How to Be Less of a Traveling Asshole in 2020

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Everyone likes to think that they’re a good traveler. But are you as good as you think you are? Probably not.

“How dare you call me an asshole?! I’m one of the good ones!”

I mean, we’re all assholes. We all cause damage. There’s no such thing as a perfect traveler or trip.

We can all strive to do better. 

I often say that the best thing the travel blogging community has done is raise awareness about elephant rides. Elephant rides are universally abusive to the animals — there’s no such thing as a “good” elephant ride — and the many pieces bloggers wrote about this issue led to major tour companies deciding to remove elephant rides from their trips.

That was a good thing. That should be celebrated.

But the single worst thing the travel blogging community does is contribute to overtourism. I feel like Instagram was an iffy kid turned bad, the Kevin Khatchadourian of social media, if you will. Sure, maybe some photos inspired people to visit emerging destinations, but far more people were encouraged to travel to the same overtouristed destinations, the same busy photo spot, and take the exact same photo with themselves in the same spot.

And despite the emergency of overtourism, that doesn’t stop bloggers from continuously writing guides to Iceland, Bali, Barcelona, and other places that have already been covered to death and don’t need to encourage any additional tourism.

But there are ways that we as travelers — both leisure travelers and those of us who travel for a living — can make a better impact on the communities we visit.

Reconsider how often you stay in Airbnbs.

In the past decade, no company has upended the travel industry as much as Airbnb. Suddenly it became possible to book someone’s apartment and stay there instead of a boring hotel. It was local! It was authentic! It was cool! And soon Airbnb became more popular than ever.

So how is this a problem? Landlords realize can make much more money on short-term rentals to tourists and take their apartments off the housing market. Over time, less and less housing is available and prices are driven skyward. This is exacerbated in areas that already have housing shortages.

Many cities have instituted laws around Airbnb. In New York, where I live, you can’t stay in an Airbnb unless the leaseholder is present or you’re staying for more than 30 days. This means that you can’t just book your own apartment in the East Village for a random weekend — it’s illegal.

New Orleans has a similar system, and all Airbnb rentals need to be listed on a government website and have a permit displayed in a window.

The big problem is that these laws are very rarely enforced. They’re more vanity laws than anything else.

And in countries where there are no laws, housing can be out of control. I’ve heard horror stories about Lisbon in particular.

So what’s the solution? A simple one — stay in a hotel, hostel, or actual B&B! That will prevent you from impacting the local housing market.

If you’re still set on staying in an apartment, you can always rent a room in someone’s home as opposed to a whole place. Some people might feel okay renting a lived-in apartment when the owner is away, rather than renting a company-owned apartment. And Couchsurfing still exists!

How I’m walking the walk: I haven’t stayed in an Airbnb rental since 2016. I live by New York’s rules — and since I don’t like staying in someone’s spare room, I default to hotels now.

Stop photographing children.

When I first started traveling long-term in Southeast Asia, I had no qualms about photographing children. They were adorable and often begged me to take pictures of them — why shouldn’t I share that with the world?

Then when I went to Guatemala in 2015, I learned that the Mayans ask people not to photograph children due to the risk of child trafficking. When I heard that, my heart dropped. All along, I was doing something that could risk children being kidnapped. That’s when I stopped taking pictures of them.

Since then, I’ve also become more privacy-focused, both for myself and for children. I feel like kids should have the right to decide whether or not their pictures are on the internet, and most children are too young to consent to that. That’s why I haven’t shared any photos of the babies in my life. Even if the parents say it’s fine, it’s not fine with me. Additionally, how would I feel if someone took a photo of my kid and put it up on the internet?! That’s so creepy.

Do you really need to photograph children? Does it really add to your trip to do that? How does it make someone’s life better by putting it on the internet? These are questions that you should ask yourself.

How I’m walking the walk: I no longer publish photos of children on my site or any social media platform unless 1) they’re a small part of a crowd scene or 2) their face is obscured. If I want to take a photo for my personal use, I always ask the parents or caregivers for permission.

Be very picky about animal activities.

Animal encounters are prime Instagram material. Who will be able to resist a photo of you cuddled up with tiny little tiger cubs?

It turns out that many of these activities are abusive. Elephants are trained to give rides by being whipped until their spirit is destroyed. Up-close encounters with tigers and cheetahs only works because the animals are sedated. Dolphin shows and swimming with dolphins involve keeping a wild animal in captivity.

