This past month is the longest I’ve gone in 10 years without producing a blog. I have a good excuse for June, namely, that my husband and I took a three-week trip and returned tired and jet-lagged, sneezing and coughing. But for much of May, I stayed away because I’d run out of ideas, one pitfall of choosing early on to write on somewhat random topics instead of focusing on one, such as fitness, fast cars, or cute pets. But since I’m not an expert on anything in particular, I’ve enjoyed reading and writing on subjects that caught my eye in newspapers, magazines and books, or ones inspired by conversations, lectures and new experiences.
I’m thankful I have come up with a topic, maybe two or three, but taking the first step to restart is daunting. So far this week, I’ve managed to avoid it by ironing the washed clothes I wore on the trip, weeding much of my yard, and taking naps. However, as of today I’m closing my eyes to any more avenues of escape…except maybe to the kitchen where five chocolate bars, the Sirens of Finland, are calling.
Our trip took us through parts of Denmark and much of central Norway and ended in Stockholm, Sweden. The room in our first hotel in Copenhagen had a tiny wastebasket with dividers that cut it into thirds, one part for paper, one for compostable materials, and one for garbage. This got me thinking about the implications of tourism for many countries and for the environment. I thought about it every time we entered a port city or fjord in which large cruise ships (carrying as many as 4,000 passengers) belched out so many tourists that popular sites were almost inaccessible to them and to anyone else. Tour guides have apps on their phones to tell them how many ships and how many passengers are in town, so they can stay away from the most favored places at certain times of the day.
We were part of a group of 25 that traveled mostly by bus (and ferry and train), which also means we affected the environments we passed through, but on a much smaller scale. One of our first stops in Copenhagen was at the site of the Little Mermaid, the bronze statue inspired by the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale. (You can see her without tourists at the link above.) Bus parking lots overflowed, traffic jams abounded and the throng made it difficult to even see the statue (which our guide said is a disappointment to many, because at 4.1 feet tall the Little Mermaid was just that, little). And surely the Viking Ships Museum had more visitors on the day we stopped in than the number of Vikings who inhabited the area over the course of several centuries.
Still, no matter where I travel I imagine that organizations like our local Chambers of Commerce and politicians all want tourist dollars for their cities. As it turns out, some do and some don’t. Of the 20 places most reliant on tourist dollars for their continued existence, all but a few are islands, including Bermuda, Aruba, St. Lucia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The countries of Spain, Portugal, Thailand, Mexico and parts of Central America, are among those locales that earn up to 45 percent of their GDP (Gross Domestic Product) from tourism.
In contrast, there are also countries that are re-considering the consequences of boosting tourism any further. According to Conde Nast Traveler, among those destinations that “have proposed—or put into place—measures restricting the annual number of visitors” are Santorini, Cinque Terre, Norway, Venice, Zion National Park, Barcelona, Iceland, the Galapagos, Machu Picchu, Mt. Everest, and Antarctica, some because the locals are getting fed up, but many because building new infrastructure to accommodate more tourists would threaten the natural environment.
Also, there are countries that don’t have to worry about setting limits on tourists because no one wants to go there. Some lack amenities, others are hard to get to and others are too dangerous. This list of 25 includes North Korea, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Somalia. Another reason the remaining 21 countries on the list might lack visitors is that no one who has not made a career of studying an atlas has ever heard of them.
I’ve done it. Blog complete. Now I hear the chocolate in the kitchen calling my name.