Even as I left the Slovenian Alps with a heavy heart, I was thrilled to set foot in Croatia, a country that has been been on my travel radar for a long time. I knew that June, the time of my visit, would be a busy month even if not as crowded as August and September. So I did some last minute research, and decided to start my journey in the Istrian Peninsula, assured by several travel blogs that it was “offbeat” and I’d be sure to beat the crowds. Maybe at their time of writing, it was.
I was delighted that first evening, for I spent the first three hours in a hilltop village in inland Istria, chatting with my hosts over tea and wine. Their home was over 300 years old, traditional stone walls and a rustic slate roof on the outside, beautifully refurbished from within. That night, I walked along the cobblestoned streets to the top of the town, past old stone homes adorned with colorful flowers. Under the moonlit sky, in the silence of the night, breathing air that smelt like jasmine, I indeed fell in love with Istrian Croatia.
Unfortunately, its reality hit me the next morning. I slept past the chirping of birds, but was woken up by loud voices crossing my window every now and then. When I went to the kitchen to make myself some tea, a couple of tourists were peeping in through the glass door. Day trippers!
The old-world charm of this village, with only 305 residents, was drowned by the callousness of visitors who only seemed to care about their photos and getting drunk, almost running over the locals in their rental cars, never realizing that they were intruding into someone’s sleepy neighborhood and life. My hosts assured me that the number of daytrippers now was not nearly as bad as in the peak summer season, and joked about how the village residents, their homes and their kitchens must be curious, unfamiliar sights for tourists.
Is travel blogging ruining “offbeat” places?
Where does travel blogging picture in all of this, you might ask. So let me paint you a scenario, a very plausible one, one that is possibly playing out in many places around the world. Blogger X visits a charming village, the one with only 305 residents, and writes about it in the hope that a few more people will experience it, and the locals in turn, will benefit from tourism. Convinced by blogger X, blogger Y lands up there with a few more discerning travelers, and reiterates its worthiness of a visit. Some content creator out there, scouting the web for an SEO-driven list of offbeat places in Europe, stumbles upon the blogs of X and Y. His well-researched list is ripped off by other lists, as often happens. A tour company notices the growing interest in the village, and puts it on their bus tour itinerary. Bam, the hordes of tourists arrive…
Perhaps I’m being too presumptuous in thinking that a travel blog can trigger a chain reaction over the years, or am I? After all, a quick search for offbeat Croatia (as opposed to picking a place that next to nothing is written about online, as I usually do) is what led me to the village of 305 people in Istria.
Also read: How Responsible Tourism Can Challenge Patriarchy in India
So what’s the point of travel blogging?
If you’re on the same page, you’re probably thinking that an easy solution is that travel bloggers like me should never write about their “offbeat” finds. But as my social media followers often remind me, isn’t it part of my job to disclose the exact location of my stories and photos, so others can choose to experience my finds over ‘tourist traps’?
I’ve dwelt on this dilemma for a long time. But walking on those cobblestoned streets in Istria (mostly at sunrise and late at night), it occurred to me that no, perhaps that isn’t the role a travel blogger is supposed to play. The way I see it now, my work as a travel blogger should inspire my readers to think of travel differently – to reconsider their travel choices, to seek local encounters, to carve out their own journey. It’s the reason I never have, and never will, give you a three day itinerary to “do” a destination. That’s not how I aspire for my readers to experience somewhere I’ve been and loved.
Also read: 10 Incredible Eco-Lodges Around the World: Indulge Yourself and Spare the Planet
Is writing about responsible travel ideas enough?
On the flip side of my dilemma, I’ve often found solace in knowing that when I recommend specific locations, they are usually accompanied by suggestions of environmentally and socially conscious accommodations. Yet, I often get messages from my readers and followers who visited a location based on my recommendation – but chose to experience it in a way that makes me cringe and regret writing about it at all. The point is, I, or another responsible travel blogger, can only plant ideas. We can’t stop the callousness of those who travel just to get the right selfie or drink themselves silly or don’t care about building any real connections with a place and its people.
Also read: Why Long Term Travel is More Like Real Life and Less Like Instagram
How can a travel blogger strike the right balance?
