Travel is a beautiful thing. Journeys to unfamiliar places can inspire new customs, alter previously held perceptions, encourage big ideas, and evoke a newfound appreciation for things long underappreciated.
And the benefits of travel aren’t exclusive to the traveler. Tourism has become one of the main income sources for many developing countries, representing a key driver of socio-economic progress.
But too often tourism remains restricted to a small selection of hotspots. Too many Instagram accounts are displaying travel photos that differ only in their levels of brightness and saturation.
This type of trendy trip planning is having an unfortunate impact on these popular destinations. Constant crowds are eroding natural landscapes and overusing scarce resources. Tourists are being lured into areas where they are disturbing cultural customs and unintentionally exploiting local communities and wildlife.
In the age of mass tourism, travel has lost a bit of its beauty.
It’s time to give travel a makeover. This year, take the road less traveled. Challenge yourself to visit destinations undiscovered by your friends, and take the time to research how you can mitigate your negative impact on local landscapes and communities.
For a bit of inspiration, check out this list of destinations that could make great alternatives to those currently teeming with tourists (and their iPhones).
Instead of Thailand, go to the Philippines.
With beautiful islands, drool-worthy food, grand temples, Full Moon parties, and lush jungles, Thailand can seem like the perfect travel destination. It’s why Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket make it on the itineraries of many first-time travelers.
These days, too many travelers are getting caught in Thailand’s tourist traps (e.g., monkey islands, zoos filled with mistreated elephants and sedated tigers) and are missing out on the real cultural experience.
Take a break from Thailand, and plan a trip to the equally enticing Philippines instead.
Instead of the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, go to the Pantanal swamp in Brazil.
It’s every science geek’s dream to see the species that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution. It could also be argued that there’s no better place than the Galapagos to gaze at unique wildlife standing inches away from your face.
However, the region’s unique ecosystems may not be able to survive the pressure of mass tourism. And the annual influx of money from tourism isn't being fairly distributed among local residents who struggle with poverty.
If you want to see wildlife, visit the Pantanal swamp in Brazil, one of the world’s largest wetlands. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a jaguar!
Check out GLOBALCITIZEN.ORG for more tips!
Caryn Carver is an Audio-Visual Content Creator for Global Citizen. Prior to working at Global Citizen, she worked for a nonprofit consulting firm where she learned a lot about what is and isn't working to help eradicate poverty. She then spent a year living and working in South America where she developed a deeper passion for global issues, especially human rights. Caryn also loves to sing about what she is doing, search for the best cheap eats, and daydream about the next place she will visit.