Hello from the forest! I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on recent hikes, and wanted to chat about something. From time to time readers ask me why I don’t post more detailed directions to the places I visit. Its a great question! I would sum it up with 3 words: Curiosity, Safety and Sustainability.
I hope to foster curiosity. Curiosity is too often a casualty of adulthood. As we grow older and more responsible, we must plan. We must have lists. We must have everything timed out. We must see all the beautiful, amazing things! But little room is left for the unexpected, for “wow what is that!?”, for meeting an interesting person and talking for hours, for detours. If we approach our adventures with childlike curiosity, we might just do more of things we authentically want to do, and learn more about ourselves along the way.
Of course there are many people who only have a small window for the trip of a lifetime, and want to soak up as much as they can. Thats ok! And some people feel stressed when they don’t have a plan which I absolutely understand! My style of travel isn’t for everyone. I’m simply encouraging folks to leave the door open a crack for curiosity and spontaneity, and be open to the possibility of not doing everything you set out to do if something else comes up along the way.
As a woman who almost exclusively wanders the countryside alone, I really have to keep my safety in mind. So I don’t post in real time and I don’t post my locations in advance. I love to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I’m not going to let my guard down just because “Scotland is a safe country.” No matter where you are on this planet, it just takes one person with bad intentions. I have also received violent threats and there are people I do not want knowing my location. I won’t live my life in fear, we face risk every time we get out of bed. But we can use some common sense and some safeguards to mitigate those risks. (After a request from a lovely reader I am working on an article to dig deeper into what I do to help keep myself safe.)
But its not just my safety I am concerned about. I often visit places that come with hazards, and I am confident in my ability to assess and navigate them. But I worry that in depth directions to some places will create a false sense of security and be interpreted that care need not be taken.
The internet has changed travel. Whatever your interest might be, you can find it online. How awesome is it that we have access to a resource with so many talented, insightful creators! But sometimes this ends up driving masses of people to areas that just don’t have the infrastructure to cope (Skye and the NC500 are just a couple of examples where I have experienced this firsthand and through stories from friends who live there.)
Famous places are usually famous for a good reason, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to see them - that is also embracing curiosity after all!
But as the years have passed and my platform grows, I feel an increasing responsibility to be more mindful about the potential impact my posts can have on the places I visit. I have deep respect for the locals as I pass through their homelands, and I’m so grateful for their welcoming attitudes. It doesn’t feel right to repay their hospitality by barreling through like a collective tourist bulldozer, just long enough to leave trash, cause traffic jams, speed up erosion, disrupt their tranquility. Often they are left with with more problems and minimal benefit to show for it.
I just would feel horrible to think I was part of the problem. And since my aversion to crowds tends to make me gravitate towards less trafficked places, I embrace this and simply share my journey, using my platform to cultivate themes of slowing down and enjoying, getting off the beaten path, immersing yourself, supporting the local economy, learning the heritage, getting to know people, etc.
So when I decline to post GPS coordinates or step by step directions, its not because I’m gatekeeping, or being difficult. I just believe a big part of the fun is doing the research on your own to explore. I will happily help someone who is planning to visit a place they read about but I don’t post detailed public directions with my posts. I want people to be intrigued by the wandering, the freedom, the spontaneity, behind my wanders, and to be inspired to follow their own spirit to adventure.
Please know that I am NOT disparaging people who create travel guides. They provide a valuable service to many people, including the communities they are promoting. I enjoy reading guides by fellow writers, as they have put a great deal of research and effort into their writing. Sharing these thoughts is not a judgement, its just a glimpse into why I approach things the way I do. I think a balance is what is needed, and there is plenty of room for all of us to share our journeys and our own unique perspectives.
The only way to truly ensure that I don’t contribute to problems is for me to stop sharing my writings and photos from my wanders. To be honest, I have considered that. But I know I’m just a humble drop in the ocean, taking my voice off the internet isn’t going to have some great impact. And writing and sharing brings me joy. So I will strive to do my best to always evaluate the part I play and the example I set. That’s the best we can all do!
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!