Updated: Jul 31, 2022
A few weeks since the story shared with me that provoked this post have passed, but as the time is upon us when many people are eagerly awaiting for ticket prices to drop to get back on a plane, it seems a good time to shed a little truth on...
-the Instagram-provoked destinations of travel,
-the social media posts of attractive influencers interacting with heavily sedated wild animals, and on the tourism industry as a whole, which can have a significant impact on both a country’s economy
-and on the lines we draw as mankind upon our sense duty to fellow Earth inhabitants.
And on that note...
I wanted to find hashtags that would be relevant to the ongoing crisis in Myanmar for a recent video.
Instead I found these popular hashtags to use in 2022 to talk about Myanmar online in a way that completely overlooks the fact that half the "travel destination" is a war-torn battleground.
Just an example of how ignorant your Internet bubble can keep you so that you don't have to consider the social impact your travel has.
I was recently affronted with the typical recount of a student’s experience at a tourist attraction, of watching a trained wild animal in a tropical country playfully interacting with the public, of its willing acceptance of bananas for payment and its playful curiosity, innocently stealing show spectators’ phones.
And I’ll be the first to admit that I posted an Instagram picture last week of the day I sat for coffee with a young guy and his girlfriend in the park in Yangon and wound up on the back of a stranger’s motorbike, with the pretext of helping locals receive essentials and paying a not-so-modest sum to my “guide” to visit remote corners of the swampland; and I was pampered as a student of a private university in Managua, kickin' it with the 0.1%ers of the country at all inclusive resorts for spring break; and I’ve been toted around Chang Mai with a group of teachers-in-training, soon to be pumped into the “ESL-certified” mass in Southeast Asia with not a single clue...
Yes, yes, I am guilty, you, too, you are guilty, and I’ve written it and said it and I’ll say it time and time again, but I truly believe that there is no reason to point the finger- we are all to blame.
The tourist, the guide, the business, the school.
And I’m also not saying that there aren’t perfectly good reasons to get on a plane for travel.
But do y'all know that...
but that only 5-10% of the world’s population travels by plane?
information provided by Eco Watch and Our World in Data
Do you see what we're getting at here?
We could all be a little better.
And I believe in myself and I believe in you, too.
I’m just reminding us all that at any time we like, we can stop buying plane tickets to foreign destinations for the sake of:
-intoxicating ourselves on the beaches that locals don’t have time to enjoy,
-staying in posh hotels to be constantly reminded of the economic privilege we've been granted in life and
-paying the most desperate of locals to continue exploiting their wildlife for our cheap entertainment.
So let's say, "No."
#1: Say "No," to belligerence on foreign beaches
Y'all know what I'm talking about. There is a tried-and-true reputation of American foreigners traveling overseas, loudly declaring their fascination for the "exotic" local culture when in actuality they're just trying to get trashed on local beer.
Hey, to each his own!
Just remember to invite the locals to drink with you (yup, you can afford it), and if you're the only one who thinks it's a party, make yourself aware before you wind up buying rounds.
Also be aware of places where beach attire is drastically different from the beach attire where you're from.
People are a lot more welcoming of tourists who respect cultural norms and values.
#2 Say "No" to staying in posh hotels to be constantly reminded of the economic privilege you've been granted in life
Look, I get it. You've saved up six months of the money you earn sitting on Facebook at your job- you've carefully budgeted!- and all you want is to feel like a princess in the jungle.
But if it makes you feel uncomfortable walking out of luxury and into the streets of an often contrasting reality that the people who aren't on vacation there face, you could opt for doing more extensive research that will help you decide how you're visiting other people's land could benefit local hosts, as well as gain insight on more intimate grounds into the local style of living.
Heading #3: Say "No" to contributing to the local economy of exploitation of wildlife and human beings
We know better by now.
If you spend money going to an exotic show where 1) animals are not acting like you imagine animals would act or 2) something unworldly comes out of the orifice of another human being, it's probably out of place.
You're shocked? You talked about it? Go tell your friends and maybe they'll pay to see it too!
And the more animals and people who do things that they usually wouldn't otherwise be doing without your money will keep popping out of the woodworks.
The point is, that every dollar you spend, both in your hometown and in the places you travel, is a choice that you're making to condone- if not support- economic activity.
If you want to be a responsible consumer, there's so much more to consider than whether or not you use plastic bags.
The root of the degradation we're seeing now is at the core of our mentality.
Don't be a part of the problem. We're all looking for ways to help.
If you'd like to be a part of the conversation, tell us what else we might have forgotten about the affects of travel on the environment, local economies, and people, and we'll fill in the gaps together.
Contributions always welcome.
Thanks for reading.