The truth is, I don’t know. It’s the reason why I’ve struggled to write a word on this blog in almost a month. The reason why I’ve consciously limited my social media posts about my current (annual) monsoon escapade in Goa, because as much as I’d love for my conscious, aware, nature-loving readers to experience my finds, I’m wary, very wary, of how much Goa has changed in the span of the four monsoons I’ve spent here – and would hate to unintentionally accelerate that negative change.
Maybe this is the travel blogger’s version of a mid-life crisis. And I intend to deal with it by focusing more on inspiring stories from the road…
Got any words of wisdom for this conflicted travel blogger?
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The Dilemma of Responsible Travel: Secret Villages in the Himalayas
It is Upon us, as Travellers, to Save Ladakh
Tourism, It’s the People’s Business
Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, “sustainability influencer,” social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes that travel – if done right – has the power to change us and the world we live in.
Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.
Definitely a dilemma. I went to Croatia last summer and also found it very beautiful. It’s your blog- despite how many readers you have and the expectations they place on you- it’s still your blog. Do whatever feels right to you! I would say that you’re not obligated to tell exactly where you traveled. Perhaps still write about the small villages you love but not always specify the name?
That’s the way I’m leaning towards, especially with social media updates where I can only say so much. Thanks for sharing!
Some thing that often crosses my mind. I guess every profession comes across this dilemma once. As a marketer or a PR consultant, I have often wondered if what I do makes any sense. Because at the end of the day, marketing is selling you something you don’t necessarily want 🙂
Hmm, that’s very true. I guess that marketing dilemma arrives in blogging too, but you can choose to ‘promote’ the parts you genuinely believe in. It’s all about finding the balance that works for us, I guess.
advertising and marketing is selling something which you don’t want. So true.
Shivya, you beautiful lady, you remind me of the old school travellers like Iban-e-Batuta or Xuanzang. We will remember you for the stories you told and the way you have lived with the locals and never ever a blame will go to hold you responsible to threat sustainibility. End of the day, we all are part of this big old planet, no? You are one who have inspired us to think of the people and not only land. That, in my opinion is a trigger enough!
I’m so, so glad to hear that. It’s easy to feel lost in a world of SEO-driven lists and paid posts, but comments like yours remind me why I do what I do. Really, thanks for sharing 🙂
I applaud the fact that you choose to view travel from an angle that is often overlooked/missing in other travel stories I read online. About your dilemma, I feel that knowledge shouldn’t be constrained because you never know who gets inspired by your stories, visits these ‘offbeat places’ and decides to do something for the locals, their environment or to promote the culture of the place. If there’s a possibility that good and bad can both come out of one thing, why not give a chance to the good because goodness of one man can be a giant leap for the whole of humanity. Anyway, as always, love the way you write 🙂
Thanks so much Harneet. That makes so much sense; I just feel guilty carrying the load of the bad that could potentially come from it too.
I have written about this same issue-is our desire to travel destroying that very thing we are there to experience? It can even be said of where we call home. You at least show us a way of traveling though that is socially and ecologically conscious.
I’ll go read that now. The irony of being alive and travelling, right?
If you are interested here is the link. It is the ultimate irony. I love scuba diving, but I have to wonder if I am having a negative impact on the very environment I am completely enchanted with. Enjoy your stories regardless…we can learn lessons that apply to our every day lives. https://janikiink.com/2016/01/02/losing-the-dream-to-live-by-the-beach/
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story on Istra, Croatia.
I myself, lived there for six months but my perspective is more from the side of the locals; with 50% unemployment rate, the few summer months that bring in tourists are more than welcomed by the residents who rely on the travel-generated-revenue during the short tourist season. More often than not, this is their only source of income for the entire year. Once October comes around most of these idyllic towns return to their very quiet existence with almost zero tourism coming in, which equals to almost zero income. The survival struggle of these Istrans who are still recovering from a not-too-long-ago civil war is very real. As some commenters have suggested, you can still blog about your travel adventures without revealing exact locations thus remaining true to your intention to keep these places unmarred by uncaring and at times, disrespectful tourists. I would add that your blog itself can serve as a cautionary tale to future visitors on have to conduct themselves respectfully while visiting foreign lands.
Thank you once again for sharing your story which allowed me to relive my memories of beautiful Hrvatska!
Dobro dan Bettie!
Thanks for sharing that local view; it does put things into perspective.
Do please blog about Goa. I’d love to hear your take on it.
See my Alternative Travel Guide to Goa + a whole bunch of other posts under My Travels > India.
