Cultural Erosion: How Tourism Ruins Travel

I recently read an article that compared bucket list destinations to reality. It featured iconic places like Paris, Venice, Angkor Wat, the Taj Mahal – typical bucket list destinations every traveller has pondered visiting at one point or another. Of course, these idyllic locales are held beautifully and perfectly in our untamed imaginations, painted upon a flawless canvass and grasped gently by our unrealistic hopes. Now, I usually don't like generic list posts but this one hit the nail on the head. Having experienced things like the sunrise at Angkor Wat, along with several hundred others all snapping identical photos, and having trekked the Great Wall, along with several THOUSAND others, it was a feeling I could easily relate to. And it got me thinking.

a crowded Great Wall during China's Golden Week

a crowded Great Wall during China's Golden Week

In essence, travellers ruin the places they visit. Tourism becomes a form of cultural erosion whereby every visit changes the destination – and generally for worse. Secluded beaches become plastered with tacky resorts, quaint costal towns become seasonal tourist traps, and epic Wonders of the World are transformed into sleazy cash machines. It's a shame, really, for in our attempt to witness and drink in the beauty of foreign lands we often trample the very things that make those places special. We develop a cultural tunnel vision; we become so transfixed on that bucket-list checkmark that we ignore all the beauty around us because we have been told it isn't as beautiful as destination so-and-so. Granted, there are economic benefits that accompany tourism and travel that have the potential to transform poverty-stricken destinations into places more stable and secure – sometimes, anyway. 

an overcrowded Angkor Wat at dawn

an overcrowded Angkor Wat at dawn

But what do we do? Do we stay at home, ne'er to wander the globe again? Do we settle for postcards from far off lands while we daydream of life on the road? Maybe we hunt for that next perfect place ourselves – an ideal destination we alone can bask in before it too becomes oversaturated by the masses. Or maybe we just learn to accept the world for how it is – at home and abroad – and do our best not to be dicks while we explore it.

Yeah, that probably sounds best.

I visited the Colosseum when it had free admission...wasn't exactly empty...

I visited the Colosseum when it had free admission...wasn't exactly empty...