It’s easy to travel, these days.
The “experience economy” drives an impulse to travel the world and take pictures of oneself experiencing things for Instagram.
I don’t blame anyone. People are thrust into the tourism impulse by the needs of the industrial economy. Most people don’t have much time off. When they do take a trip, they feel the need to make it worthwhile by doing surgical strikes on the world’s cliché moments. Our desire to see for ourselves what we’ve only heard about — and to share our experience — is a very human one. “Happiness is only real when shared.” Still, tourism isn’t working.
Going to Italy? Ok, let’s go to Pisa and pose like we’re holding up the Leaning Tower. France? Definitely want to get an Eiffel Tower picture in. India? You guessed it. Gotta get a Taj Mahal moment in.
The trouble with tourism is that too many people go to the same places and do the same things.
Tourists ruin the local food scene. Because tourists aren’t regulars, restaurant success has more to do with appearances than quality.
Tourists make life harder for many locals, who have to cope with extra traffic, higher cost of living and all the problems that attend lots of people drinking all night in large numbers.
And tourists degrade tourism itself for other tourists. (In some visitor hotspots, everyone jumps through hoops to take pictures that cut out all the other tourists, who are jumping through the same hoops.)
The solution is for everyone to change how they travel, and do things the way nomads do.
To contrast the two styles of visiting another place, consider that:
- stay in hotels, resorts and cruise ships
- eat in restaurants
- surgical-strike on cliché tourist spots
- photograph themselves in scenes everyone has already seen
- buy trinkets and souvenirs
- favor “safe,” easy or convenient spots to vacation in
- try to live like they do back home
- stay in homes and apartments (usually via AirBnB type services)
- vary sources of local foods, including shopping, cooking, street food
- explore to discover the previously unknown and undiscovered
- capture authentic and surprising moments, not cliches
- avoid spending on “stuff”; instead spend on experiences
- favor the new, exotic, interesting, undiscovered instead of the “safe”
- try to live like the locals do
In short, nomadic living isn’t necessarily a lifestyle. It’s more of an attitude. And vacationers, holidaymakers and tourists can make their travels better — and minimize their impact on the hotspots around the world now burdened by the behavior of tourists — by spreading out, blending in and embracing an open, exploration mindset.
In other words, tourists should learn from nomads about how to live better abroad.
(My upcoming book, Gastronomad, is my master class on nomadic living. Sign up to get information about the book by clicking on the “Book” link at the top of this page.)