The Value and Costs of Travel on a Small Planet


The Value and Costs of Travel on a Small Planet

OCTOBER 31, 2007 9:08 AMOctober 31, 2007 9:08 am
Children sailing in the MaldivesChildren sailing in the Maldives. (Andrew C. Revkin)
National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel blog noticed Dot Earth, and particularly my narrated slide show outlining the learning curve that drove me to focus my career, and this blog, on humans’ evolving relationship with the home planet and with one another.

I’m wondering what experiences in countries other than your own have crystallized for you how human choices can make the world a better, or worse, place.

Then there’s the challenging question Janelle Nanos asked me for her post in Intelligent Travel:

Q. There’s an ongoing debate in the travel sector about whether tourism in endangered places should be limited. Some people say that stopping people from visiting precarious spots will help protect them, while others say that seeing these places will inspire people to save them. What do you think?

I answered this way: I do think places can be loved to death. But I also think it’s vital for people to experience this wonderfully variegated Earth, and human tapestry, to build an inner sense that we’re all really neighbors on a small planet. The most extraordinary ecosystems need careful monitoring and limited access. Slightly less extraordinary places can probably absorb more visitors. I haven’t been to the Galapagos yet, and I’m very eager to do so. That is a place where striking a balance between access and preservation is clearly vital, but particularly tough.

How would you answer? Are there places that should be off limits?

Joanne Bretzer October 31, 2007 · 12:40 pm
I agree with Ms. Busch that the best way to travel and to know a place is to go there for a long stay- either volunteering or working a job. As it is not financially possible for me to either volunteer or to travel for a long period of time, and as I want to see the world’s cultures and environments, I opt to work in other countries. Currently I am working in Saudi Arabia. I have just started exploring the Gulf region, and cannot wait for each holiday from teaching to travel to places close in. My travel adventures have mostly involved work, and they have taken me from Prudhoe Bay to Korea and Saudi.

I don’t ever envy those who can just holiday at five star hotels and jet about- when you work someplace you become a part of it, not just an observer. You can read about the separation of the sexes in Saudi, but living it gives you an understanding of the complexity of it. As for the environment- well, you don’t know Alaska if you don’t know 70 below zero, and you don’t know the deserts of the Middle East until you experience 130 above, or more.

But to rephrase Ms. Busch’s question: “Why should I stay? I’ve already been here- it is time to go there!”

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