A good rule is to stick to activities that have you observing animal wildlife, rather than interacting with the animals themselves. Safari? Great. Whale watching? Awesome. Snorkeling with fish, keeping a safe distance from coral and wearing reef safe sunscreen? Cool.

How I’m walking the walk: These days, my animal activities are non-interactive: primarily safari and wildlife watching. Occasionally I’ll do something like horseback riding.

Consider offsetting your flights.

Even if you’re living a fairly low-impact lifestyle — not having biological children, living in an apartment, not owning a car, following a vegan diet — your carbon footprint skyrockets once you add in long-haul flights.

But it’s possible to offset your flights. To do this, you buy carbon credits and a company either plants trees or invests in energy-saving businesses. For example, the money could go to a landowner to keep the trees from being bulldozed.

It’s not enough to simply reduce in this case — our climate emergency is severe and we need to neutralize our impact.

As far as research goes, I found this site to be a good starting point.

So far I’m really liking CarbonFund.org.

How I’m walking the walk: I offset all my flights in 2019.

Make small but meaningful differences in your diet.

One of the best ways to lower your carbon footprint is reduce your consumption of animal products, especially beef. This doesn’t mean you need to be a vegan — but getting into a habit of eating less meat than usual can make a surprisingly large difference.

One nice thing about this is that the world would change enormously if everyone made small changes. Even giving up meat one day per week can make a big difference.

Additionally, eating local makes an enormous difference on your carbon footprint. Back in the day, having New Zealand mussels flown into your Las Vegas restaurant was a point of pride — but today, many restaurants are eschewing the old ways to emphasize local cuisine, the menu changing with the seasons.

You can find high-end restaurants specializing in local cuisine everywhere you go — a recent favorite of mine was Spice in Cleveland, where they made borscht from a berry that is only in season for 10 days — and lower-end local restaurants almost always source locally available produce.

How I’m walking the walk: As someone who eats mostly paleo, this is more of a challenge for me, but I’ve shifted red meat to rare occasions and most of the time my animal products are organic free-range eggs and canned wild salmon with occasional chicken or pork. It’s not ideal, but it’s a huge difference from how I was eating before.

Read books written by locals, not just travelers.

Almost every time you see a list of “best books about [non-western region],” most of the books on the list are travel memoirs written by privileged people. No matter how populous the country is or how rich a literary tradition it has, books by wealthy white male visitors dominate the list.

Oh, and if it’s a list of books about Africa, J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace will almost inevitably be on it. (This is something I vent about a lot. I swear nobody has actually read Disgrace, because it’s about men attacking and raping a woman in the South African countryside. It’s a beautifully written book, but it’s brutal and it plays into racist stereotypes. You would be insane if you gave someone that book to inspire an Africa trip. I would only give it to people whom I wanted to scare away from ever visiting Africa.)

Reading a book by a travel writer can provide invaluable insights no local could, particularly if the work is by a talented author or a work of journalism. But the problem is when we read only these books and discount the stories told by local people.

Reading a book by a local while you’re in the destination can add so much dimension to your visit. Last year I loved reading Ngugi wa Thiong’o in Kenya and Murakami in Japan. Both showed me so much more about the country than I could have learned on their own.

Bonus: Read books written by women and people of color. Even in 2019, travel writing is still heavily dominated by white male authors. These are the authors who get the book deals, big marketing budgets, and sellers that will get their books on shelves in front of you. Most books published by women get the Eat, Pray, Love happy-memoir-with-a-pink-cover treatment, even if they’re groundbreaking works of journalism, like Suki Kim’s undercover assignment in North Korea, Without You, There Is No Us.

How I’m walking the walk: I read constantly, and while I actually don’t read much travel writing in my free time, I always make an effort to read works by authors of color.

Spend your money close to the ground.

We live in a world where most of the wealth is controlled by few. How do you even rise up against that? It’s daunting, but one way to help locals is to spend your money close to the ground.

Are you buying souvenirs? Buy from the artist directly. Yes, those same beaded bracelets will be for sale in the airport at the end of your trip, but the artist is only making a fraction of what they make when you buy from them.

This goes for local businesses as well. Consider staying in a locally owned hotel rather than the local outpost of an international hotel brand. Locals will make far more money that way.

How I’m walking the walk: I don’t buy many souvenirs on my travels, but when I do, I try to buy direct from the artist when I can.

