Week 2 – Jesse

In this day and age traveling is more of a norm than at any other time in history. And what with all of these new, inexperienced young globetrotters, people are becoming worried about maintaining their small towns and villages, that up until twenty years ago, no one had ever heard of; because suddenly they are experiencing an influx of backpackers and thrill-seekers, flooding into their towns during the summer season, frequenting whatever oddity the place is now famous for, as well as gutting the town of its commodities with the usual revelry, and then flowing back out again as the rainy season comes rushing in, leaving the newly appointed hosts to clean up the mess left behind and deal with trying to prepare for next year. This usually consists of new buildings having to be put up, in order to provide lodging and food, as well as having to make room for the big adventure companies that are bound to crop up wherever there’s money to be made catering to the travelers and coming up with tours and the like. More and more you hear of complaints that someone’s one-horse town in Seclusion Cove is now a thriving metropolis six months out of the year, ever since word got out that the strange species of plankton that seems to thrive there (that the locals always thought of as a curious, but otherwise unremarkable happening) are a favorite snack of the majestic whale shark, and now young men and women from the U.K. are considering it a rite of passage to swim with these gargantuan leviathans. After a couple seasons of this, you won’t be able tell that only a few years ago this mess of hostels and nightclubs was a small and sunny seaside utopia, with one small grocery store, and fruit trees lining the single road through town.

The question that seems to be asked most is, “How did word get out about this?”. And the finger is usually pointed at, strangely enough, travel guidebooks. People claim that once they “discover” a spot like the one described, and they praise it in one of their guidebooks, people from all over the world start marking it on their calendars as the next “place to go”. And yet, if they were to take a closer look at one of these guides, they might see that far from encouraging that kind of unconscientious travel, guides like Lonely Planet (the largest travel guide publisher in the world) actually give detailed tips and tools on how to go gallivanting around the world in a responsible and safe way. These guides are aimed at young explorers, voyaging on a shoestring budget, looking to broaden their horizons and perhaps see some of the more sequestered wonders that the world has to offer. Lonely Planet is the brainchild of Tony and Maureen Wheeler, two ordinary folks who decided to go romping around the country one day, and ended up documenting their varying experiences, compiling it all in one book, including recommendations on restaurants, lodging, sight-seeing, and all around adventuring. Perhaps what makes these books so popular (as of 2010 they have over 500 titles out, in eight different languages, as well different television programs, a magazine, phone apps, and a website) is the fact that they offer the author’s personal opinion on each aspect of the trip. In that way, people following in their footsteps, or perhaps their machete-chopped trail through the jungles of Central America, can know what to expect when they come across an entirely new experience in the middle of a foreign country, and can plan their trip accordingly. These books also include background on the places they describe, giving readers an idea of the history of the country, and how they, as outsiders, might be perceived and welcomed, with tips on how to ensure they don’t offend accidentally, and hopefully allowing them to share in a little empathy with their host country. Basically these guidebooks, written by veteran path breakers, are training the next generation of roamers how to go about being a smart, passionate traveler, dedicated to seeing the beauty in the world, and and intent on keeping it that way for fellow wanderers, as well as the locals who willingly, and otherwise, accommodate them.