Travel | The dark side of tourism | Tulum
Traveling has a way of opening our minds and giving us a new perception, it exposes us to new places, people and cultures that we may have never heard of. It can be a beautiful reminder that the “disconnect” we have created from one another lives only in the social constructs we have built in our minds. We are bound together in the greater scheme of life and must take ownership and responsibility for the part we play.
Like everything else in life, there needs to be a level of mindfulness and balance in travelling. Especially in our social and digital age where the lines between reality and our secondary world of technology is blurred. When we forget to question and start to blindly assume, we succumb to ignorance and create a negative cycle. Our world is through our devices now, and rarely do we ever stop to think about what goes on behind the screen. Let’s take a look at the beautiful trending boho hotspot that’s currently home to a mix of locals, surfers, digital nomads, and influencers.
A place where the salt water is clearer than the sink water. A place that blurs the line between ancient culture and modern rhythm. A place like Tulum. Over the past decade, the small fishing village managed to remain a local hidden paradise away from the popular and very tourist influenced Cancun.
Known for its white sand beaches, crystal blue waters, and ancient Mayan ruins; Tulum was a no man’s land hideaway. But that’s all in the past now. In recent years, Tulum has emerged as the ultimate luxury tropical getaway. Where there was once nothing but sand and palm trees now lies vegan restaurants, boho beach clubs, bespoke boutiques, and recurrent vibes in every possible direction you turn. Attracting a new kind of tourist wave and with it, a new kind of Tulum.
It is our natural instinct to believe what we see with our eyes, it is much more difficult to step back and look at something through a different lens. What social media does not show us is the devastating effects the recent wave of tourism has had on the local Tulum community. Where there was once a harmony between humans and our natural surroundings, there is now a very wide and disconnected gap between man-made structures and hints of natural ambiance.
Imagine a small quiet fishing village that does not really have structure or foundation but rather just empty beautiful beaches that stretch for miles. Now imagine all that space being taken up by hotels overnight. Not only does it create a lot of foot traffic on the ecological side, it’s also providing job potentials for outsiders. The locals aren’t the ones who get employed or have the big businesses in town, they are expected to stand to the side and watch their neighbourhood vanish before their eyes. Gentrification at it’s finest!
The environment is also suffering as a result of our human presence that only serves our own best interest. The sea turtle population has been so greatly affected by the over saturation of tourists that they have actually closed off sections of habitat to visitors. What once was a haven for turtles to hatch and find their way into the sea is now a death zone of foot and vehicle traffic that has greatly impacted a natural cycle of life.
The coastline is eroding at an alarming rate from the lack of foundation it has to support all these new building projects. Out of a desperate attempt to keep up with the tourist boom, hotels are dumping sewage into the city’s aquifer system, running diesel generators that are crippling the environment, and last but definitely not least we have our catastrophic creation of the great Tulum trash pit.
This is one of those situations where when you hear “pollution” it seems so far off in the distance that it can’t possibly come back to hurt us. But when you experience it firsthand and witness the unimaginable amount we have piled up, your heart shatters and your mind quickly starts to try to find reason behind it. The forests are now as populated with trash as they are with vegetation. There is literally a clearing allocated for hotel’s to dump their trash since they could not anticipate the amount of human activity that would result from the tourism boom.
There is no blame to go around, we are all equally responsible for this crisis just as we are all responsible to find a solution together. And that’s exactly what we intend to do as a brand that aims to shift the way we think about traveling into a more sustainable and eco conscious narrative so that places like Tulum can be around for centuries instead of a decade.
Traveling can be one of the biggest tools we can use in gaining consciousness of ourselves, each other, and our planet. If we can understand our role in going to a place and how it will affect that area and its people, culture, and ecological situation then we can utilize our talents and interests to implement them in a positive way. If you are a travel blogger, or someone that is attracted to the laid back lifestyle that a place like Tulum brings then by all means go and experience that! But do it in a way that benefits both you and Tulum.
When you visit, go check out a local store or help pickup some of the trash that has become the breadcrumbs of our human presence. When you go to book hotels, ask about how they handle their sewage or generate their electricity. When you go to a restaurant ask where they source their food, is it locally sourced and going back to the community? Stop assuming and start asking the questions that can change everything. Consciously Connected Travel asks the questions to align with the right partners and people. From hotels, to experience designers, local trailblazers and businesses that can support in providing you with a truly authentic travel experience. We also spend a large amount of time delving deeper to understand what lies beneath the surface, so we can ensure our funds and resources go where it’s needed most. Travelling with us means you are travelling with purpose and creating a catalyst for real, impactful, long-lasting, much needed change.
Play your part by sharing local stories that give a more authentic narrative of Tulum, not just the one we have recently created. Think of that place like a person, with all of these morals and values and communities that make it special and attracted you to it in the first place, and help preserve that, fight for that!
Let’s become champions, protectors, advocates of those places rather than posting another picture that pleases the eye and tricks the soul. We have the platform and the power to really impact destinations like Tulum positively by bringing attention to the areas that need our assistance. Let’s set the example of mindful travel, who prioritises a sustainable and eco conscious lifestyle and wants to leave each place we travel better than we found it.