Hills of concrete instead of orchards

Last year we were all hit with the news of how Shimla was facing water shortage so severe that it had to shut down schools and plead tourists to stay away from the city. Today it’s Shimla, tomorrow it could be any other destination.

So here’s a bit of advice for any of you who have actually loved the places you traveled to as much as you portrayed in your Instagram captions.

Dear fellow travelers,

Don’t you wish sometimes there were referees at tourist places? So that they would go over to your fellow travelers and blow a whistle. Bam! You are being sent home. Bye bye!

Travelers get away with so much that they really shouldn’t. You and I, we both have encountered such people who consider whatever place they visit to, as their own heirloom. And no one says anything, no one holds them accountable, because who would, right?

I love the travelling community. I really do. But it is hard to deny that we are literally loving places to death.When we visit someplace beautiful, some off-the-beaten track destination, we want to make sure everybody knows about it. All it takes is a few selfies, a post on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and some good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. By driving people to the next “undiscovered” place, think if you have just ruined it?

While not totally guiltless, I think, besides tourists, travel writers and the local government bodies are also to be blamed. But as tourists, we have certain responsibilities to the destination. We have a choice in the hotels we choose, the locations we go to and the organisations we support.

  • Support Eco-friendly and sustainable accommodations
  • Purchase your supplies from small convenience stores in your destination instead of the market chains at home.
  • Research about the environmental condition of the place before visiting it and avoid contributing to it in a negative sense.
  • Choose tour companies that support sustainable tourism
  • Support local food and stay by avoiding big hotel and food chains
  • Use sustainable travel alternative

Tourists are blamed for not making an attempt to give back or to protect the places they visit. People have a great time and then they walk away without doing anything. That is wildly irresponsible. I believe, the point is to act. If you don’t, then you are worthless to that place. You cannot just claim to love these places, tour around and then leave them behind, thinking someone else will take care of them.

The recent revelation of the vandalization at the World Heritage site of Hampi chilled me to my bones. This incident reflects the pedigree of socially-desensitized and uncultured citizenry and the failure of our education and value system. It is disheartening to see that a section of visitors repeatedly prove themselves unfit and unworthy to travel. Unless we as travelers become aware and develop a sense of attachment towards our heritage, we cannot stop such defacement of our structures.

Vandals damage stone pillars at Hampi

Is it really too much to ask from us to contain the scraps within our vehicles, to leave the places you visit untouched, to respect the culture of the place and to make responsible choices?

If you agree, please let us know your suggestions, comments or criticism. Open the discussion for better ideas on responsible travel. Promote awareness. Promote sustainable tourism.

Not everyone gets to travel. So, if you are able to travel, travel responsibly. Make that choice and stick by it. Your actions can have a big impact. Try to leave the world in a state that’s at least as good as the one you found it in!

Much love,

A fellow traveler

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