Overtourism, Underappreciation: How Do We Tackle Our Travel Crisis?

There’s a very particular type of learning that comes through travel; in particular venturing to a faraway place where the culture and language are entirely different to your own. I like the way that it puts you in your place a bit: shows you how much you really don’t know about the world. It also challenges you on the most basic levels of communication and navigation – things we take entirely for granted and spare little thought in our day-to-day lives.

I’m very fortunate to have grown up as a third culture kid, because despite the longing for home and loneliness I battle with at times, I traverse through life fairly open-minded and interested in others whose lives are wildly different to my own. And honestly, without tooting my own horn, I think it’d be pretty stellar if more people were as curious.

With the internet bringing us ever closer together, the world seemingly shrinking before our very eyes and platforms like Instagram unlikely to disappear any time soon, we have at our disposal access to travel unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. All the flight deals, phenomenal ease of staying connected even in the most remote of locations and enough FOMO-inducing travel inspo pics to scroll through for the next 100 years.

I feel bittersweet about it all, to be honest. On the one hand I think about the ways in which travel has enriched my life and shaped me into the person I am today (and God, I wouldn’t trade that for anything.) But on the other, I gingerly peep at the harsh reality that perhaps the world’s beautiful natural spaces aren’t abundant enough to go around. We’re at 7.7 billion people on this planet and while each deserves an enriching experience during his or her time on Earth, is it really doable? Is there a way to keep doing all the travel while avoiding the plight of overtourism?

Overtourism has trashed our beaches, national parks and cities and while the average person truly means no harm, there’s an unfortunate “mob mentality” that kicks in when we see one person disrespecting a space; it suddenly seems to send a wave of permission through the masses that a free-for-all is totally acceptable. Look at what happened with the US government shutdown earlier this year? National parks now face years of damage that is, tragically, thought to be irreversible in some places.

So who stays and who goes? That’s the uncomfortable question. Or is there a way that we can still travel freely without leaving our footprint in the sand, as it were?

The obvious first step in responsible travel is to do so with the environment at the forefront of your mind. Before the photo-ops are explored and the bar has been located, I wonder how things might be different if we weren’t so entitled. It’s a complete privelege to visit another person’s land (or sea) and we must do so with immense respect. We need to adopt humility and pause to face the reality that those places don’t need any sign of us after we leave. None of us are that special. And while other nations kindly welcome us in and let us stay for a while, exploring what they have to offer, we will eventually leave and they do not wish to be stuck with the house left trashed by the party, if you catch my drift? Neither would you, I’m sure.

But let’s say everyone transformed overnight into respectful tourists, sticking to the footpaths and leaving no trace of their plasti wrappers, we still face the harsh truth that the numbers are staggering. The number of flights and pressure to expand our airports. The number of Air Bnb’s forcing out locals from their hometowns. And the population density that doesn’t go unnoticed by local flora and fauna, reshaping wildlife communities in search of tranquility. These things will still exist.

And so I pose the question – even if you have no answer: how do we stop the death and destruction that overtourism has caused and is popular culture ruining the world more today than it ever has?

Photo by Febiyan on Unsplash

Is Instagram Killing Adventure? Why It’s Important To Keep Some Places Secret

Back in May I spent a solid three weeks in the US, connecting with old friends and getting some much-needed fresh air in my lungs. It had been a while and as such, I packed my adventure full to the brim with as many special moments as possible. It is by far my favourite way to travel; visiting friends or family in a destination that’s exciting to me. I get the comforts of home in a foreign place, a familiar face to contemplate life with and the inside knowledge of the best places to, well, do as the locals do.

I encountered a strange situation on this trip though; one that was entirely new to me and has stuck with me ever since. It was the act of sharing photos on Instagram without giving away the exact location. Because, who was I to disclose to the world a secret spot that I was fortunate enough to have been given the key to? Who was I to shatter the pristine and silent wilderness that had been entrusted to me by those who enjoy it as their backyard?

We live in a strange age where we can be connected to each other via social media every second of every day, if we want to be. With that comes great power, but also great responsibility. Primarily for our own sanity, of course, but also when it comes to maintaining that which is sacred.

Travel is a luxury that not all of us can afford, but there is certainly a growing number indulging in jaunts across the globe for work or pleasure. It’s one of life’s most wonderful gifts; experiencing new cultures and everything that delights the senses as a result of that. Travel is something that enriches our lives and makes us better people. It teaches us about others, helps to eradicate discrimination and gets us in touch with the natural world.