I write about places that interest me and may interest someone else. I always suggest travelling out of season to get a more authentic experience. My blog about Bagni di Lucca, a small village in Italy, has encouraged people to visit. It has also brought people together. I get regular emails from people telling me that I have photographed a house that once belong to a grandparent or other relative and how delighted they are to see the village of their ancestors.
At least writing about a place in a sensitive way might encourage more thoughtful visitors.
I’ve been wanting to go to Bagni di Lucca since I started reading your blog years ago! Thanks for sharing your perspective; hoping for more thoughtful visitors to read our work.
Beautiful. I love the pictures. Thank you for sharing this beautiful trip with us and with me. Miss you. So glad to see you posting again.
But lots and lots of people will love your posts and not actually visit the places you write about. So if you didn’t write about it all those people would miss out… 🙁
I know… so it makes sense to just drop hints of the exact location and focus on the experiences 🙂
Siviya, we have never met, but I love you. I love you for caring about Gaia and doing what you do. Thank you so much. You inspire me to become the traveller you are.
Aww thanks so much Antonete!
Can understand your dilemma..there are times when the random friend would ask insight to some of the places I have visited with an intention for adding to their itinerary..but knowing them I realize they could be too loud or dangerous for the ecological balance of the place 😊…..so I gently guide them to a more “tourists” or their kind of place 😊
Fair enough! I need to do that more often 😉
I should imagine loads of people who visit Oxford at this time of year feel this. In the end everything to do with economic life will probably just collapse …and everything will be ok again
I am a fan of your travel stories. You inspire me. After reading your post, I think you are right. The point is to inspire. Let the travelers find out a place according to their choice and convenience.
Thanks Chirasree, glad you see my perspective on this 🙂
A very insightful article Shivya. I couldnt agree with you more and in fact when I started reading it I was nodding my head and just picturing Goa and thought how true it was in relation to Goa. Goa of 15 years and now is like its hit by a brick and distorted his beautiful features. Not nice.. And then I saw that you have consciously kept Goa in your reflection.. so glad.. even if I do not travel as often whenever I go into a quite town or village I am mindful of what the locals must be feeling, of their lives being run over by these masses whose only interest is in the photos. Even if most people will argue that it provides them with tourist dollars etc. I guess at the end of the day it is not that at all. Thank you for at least awakening thoughtfulness in the minds of your reader, or least trying to. Kudos!!!
The reason you are my favourite travel blogger is because you think about these things and care. Only you will be able to find the answer to your dilemma. But I can’t help but be reminded of the Bhagavad Gita and Arjun’s dilemma. That book has prevailed because Krishna’s advice is both wise and practical. Do what you love with the best of your ability and awareness . You can’t be attached to the outcome, or responsible for what others do. Let’s see each other soon and talk at length about this topic. I’ve been conflicted about travel blogging for several years for this reason and others.
I don’t think its about you and your writing. You cannot make everyone be responsible and respect locals when they travel. Most of the rich tourists are often demanding and expect luxury even at rural areas. People don’t flock at destinations, just because of the pictures you post. Your posts inspire people to travel responsibly. I haven’t seen you doing a publicity post for the destinations you travel, instead you share your experiences. Marketing and sharing experience are different things. Your experiences are on staying local by sharing their homes, food and traditions. Your posts aren’t judgmental, you show the world what you experienced, like this post on Croatia.
Keep traveling, keep inspiring and keep sharing!
Shivya! So beautifully written! My two cents on this is that every individual has a different experience at the same place. Similar, yet different. The way each voyager soaks in the beauty, the way tourists perceive nature, the way one behaves or reacts to a situation is different. Please save yourself from the guilt trip of causing unintentional damage. A traveler must be responsible and must take onus of his/her behavior. As to implanting ideas, that’s the best thing to do! An idea as small as a mustard seed is all one needs to make it big! Thank you for being an inspiration!
I’m a beginner and it would be an honour if you could check my blog and suggest expert tips for improvement when you are free. Thanks!
Please never stop writing. So many places I would not have even known about have been opened to me because of you. Some places would have never crossed my mind. I find it all very inspiring.
what a dilemma you face, however as long as you write about what you feel in your heart that is the right thing to do, then it will be ok. As readers we get inspired by reading your posts, however it’s up to each person to decide how his/her experience will be. You are already transmitting such a beautiful message and one can really see how much you care about each place you visit. So please keep on writing like you have so far, because it is inspiring and beautiful.
