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The Travel Writer's Conundrum: To Reveal a Place or Not?

British Columbia Camping
by Carlo Alcos May 16, 2012
What is our responsibility, to nature, to ourselves, to each other?

WE WERE ALONE, my partner and I. For the second summer in a row, we were the lone campers in a beautiful, free campground in the Slocan Valley. It sits atop smooth gray rock — perfect platforms for jumping into the clear, green-blue cold lake on a hot day. Granted, it’s early in the season (and last year we were there late in the season), but still, it was 28°C / 82°F during the day. Where was everyone?

Not that we cared. We had free run of the place — our choice of any of the 10 neatly maintained sites, our choice to lay down a blanket on any part of the small beach or rocky perches, uninterrupted access to some of the nicest outhouses I’ve ever used (designer wooden seats, lots of TP, air freshener). We were even free to bask in the buff for a good chunk of time (a kayaker did come round the bend at one point, but promptly did a 180 after seeing a pair of bare bums).

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And the thing is, this place isn’t really a secret. Most people who live in this area of the Kootenays in BC know about it. Lots of travelers / road-trippers pass by it all the time, but the turn off is unsigned (someone must have removed it at some point because one website with instructions to it indicated to turn at the sign). If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t go.

Sure, I could tell you that from the town of _________, head south for ___ kms, then turn right to head down to the parking lot where the trailhead to the walk-in only campsites is. But then I’d be ruining it for the people that live here.

I’d be ruining it for nature, enlarging our footprint (pardon the pun) on the environment, maybe increasing the risk of forest fires and water pollution. No one needs that, right? Besides, as a traveler, if you were to engage with “the locals” and learn about such a place, then find it on your own (or, even better, with said locals) wouldn’t that be much more satisfying?

In my life I’ve learned that to really help people, you should empower them and support them to find answers for themselves. When you provide the answers, even though it may seem helpful, it actually does a disservice to them because they don’t learn to deal with the problem themselves. Think of your mom (or dad) doing your laundry for you growing up. Great, right? Not when you go off on your own and have no idea how to use a washer and dryer.

So think of this — my not telling you where this place of amazing beauty and serenity is — as my gift to you. No need to thank me, the thought of your exuberant smiles when you discover this on your own is enough for me.

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