The newest trend among the travel elite is here, and it isn’t going away. The Sustainable Travelers have arrived, bringing along deep pockets to pay for their virtue. Hotels and other venues are sharpening their tools and offering their very best in order to attract loyalty from this monied and more morally conscious breed of gypsy, with offerings that respect the social and cultural aspects of place and people. Sustainability isn’t a concept that applies only to the eco-conscious, (though that is surely a part of it) so get it out of your head that you’ll be swatting flies in some austere, no-power-having, vegan -food-offering, sweatlodge. There is, in fact, loads of luxe to be had in the sustainability space.
The new luxury among those in the know? Unique and sustainable forays that highlight unsung clandestine hotspots. The intention here is in honoring the ethos of travel at its intrinsic core and shunning the mass tourism tick box experiences of loved-to-death places like Barcelona (try Seville instead) and Phuket (great alternatives are Koh Kood. or Khao Lak.) This new breed of traveler seeks to know the culture and history of these over-touristed destinations yet do so in locations that still genuinely retain their fundamental essence. Travel isn’t a competition, except— it seems it has become that. This savvy wanderer certainly doesn’t desire to be the ten-thousandth person to snap a selfie in front of that hot pink door everyone is Instagramming*— quite the opposite. Following the herd? SNOOZE. They’ve embraced a new authenticity and are taking a radical departure from the hive mind that tricks us into being such followers.
A tourist can’t help but have a distorted opinion of a place: he meets unrepresentative people, has unrepresentative experiences, and runs around imposing upon the place the fantastic mental pictures he had in his head when he got there.-Michael Lewis: Boomerang, Travels in the New Third World
The places we love are being overrun and simply cannot support the level of demand thrust upon them. Formerly pristine corners of the world are now trash-strewn and more reflective of the tourists who visit versus the people who are being visited (Bali, Venice, Siem Reap.) The tourist thinks of these places as holiday spots for a week or two, buying tickets and making bookings and taking selfies and then leaving it all behind to go back home. There is little connection. In the meantime, these places are people’s homes, the places in which they raise their families, bury their relatives and live their lives. They’re not theme parks. Maya Beach in Thailand, the setting for the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach, is an unfortunate example. In our minds, it’s paradise, a world (literally) away from our own lives and a place that’s received that ever-important social proof. It was in a movie after all. The thing is, the sheer volume of visitors has marred that tranquility and ruined the ecosystem. According to the Telegraph U.K., “72% of Thailand’s coral reef has been devastated…with polluted water from seaside hotels, the dumping of plastic waste and damage from boat anchors all to blame.” Originally slated to close for 4 months in 2018 to recover and regenerate, it remains off limits and will be so until at least 2021.
Being shoulder to shoulder with tourists all grappling for the same photo, and the I’ve-done -that street cred, isn’t likely what we’ll be seeing in the future, at least in terms of those who are seeking a more authentic experience — and that’s a good thing. How about you, traveler? Are you inclined to find alternative destinations for your holiday in the name of originality or sustainability? What do you think about taking the road less traveled? And, do you have your photo in front of that particular hot pink door?
*(It’s in Palm Springs, by the way.) Check out #thatpinkdoor, if you’re curious.