Why Don’t These People Just Stay at Home?

My grandparents lived in Kansas City, Missouri when I was growing up. For the entirety of my childhood, I lived in small Iowa towns with populations of less than a thousand people. Going to Kansas City for holidays and weekend visits was like going to the “big city” for my sisters and me. I loved the lights. I loved the motion. I loved the sense of excitement, the risk, the danger. I loved being lost in “bad neighborhoods.” We often were. I even loved the traffic. Where I came from, we didn’t have “traffic.”

When we went to Kansas City for Thanksgiving, the lot of us — my parents, my sisters, my grandparents, and aunts and uncles — would venture down to Country Club Plaza on Thanksgiving night to watch the illumination of “The Lights.” The Plaza was one of Kansas City’s best attributes. Opened in 1923, The Plaza was the brainchild of J.C. Nichols, a real estate developer. Nichols worked with architect Edward Buehler Delk to create a shopping district, fashioned as a little slice of Seville, Spain, in the middle of what had, hitherto, been a swamp and a hog farm. With its wrought iron, tiled rooftops, archways, fountains, Moorish-inspired towers, and even a replica of the La Giralda (a mosque-turned-church in Seville), The Plaza became the crown jewel of Kansas City. Every Thanksgiving night since 1925, when a single strand of lights was lit in The Plaza, thousands of people gathered there to usher in the holiday season by witnessing the The Plaza Lights. Every building was festooned with strands of lights, creating contours of luminescence, a magical re-creation of space, and glowing outlines of color — red, blue, yellow, green, and white. It was a festival of warmth, magnificence, and joy.

When they flipped the switch, nobody ever felt luckier or more urbane than I did. For a 7-year-old boy from rural Iowa, this was The City of Light. I couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else. I had been transported.

My uncle Jim didn’t like the traffic. While he was generous in his willingness to shepherd us — the country mice from Iowa — down to the festivities, the vicious snarl of traffic made him irritable. I remember the phrase that he uttered every year, which became a tradition almost as much as Thanksgiving dinner itself:

“Why don’t these people just stay at home?”

I think of Jim’s words often when I travel these days. I think I’ve become him.

I travel quite a bit. It’s one of my greatest pleasures in life. I would rather take a trip to somewhere interesting, exciting, and unknown than buy a new sofa or a new car. The wonder and magic of “going somewhere else” that was sparked in that Iowa boy at age 7, even if it was just four hours away, still burns brightly inside me and continually seeks expression.

It’s harder and harder to discover that magic, sometimes, because of the hordes of other people who share my yearning to know the world and all of its treasures. I don’t always trust that some of my comrades-in-travel have arrived for any other reason than to collect an image or two to post. To boast. To share. With selfie-sticks and the occasional high-end camera, complete with thousand-dollar lenses equipped for the panoramic view as well as the close-up, we seem to be looking for a perfect picture to prove that we were here. We travel. We are globalized. We are on social media. Ergo, we exist.

I have no right to judge. I am one of them.

I traveled to Greece recently. My boyfriend and I plotted our itinerary carefully, balancing the convenience of urban attractions with the allure of more far-flung delights. Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete, and Santorini. We’d have it all — the Acropolis, the museums, the historical sites of Macedonian struggle and Sephardic Jewry, the (hopefully) non-touristed streets of Thessaloniki’s “upper city”, the regional differences in cuisine, the beaches and mountains of Crete, ruins galore (as opposed to mere rubble), and the iconic whitewashed cave houses and blue rooftops of Santorini. We wanted a comprehensive experience. One can’t become acquainted with Greece just by visiting Athens. Or an island. We wanted to know Greece.

After a fitful night of sleep fraught with jetlag and excitement, we awoke early on our first morning and set out for the Acropolis so that we were at the entrance by 8:30 AM. We had ordered our tickets in advance. We didn’t want to bother with lines. Smugly, we congratulated ourselves on outsmarting those wicked queues — the scourge of the traveler. Buy in advance, get there early.

