The Need for the Uncliche

Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; its about deliberately choosing to be different.

Michael Porter

Don’t you worry. I am not going to bore you with Management lexicon over here.

This post is another piece on travel, though this won’t contain much information on the experience gathered from different travel destinations.

Rather this will focus on relatively uncharted waters – The very need for traveling, specifically, the “uncliche”.

Let me assuage some of your apprehensions by saying that this post is NOT another piece stating the benefits of tourism. You can find a plethora of articles on that topic.

I am accentuating on the word “travel” and its forms, not “tourism”. This post is thus, quite in line with the said accentuation.

Let me illumine some reasons for the same, and help connect the dots – one at a time.

About Tourism

Tourism – Perhaps, this is one of the most delightful ways of snapping out of the plodding life into one or more vibrant places, with several sights to see.

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. Beautifully designed. The Light and Sound show is carried out with near Machine level synchronization

As cringe-worthy the word may seem to some, one might be surprised or annoyed to see several selfie happy tourists recharging themselves near an iconic place.

Which might make one think: Is this all about recharging oneself?

Which is where I have my own consternation.

Before delving into the answer, let us allow ourselves a small amount of retrospection to help gather our thoughts over why do we indulge in tourism in the first place?

If the aim is to merely derive the hedonistic benefit of status or snobbery – then the discussion ends here. Not that hedonistic benefits should be frowned upon – but let us park it for the time being.

However, if the intention is to genuinely refresh yourself, relax and collect memories, then the following pointers should be worth pondering upon:

  • Would you mind sharing the screen space in your selfie with a humongous crowd?
  • Would you mind if your peace in a nice beach is marred by the constant noise of a crowd?
  • Would you mind standing in a seemingly unending queue for hours just to get a selfie in front of some place of your interest?
  • Would you mind taking yet another selfie in front of the structure which might as well be world’s most selfie clicking spot, and whose traffic has already inundated the cyberspace since ages?

If the answer to the above questions is YES, then congratulations are in order for you. It may thus be assumed that you would think of going the offbeat path – away from the conventional.

In short, you may be considered to be a “traveler” instead of a “tourist”.

The purpose of asking these questions was also to highlight a problem which seems to be growing unchecked in the modern times – Over-tourism.

It might seem quite paradoxical, but the destinations receiving a significant portion of their income from tourism, seem to be suffering from the menace of over-tourism.

Over-tourism can be a deal breaker, not only for the tourist, but also for the environment.

Let me walk you through a few examples to illustrate this point:

  • Thailand’s iconic Maya Bay beach on Ko Phi Phi Leh island has been closed indefinitely for tourists to allow it to recover from damage due to over-tourism (Guardian, October 2018)
  • The last floating florist at Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam, has been forced to shut down, thanks to over-tourism (Insider, April 2019)
  • Iceland’s famous Fjadrárgljúfur canyon has been closed, again due to over-tourism (AP News, May 2019)
  • As per a report of the European Parliament, the popular Greek tourist destination, Santorini, is struggling with over-tourism (Ekathimerini, January 2019)

Not just these places, over-tourism is plaguing many more beautiful destinations like Venice, Paris, Bhutan, California etc. The place hit by over-tourism causes inconvenience to the local residents. Though the same may not be said for tourists in general because the problem still persists despite the crowds.

The purpose of sharing these pieces of information is NOT to scare people away. As much as people would like to rejuvenate themselves, many of the local people staying in these tourist destinations also need tourists for their livelihood. Tourism also contributes significantly towards the GDP of many countries.

So, what to do? How to find the middle ground?

Let us just say that there might not exist any “middle ground”. That, however, does NOT imply that there is no solution. Let us refer to the Table 1 shown below for some clarity.

TABLE 1: Suggestions to tackle over-tourism

Suggestion Actionable Points
(Tourist)
Actionable Points (Government)

REDUCE Traveling to the cliche destinations

Find alternative destinations

Get out of your comfort zone

  • Entry Fees / Tax Imposition
  • Visitor caps
  • Destination Management
Reduce IMPACT of your trip through Sustainable Tourism
  • Use public transport
  • Prefer walking / cycling
  • Follow eco-friendly practices:
  • Dump trash only in designated bins
  • Recycle wastes
  • Reduce the use of virgin paper or plastic
  • Incentivize hotels and tourists towards following eco-friendly practices
DELAY, Shift or Alter your regular travel patterns
  • Choose slightly off-peak season for traveling to the desired travel destination
  • Staying more in a particular place to explore, rather than intensive binge day trips
  • Incentivize off season traveling by lowering taxes, fees, etc.
  • Peak season traveling can be discouraged through skimming strategy (increasing fees)
INCREASE adequate tourist infrastructure to handle large tourist inflows
  • Try visiting the places where you can get a well connected public transport system
  • Increasing Metro / Bus / Tram / Ferry routes, wherever possible

(with some inputs from a Report from CNN, June 2019)

Now that we have got some lead towards doing our small part to tackle over-tourism and to enhance the experiential value from our trips, let us now venture into the seemingly subtle difference between “tourism” and “travel”.