If you’re a blogger, influencer, or someone with a platform, please consider your impact on overtourism.

What is overtourism? It’s when a destination becomes so overwhelmed with tourism that it begins to make a negative impact on the destination.

Buzzfeed recently wrote about overtourism and while I don’t agree 100% with this list, they got a lot of them right. Iceland? Overtouristed. Barcelona? Severely overtouristed. Koh Phi Phi? Painfully overtouristed. Venice and Machu Picchu? Overtouristed and making great efforts to limit visitors.

And then there’s Amsterdam. I have a ton of friends living in Amsterdam. More than half of them are considering moving because the tourist crowds have made Central Amsterdam unlivable. And so they look to The Hague, or Haarlem, or parts of Amsterdam that remain somewhat untouched. It’s a shame.

These are not the destinations that we should be encouraging people to visit.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s no reason for travel bloggers to go to Iceland anymore, but every time you turn around, another blogger is in Iceland. Every rock has been unturned, every subject has been written about, and anyone wanting to travel to Iceland can find a multitude of excellent blog posts with a cursory Google search. Iceland doesn’t need to attract people who weren’t planning a trip in the first place.

There are so many other places you could go.

How I’m walking the walk: I am going out of my way to avoid overtouristed destinations in 2019. I won’t take any campaigns in those destinations. If I somehow end up needing to go there (say, if I have a 24-hour layover in Iceland due to a dirt-cheap flight), I won’t publish anything about it.

Overall, take time to think about your actions.

When planning a trip, I find that it’s a good rule to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Why do I want to do this?
  • How will this affect locals?
  • How will this affect the planet?
  • What will happen if dozens of people follow my example?

For example, if you’re set on staying in an Airbnb in a city impacted by overtourism, try to figure out your motivation. Do you want to stay there because it’s “cool”? There are more and more cool hotels springing up, especially in cool neighborhoods.

Is it because there are no hotels in the neighborhood? You can get a hotel in a different neighborhood nearby and take public transportation to the cool neighborhood.

Is it because it’s cheaper? Check out hostels — more and more hostels are going high-end and offering quality private rooms that rival what you can find in hotels.

What this all comes down to is putting aside your personal wants for the greater good.

I’ve shared earlier versions of this post with my fellow bloggers, and the reaction is usually explosive. Several people respond with, “Oh, so now I can’t go where I want to go because you say so?”

Dude. Do what you want. You have the right to cuddle with a sedated tiger and plaster the photos all over Instagram, and I have the right to cut you off and never read anything you create again. Louis C.K. has the right to make fun of children who watched their friends get murdered, and guess what — he will end up on the redneck circuit for the rest of his comedy career as a result. Actions. Consequences.

It’s the beginning of a new year. It’s time to take stock and think about how we can improve. I think this list is a good place to begin.

How do you try to be less of an asshole while traveling?

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66 thoughts on “How to Be Less of a Traveling Asshole in 2020”

  1. Yes. Thank you! It’s not easy to publish opinions that go against the popular ideas, but it’s exactly what people need to hear to start questioning themselves and be more mindful of their choices and how they impact the world around them. Of course people will still travel to over tourists places, as you’ve said in previous posts, touristy places are popular for a reason, but if people can make even one more conscious choice when doing so, it can start to create the shift those countries need to have a more sustainable tourism industry. Kate, I really appreciate your work and how you’re using your platform to ignite change. Thank you!

  2. Love this so much. Overtourism is huge, and I think it’s really important. I love places that are off the beaten track, and your words have made me consider changing it up for my upcoming travels to Southeast Asia. There are so many places that are not explored as much as others, and I want to take advantage of seeing the beautiful places each country has to offer.

  3. I had never heard of an org that helped offset your carbon footprint in such a specific way. Thank you for sharing. I already do many of the things suggested so I’m happy about another way to help. I live in a big tourist zone, Washington DC, and I am not looking forward to the great summer crowds that are heading my way soon. It’s going to be pretty bad since the fossil hall is opening this June when it’s been closed for years. In reflection of that, I travel in the off season as much as possible. I’m glad you talk about these things, I’m on some other travel forums and people post about elephant rides (It’s a lot less frequent now at least) and airbnbs and I do my best to steer them in a different direction.

  4. Lots of great tips! One point to clarify. The reason for cheap long layovers in Iceland is that the country subsidizes them to encourage more tourism. Given social democracy, a relatively small population, and being a world leader in feminism, I think it’s fair to extrapolate the government subsidy of tourism to be a reasonable representation of the local population’s preference.

