Written by: Jim Bamboulis
You’ve seen them.
Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest posts featuring tourists posing dangerously on the edge of cliffs, insensitively frolicking – even doing yoga – on Holocaust memorials, showcasing the latest fashion trends at places like Chernobyl and willingly and knowingly destroying peoples’ property, all for a photo op and ultimately, for more attention.
Look closer at their photo captions, and the same people who are yoga-ing, modeling and destroying, are often the ones blissfully channeling their inner Deepak Chopra, using words like ‘inspire’, ‘grateful’, and ‘perspective’ making you believe that they’ve somehow looked deep inside themselves, captured the essence of the moment, when all they’ve really done was feature their insecurity, ignorance and entitlement.
Thankfully, the Life Forces working for Reason have balanced things out, expressing their distaste and disgust, even publicly shaming them for their lack of respect, empathy, humility and perspective. I’m not a fan of shaming but I am a fan of standing up for what’s right and challenging someone’s motives, especially when their actions negatively impact peoples’ work, history, and ultimately, other peoples’ lives.
Then a global pandemic hits. Travel comes to a halt. Everyone’s leveled. Many start to fear for their lives. Respect creeps in in the form of paying tribute to frontliners, working to keep everyone alive and industry running. The belief of invincibility is in doubt, health is finally a top priority and a sense of real gratitude for the things that really matter, evolves.
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If you’re like me, seeing this change of attitude was refreshing. To be clear, I’m not willing global pandemics and I’m not a fan of widespread loss of life. I’m saying that it had to take a global pandemic – and its effects – to trigger many people who needed to be reminded about what’s really important. Many people don’t believe they’re in danger hanging from a cliff, posing for that ‘perfect’ photo, but the thought of actually getting sick and dying from a spreading global virus, well, that’s something that stops you in your tracks, and injects some real perspective.
The world has bounced back and traveling will once again ramp up. Question is, will people pack their bags with the values they’ve learned during the pandemic on their trips? Will Tourists become Travelers?
Here are 6 Travel Trends I hope prevail post Covid-19. For the sake of travel and for the sake of common sense.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
— Mark Twain
Is it me or are people – generally speaking – only empathetic when they feel vulnerable and scared? Perhaps. Perhaps that’s just human nature. I suppose you can’t understand someone else unless you too have experienced something difficult and challenging for yourself firsthand. Empathy is a big one for me and I’ve realized that for many who travel, empathy doesn’t even cross their minds. Arrogantly posing for a staged photo, wearing a bikini, gazing onto a field of hard working rice field workers, while the photo caption attempts to capture ‘deep introspective thoughts’ about how blessed they are and their life is? Seriously?
Travel and empathy work off each other. Connecting with yourself makes you learn about yourself. The more you know about yourself, the more you can relate to others, feel their struggles, fears, joys and triumphs. Feel the other person’s emotions and thoughts. Put yourself in their shoes. Understand that we’re all connected and not in a phony corporate ‘we’re in this together’ way, but genuinely, humanly connected! Empathy while traveling immediately reduces the desire to be maniacally egotistical. Relating to another person from another part of the world is not only rewarding but the energy you put into acknowledging, listening, looking, and understanding another people and culture is an unmatched learning experience, breeds faith in humanity through love and respect.
“You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.”
— Anthony Bourdain
Another biggie. For me, travel is about learning, growing, and renewing a love for culture and the exchange of ideas and experiences between people. It’s about traveling responsibly, respecting the environment, the surroundings, and the locals who live on the land you’re privileged enough to visit. It’s about being open to trying new things, and flavours, opening your eyes and spirit to enhance the travel experience for everyone!
It’s not about going to a place and destroying it, devaluing it, and knowingly disrespecting it. Because you know who does that? Spring breakers, that’s who. People who feel that just because they’re on vacation, they’re anonymous and in turn, not accountable for their actions. Sometimes, they even treat everyone like inferior beings who will clean up after them. There are plenty of disrespectful travel examples to pick from worldwide, ranging from completely uprooting plants and flowers from private farmers’ fields to gleefully posing with groups of friends at symbolic memorial and disaster sites, all for the sake of a staged picture and a phony selfie. Selfish, self-absorbed attitudes and behaviours are transparent, and people are increasingly seeing right through them, including locals who can’t and shouldn’t tolerate it going forward. Here’s to hoping respect prevails, with a pinch of realness. Because, in the end, people who care about something don’t tend to disrespect it.