When we ascended to the Acropolis, it was almost as if we had the place to ourselves. As the glow of the morning sun shone in shades of pink, yellow, peach, and orange on the Temple of Athena and the Parthenon, we looked around at the smattering of other tourists around us and thought, “Hmmmm, we are the only ones here.” It was lovely. Stunning, in fact. To be in the midst of such historical significance, ancient wisdom, and majestic beauty and to be only among dozens there to observe it. Ahhhhhhhh.

And then they came.

Tour groups of all nationalities and languages. The masses thronged at the entrance gate, tickets in hand, while their guides with the stressed-out expressions and the upstretched arms holding flags and placards aloft to identify “our group” tried valiantly to make themselves heard amidst the din of the multitudes. There were flocks of tourists waiting to be herded. Flocks and flocks and flocks and flocks.

It was barely 10:00 AM.

Mount Lycabettus was the same, later in the day. Thousands of our new best friends, huddled cheek-by-jowl atop the little perch by the church, all of us there with the same intent: to watch the sunset over Athens. We clapped in unison when Mother Nature gave her final bow for the evening. For a moment, I didn’t mind the crowd. When do we take time to clap for Mother Nature?

Elafonissi Beach, on Crete? The same. It was a Tuesday afternoon. Who goes to the beach on Tuesday afternoon in mid-September?! Apparently, thousands. It was difficult to park, and all of the umbrellas on the beach had already been claimed. There was no doubt about the beauty. Elafonissi was marvelous. The water was crystalline and cool. I sank into it and submerged my head. It was quiet. When I surfaced, though, there they were again. The thousands of others who had the same brilliant idea as we did. Let’s go to the beach! Ugh.

Why don’t these people just stay at home?

Santorini. We anticipated this part of our trip most eagerly of all. Santorini! The Greece of the white caves and the blue rooftops. The scenes you see in travel magazines. The caldera, an overflowing vessel of sprawling blue, shimmering and twinkling in the sunlight. The little cobblestone streets. The donkeys. The quaintness. The cuteness. Santorini will be so cute. And beautiful. And magnificent. A sapphire in the ring of our trip.

The port of Santorini is a madhouse, with all the recent arrivals on the ferries and the drivers frantically waving signs with the names of their soon-to-be passengers. The scene is cacophonous, chaotic, and confusing. This is not paradise. This is the waiting room to hell. When we arrive at the parking lot in Oía (a village on the island of Santorini), next to the post office, it is also busy, confusing, and hot. The saving grace is that our innkeeper, Nikos, is waiting for us. He is accompanied by another man — strong, able, sweaty, and looking just a bit beleaguered. I am relieved to see them. They admirably commandeer our luggage (which is fortunately light and not cumbersome) and motion for us to follow them. I can’t help but think of pack mules. I am grateful for the help. On the other hand, do we use humans as mules? Are we unable to carry our own baggage? I feel ashamed.

The “streets” in Oía are not really streets, by American standards. They are paths. Imagine your neighborhood sidewalk. Think of it with big stones worn down by centuries of foot traffic and weather, but still rugged, uneven, and bumpy. Now imagine your rugged stone sidewalk crowded with hundreds of people, trying to maneuver past each other. You’re inhabiting the same space at the same time. What are the physics that govern that? There are street vendors who have their wares for sale on little carts and tables. A dog just took a shit on the street, and people are trying to avoid it. Every now and then, a woman stops to be photographed against the beauty of the surroundings. Her husband/boyfriend/consort/friend is the photographer. Something about Santorini turns everyday Janes into pin-up girls. They strike a pose. A sexy pose. Many sexy poses. We wait for her patiently (impatiently?) as she gives her best sultry look and tosses her mane of blond hair, delivering a “come hither” curl on her upper lip. We are all sexy as fuck in Santorini. I make a smart remark to my boyfriend:

“By day, she’s an elementary school teacher in Indiana. On vacation, she’s Miss September in the “Hot Babes of Santorini” calendar.”