But as more of us travel and wish to excitedly share our adventures, there is a growing fear amongst some (now including myself) that those sacred spaces that hold enormous appeal are becoming fewer and fewer. Pristine wilderness untouched by the footprints, toilet paper and granola wrappers of man slipping through our fingers.

Are Instagram and Facebook to blame, I wonder? With each of us seemingly trying to outdo one another with the most beautiful and inspiring photographs of what are now iconic ‘wanderlust musts’ around the globe, are we propelling ourselves directly into that which will destroy the very thing we hold dear? I see photograph after photograph of Antelope Canyon and Joshua Tree and I realise that the chances of me getting to go to those places without a single tourist in sight are almost nonexistent. And that’s incredibly disheartening.

If you’re like me, you travel to get away from all the hustle and bustle; away from all the connectivity to instead gain perspective on what truly matters. My favourite moments in the world; the ones I hold closest to my heart and help me settle to sleep are those are those where I am truly immersed in the wilderness. There’s nothing but me and a couple friends and real, untouched terrain. With a growing population and many of those in power giving, well, not a flying fuck, about preserving these spaces, it then becomes, surely, my responsibility to protect them?

So adventure and share photographs, I did, but the exact location of some of these has remained inside knowledge. Is it wrong of me to think that the best spots in the world should be reserved for locals and those who happen to find them of their own accord? No, I genuinely believe not. It’s so easy to scour Google for the best places to eat, mountains to climb and beaches to surf, but can you really call it an adventure if a search online from your couch was all it took to get there? I hardly think so.

It’s only natural to want to sing and dance and shout about the most phenomenal places in the world. It’s why there are a thousand blogs and books written about the topic and a thousand more Instagram pages dedicated to it. But would it maybe serve us better to hold off a little on the exact coordinates? In this age of know it all, leave just a little something to the imagination? Leave a little mystery? After all, it might just make us talk to each other a little bit more and adventure a little further if it took more effort to get there.

I don’t ignore the fact that shining a big, bright light and lots of publicity on certain places has indeed helped them gain protected status. And that’s great and one of the pros of social media acting a vessel for the coming together of conservation enthusiasts. But travel all for the sake of getting the shot so you can show others just how great of a time you’re having? That just doesn’t cut it, in my eyes. You can’t really say you’ve been somewhere if you haven’t made that emotional connection with the place. I don’t say that to sound pretentious, believe me. I say that because I bet your bottom dollar that the next time you really go somewhere and experience the stillness and serenity of a land untouched by tourism, you’ll think of this. You’ll recall this idea of preserving sacred spaces a little part of you will experience the sensation that you don’t want the world to know about it. It’s the realisation that you don’t want to risk anything destroying it. And that’s okay. You go ahead and keep it sacred. I encourage you to do so. And I only hope that one day I discover it on my own so I can understand just how special it is and exactly how it made you smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Ways to Do Zero-Waste Travel When You’re With A Group

These past few weeks have been a rollercoaster. In a good way. I’ve been touring Ireland with my family and it has been utterly incredible.

Cliffs of Moher

But I’m currently on a zero-waste journey and so being out of my natural habitat was a challenge when it came to regulating my plastic consumption. At home, I believe we can all quite easily take leaps and bounds towards living with less waste. Or rather, consuming less waste, I should say. But that’s because we’ve learned how to do exactly that. We know where to go, what to do, and essentially which resources to use in our area. It’s the element of familiarity. It’s not always so easy when you’re out of town.

Travel is a sure-fire way to put you out of your comfort zone and force you to be present. The environment is new; the flavours, the smells, the dynamics and the language. You’ve got to stay focused in order to be able to navigate your way from A to B and digest those experiences you are encountering. So in that respect, being out of your comfort zone is incredibly satisfying. It’s also a potent way to grow and develop yourself.

But then, on the other hand it’s really difficult traveling if you’re trying to maintain a particular kind of lifestyle. For me, that’s vegan & low waste. I am always hesitant to say I live zero waste because in truth I don’t. I’m not sure that any of us actually do. But I am fully determined with every ounce of flesh and bone in my body to reduce my footprint on this planet. Every day is a new challenge and there are obstacles aplenty. But I want to know that when I leave this Earth, I’ll have made my very best efforts to have not left it worse off.

Plastic waste is the one. The baddie. Not so much the recyclables (although let’s be honest – they’re pretty ugly and horrid) but really the single-use stuff. The non-recyclable packaging that will go straight to landfill. That stuff is the bane of my life. And well, the whole planet really. And it’s everywhere I look: in every person’s hand and every supermarket shelf. It feels like all the odds are stacked against me, but by hook or by crook I’ll be damned if I give up the fight to live in a way that means I’m not having to consume it.