“Happiness depends upon ourselves”.
It’s been said that ‘influencers’ have ruined gratitude. On social media, the term ‘gratitude’ really means humble (and sometimes not-so humble) bragging about where they are, what they’re doing and what they’re wearing. Posing on a yacht or modeling the latest fashion is nice but I often wonder if the same people who use the term ‘grateful’ to describe those experiences also use the term to describe a clean glass of drinking water, running water in general, electricity on demand, family, friends and oh ya, health. If so, where are those photos on their feed?
‘Grateful’ loses its meaning after repeated use, especially when it looks and feels staged and phony. Sure, you should be grateful for the chance to hang on a yacht in the Mediterranean, but if gratitude conveyed is transparent, it becomes unbelievable. Instead, it comes across as arrogance masked in insecurity, wrapped in starved for attention.
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
— Gustave Flaubert
For years, ‘influencers’ from all walks of life have made headlines worldwide about their outlandish false sense of importance. I always get a chuckle out of people asking hotels for free accommodations in exchange for ‘exposure’ or a family restaurant for free food in exchange for the false promise of more business down the road. Thankfully, businesses worldwide have caught on to this total lack of common sense and have blasted back. Again, I’m not a fan of public shaming but calling people out on their lack of humanity is a pleasure.
The problem is, it feels as if we are living in a society full of self-proclaimed, self-important, fame-craved people who always seem to want to out-brag and out-do the other. Adversity, resilience, experiences all breed humility. The feeling of being grounded, leveled is a liberating one. Here’s to hoping that the truly challenging experiences we’ve all collectively been through in 2020, makes us a bit more humble and truly grateful when travel resumes.
“Travel is rich with learning opportunities, and the ultimate souvenir is a broader perspective.”
— Rick Steves
When Covid-19 really ramped up, there are some who didn’t take it seriously at all, others who hoarded toilet paper of all things and those who prioritized what was truly important in life. I noticed more families taking walks together, cooking together, singing together and ensuring that family and friends were safe and healthy. Again, it’s too bad it had to take something like a global pandemic, but this re-energized, renewed and appreciated swath of perspective was welcoming, refreshing and reassuring!
Question is, will perspective stick around? Have enough people been personally affected by something has big as a pandemic to keep it alive and well post-Covid? Will it prevail when it comes to travel?
Re-defining the term “Influencer”
“When eating bamboo sprouts, remember the man who planted them.”
— Chinese Proverb
I’ve spent over 20 years in the media world, creating content for several national TV networks and collaborating with other internationally respected brands. My experience, I would think, is invaluable. Thankfully, I’ve been hired to represent plenty of brands responsibly, ethically and respectfully. But, many times, a large number of followers on social media out-value years of experience.
No doubt, there’s something to be said about hiring an “Influencer” with a large social media following with the aim of reaching as many people as possible. In theory, more followers means more exposure, which means more chances of more people spending more money on the product or place being promoted. It’s business. But, there’s also something to be said about making a smart hire, ensuring that that “influencer” doesn’t do or say anything that makes the client look stupid, by doing something like, you know, creating a staged photo of themselves dancing on the graves of Holocaust victims, for say, a new energy drink. Just sayin’.
Here’s to hoping the “Influencer” is someone who possesses many of the qualities illustrated above. Plenty of perspective to understand the depth of a moment and an experience, a touch of humility to realize that everyone and everything should be treated with respect and empathy, and lastly a sense of gratitude to understand that travel is not a right but it’s a privilege.
Thanks for making it all the way to the end of the article. Hope you enjoyed it and are planning your next trip. I’ve been grateful to get the chance to work with dozens of travel brands and tourism boards worldwide. Spent 16 years in TV and for the past 12 years, I’ve been developing content for organizations like Lonely Planet, Tourism Toronto, Copenhagen Tourism and the Athens Authentic Marathon. Thank you and keep coming back for more travel inspiration.