A middle-aged American woman whirls around, cracks a smile, and says, “I heard that…and you’re not wrong.”

We share a conspiratorial smirk and continue on our way.

There are innumerable Chinese brides in Santorini. Why are there so many brides in Santorini? Is it the wedding capital of the world? I count at least five brides taking pictures against the breathtaking backdrop before we arrive at our guesthouse. It’s about ninety degrees Fahrenheit. I’m sweating. Dripping like a faucet gone bad. I don’t feel sexy. I want to get to my guesthouse. I hope they have air conditioning. Air conditioning in cave houses. I want it. And again, I feel ashamed.

Welcome to Oía.

Our hosts, Nikos and Irina, are lovely. They are more than lovely. They embody hospitality. They welcome us and tell us to let them know if there is anything we need. I feel at home. I like them immediately.

When I go to Nikos and Irina’s store later, after a shower and a long-awaited glass of wine, they tell me the truth. They don’t own the cave house where we are staying. They manage it. In addition, they manage the store adjacent to the guest house. It’s a store full of tchotchkes, jewelry, and bric-a-brac. They don’t own it, but they are there about 13 hours a day. They welcome anywhere from two to seven cruise ships a day. Two to seven cruise ships a day. That’s four to fifteen thousand people daily who ascend to your village, pick amidst your wares, hold them up, ask how much they cost, and then sneer as they exit your shop without even an “efharisto.” They’re not here long enough to learn basic Greek.

Why don’t these people just stay at home?

The “season” ends in late October. People like Nikos and Irina get about four months off. They go to visit family for a while. They spend time in Athens and Tripoli. They recharge. They get ready. They gird themselves for the onslaught of the next season. Not a bad deal. If you can live without four months of income.

“Are you ready for the season to be over?” I ask.

“We were ready two months ago,” Nikos and Irina reply. “We’re exhausted. Thanks, by the way, for taking the time for a conversation. Most tourists treat us like we’re not even here.”

I make a point of visiting Nikos and Irina at the shop every evening. We chat, they ask me about my adventures of the day, they exclaim with delight when I say I did the whole trail from Thira to Oía, and they shake their heads sympathetically when I complain about the less-than-satisfying bus tour to Akrotiri. I ask them about their lives. Irina goes to art shows and curates a collection of jewelry and other objets d’art for the shop. She and Nikos are both engineers, by training, but this is their job. It’s not the ideal, but since the austerity measures (mnimonio), they took the jobs that they could.

I don’t know if Nikos is trying to flatter me when he offers that Americans are among their best guests.

“Really?” I ask, incredulously. “I tend to find them annoying.” Immediately, I remembered the twenty-something American woman from the Thira-Oía trail, bragging to her friends in her creaky vocal fry about how she befriended the manager of her hotel and he comped her dinner and drinks. Leave it up to the Americans to bilk the locals out of free stuff.

Nikos offers his assessments of other tourists, based on nationality. The Germans are nice but particular. The Japanese are quiet and neat. The Brits are friendly and loud. The Chinese and the Indians are the worst.

“They don’t treat the house well,” he says without further editorial commentary.

Every evening before sunset, thousands of people crowd into Oía to watch the sunset. Our little “neighborhood” is Ground Zero. People keep piling into the street and onto rooftops to find a prime viewing spot. We decide to leave our safe and secure enclosure and venture out to be with the people. Irina sees us and invites us to view the sunset from the balcony in front of their store. It is a beautiful place to watch the sunset. Given that Irina shooed other sunset viewers away from her balcony just a few minutes before, we feel like royalty. In this very overtouristed and crowded place, space is currency. We are lucky. And rich.

The night before my departure from Santorini, I give Nikos and Irina a bottle of wine. I don’t know if they drink, but I don’t know what else to buy them. I just want to thank them and let them know how much I appreciated their hospitality.