I’ve modified my lifestyle and consumption habits so that I’m using biodegradable or packaging-free alternatives to commonplace items. I’m still very much on a journey and learning of new solutions every day, but I’m trying. After doing my research and familiarising myself with where I can go for bulk bins, loose produce, raw materials for DIY cosmetics etc. I’d say that I’m bossing Bristol pretty well. But throw travel into the mix and it’s a bit of deer in headlights action. It’s also incredibly difficult when you throw family into the mix, or a group of friends who all have different priorities. You can love them to the moon and back, but still not see eye-to-eye on fundamental things.

So with this trip around Ireland (and our first family vacation in 2 years), there were definitely times when I had to refrain from getting angry about the consumption habits of my family. I didn’t want to rock the boat too much; after all, we were there to enjoy ourselves. However, there are some knacks to keeping the sea smooth while still living in alignment with your values. If you’re an aspiring zero-waster, these might just help you too.

  1. Do your research & offer to do the buying. It’s not that your family and friends don’t care about your values; it’s just that they have other priorities and unfortunately don’t understand the pressing desperation that some of us feel to not leave behind a large plastic footprint. To avoid confrontation and any defensiveness, it’s a good idea to offer to be in charge of the food shopping while you’re away. Ask them beforehand to put the money into a kitty if they’re happy to do so and let them know that you’re very happy to do the shopping. Chances are, they’ll be relieved that they don’t have to think about doing any grocery-shopping while on vacation and instead sit back and relax. You’ll have saved yourself the stress of a mountain of plastic packaging in the process.
  2. Prepare snacks for the day. If you get hangry anything like I do, then you’ll know that it’s not a pretty sight or any fun to be around in the slightest. Avoid stressful situations of feeling starved to death but having the inner turmoil of not wanting to consume plastic packaging by making sure to have a stash of loose fruit and nuts to keep you going until you can find a cafĂ© or restaurant for something more substantial.
  3. Take produce bags with you. In some countries, supermarket produce must be put in plastic bags and priced before paying. Avoid this by being sure to have your trusty cloth bags in tow.
  4. Have your zero-waste essentials kit on you at all times. This is part of the daily life as a zero-waster, but when traveling be sure to have a reusable bottle, cup, tupperware, silverware and a stainless steel straw (if you can’t be without one when consuming your beverage of choice). This way, your family and friends can do their thing, but at least you know that you’re prepared. You might even spark some curiosity when they see your swanky little kit and see how easy it is to package take-away options.

For more zero waste tips, check out one of my latest on Peaceful Dumpling: Still Think Zero Waste Is Hard? 6 Easy Steps To Make It Work For Your Life

Are you passionate about low-waste living? What are your tips for making it work when you’ve got company?

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Why You Need to Book a Ticket to a Foodies Festival Near You

Josh Eggleton

This weekend, I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Bristol Foodies Festival. One of 10 Foodies Festivals across the UK this summer, the Bristol special took place on Durdham Downs. Three days of deliciousness against a backdrop of whispering park land and good grooves included everything from a cake theatre to demonstrations from top chefs. I had family in town for the weekend and all being enthusiastic foodies themselves, the universe really had aligned perfectly and so of course we spent Sunday scoffing our way round.

The weather could not have been better and we could smell the BBQs all fired up from across The Downs. Upon arrival we headed straight to the Chefs Theatre to sign up for Josh Eggleton’s afternoon slot. This local lad is a Michel Star Chef at The Pony & Trap down in Chew Magna. Having heard nothing but good things about said gastropub, I simply had to see what he would be wowing us with. The theatre tickets are free, but on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you attend one of these festivals, I recommend checking out the timetable ahead of time and getting your tickets upon arrival so you don’t miss out. The four areas worth paying a visit are: The Chefs Theatre, The Cakes & Desserts Theatre, The Drinks Theatre and Kids Cookery Theatre. See what appeals to you before you go so you don’t miss out. *Vegan readers: Sarah Sibley will be demonstrating a vegan chocolate & raspberry bundt at all of the festivals, so be sure to get a ticket for that one (swoon)!*

Until our 2pm Egglton-extraordinaire event came round, we were free to roam, tummy-first. The first port of call was melt-in-the-mouth liquid nitrogen sorbet from Whipsmiths. I opted for lemon & elderflower. It was fascinating to watch them create the treat right there on the spot and even better to taste. Post-ice, we did a recce of the site. This took us past coconut water, specialist liquors, a sexy cocktail bar playing an excellent selection of lounge music, stall-after-stall of street food and a yoga tent! Who knew this would be included?!