    One tip to add is to talk to locals and listen with the goal of understanding them instead of replying. This gives them a voice and gives you a richer experience. This gives timely insights into their concerns (for example about things like AirBnB or what it is about tourists that actually annoy them). In Las Vegas, it’s demanding tourists who don’t tip well (usually from Europe). In Hawaii, they love people from Las Vegas but get annoyed with those from San Francisco. Figure out what you and other tourists could improve on for the actual people you are meeting.

  5. Kate, this is probably the best, most impactful and important thing you’ve ever written. I am so impressed with how you’ve grasped This Thing, this controversial subject, and put it so meaningfully into clear and concise words. Thank you. It speaks directly to the niggling, nudging feelings I’ve been having about travelling, call it an attack of conscience. Good job, well done, keep it up!

  6. As a fellow travel & food blogger whose platform is focused on the reality of travel, I learned so much from this article and thank you for shedding a light on the negative effects of overtourism. Definitely sharing this on my platforms. As mentioned above, I plan to visit the touristy and the non-touristy places, but am all about living and traveling consciously. Always a fan, Kate. Hoping to meet you at the New York Times Travel Show.

  7. Thank you for writing this! There are so many fantastic tips and ideas here. As much as I still want to visit Bali and Iceland, the onslaught of blog posts about them have completely turned me off to both destinations right now. Here’s hoping we’ll see less of them in 2019!

  8. I love this blog—and your writing. But I find this article hypocritical, given the lack of reckoning with the whole “let’s just kill snakes for the fun of it” excursion you did in Indonesia, published all over social media, and repeatedly excused. Would be nice to hear you say “that was wrong, and extremely cruel to the animals, and I know better now”.

    1. That was something that I would never do today and would never encourage anyone to do.

      The snake dinner was in Vietnam in 2011, and I’ve changed enormously since then. I didn’t even know about elephant rides back then. Part of growing and changing is learning what is right and speaking up for it.

  9. I haven’t heard of Carbon Fund before – gonna check it out! Not that I fly much (Europe privileges lol) but might as well help offset someone else’s carbon footprint. All of these other points are really good too and the reason you are one of the best travel bloggers out there!

  10. This is all excellent info Kate. Some of it I was already aware of and have been practicing, some of it not (native writers vs travel memoirs). In regards to the outcries of fellow bloggers, I think we need to recognize we are all growing and learning at our own pace.

    Five years ago, I took was I was told was a humane elephant ride in Laos (animals treated well, etc). Only to later learn that elephant rides are never humane. I would never take one again at this point, and have become more aware of animal activities in general.

    Some people are further along with dietary changes than others. Ironically, Airbnb’s can help travelers maintain a better diet (shop at markets, cook for oneself), although they have other downsides as you point out.

    I think these topics are very personal – and your article brings them to the forefront and hopefully gets people thinking about traveling, and everyday living in a more conscious way.

  11. Hi Kate, Love your blog, but I have to disagree somewhat with your 5th point. While you’re right about grain fed meat being horrible for the environment, eating grassfed/ pastured beef actually HELPS the enviroment, because rotational grazing sequesters carbon. To over-simplify, it makes use of land that is not able to be used for crops. When the grass is grown, then ate/grazed by the animals, then it grows back and is grazed again, etc; it takes carbon dioxide from the air. When the land is grazed and er, fertilized by the animals, it is great for the biological activity in the soil, and builds organic matter which helps prevent drought and climate change,. Nicolette Hahn Niman and Joel Salatin are great authors that can explain all the benefits much better than I could. Thank you for all your great articles!

    1. Grass-fed beef IS far better than grain-fed — but the vast majority of beef consumed and prepared in America is grain-fed. Most of the Americans who need to change their habits are not the ones eating grass-fed beef already.

  12. What should we do with all the unwanted Elephants? Ride them or shoot them? They eat a lot of food and someone has to pay for it all.

    1. Why is that the only 2 options available?? There are many elephant organisations where tourists pay to wash them, clean them and just walk along side them. We don’t have to be on top of them or killing them to allow them to eat? Once the demand decreases then the supply will also decrease as time goes on and the elderly elephants are no longer. This is not an excuse you can tell yourself to make elephant rides ok.