They respond with a beautiful little bottle of vinsanto, a local product. It’s sweet, like port. The bottle is shaped like the island of Santorini. Usually, I would find it cheesy and kitschy. In this case, I am supremely touched. We have exchanged something. We have treated each other like friends.

I’ve reflected on my trip a lot since I have returned to the United States. I have thought about the crowds, the times when I felt hot and annoyed, the times when I wished I had had the place to myself.

Why don’t these people just stay at home?

When we travel, what are we hoping for? Are we looking for an exchange? If so, what do we have to give? Are we just looking to collect or take something? What happens when we invade a local space that isn’t ours? When we leave, are we leaving without a trace, or are we leaving a residue that contaminates the space? Is our legacy and “gift” the sullying and erosion of our pounding footsteps, the superimposition of our expectations and demands, and the indifference of our half-cocked smiles?

This is the culmination of our actions as tourists: We are killing places.

“Overtourism” is not new. We have heard about overtourism concerns in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Iceland, and Venice, to name a few. They are destinations that have been visited and adored by tourists to the point that they are actually being harmed. Amsterdam has drastically limited the availability of short-term rentals so that the residents of popular areas, like the Red Light District, might not be so overwhelmed by the legions of stag partiers and other assorted tourists with adventurous and randy ambitions. Because of the noise, the influx of visitors, and their concomitant expectations that Amsterdam exists to satisfy the needs and wants of holidaymakers, Amsterdamers report that they feel foreign and unwelcome in their own homes.

An article in The Guardian leads with the sub-headline: “One of the coolest destinations in Europe just two decades ago, Barcelona is now so overcrowded it has become a tourist theme park — and is losing the character that made it so popular.” The phenomenon of overtouristing has became mainstream to that point that the citizens of Barcelona have coined a term: parquetematización — the act of becoming a theme park. La Rambla (or Las Ramblas), the well-known pedestrian thoroughfare in Catalunya’s premier city, is swarmed with tourists daily. Barcelona residents have stopped going to La Rambla. Fruits, vegetables, local foodstuff, and works by local artists have been supplanted by cheap, mass-produced swag, like t-shirts and keychains, that appeals to tourists. City leaders are trying to figure out how to attract residents of Barcelona back — to La Rambla, to their own city.

There are about 6 tourists for every resident of Iceland. The population of Iceland is only about 335,000 or so. The infrastructure has not kept up with tourist demand. Housing that used to be available to local Icelanders is now being rented to tourists. Reykjavik is crowded — and expensive. There are plenty of natural amenities to experience and explore in Iceland, but most tourists don’t venture beyond Reykjavik and the Blue Lagoon. When tourists do go into the uncharted natural areas, they don’t always treat them with respect and deference. One travel writer described it this way:

“ In Þingvellir National Park, where a great rift marks the dramatic meeting point between the North American and Eurasian plates, …a group of campers ripped up large chunks of moss so they could insulate their tents, leaving behind scars on the landscape that will take years to recover. ‘Nature is the reason travellers come to Iceland,’ says Sif Gustavsson, former Director of Visit Iceland USA. ‘If we lose that, we lose everything.’”

What is the incentive for cajoling tourists to visit the underappreciated nature of Iceland if the tourists don’t take care of it anyway? It’s great when people come — but don’t ruin it when you arrive.

When speaking of overtourism, Venice is perhaps the most infamous. By some estimates, only 50,000 people actually live in Venice year-round. The rest are tourists. Says one local:

“[The] kind of destructive mass tourism that has hit Venice since the Eighties, it has changed the structure of the city. When I was a child, the three shops underneath my home sold eggs, bread, milk and vegetables. Now they all sell rubbish for tourists. When everything is just for tourists, the residents are pushed outside… If you want to respect Venice you need to keep the ships out of the lagoon. To respect Venice you should put a limit on the apartments and the flats that you can put on the tourist market.”