As I’m on the subject, I’ll mention that one of the things that rather quickly jumped out at me is how well-balanced this festival felt. I’m a plant-based eater and always feel quite put off when food festivals are all about the meat and not much else. I feel like it’s a cop out of getting creative with your cuisine. If you’re in the same boat as me, you need not worry at all. The Foodie Festivals do things right. There is plenty on offer that you can and will want to eat. Plus I really appreciated the yoga ‘wellness’ element thrown in here in Bristol. It was just one of the ways that this festival was able to add in something unexpected and wonderfully wholesome for you and your family to enjoy.

After a chillax in the sunshine, we headed into the cool of the Chef’s Theatre where Eggleton mesmerised us with his years of knowledge and expertise. I loved how he bigged up vegetables and emphasised the importance of eating local and natural foods. He’s opening up another Salt & Malt in Wapping Wharf soon and it sounds like he’s got great plans to give back to RNLI via specialist Monday-night menus. One more reason to love the guy, if his cooking doesn’t already blow you away.

With 8 Foodie Festivals left across the UK, I recommend planning a visit to one near you this summer. London kicks off on the Bank Holiday weekend (May 27th-29th) followed by Newcastle, Birmingham, Blackheath, Tatton Park, Edinburgh, Alexandra Palace and finally Oxford from September 1st-3rd.

Bristol Foodies Festival

Exotic Tagine Wiltshire ChilliWhipsmithsJosh EggletonBristol Foodies FestivalBristol City Yoga

Bristol Foodies Festival

Bristol Foodies Music

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What a Difference a Year Can Make: Perspective on Depression

 

I was lucky enough to spend this past weekend at the London Wellbeing Festival. My thoughts on last year’s event can be found here. This was an important weekend for me, because while yes, I was looking forward to the actual workshops and pottering around the stalls, this marked a year since I had a total breakdown. I was curious how I would feel being in the Olympia Centre once more, but with an entirely different head on my shoulders this time. Would it trigger me, or offer relief?

2016 was one of the most difficult years of my life thus far (apart from 2006 which was also terrible…what is it about the ‘6’?!) and whilst I took a lot away from last year’s event, I truly did just float around totally disengaged. Eventually I made it back to Bristol and things just got worse. And worse. And worse.

But eventually, after months of therapy – and honestly I think a miracle – I woke up just fine one sunny morning earlier this year. Fine. Without a fluctuating numbness or anxiety, I woke up feeling normal. For over a year I’d woken up every single day with this kind of thick fog. This dullness. Nothing was inspiring, warm, or light. Everything was hard work and I could not see a point to any of it. But I told myself that eventually, somehow, it would get better. And it did.

I can’t tell you if it was the therapy, cutting caffeine out, or the result of a prayer that someone made for me in a time of desperation. But life works in mysterious ways and for whatever reason, I managed to get out of my funk.

London Wellbeing

Returning to the Wellbeing Festival in 2017 was an important milestone for me. Last year, I was acutely aware of what felt like crowds of mentally-unstable, self-help junkies. I felt overwhelmed by all these desperate people wanting help from whatever workshop they were attending. I felt claustrophobic and small. But interestingly, this year I didn’t see any of that. Instead, I saw like-minded, warm, kind, self-aware individuals there for connection, self-growth and improvement. The word projection comes to mind as I realise that what I was seeing both years was a direct reflection of my mental state at the time. When you feel cold, all you can see is frost. When you feel warm and complete, you see the good.

I spent my time at the festival realising that I’m really not introverted; I’ve just been spending my time with all the wrong people. And that’s a very powerful realisation to come to. My final workshop of the day with the incredible Sarah Rozenthuler proved just that. It was a workshop titled, ‘Living Your Heart’s Desire’ and used some key principles and partner work to help gain perspective on the difference between your inherited purpose, believed purpose and soul purpose. It was eye-opening and inspiring and the beautiful connections between strangers was something I’ll forever cherish deeply. We were a group of women of all ages and backgrounds who all understood the fire in each other’s bellies and the calling for a creative life. It didn’t matter that we’d only just met. We were all on the same wavelength and it’s in those situations that magic happens.

At times like these, I am reminded of my favourite quote by C.S. Lewis: “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but looking back everything is different?” A milestone such as an annual festival or event can be that solid, external indicator of how well you’re doing and how far you’ve come. If you need that extra push to remind yourself of your progress, use it.

London, for all its madness, did not strike me as a hostile place this year. I instead chose to see the colours on the walls and the dynamic melting pot of people and realised that this time round it made me feel alive.

 

 

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