People often talk about wanting to leave a place exactly the same way that you found it so that it is preserved for future generations. While it sounds like an ideal goal, there are a lot of factors that make that pretty much impossible. We have been fortunate enough to have visited a couple of indigenous villages that try to remain as untouched as possible, but just our arrival to their village will leave an impact. It isn’t limited to remote locations, every place that you visit, your presence and the decisions that you make have impacts that you are likely unaware of.
For example, when we went to visit an Embera village in Panama, our guide purposely took us to one of the further villages that isn’t visited as often. Our decision to buy or not buy crafts can change the prosperity and status of the village compared to those in the area. The fact that they are selling crafts to tourists is a change to their lifestyles. How they see us dressed, the conversations that we have with them, the information that we share, all had potential consequences long after we left the village. The women of the Embera villages now where tops when they previously didn’t just because of the tourists that were visiting them and conforming to their cultural norms.
Even when going to major cities, the decisions that we make to visit a particular site or not visit can determine whether a site remains available in the future. There are places where visitors are starting to be limited because of the concern over the damage being caused such as Machu Picchu and Everest Base Camp. Even the conversations that you have once you return home, the places that you recommend, the off-the-beaten path locations that you describe can have determine whether more people return in your wake.
We all know that traveling changes us, makes us world citizens, but we don’t often think of the impact that we make upon the places that we visit. We aren’t suggesting that you stop traveling and there is nothing wrong with trying to limit the changes that your visit will cause, but it isn’t possible to visit a place without leaving a footprint. Have you ever thought about how your travel has changed the world instead of just how it has changed yourself?
Traveling to places can be overwhelming at times as there is so much to see and learn about a location. Like most people, we will read information about a destination and will get pamphlets, maps, and other materials as we visit specific sites. That doesn’t mean that when we get back, we will remember everything we read or learned about a place, especially for some of the lesser known buildings or even specific pieces of art. Therefore, we will often take a photo of a sign or plaque to help remind us about a place or item after we get home. We often find these photos to be very helpful as we look back at pictures of our trip and need a little help in remembering some of the specifics. Do you take photographs of signs and plaques during your trips?
Yesterday’s tragic events in Paris serve as a reminder as to how fragile the places that we visit can be. Whether due to natural disasters or man-made events, many of the locations that we treasure can be damaged at some point in the future. The photographs that we, as travelers, capture can do more than just serve as a reminder of the time that we have spent in a place. Ultimately, some of these can serve to document the beauty of a place that perhaps may be lost in the future. Obviously, for extremely popular locations, there can be many photographs that exist to memorialize a location from many different perspectives. With that said, there are some places that are less frequented by travelers and tourists and the images that we capture and the experiences that we share serve not only to educate others about the location, but document them for future generations as well.
Although it certainly isn’t are intention to take photographs for historical purposes when we travel, we have definitely seen a variety of places and been able to take photographs that we will treasure forever and that we share via our site. We have seen places like Tiwanaku riddled with bullet holes because the army used the statues for target practice. Walking along the Great Pyramids of Giza, you will find graffiti on the stones that have stood there for thousands of years. Acts of vandalism occur with some frequency around the world. Some of these are easily remedied and others take an effort that is either costly or time consuming.
Hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, and other natural disasters have also changed places, both the buildings as well as the landscape, throughout the world. Having photographs before, during, and after such events allow us to truly understand the forces of nature and how the effect the world. Also, have you ever gone into a restaurant with photographs of a city from a hundred years ago up to the current day? We find those images fascinating and to be a visual timeline of a place. Whether intentional or not, all of us who travel and photograph the places that we visit are creating a visual documentation of those locations that can be shared for years to come.