About Travel

Let us recapitulate our discussion so far to help create a link between the inter-connected topics:

  • The need for tourism / travel (assumed to be self explanatory)
  • The menace of over-tourism and real world examples
  • A few suggestions for the balancing act(s)

One aspect of the further elucidation of the “balancing acts” would reveal “travel” or “uncliche” as one of the suggested options.

One can go through the list of 14 differences between a common “tourist” and a “traveler” as illustrated by Holidify and BoredPanda.

It may be safe to assume that nobody is a cent percent tourist or a traveler, but lies somewhere between these extremities.

Now why am I emphasizing so much upon “traveling” as a means to offer one not only the necessary amount of rejuvenation through visiting new places and making the experience worth remembering, but also a way to make such an activity decrease the menace of over tourism.

The answer to this question lies in the answer to the four I presented in the section “About Tourism”. Traveling allows you to:

  • Create life long memories sans the irritants of humongous crowds (thus, minimizes queues whatsoever)
  • Lets you explore, derive pleasure and collect the best of the experiences which might well be “niche”, “different” and very much adhering to “local traditions, nature and culture”

In short, traveling and not mere tourism allows you to focus and fulfill the very purpose of why you need to travel, relax or take a vacation.

My humble acts towards the world of Traveling

My acts of travel might be inconsequential (as of now) if compared to experienced travelers worldwide, yet, I believe, a start in the right direction does matter significantly.

Inspired by Ebony Maw’s speech to Iron Man in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Movie

I try to base my travels upon the following Self Designed framework (it is so far a non-quantitative and subjective method, but can be used as a head start for beginners)

© Abirbhav Mukherjee

The above framework assumes that all the places which would qualify to fall under any of these Quadrants are all beautiful beyond measure, or offer experiences worth cherishing.

Let us clarify the two deciding parameters over here:

Access: The values Low and High mean the relative ease of accessing a particular place. A Place with a higher accessibility can be thought of as one having a good amount of air, road, rail, water connectivity or a combination of two or more of the above modes of transport. Similarly, a place where one might need a lot of interchanges can be considered to have a Low level of Access.

Awareness: This refers to the knowledge of the place which people might possess about its existence. For example, many might not be aware of the existence of the Statue of Liberty’s Twin in Paris (Low Awareness).

A Real Traveler would plan his or her travels based on Quadrant III (Completely bespoke or Remote Places). That would however involve a lot of dedication and time towards formulation of a successful strategy towards venturing into a completely uncharted area. The rewards are however worth cherishing for an entire lifetime, in addition to being a source of inspiration to others.

As far as I am concerned, I try to base my travels within the Quadrants II and IV and minimize my activities in Quadrant I. I might safely say that I might be one of the very few set of people who have visited Netherlands, but not Amsterdam – thanks to the guiding framework shown above.

With regards to Table 1 shown in this post, I have tried the following activities so far as a part of my quest towards the uncliche – collecting memories yet contributing less towards over-tourism.

  • Reducing Travel to the cliche: I try to visit alternative sites like (Click to read more):
    • Turin (instead of say Milan or Venice)
    • Helsingborg (instead of Stockholm)
    • Kinderdijk, Rotterdam (instead of Zaanse Schans, Amsterdam)
    • Teriberka, Russia (instead of Reykjavik, Iceland) for the Aurora Borealis
  • Sustainable tourism:
    • Putting the trash in the designated bins.
    • Preferring to walk or take metros, trams or buses instead of taxis.
    • Preferring trains to flights, wherever the option is available.
  • Shift in travel pattern: I try visiting places during their off season (like Russia during Winters)
  • Infrastructure: I prefer visiting places offering a well developed public transport infrastructure (Eg. Berlin)

While I cannot claim that such practices are ideal, I do believe that we can help make travel more uncliche and thus conducive towards reducing over-tourism.