    2. Jesus, are you serious? Look up the many elephant sanctuaries and nature parks in Thailand. These places bring in tourists to feed and wash the elephants — beautiful and fun activities that don’t further abuse the animals.

    1. Irina, yes, it’s literally the single worst thing you could do for the environment. Not only by being a consumer to so many additional products as a parent, but by introducing a whole other carbon footprint, who will likely introduce other carbon footprints, and on and on. I don’t think Kate (although I can’t speak for her) is saying it to be negative or critical, instead just stating a fact.

      I’m entirely grateful and don’t consider my parents to be assholes for bringing me into the world, but it’s still true that if I weren’t here, we’d all have one less carbon footprint to worry about.

      1. so you thankful to your parents who created a single biggest carbon footprint to our environment by brining you to life… what a hypocrisy. I think you should all go to Mars and establish a clean civilization there, while we, normal people, will breath cleaner air here on earth without your carbon footprints.

        1. Den, I’m confused as to why you believe I’m not normal? Because I understand that more people = more pollution? Here, all this time, I thought it was simple math… Bless your little heart.

          I’ll continue to live on earth and do my best to make it a better place, thank you very much. ?

    2. Irina, I’m not scolding everyone who chooses to have children.

      The fact is that creating new children is the single biggest carbon impact on the planet, as you’re creating an entirely new person with an entirely new footprint. You might not like that, but it’s true.

      I’m not telling people not to have children. I’m just letting them know what the truth is.

      1. Hi Kate
        Very interesting article ; I mostly see my way of travelling in yours.

        However, the question of the impact of having children on the planet is not that simple.
        I quote here a French blogger comment (https://emmaclit.com/2018/11/15/les-consequences/), very commited in feminism and ecology, and try to translate her words (well, Google helps me) :

        “Yes, it is a cleverly instrumentalized argument to make people believe that it is their fault [by having biological children]. In fact, the increase in CO2 emissions is overwhelmingly linked to the development of capitalist societies and not to demography. It is quite possible to live as much as we are (and even more) based on renewable energies, but we must make political choices based on the welfare of humanity, and not the market logic.

        She is working on this topic, for a next post, with a lot of very accurate sources.
        (Sorry about my english…)

  13. You stepped on to the right path Kate. Keep growing, keep learning and keep changing.
    Since your trip to Antarctica, your posts are getting much more real. My opinion. I am applausing and getting much more interested into your writing.

  14. The long haul flight thing is tricky as I live in Australia but when I’m in Europe I do take trains and ferries and occasionally buses. One suggestion I have is to learn a few words of the language — hello, goodbye, please and thanks at least — it’s amazing how far that goes, even with locals who are sick to death of tourists.

  15. All great tips. I have the hardest time with Airbnb. My reasons for booking it are twofold: affordability and space. While traveling with a toddler, it’s so much better to have a separate bedroom. That way when she needs to crash at 8:00, my husband and I still have somewhere to hang out. In many parts of Italy my solution is agriturismos. Even if we can’t have a separate bedroom, we can usually sit just outside on a beautiful property with our monitor and a glass of wine.

    However, I’m pricing lodging in London for late spring, and it would be impossible to find a hotel with these options at a price we can afford, but airbnb makes it possible. Same with — I hate to say it — Venice! It’s disappointing that their solution to the airbnb problem is to begin charging fees for daytrippers like an amusement park, but I get it. And I’ll pay it. Though I wish they’d just do it for the cruise ships, which (arguably) have the biggest negative impact.

    1. I’ve been waiting for more hotels to provide more family-friendly options, but it doesn’t look like it’s been happening. Really thought there would have been bigger changes by now.

      1. It’s probably just not cost-effective for hotels to accommodate infant/toddler parents because it’s such a short life stage, and many are okay sleeping in the same room as their infant. (I am not. We’ve sleep trained her to be in her own space and whenever she’s in ours during sleep time, it’s no fun for any of us.) Plus it’s just needing a place to hang when she naps or goes to bed before we’re ready. Suites work but those are expensive, or a place with a balcony or something when we have nice weather. For non-city visits, agriturismos really are ideal. I wish the concept would take off in other countries! Or maybe it has and I’m just not aware?

  16. This is a great list. I would add one more if you’re able to incorporate it though: travel bloggers sometimes sell an unreachable fantasy for most people because the cash price would end up being tens of thousands of dollars, e.g. the Kenya airways sponsored safaris with direct business class flights, or the constant Soneva and other maldivian luxuries.