Stories abound about impassable streets, hordes of camera-clicking tour groups, and the steady parade of the newly-arrived, dragging their clackety-wheeled luggage behind them. Whether or not the coffers of Venice have swelled with the wealth of visitors, the quality of life for residents has been decidedly diminished.

There are numerous other examples. Dubrovnik. The Isle of Skye. Beaches in Thailand and Philippines. Mallorca. Prague. Banff. Maui. Easter Island. Denali. Machu Picchu. Cultures have been degraded. Ecosystems and environments have been damaged. Economies have shifted such that “buying local” is a quaint notion of the past.

Ultimately, though, overtourism is not just an issue of too many people in the same place. It’s an attitude and a way of being. Simply put, overtourism is the tragic result of an ethics problem among tourists and the people who cater to them.

I am part of the problem. As I write this, I know I am part of the problem.

I am one of the people who takes a picture at an iconic location to post on social media. I take pleasure when people express their jealousy. On our next meeting, when I’ve returned from wherever, I enjoy it when people say, “I saw your trip photos on Facebook! It looked fabulous!!” I casually pepper my conversation at parties with comments about where I’ve been or where I’m going next. Such things make me sound interesting. I offer “helpful” suggestions to friends, like, “Oh, there was just the cutest out-of-the-way place where you can have lunch, and it’s SO inexpensive. The owner seemed to take a liking to us, and he chatted with us all throughout lunch. Tell him I recommended you!” I rate places prolifically on TripAdvisor. I want that badge. Sometimes, I want to forget that I’m American. Sometimes, I want to be a citizen of the world — and I’m willing to invade others to be that. We’ve long slammed the door in the face of the world, but we expect to be welcomed anywhere.

While in Thessaloniki, my boyfriend and I were walking through the old city, where the remains of the centuries-old wall that protected the city still stand. After some playful photo ops with graffiti and the background of Thessaloniki, we came across a particularly provocative graffito:

“Tourist de merde.”

French for “tourist of shit.” Shitty tourist.

We laughed. We were surprised. They were talking to us. Thessaloniki was perhaps the most “untouristed” place we visited in Greece, though! Why the antipathy toward tourists?

I felt similar feelings as I did in 2001, after the attacks of September 11 in New York. The inspirations are quite different, but the feelings were similar. We Americans asked ourselves, often out loud, with wringing hands and tortured grimaces:

“Why do they hate us so much?”

Now, as then, I realize that this is an opportunity to listen. To go inside. To get honest with myself. To let go of being defensive.

Although I readily admit to the sins I confessed above, I am making efforts to travel with noble intentions — and leave negligible impact and residue. I am trying to get outside my own bubble. I’m okay with being uncomfortable — mostly. I want to experience a different point of view. I want to be in the world and know that I don’t own it but belong to it. These days, I’m more in need than ever to meet other people who know how to love, laugh, share gifts, tell stories, and affirm that we do, indeed, have something in common. Travel is vital to storytelling, peacemaking, and the understanding that we are but one in a world of billions. It’s humbling. And wildly exhilarating.

I will turn 50 next year. I am excited about it. I am excited about being an adult. It’s an arbitrary milestone, for sure, but I’ll observe it and honor it as a threshold. At 50, what adventures await where the pathways of age, wisdom, knowledge, and curiosity converge? I’d like my celebration to last all year. I hope to visit friends and family. I want to commemorate the year by traveling. I already have too many destinations in mind for one year’s time.

As I prepare to usher in this celebratory year and make plans for my travels, I am thinking about overtourism and my impact in the world. I would like to see things, but only with grace and humility. What if I thought of myself less as a traveler or a tourist but more like a contributor and citizen? I am developing some guidelines for my choices along the way. They may not work for you. We all need to find our own path.