Think about this: Netherlands is a Country, far bigger than the famous city of Amsterdam. Why not spend a few Euros more and explore the unexplored beauty hidden in the vast countryside of the Netherlands?

And some concluding remarks

I started this blog to help illumine about my experiences traveling in relatively uncharted territories and helping unlock the beauty and the gems of experiences hidden in such places.

Travel, Tourism, Vacation are all unquestionably necessary. One should make time for the same at a regular basis, else, there would be zilch of a difference left between him/her and a robot (even robots require maintenance).

Make sure the memories you make are unforgettable (in a positive way), devoid of images of crowds or queues.

Choose your strategy to be different, not so much for the others, but for your very own self.

Maybe, you need not queue up to climb the Eiffel Tower or see it close from the gardens. You can get equally spectacular views from the bridges on River Sienne in Paris.

The Eiffel Tower remains the same, whether seen from a crowded enclosure 50m away or from a bridge on Sienne, about 500m away

If you really want to climb a tower, consider the Fernsehturm Berlin. Haven’t heard of it? Do the research, and prepare to be amazed by this “uncliche” of a place.

The Fernsehturm Berlin

© Abirbhav Mukherjee

Written by Abirbhav

Intrinsically, I am a free-spirited merry person who loves to try out the unconventional in pursuit of “living life to the fullest”, because you only live once. Currently, exploring the intricacies of the Corporate World after my MBA from IIM .. Hope you like my posts (sharing will be appreciated) Feel free to post your comments, or Get in Touch with Me over Social Media (indicated in the appropriate section).. Thank you for paying a visit..!!

41 comments

  1. This is an excellent piece and caught my attention. I was thinking the other day about our over-loved /over-touristed spots that are now sitting empty. I remember going to Angkor Wat a few years ago and it was mayhem. It must look totally different and pristine right now. But you are absolutely right about finding a balance, and solutions toward a middle ground. Also, that the solution must be both actions from the government and the traveller. It struck me in Angkor Wat that the over-crowding is really only at the three main temples, but this complex has thousands of temples. As a traveller I really appreciated seeing these quieter, but still very impressive sites. Cambodia is a very poor country and this hit to tourism must be a real struggle. I do hope though that when travellers return more policies will be put in place to ease over-crowding so these ruins can be enjoyed by locals and visitors for years to come. Great, thought-provoking post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow..!! Thank you so much Madam for fishing this article out and showering your generous praise for it.. 😊😊 I am so humbled by it.. 😊😊

      Your line of action in Angkor Wat is really smart and commendable. I am not saying that over-touristy places are bad. They are good, but they lack crowd management. Of course, one should follow your footsteps to discover the remaining 1000 temples which lie almost empty and yet are so beautiful and praiseworthy.

      You must have read in one of my articles that my trip to the Eiffel Tower was an anti-climax to my trip and a very much forgettable experience. Not because the tower was bad, no. But because of the burgeoning crowds over there. However, the relatively less explored walks along the Seine river and the Statue of Liberty in Paris were simply amazing and had their own charm.. 🙂

      It’s a tricky problem because these countries alongwith many European ones need tourists as a large chunk of their income depends on tourism. However, the controls have to be brought sooner than later, so that they can safely continue to enjoy the success of their tourism related programmes.

      I have one more article in this series. Hope you will find it to be OK. Awaiting your reviews.. 🙂

      Thank you so much Madam for your glorious praise. You made my day.. 😊😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I never thought of it that way! I love how you share your ideas but before you give the reader a chance to think about it themselves! Thank you for your suggestions!! Wow

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Madam for your lovely comments.. 😊😊
      Well, I believe that the readers will take these simple suggestions and physically try them out to derive more pleasure than they would have previously thought..!!
      You are welcome and thank you once again.. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I appreciate your perspective. Thank you very much for your personal travel reports and the effort to avoid clichés.