    Its perfectly fine for travel bloggers to accept these luxuries and blog about it, but I really think that part of selling the fantasy should be an article which is either about the cash costs for someone who isn’t sponsored (e.g. the maldivian soneva rooms that every blogger goes to cost several thousand per night), or better still the travel blogger does some on-the-ground research to find reasonable cost alternatives (e.g. it is definitely possible to do african safaris on a budget if you rent your own car, go to national parks like Kruger and just book some day-tours etc on the ground). Or that there are several maldivian resorts which are $300 or less if you go a bit off-brand/off-chain hotels.

    1. Hi Noa, for the record, I included the information on what that trip would cost a normal person in my Kenya post. There is a package that gets you the exact trip I had and I included pricing info and a link to the guide. I don’t normally include flight costs in posts because people are flying in from different destinations.

  17. Kate,
    Wow, u still sounded like an asshole in folks what books to read. Well, as a consolidation did read the areticle and some good advice.

    Eric

  18. Tourism is a double edged sword. I’m a Savannah, GA native. Our city and region is beautiful, but over tourism is ruining it. The city falls all over itself to subsidize tourism but can’t take care of basic services for residents or take care of our rampant crime problem (unless it effects the tourist areas). Rents keep going up, people are pushed out of their historic communities. People can’t afford to enjoy their own city anymore. Developers move in, destroy our marsh ecosystem and rip apart local communities to build hotels and condos for out of state retirees.

    I used to be thankful for the coverage our beautiful city got, but every time I see an article or a blog post encouraging people to visit I just feel sick instead.

  19. I agree with most of your points (the 5th is a bit more complex than that, just going vegan doesn’t fix much, it’s more about how the animals are treated than cutting meat completely). I’m particularly strong on the point of photographing children. To add to your argument about trafficking, there is also the case of using “exotic” people as props for White travelers. Children are the most vulnerable, obviously, but it goes also about taking photos of locals who were not asked for permission. Wide photos of many people are no problem, but portraits should require permission.
    Taking selfies with random local people is in the same category – non-white people are not props for our exotic vacation.
    I would also add a separate point about big cruises. They destroy the environment, do not add to the local economy and often cause damage to the old ports (like in Venice).

    Great post,

    Ioanna
    A Woman Afoot

  20. Great post, we should at least think about the impact of our travel from time to time.
    I would like to add cruise ships and fast-paced travel to the list – meaning that I don’t think it makes sense to go to faraway destinations for a very short trip because of the carbon footprint. Why take a 10h flight and only stay for a prolonged weekend? I also refuse to go on business trips where I’m supposed to fly 2 hours each way just to participate in a 3 h meeting. That’s a waste of time and petrol.
    I have to say though that I love staying in apartments when I’m traveling with my family (small child) or with a group of friends. I definitely wouldn’t stay in an AirBnB where it’s illegal. But I’m wondering if other apartment rentals are better for the housing situation? Maybe if more hotels offered family rooms or studio apartments?
    I certainly feel that respecting other cultures can make a big difference when you’re a tourist – dress appropriately, try speaking a bit of the language and respect the people living there.

  21. Thank you so much for publishing this, Kate! We love your opinions on this. While it is hard to change your actions completely, taking measurable steps to do so will help in the long run. We know we can definitely change some of our travel habits too. We’ve been to a few of those overtouristed places, and they can be so overcrowded it’s almost unbearable (i.e. Dubrovnik, Barcelona).

    Again, great post!

  22. Kate, I usually love your articles and agree with your viewpoints but this is written by a blogger who gets paid for advertising destinations and whose work involves lots of flying.
    So it just does not feel genuine, I’m sorry.

    1. So you’re saying that

      1) People who make money in the travel industry aren’t able to make responsible travel choices? Wrong.

      2) Because I fly a lot, everything in this piece is null and void? Wrong again. Did you even read the section about carbon offsetting flights?

      I think you’ll find many readers disagree with you.

  23. Great tips. Great post. Sometimes I think tourists can be forgiven for doing stupid stuff, like pics of kids, but bloggers, nope. I once went on a press trip to Israel and one of the other bloggers was literally shoving her camera in the face of the kids that were playing. You could tell they were uncomfortable and she just smiled and said ‘how cute’ before waltzing off. God it was so awkward and I think about it quite a bit. Now I would tell them that’s disgusting behaviour but at the time, a few years ago, I just watched her do it and it was cringe.

