Thursday, June 12, 2014

Traveling is like the Beach; Leave Nothing But Your Footprints

Recently I saw an article about how part of the famous "Love Lock" bridge in Paris had collapsed. If you've never heard of it, I'm talking about the Pont des Arts, where people often attach a lock with their names on it and throw the key into the Seine. It's a cute idea, but what happens when you've had your photo op and feel good moment and then you continue on your way?

What happens is, the locals have to deal with it. They have to deal with the effects of a million tiny keys in the river, or the crushing weight of thousands of locks on a metal bridge, or an eyesore they don't want to see every day.

Did it somehow become ok to ignore this fact just because as a tourist I like, really really need a picture of me and my boo doing this?

Another example that sticks out in my mind is the Eastside Gallery in Berlin, where famous murals are painted over sections of the Berlin Wall. We visited it in August 2013 and were shocked by how much graffiti was defacing these murals. Some of them were just straight up ruined. The Eastside Gallery murals are great examples of dealing with a terrible time in history-many of them are heartfelt, moving, and memorable. Yet, here they were, wrecked by the scribblings of people passing through. 

Why yes, this looks SO much better than the original.

When I posted pictures online and complained about the defacement of the murals, many people were (surprisingly!) indignant. "They're ADDING to the murals!" one girl replied, "They make it more interesting!"



Do you have eyes?!

I'm sorry, but defacing something, taking an obligatory selfie, and then walking away congratulating yourself on "adding to history" is NOT OK. No, it's just not. It's even more obnoxious when you get annoyed at the people who are from that place when they ask you to stop. It's THEIR city.

I grew up in a tourist destination. I know what it's like to have people come in and have zero respect for your city and use it as their own personal playground. I can't stand those people. I never want to be one of those people.

Traveling has a lot to do with making memories. I'm not trying to be the anti-fun patrol and ruin things for everyone. But sometimes we need to take a minute and think beyond the present what I'm doing right now going to have a detrimental effect later?

When you travel, you're an outsider looking in. Come visit, enjoy what the place has to offer, learn something, broaden your outlook, and have a good time. But just like the beach, it's best to leave only your footprints and take all your junk with you. There are local people who have to live here every day and don't want to clean up afterwards.

What do you all think? Am I just being a harsh meanie? Or is it time for a little more respect for these places?


  1. I grow more and more favorable of the idea of traveling without a camera. If we didn't have cameras to take "trophy photos," we'd get so much more out of our adventures and just might save the beauty for the next travelers, too.

  2. Well said! Couldn't agree more. I feel the same about people who visit places with a huge bucket list of things to see. They tick their boxes and say "I've done Paris or whatever city" when in fact, all they've done is rush around from landmark to landmark without actually sitting down at a cafe watching the world go by and enjoying the true atmosphere of the place. Now I feel like a harsh meanie too :)

  3. I'm with you on this. I also lived in very touristy towns most of my life and was appalled at the way visiors treated my city. I have always treated the places I visit with respect--not just because I grew up in tourist hot spots, but because of how I was raised. I travel everywhere with my camera--not for selfies of me destroying the town, but to preserve the memories for my kids and grandkids--and also because I LOVE photography! You're not a meanie, you just have integrity, honor, and respect for others.

  4. Graffiti is most definitely NOT making the murals more interesting! And as far as the locks on the bridge go, how many of these couples are actually still together?! And they destroyed a bridge!!! It astounds me.

  5. I find what you said about the East Side Gallery really interesting. I'd also heard "the graffiti makes it better", and I sort of understood it in the sense that, graffiti makes the line between artist and viewer blur, and so one gets not only the artist's idea, but the reaction to it - a recorded conversation in a way. Which, in some contexts, I find interesting. However, when I saw the murals, so many were just scribbled over with people's names or hearts and it just ruined it and showed a complete lack of respect for the artists. I grew up in a tourist town, but people came for bird watching and forest walks, and I'm glad that they usually treated the places with respect and appreciation - far more than the locals did sometimes!

  6. When we climbed the dome in Florence there was loads of graffiti and it made me so sad. Why do people feel the need to leave a part of them behind in a way which ruins something so beautiful. I thought the point of travel was take a part of it with you - in your heart, in your photos, in the cute jewellery you bought etc.