I have something to confess: I’m thinking of I’m breaking up with Paris.
No longer does she woo me with her charm. No longer is the city invigorating and inviting to me. No longer does my heart sing and all my worries disappear. Instead, I’m left with dread, annoyance and confusion as to what my city used to be. While Paris has never been my place of residence, I’ve felt a deep connection to it, one that restores my hope and happiness.
Overtourism is killing everything around us. And, it’s not just affecting long line-ups, the environment and locals, it’s affecting me. And we all know that’s a real reason to freak out.
It’s not just Paris that I’m breaking up with, I’ve been thinking long and hard about my long-term relationship with travel and whether or not we should end it.
After my next trip that is being taken to visit a friend who has gone to live abroad, I’m thinking twice about big vacations. I’m wondering if they’re worth it and whether or not I should continue taking them. If it’s just crowded areas of tourists seeking the same thing, then why am I going? I don’t need to have snowflake unique vacations, completely different than everyone else, but when the vibe of the city, the whole reason you’re seeing a new place, is gone or altered because of tourists, then why be that tourist?
I’m also wondering about posting travel tips on my blog. I’ve always tried to give respectful advice that helps people, but is it helping if it’s ruining the state of travel and the country you’re traveling to? Do I want to urge others to continue traveling? Is it really something people should still be doing so obsessively? The fact that traveling is so accessible to the masses is amazing and terrible. Everyone should get to experience new cultures and the beauty of the whole world, but maybe we’re going about it the wrong way.
I’m no longer impressed with someone moving away for a year or three to travel the world; who hasn’t done that in this day and age? But, then, I also think about how exciting it was to travel for the first time, the feeling of being totally on your own and figuring things out. This was a little harder years ago as Google Translate didn’t exist and roam-as-you-go plans weren’t a thing yet when I started my traveling adventures.
Nope, instead, burner type phones were bought and pay-as-you-go-cards were purchased in different countries as the minutes slowly dwindled away. I couldn’t quickly look up where we were going or use an offline version of Google Maps. I just had to figure it out on my own. But, that was part of the fun, part of exploring a new city or new country; you didn’t know what the fuck you were doing and that was okay. The ambiance of the place shrone through and you got lost in it.
Maybe it’s more than just stopping travel altogether (something I don’t think we should do or would work out). Maybe we become more respectful as a species. Maybe we start by going back to the way things used to be and only stay in Inns, B&B’s, hotels, or God forbid, hostels. Maybe we reserve apartment rentals for when we are really staying for a long period of time. Longer than a week, longer than a month.
While I’m all for renting an apartment abroad and absolutely love heading to the market to make delicious dinners, I don’t like what it’s come to be. Apartments that changes the way the locals live, thus taking away the reason you rented that apartment in Le Marais in the first place: to feel like you’re living a stereotypical Parisienne life (although, the tiny apartment rentals keep you in that stereotype). This is the whole reason I, and many others, rent apartments abroad.
Maybe it’s best if we all stay home and explore the world around us instead of thousands of miles away. Maybe we take less trips and save more and splurge every so often, spending more on tourism in that country than we do now. Bhutan actually has imposed a spending minimum for tourists so they can keep their beautiful home from getting overrun with travelers stopping by for a minute, spending the least amount of amount they can and ruining the landscape. Okay, so not every tourist is like that, but when you add up the bits and pieces, it gets pretty out of hand – quick.
Will I be okay with those changes to my ways of travel? In the idea of spending more in each country, leisurely strolling through the town and really getting to know each place, yes. In the idea that it will take me much longer to go on said trips or that they will become fewer and furhter in between? I’m not sure. I’m not sure if I’ll be okay simply heading to one country every couple of years, instead, looking towards my own country, spending more time at the lake rather than in an airplane, jetting off to somewhere new and exciting.
Some days, when it all gets too stressful, the simple idea of escaping to a cabin in the woods sounds too good to be true. Then, when I feel like I’ve lost all hope in the world, and know how restoring France is for me, I second guess it all.
While I scream at the city for changing, for the new people in its life taking its attention away from me, I’m not sure I’ll actually break up with Paris, with traveling. This post has been full of maybes, quietly telling myself, and everyone else, that I’m not done with traveling, not yet, that I’m not done with sharing my stories.
Because even with the overtourism and the different vibe of the city, it still felt familiar, it still felt like home. I remembered those roads I would walk down to the market. I remembered the hardness of the green chairs in the Tuileries as I’d scribble down thoughts or read until the chill in the air was too much and I had to break for a café au lait. I still felt the excitement when coming across something new or driving through the winding roads of the South of France.
These feelings are the ones I remember when I think of traveling and I hope that they won’t be lost forever in the throngs of the curling lines at each destination.
Originally published on Medium September 30, 2019. Edited February 13, 2019.