  24. Responsible tourism is definitely the way to go, and has been on our minds for a while. But I will say one thing. It’s easy for already established bloggers like yourself, to walk the talk. You actually have influence, and will not suffer in terms of opportunities even if you take the high road. But for upcoming bloggers and influencers, following these rules (especially the one about overtourism – those of us who rarely receive invites rely on cheap flights and good deals – if a deal takes me to Barcelona, I’ll take it) could just kill any potential growth. I see only top bloggers endorsing steps like this. Anyway, as nature lovers, we will try to reduce our carbon footprints for sure.

    1. I understand that, but I think you’ll find that the biggest campaigns don’t come out of overtouristed destinations. It’s mostly up-and-coming destinations that have the organization, money, and desire for increased tourism.

  25. One more more point to literally be less of an asshole traveler is to stay on the trail whereever possibleand look what your walking over.In national parks and in frequented landscapes anyway a lot of damage can be seen by the unintentional dirt tracks that harm vegetation and sensitive soil environment. That is especially true for areas with extreme wheather conditions, where it is especially hot or cold most of the year.

  26. Yes to all of this. On the first point I’ve never used Airbnb myself, mostly because I found hostels to be a better deal for me. But I did spend a couple of years living in Dublin, Ireland where rent and housing prices are insane/hard to come by. There are a myriad of reasons for this I’m sure, but one factor is companies like Airbnb renting out what could be long term accommodation for residents to short term holiday/vacationers. Yes that private apartment your booking is a local stay, but you’re also taking away a place to live from a local, especially in a competitive rent market like Dublin. I wish travellers would research the kind of impact they’re having when they book a private apartment like this, so thanks for speaking out about this issue. I think a hotel room or hostel or shared room in an airbnb or similar website is a much better deal, for everyone involve.

  27. Hi Kate!
    Thanks for this. I have Barcelona on my bucket list and had no idea overtourism was even something that could happen. I’m going to read more about it. If and when I do choose to go, I’ll know how to make an effort to do so as compassionately as possible.

  28. Better cancel your trip to the Galapagos then!

    “A study from the United Nations showed that, over the 15 years prior, the number of days cruise passengers spent on the Galapagos soared by 150 percent, which fueled immigration growth, and subsequently increased inter-island traffic, leading to the introduction of invasive species. That year, the United Nations observed the strain these travelers and residents had put on the archipelago, and listed the destination as an endangered heritage site.”

    1. I’m not going, but thank you for your opinion, bobsmith1945.

      Unlike some overtouristed destinations, the Galapagos is taking great lengths to regulate tourism, not unlike Bhutan and Antarctica. I don’t think your single pull quote tells the whole story of tourism in the Galapagos.

  29. Hi Kate! Great piece and you make some excellent and valid points. My questions and concerns generally revolve around animals in tourism and their welfare. I took the elephant ride and sat by the doped up tiger 14 years ago, never again. I love that these encounters, along with those involving marine life, are becoming less and less the norm .

    However, you mentioned that you’ll still horseback ride while traveling. I enthusiastically ride almost everywhere I go, either with a tour or having a lesson at a local training barm. I’ve done this in Mexico, the UAE, Taiwan, Peru, Brazil, Panama, and more. I’ve been riding all my life and I’m the first to hop in the saddle whenever possible.

    However, since horses are so much an ingrained part of our Western, domestic lives I wonder how many people who are traveling and take a horse ride know how to ensure that the ranch/wrangler, horses, and the ride itself could cause serious injury to everyone involved? How can someone who’s never been around horses know what, when, and where is safe to ride?

    For instance, one horse can look much thinner another, but what one might not know is the thin horse is an Akhal Teke, a breed native to the Stans and naturally lean. Or maybe that thin horse has a gut full of parasites and is seriously ill. How about the hardware and fasteners on the saddle and bridle? Can the average person look and see that the girth strap is worn and has a good chance of snapping, sending you, your saddle, and probably the horse tumbling to the ground? I could add many more bits of information on the subject; it’s one I’m very passionate about.

    Horse riding anywhere in the world not only a great way to see the scenery but a fascinating glimpse into ancient cultures. Humans and horses kind of go together that way and it’s a wild ride.

    I’d love to see you write about horseback riding safety when traveling. People tend to feel less like they’re exploiting animals when they ride a horse but there’s so much to know to ensure that the rider and the horse are safe and comfortable.