Nice thoughts Shivya. Perhaps giving less publicity to hidden gems will prevent unruly tourists thronging to the place. Most offbeat destinations are facing onslaught of mass tourism. I roger your feelings and thoughts, though if you stick to your decisions we will be missing your beautiful posts on un-ventured locations.
Shivaya your article is too good enough to make a normal guy into adventure and travels. Keep inspiring and writing blogs.
some people can term me as being selfish but I’m being very selective in what I write. Even if I write I generally leave some information “blank”. I’m sure right people will find the place they have all the will and skills to do so. And I’m happy. I’m more bothered with the other type of travelers fueled by social media and devoid of ethics of spoiling a place. I have seen many places go down the dump because of social media.
You have picked up a pertinent topic which has always evoked question in my mind. I have chosen to deal with it this way. I may be right I may be wrong…but that’s the option I have chosen, Shivya!
Very interesting post and topic, Shivya. One of the travel magazines mentioned that in some countries they want to limit the number of tourists from visiting sites due to overcrowding . Dubrovnik was one of them due to the huge number of cruise ships coming in. You as a blogger can only give your opinion of a place. It’s up to the individual to take that information and decide should I go or shouldn’t I go? It’s not your fault if some tourists don’t know how to conduct themselves while they’re in another country . That’s their own lack of acting like they’ve been there before. Don’t stop blogging . I enjoy your different perspectives on places.
Hi Shivya, I totally relate to this. Last year, a few friends were unhappy because I wrote about an offbeat village in the Himalayas and their displeasure made me question if I was doing the right thing. After a few days, I realized that bigger websites like Tripoto had already written about those places and were trying to sell them as “party destinations” and the only thing that made me feel better was that I had a paragraph about respecting the nature and traveling responsibly in that location. On the other hand, I started my blog where I was writing about some of the best underground music festivals and I have decided never to do so again because many such festivals are getting ruined and overly commercialized.
Hey Shivya, I’m so glad to have come across your blog! It definitely strikes a chord with me and I myself have mused over this issue a few times. Croatia is still ony my list though! I had thought of going there in June or July but everything seemed so full that I decided to explore some parts of it another time:) Stay well and let’s stay connected!
I guess what comes in your way is this sense of social responsibility. We all have to find our own balance of what works and doesn’t work for us. A post like this will hopefully make all your readers more socially aware, to have more respect for our surroundings and respect for those who live there.
None of us would like the world stepping into our personal space and I hope travellers slowly gain that realisation and make others aware too as you have done.
And as you’ve ended, that you “intend to deal with it by focusing more on inspiring stories from the road…” – I totally second that approach. It does seems the best way to move forward.
Thank you for this post.
Thank you for writing about this Shivya – the same topic / worry has been on my mind and clearly on the minds of many others. Which in itself says a lot I think? That we question and value our responsibility in influencing the behaviour of other travellers is huge – but as you rightly said we can’t hold ourselves accountable for the behaviour of travellers overall. In my view the one thing we cannot change is the increase in travellers globally (nor should we) so it is natural that places get more visitors. The question is what impact do those visitors have and how is tourism managed.
Perhaps change starts with reforming the travel behaviour of influencers and bloggers to start with – as I think you recently spoke on :-). Thanks for the beautiful writing as always <3
I have been trying to find new blogs written by travelers. Everything I come across is just “10 things to do in ____,” “24 or 48, or 72 hours in ____,” and all kinds of nonsense crap. It’s the same on every blog. There is nothing different.
But now I found you. I enjoy very much reading about your dilemma of writing about places only to maybe ruin them. I think there is a history of that. Look at “The Beach” and what happen to Thailand. [Fun Fact: I heard once that he actually wrote that in the Philippines but used Thailand because he didn’t want to ruin the Philippines. i don’t know if it’s true.]
The other comment on here about the effects of scuba diving is interesting as well. I struggle with the idea of traveling due to it’s climate impact. Especially the impact of flying. Cheap flights have a high cost.
I’m committing myself to long-term overland travel. I really enjoy WWOOFing as well because I feel like I am helping out organic farmers. That kind of volunteering is something I want more of in my future adventures.
Keep up the thinking and writing. I really enjoy it!
thanks for sharing this post .It’s truly inspiring …..and please don’t stop writing. you are inspiration for people like me.