· Lodging: Airbnb is great. I also know, from experience, that many units are apartments managed by companies. Nobody actually lives in them. They are just for tourists. The company makes the money, not an individual homeowner. Staying in a hotel? What is the benefit of staying in a name-brand chain hotel? The profits accrue elsewhere. Also, a name-brand hotel in Europe or Asia feels quite similar to its sister hotels in the United States. Maybe I’m different than other tourists, but I’m not looking for predictability and conformity when I travel. When I can, I would like to explore what is local. If I’m going to visit a place, who will actually benefit from my visit? I know I’ll need to dig a little bit and think more critically about the local population and distribution of power and resources. In South Africa, for example, there are Black-owned inns and guesthouses. Will you find them in the guidebooks? Probably not. I didn’t when I visited there in 2010. I need to look a little harder. We all need to look harder. Be intentional about where you stay, with whom you stay, and who benefits from your stay.

· Ask Questions: I’m not always the chatty kind. I don’t always go out of my way to make conversation with people I don’t know. Still, I often feel rewarded when I do make the time and effort for a casual chat, like I did with Nikos and Irina. Start a conversation. Ask people what is important to them. “It’s gorgeous here. What is it like to live here? I love your shop. Where do you find the things you sell. Who are the artists you work with? By the way, what’s your name?” It doesn’t need to be an interrogation. Just treat people like human beings. They have names. They have lives. They have stories to tell.

· Go Somewhere Else: “I know that I’m supposed to see X, Y, and Z. Where else should I go? What’s interesting and off the radar?” I’d love to arrive somewhere and meet someone who says, “I’m glad you’re here. Tourists don’t usually come here.” You won’t know unless you ask. Also, as you are planning your trip, look for lesser-known destinations. If you are considering a trip to Venice, why not Verona, Treviso, or Trieste? Think about going off season. A few years ago, in late November, I went to the Great Wall of China with my best friend Shaul. It snowed the day we went. There were hardly any people around. It was absolutely gorgeous. That day was one of my favorite days — ever. Be open to changing your plans. Thinking about Amsterdam? Maybe you should check out Annecy in France. There are still charming canals, and the French Alps are right behind you.

· Eat Locally, Enjoy Locally: There are plenty of places that are geared toward the tourists. You might get a decent meal that will give you a hint of the local fare. You may just have ho-hum food. That happens. Don’t over-romanticize the food experience. Every meal doesn’t have to be sublime. Maybe it’s worth it to try a place where the locals eat. Ask: “What is the specialty here? If I haven’t had __________________ cuisine, what should I try?” You may love it. You may not. If you don’t, you’ll still understand what is beautiful about travel. It is about the experience of something new — and you may end with something surprisingly delicious. **The rules for this change considerably if you don’t speak the local language or the server doesn’t speak English. In that case, you may need to smile and point. And make animal sounds. And gesticulate wildly. Be prepared to try what you are served. Don’t be a baby about it. The world doesn’t revolve around you. You’re a guest who doesn’t speak the language. Deal.

· Buy Something: The common refrain from residents in overtouristed areas is, “People traipse through here, take their pictures, maybe buy a bottle of water, and then they leave. They don’t spend any money here.” I have enough stuff. You have enough stuff. We don’t need more stuff. AND…if we are to be contributors and tourists, we need to spend money and buy things, especially from local vendors, artisans, and craftspeople. Otherwise, we are just taking up space, wearing down the infrastructure, and stealing time away from the sellers who are wondering why we came in the first place if we just fondle their goods but don’t even buy anything. Think of it as a tax on your selfie. Your many, many selfies. You take a selfie? You buy a tchotchke. You don’t have to buy anything for yourself. Buy gifts for other people. Buy something nice for your mother. Buy something for your gift drawer. Y’know, the drawer you reach into when you are invited to someone’s house and you don’t have a gift and you really don’t want to show up empty-handed? Yeah, it’s rude when you show up empty-handed. We noticed.

