The Seven Deadly Sins of Tourism
For the past 2 months, I have been a tourist.
This means that—as much as I have tried to integrate myself—I have probably gotten in people’s way, committed social faux pas and generally been a nuisance to locals. I can, however, take solace in one thing; that worse tourists exist. I’m talking “hikes two hours into pristine forest, only to toss their empty crisp packet into the undergrowth” tourists. “Wow! What a beautiful, ancient tree. Better carve my name into it!” tourists. Being British, I channel all of my anger at these tourists into a tut or an eye roll—but writing my grievances down helps, too. So here’s a list of the Seven Deadly Sins of Tourism, according to a girl who likes the environment more than she likes most people.
- 1. STOP HARASSING THE WILDLIFE. If you don’t, you forfeit the right to any sympathy when said animals inevitably peck/bite/scratch you. Wildlife is called that for a reason—because it is wild. No matter how cute they are (and I know the pain, having seen koalas within touching distance in the wild), animals have the right to exist in their own ecosystems without being chased and prodded by humans.
- 2. PICK UP AFTER YOURSELF; YOU ARE NOT A TODDLER. What kind of a person spends an hour hiking into the forest only to throw their empty crisp packet into the undergrowth? You’d think someone who would take the time to immerse themselves in nature would have a a bit more of a conscience, but all of the rubbish which gets scattered across forests and mountains makes me think otherwise. I can assure you that the weight of an empty crisp packet in your backpack will not ruin your return journey.
- 3. KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF. You may think that you need to touch the wildlife/rare plants/ancient rock formations/tour guide/etc., but thankfully years of evolution resulted in the development of eyes. This means we can experience natural wonders without using our hands! Pretty awesome.
- 4. YOUR HOLIDAY DOES NOT TAKE PRIORITY OVER ANIMAL WELFARE. In this day and age, there is ab-so-lutely no excuse for posing with tranquillised tigers or riding traumatised elephants. It’s not cute, it’s cruel. There are so many ethical, sustainable animal experiences out there; there is no need to continue to fund exploitative industries.
- 5. SHUT UP. I cannot count on one hand the number of times I have heard people wondering “where are all the animals?!”. Here’s a hint; if you stop hollering at the top of your lungs, you might actually see some! Believe it or not, wild animals do not find your discussion about last night’s pizza as tantalising as you do.
- 6. DON’T BE SURPRISED IF NATURE DOESN’T PLAY BALL. When looking up national parks and wildlife sanctuaries on review sites like TripAdvisor, I found myself feeling equal parts appalled and amazed at the number of people who dish out 1 star reviews because they didn’t see an animal. I get the feeling that the people writing those reviews didn’t listen to rule number 5. Even when the conditions are perfect and you move with the stealth of a tactical strike aircraft, nature doesn’t always reward you! That’s part of the rollercoaster of emotions inherent to being a naturalist.
- 7. RESPECT COSTS NOTHING. This is applicable to every day life, too, but many people seem to forget this rule when they’re travelling. Just because it’s not ‘your’ country, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat it—and its citizens—with respect. During my time in Australia and New Zealand, I was lucky enough to visit a lot of sites which have particular importance to indigenous communities. I was shocked by the amount of grown adults who couldn’t pull themselves together for 10 minutes to show some respect. It is so, so easy to appreciate sites like this in a quiet, respectful way. Imagine how you would want people to act in a place that you consider sacred; if you wouldn’t want them taking a selfie by your loved one’s grave, you probably shouldn’t do it in their scared place, either.