Tourism - A Double Edged Sword
Another photo from Skye - I hiked up to the Old Man of Storr on the Trotternish Ridge. I went in November - the weather wasn't the best (I hiked in a hail storm) but crowds were gone. I don't do well with crowds in nature. Crowds in a city are different - I expect them there and I am in control of how long I'll be in that environment. When I go out to be in the wild, I'm in a different mindset. But I know many people can only go in the summer - I don't begrudge folks for being there, I just prefer the off season (I thought I'd better clarify before you picture me lingering in the bushes muttering to myself about "tourists").
I am not yet fortunate enough to live full time in Scotland. And while I don't think of myself as a tourist after all the time I've spent in Scotland and all the friends I have there, at the heart of it all I am. I've lived in places in the States where I was the local just trying to get to work in the morning and trying to be patient with all the visitors who were causing traffic and parking nightmares. I always tried to remind myself that these people were coming to visit for the same reason I was living there - the amazing natural beauty. And that if they weren't there, I wouldn't have the dream job I had telling people stories of history and teaching them about coins and treasure hunting and sea glass in a beachside shop (Cannon Beach Treasure Company) that sold sunken and buried treasure from around the world. I loved that job and my employers changed my life, teaching me life lessons, drawing out the strong independent woman they knew I was, and becoming 2 of the truest friends I've ever had. I digress, but I love you Robert and April!
Back to my point - tourism is a double edged sword, and it takes effort from all sides to achieve a harmonious balance between locals and visitors. It is easy to be annoyed with the "grumpy locals" but remember - they are trying to live their lives. And its easy to be irritated with the tourists but remember, they are having the experience of a lifetime. But respect is so vital - what do we all have in common - we value the place we are visiting. So don't walk off the path when the polite signs ask you not to. Don't park in someone's driveway when the parking lots are full. Don't dump your trash on the trail. Clean up after your dog. Close the gates behind you to protect a farmer's livelihood from escaping. Buy from the local shops. Smile at people, be friendly. And lets not forget about challenging the government and tourism agencies to step up and problem solve to help create and fund infrastructure that can meet the needs of growing tourism. Whenever possible, lets rolls up our sleeves and say - what can I do to address this problem?
Anyway - I don't have the answers. I only have musings. But lets keep our ears open and listen to one another.