    Traveling means more than just getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible, just to be there.
    Travel is discovery. Discovering yourself, nature and other ways of life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Madam for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.. 😊 I am so glad that it could resonate to your thoughts.. 😊
      As you rightly said, travel should mean discovery and not just going from point A to point B. There is so much to see and discover, isn’t it? That’s what I try to do.. 😊 Thank you so much once again..!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Very detailed post that requires patience to read but is worth it in the end. I liked how you differentiated between a traveller and a tourist. On a scale from 1 to 10, I would be 8 (10 being traveller). I liked the quadrant bit too but will come back to it again to analyze my travels. Its wonderful how you’re doing your bit to remind people to take care of the environment when they visit a place. Any traveler or tourist should follow it for the love of travel. Thank you for a wonderful, thought provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Madam for your words of encouragement..!!
      As you rightly said, one should follow traveling for the love of it.
      I am glad to know that you score an 8/10 score. I don’t think I am qualified enough to rate myself at this point of time, but I try to reach a higher score in that regard.
      The quadrant analysis is a bit rudimentary as of now because I don’t have numbers or hard data to fortify the same. I hope to get it, and I am trying to quantify things as much as possible before I undertake my next trip.
      I like being an invisible fellow while traveling. I try to observe the culture and beauty of a place, without myself being in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, if any. For me, that allows a greater people-people connect and getting tons of information about the uniqueness of a place.
      Thank you so much Madam for taking the time to check this. Will wait for you to cross-check the quadrants. Maybe I can learn something more, or have a discussion on the same.. 🙂

      Like

  5. Going down to the road to the Ferry to book Prague this weekend. And of course will be back in Glencoe in May. Looking forward to what we call Adventures. NOW YOU are the one being very very kind. Truly. Thank you for your friendship.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, the pleasure is mine.. 🙂
      All the Best for your trip to Prague..!! a 3 month trip definitely constitutes what I call as a Mega Adventure..!! 😀
      Waiting for your posts about Prague.. 🙂
      Where else will you go to??

      Like

  6. My friend, a wonderful post, detailed and precise –for me–in the real meaning of ‘tourism’. And yes, it is also about making memories. I don’t always want to see the biggies in a place, i want to find the place. Hope you are good

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Madam.. 🙂 I am good, thank you..
      Hope you are great as well.. Long time no see?
      Thank you so much for such an eloquent praise.. 🙂 🙂 Elated that it could touch the right note for you.. 🙂
      As always, tourism is not a checklist to be ticked off, but a process of collecting fine memories worth cherishing a lifetime.. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s so nice of you.. ☺️☺️ I mean it..!!
          Thank you so much for your lovely comments and endless encouragement..!! They mean a lot, honestly.. ☺️
          Yes, I try to collect good memories as much as possible. And I know you have collected many, as evident from your brilliant blog posts. You know how to charm your readers and keep them glued to your posts.
          Looking forward to a new post of yours chronicling your travels and the memories collected.. ☺️

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Madam for your feedback.. 😀
      Glad that the article could resonate with your views..!! Indeed, a crowd of trees is always a welcome sight (with the icing of snow)
      Thank you once again.. 🙂 Hope you explore more places and find new crowds of trees there..

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A very interesting and a well thought article. I would say it is much needed in this day and age of over tourism and climate change. I must say use of charts and quadrants to demonstrate the effect was brilliant, though remined me of work. I travel to get away from the mundane daily life, so it made me smile. I am someone who needs to be able to connect with a place emotionally, and another thing is sometimes I enjoy people watching as much as the monuments, for instance I love going to Piccadily Circus , just to watch the tourists and Londoners. Sustainable travelling is the key and I am glad you have emphasised on it. One of things I would like to see is more considerate travellers, travellers who respect the local community and mindful of the locals. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Madam for your appreciation.. ☺️
      Was a bit troubled to hear that it reminded you of work (will try to minimise such graphs in future), but happy that it made you smile.. 😊
      Well, as you rightly said, traveling helps one connect emotionally to a place. Cannot factor in emotional aspects in a framework though.
      But for me, I might connect emotionally to a place if a certain set of parameters are fulfilled. Still figuring out what they are. Still learning as I travel.
      I loved watching the snow kissed Arctic beaches of Teriberka (can be considered as an “edge” of the world), made me sit down amidst the Polar winds in perfectly dark Polar Nights and appreciate the beauty Nature is capable of creating.
      Again there is this same thread which makes me connect to Moscow, Torino or Berlin. Guess some subjectivity is involved there as well.
      And yes, I try to be sustainable and definitely a local friendly tourist as far as possible, in terms of my purchases and eating options. They should be the first ones to recieve benefits due to tourist footfalls as they are sort of the hosts.
      It reminds me of my work as well (those graphs and framework). I believe traveling should create spectacular memories lasting a lifetime. And I believe that a lot of groundwork and research is needed for that.
      Still banging my head for my next travel. Have been doing that for the past 8 months. Hope to clear that in another 2-3 weeks time.
      Thank you so much Madam once again for your words of encouragement.. ☺️

      Like

  8. Hi. Another great article on thoughtful travel. I love your quadrant matrix. I guess I do this subconsciously. While in Slovenia (off the beaten path to begin with), yes, we were in Bled, but then we went into the mountains and stayed in huts. When we climbed Slovenia’s tallest mountain (over-crowded because of it’s fame), we were referred to as “the Canadian Family” and were constantly asked why we were there. Yes, this a busy spot for Europeans, but not international travelers. So, I try and do a mix of “must-see” and unpredictable.

