“I’m leaving Utila tomorrow” I said plainly to Juan, “it’s been a pleasure knowing you.”
“Good, get out of here, you’re one of the good ones,” he replied as we shook hands for the last time and parted ways.
I’d spent a few evenings with Juan playing pool and breaking bread. I found the man and his life interesting, his perspective on his home island of UtilaHonduras however, just made me sad. He felt like the heart had been ripped out, laid on a platter, and served to the tourists.
It wasn’t the first, nor the last time I’d hear lamenting by a local over what had once been a paradise.
The discussion was brought up recently in an etramping.com article questioning if the name backpacker has taken on a new connotation, a rather negative one. While I didn’t necessarily agree with everything in the article, I found it echoed some of the things I was feeling throughout my own adventures. It has become more and more clear the longer I travel and the more places I see that there is good tourism and bad tourism.
I’ve actually taken a point of asking locals quite frequently if they felt that tourism in their area had done harm or been of benefit, and what they think the future holds. This article is a collection of some of the feelings that have been shared with me as well as my observations.
I can’t deny that I’ve occasionally been part of the problem I’ll describe, particularly on my first trip in Asia, but I do my best now to do good rather than bad where it’s possible.
It’s often talked about how tourism in some countries can contribute significant dollars to a small economy and help to bring people out of poverty. It is true, I’ve met families who’s farms and lives are made better by tourism dollars……..