· Leave No Trace: Do we really need to go through this again? Don’t leave your shit around. Pick up after yourself. If you create garbage, throw it away in the proper receptacles. If there are no receptacles, take it with you. This goes for psychic, spiritual, and emotional rubbish, as well. What kind of “residue” will you leave behind? What will people think of you, based on how you acted? Did you just take a spiritual shit on somebody else’s lawn? No. Don’t do that. Every step of the way on your journey, ask yourself: Who was charmed by you? Who was offended by you? What mark would you like to leave? Granted, travel is sometimes not easy. Other the other hand, nobody invited you to come in the first place. That was your choice. If you were to mount a friendly and magnanimous invasion, what would it look like? That’s exactly what travel is. You are invading someone’s spot. The lights, the wonder, the magic? That is someone’s home.

Why don’t these people just stay at home?

I’m curious about augmented reality travel. Maybe one day, we won’t have to bother with passport control, lost luggage, currency conversion, language barriers, and feeling out of our element. Perhaps we will just log in at home, put on a headset and haptic body suit (or something so much more sophisticated, streamlined, and unobtrusive), and be transported to the places we have always dreamed of. Will we be able to travel freely while escaping the challenges we endure as well as preventing the abuses that we inflict? What if climate chaos or warfare makes global travel nearly impossible for most of us?Maybe in-person global travel will become obsolete, or a folly for the super-rich and the super-adventurous. Maybe the “in real life” version of the place won’t even compare with the immersive virtual reality version. “Um, why would I want to go the fjords of Norway? I already have the deluxe Fjords of Norway Virtual Reality Game + Simulation Experience.”

We’re not there. Yet. As Tom Hanks said in the film A League of Their Own, “It’s the hard that makes it great.” Yes, the hard makes travel great, even if it doesn’t seem like it in the moment. When our bags are lost, our credit cards don’t work, and we’re detained for mysterious security reasons, we aren’t in the mood for paeans celebrating international travel. All of those situations suck. It’s possible, though, that our quest for comfort and ease has created this problem of overtouristing. We expect “home” wherever we go — and structures have arisen to accommodate that expectation. Maybe tourism needs to be a little hard in order to save it from its own self-destruction. Let’s consider tourism as an investment in and a contribution to our global wellbeing, not just a holiday or a luxury. Is it privilege to go to someone else’s home to explore, to discover, and to enjoy? Yes. It’s also a responsibility.

We are together in this. By some estimates, the world population will be 8.5 billion by 2030. That’s about a billion more people on the planet than are here right now. We are going to have to learn to be alongside each other without grinding things down beneath our collective feet.

I hope to spend as much time in 2019 outside the United States as possible. Sometimes, it’s too hard to bear what is going on here. I want to talk to people in other countries and exchange ideas with them about food, wine, family, love, politics, justice, governance, the environment, and international relations. There are conversations to start, stories to tell, opportunities to listen. They are good for my sanity. They are good for my soul. While I’m away, I’ll do my best to be a good ambassador, citizen, and guest. That’s my pledge. To you. To myself. To the planet.

Anthony Weeks is a visual storyteller, public listener, writer, and performer based in San Francisco, CA. He travels often. And as widely as he can.


“How Tourism is Killing Barcelona.” Burgen, Stephen. 30 August 2018. The Guardian.

“How Mass Tourism is Killing 30+ Destinations that Travelers Love.” Website: www.greenglobaltravel.com

“Tackling Overtourism: What’s Next for Iceland?” Drew, Keith. Website: www.roughguides.com

“Have Tourists Ruined the World?” Dickinson, Greg. 21 August 2018. The Telegraph.

“Has Tourism Killed Venice?” Dickinson, Greg. 17 August 2018. The Telegraph.

“How the Battle over Tourism is Dividing Venice.” Ariston, Anderson. 4 September 2018. The Hollywood Reporter.

Thessaloniki, Greece. September 2018.

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