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.
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.
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
|Actionable Points (Government)|
REDUCE Traveling to the cliche destinations
Find alternative destinations
Get out of your comfort zone
|Reduce IMPACT of your trip through Sustainable Tourism||
|DELAY, Shift or Alter your regular travel patterns||
|INCREASE adequate tourist infrastructure to handle large tourist inflows||
(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”.
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)
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.
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.
© Abirbhav Mukherjee