    However, what I do consciously is only visit places that I have an emotional connection to. I love the mountains, and in particular, limestone mountains. When I discovered that Slovenia also had limestone mountain ranges, I knew I wanted to go see them. I think that when people travel, if they chose destinations based on personal emotional connection, then perhaps we can eliminate the crowds of people just ticking off lists. This might also help the locals who have to deal with us travelers / tourists, if they knew we were there because we felt love and connection to their homeland.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Madam once again for your detailed response.. ☺️
      As you rightly said, we have this matrix in our subconscious mind.. However the matrix does need refining or polishing using numbers, to which I don’t have access at this stage..
      Thanks for sharing your experiences of Slovenia. I believe the local people were surprised and not shocked due to the presence of a foreign family. They must have expected foreigners to crowd to places like Lake Bled or other touristy areas, and not a difficult to climb mountain in my opinion.
      Personal or Emotional connect is one of the factors influencing our travel. Of course if a place appeals to you personally, then you may not mind the crowds. The mountains of Slovenia thus had a personal appeal to you.
      And yes, the local people need to recieve the benefits. When the path to personal appeal intersects an off beat path, then miracles can happen. And believe me, the local people will be more than happy to welcome you. People, in general, are quite good and welcoming.
      I had a wonderful experience, quite significantly influenced by then local people who went out of the way to welcome us in Europe, be it in Russia, Denmark, Netherlands or Italy..
      Hope you read the related posts and let me know what you think.. ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Some really good ideas for travelling, thank you for the very informative post 🙂. Personally I think when we get off the beaten track even by a bit we can discover some beautiful places and destinations. Sometimes better than the ones well-known by the tourists. I found myself enjoying Amsterdam less when surrounded by crowds. Also visiting places when it is not high season is a great option. I’ve been to Giethoorn in the Netherlands which during the summer is overcrowded. We decided to go in October for a weekend trip and it’s one of my favourite trips of last year 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Madam for checking my blog and sharing your thoughts.. 🙂
      Glad you found this relatable. Fully agree with your point about getting out of the comfort zone. Indeed it is rewarding.
      Noted your point about Giethoorn as well. I visited Giethoorn during June, but I didn’t find any crowds over there. October seems to be a reasonable time of the year to pay a visit though.
      Good to have learnt about something new and interesting today. Thank you once again.. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right, Madam. The destruction of such monuments is a matter of great concern. Hope some motivated souls in the Governments and some determined travelers take a note of it and implement the same..!!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I like your focus on sustainable tourism, as well as the value of touring an area not famous for being a tourist destination. My natural instincts are the opposite, and that has resulted in my lack of touring Europe. In the US, Europe is pretty much the place to go, so I pick other places. I did spend two weeks in a tiny village in southern France though, and I spent three days in Greece, and that little bit of Turkey that is in Europe. Your description of getting a selfie in a noisy crowd made me cringe. I’d probably cancel my trip rather than go anywhere in a crowd – unless the crowd was part of the location (not tourists), like when I explored Shinjuku in Japan.

    Your approach to finding the ideal tourist destinations is so interesting to me, and I’m sure it appeals to a segment of the population that needs a well-formulated plan with graphs. I am so glad you have done this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Madam for checking this post and providing your insights..!!
      Glad to know that you could relate to it and find crowds a bit cringeworthy.
      In fact, your trip to (European) Greece, France and Turkey in a way is attached to taking the roads less traveled. I am sure you were able to explore, relax and soak in the beauty of these idyllic places you have mentioned.
      US and Europe are humongous, if we consider the land area. Why restrict oneself to places like New York, Paris, London etc.?
      In my opinion, the roads less traveled involve some painstaking tasks. But in the end, they are worth it.. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I really appreciate your effort to elucidate the need of the hour ie. exploring to the uncliche destinations. The discussion on this topic is indeed necessary to encourage sustainable tourism going forward.

    Like

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