    Thanks for writing, it’s always a pleasure to read.

  30. Your article suggests that Portugal has no laws regulating AirBnB. Yes, there are laws for tourist accommodation, but Lisbon suffers the same lack of enforcement as everywhere else.

  31. Yes! Everything about this post, yes!!! I went to Iceland 3 years ago and just started by travel blog in 2018. A friend of mine asked recently why I haven’t written about it and you hit every point I made to her. Thank you for raising awareness on this topic.

  32. Such a great blog Kate! I loved reading your articles, as they provide so many important insights into the tourism sector. US real-estate industry is looking at higher mortgage rates and increased home prices in 2019. With so less newer homes in the market, especially in a place like New York, even the AirBnB homes would get costlier.

  33. Great article, Kate. I’m trying to visit more of the lesser known parts of my own country (USA) and pave a path there and I will be mindful of your suggestions. I happen to be visiting Vermont this weekend and was not sure where to start, there are little to no travel blog posts on Killington, Vermont. I’m excited to cover that area, if only so my friends and family can check out my experience. I can’t partake in winter sports or activities (skiing, sledding, etc.) due to my being pregnant, so I think I will have a somewhat unique experience there. That’s actually partly a lie, I f***** hate winter sports and activities, so I wouldn’t be doing them anyway. Do you have any tips for writing about a destination without doing an “ultimate guide” or “eat here even though this advice will be obsolete in 10 years” posts? I understand if you can’t respond. Thanks for a thought provoking article!

  34. This post is full of so many good points, and I’m sure that most backlash comes from people still grappling with the personal wants vs greater good feelings (as we all are, on some level). People get very defensive when they feel guilty or called out.

    That being said, I wonder if your feelings might be more conflicted if you hadn’t traveled so much already. It must be much easier to decide to not visit over-touristed places when you’ve likely been to them before. If someone had given this list to you when you were just starting your travels, on a much lower budget, your probably would have found it more personally challenging. It feels a little superior to be criticising people for making choices you have made in the past.

    Don’t get me wrong, the information is excellent and thoughtful, and we’re all learning and growing. But your tone is quite condescending at points, as if these weren’t changes you would have struggled with at some point too, before you’d had the privilege of travelling the world extensively.

  35. Great post! So glad you included being more plant-based, it’s rare that a non-vegan blogger talks about that even though the environmental implications are huge!

    Which leads me to the Airbnb struggle. I’m vegan, and a lot of countries I travel to aren’t vegan – at all. So I often need a kitchen, like you mentioned. I am happy to stay in hostels sometimes but sometimes there aren’t great ones!

    SO it can be a bit of a conundrum. I’d love to see more hotels just offering hobs (burners for non-brits haha!) and fridges with space. Staying in rooms in an Airbnb house is definitely a viable option though, and something I’ve done.

    1. It’s not that you personally would promote trafficking — it’s that some foreigners who take photos of children in Guatemala do so while laying the groundwork for trafficking.

      Here’s a quote from gov.uk about Guatemala: “Don’t take photographs without permission, especially of children. This is particularly important in more remote areas such as Quiché, Petén, San Marcos and Chiquimula provinces. There have been lynchings related to accusations and fears of child kidnapping for adoption or theft of vital organs. Foreigners have been caught up in the violence. You may be asked to pay a small amount of money to take photographs of both children and adults.”

  36. Renting out airbnb rooms rather than the whole apartment is equally harmful in my opinion. I live in Berlin and it’s very common to share apartments; many don’t have their own places. However, housing market is so bad (partly because of airbnb) that finding a shared apartment is almost harder than finding the whole apartment. If someone has a spare room, they prefer to rent it out for airbnb rather than long term; just because they can make more money out of it. Hence, I’d say airbnb in general is not a good option!

  37. Hi Kate, I happened to read this post again today, when the world stands at a juncture of uncertainty, in terms of future of travel. While reading this, it felt so weird that not so long ago, we were discussing the challenges of over-tourism. But where we stand now, many people may not feel comfortable opening up to travel again, particularly international travel, in the near future. Given this situation, when do you think over-tourism will become a problem again?

  38. Great stuff!!!
    So good to read this article and all of the comments. Thank you Kate.
    I have a boutique travel company which takes small groups of ‘independent -thinking’ women on tours.
    Although we do many of the things you have outlined, we can certainly all learn more from you. Looking forward to reading more.

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