Thursday 26 June 2014

The Ugly Side of Tourism

Still bodies the coloured of cooked lobster lined the beach. The wide bank of golden sand was covered with row after row of plastic sun beds. I weave through the maze of sun-worshippers, away from the beach and onto a walkway dotted with countless restaurants, bars and night-clubs. The footpath arcs into a far reaching semi-circle, following the beach ubiquitously surrounded by flashing neon signs and food menus displayed in multiple languages and priced in different currencies. 

There were touting waiters attired in crisp, white shirts and black trousers. “Hello! Where are you from?”. “Free cocktails for you, girls!” “Come join me for dinner”. I walked with purpose; my sole aim was to visit Antik Side, an ancient city situated on a peninsula with a harbour that was once a bustling port during the Roman Era. Submerged in history, Side became a haven for both pirates and slave-traders in 2nd century BC. Occupied by Alexandra the Great in 333 BC and consequently falling under Egyptian occupation, I couldn’t wait to soak in the ruins and the deep-rooted history in the area.

The evening brought a gentle coolness to the air. Upon reaching the end of the boardwalk, the ruins of the Temple of Apollo bobbed into view. The magnificent white columns rose above Side with the Mediterranean Sea a mere stone throw away. Large chunks of engraved marble stones were scattered by the boardwalk.

 The temple was surrounded by a large mental fence, protecting the historical site yet also detracting from the beauty of it. It came to light that the Turkish authority were now charging for entry as a means of preserving the site. We appreciated the beauty of the site from the outside and continued to make our way from the harbour into main centre of Antik Side. The high street was buzzing with activity; the restaurants filled up with evening trade with the beach crowds descending into town.

With every corner I turned, I felt like I was in an unchanging maze. The same flashing signs advertising day tours, Turkish hammans and cheap alcohol. The shop fronts lined with sunglasses, fridge magnets and t-shirts. 

I pictured Antik Side as a charming harbour brimming with history. There was indeed the Monumental Gate, the City Walls, and the Theatre yet the unprecedented growth in tourism created a sprawl of shops and restaurants surrounding the area. 
There was chart music booming from bars and I felt I couldn’t have a quiet stroll through the centre without being overwhelmed by constant badgering from touts advertising restaurants and souvenirs. 

From an ancient city to a resort town, the boom of tourism has gradually chipped away at the historical character of Side.  The previously free historical ruins have converted to a payable attraction and the harbour is now surrounded by florid hotels instead of landscape. The growth of tourism is a double edged sword, with economic prosperity comes the gradual loss of the local character of an area. I couldn’t help but wonder if I experienced ‘real Turkey’ during my holiday or a watered down version of it.

Monday 9 June 2014

7 Things People Don't Tell You About Travelling

This blog post will detail 7 things people don't tell you about travelling. We're often projected a very one sided view of travelling. Behind the paradise photo of a white sand beach was a 9 hour bus ride. A round the world trip cloaked in glory yet marred by cheap transportation and thread bare hostels. This post will reveal the hidden side to it all.

1. Skepticism
There is skepticism that occurs pre and post travelling. I constantly get asked questions such as 'Are you going alone?' 'Are you crazy?' 'What about XXX?' I accrue a mixture of worry from my parents and questions of 'you're going again?' from my closest friends. Others describe me as a 'dark horse' or think its quite unexpected for me to do these things. Perhaps I haven't quite shaken off my 'quiet girl aura' from my school days. I don't don dreadlocks, Harlem pants and traveller bracelets  and I haven't tattooed foreign symbols all over my arms. It does crush me when my family don't support what I love, but it doesn't matter. Travelling will always attract a degree of skepticism from others. Never mind what others think, I want you to break through any assumptions or judgements, and do what you desire. 

2. The wondering and bewilderment 
Let us be frank. There is no such thing as a seasoned traveller. You're just another individual propelled by wanderlust to a unknown destination. No matter how many times you do it, there is always the bewilderment. I was in a completely deserted location in Portugal, praying for a bus to come. Bradt guides said buses were unreliable. Why is no one here? Why are there no cars? All I could do was wait and hope. The bus arrived in the end after I convinced myself I was stranded. These situations happen endlessly when you travel, I want you to quash the doubts and dance with uncertainty!
3. Budget 
On social media we are projected the beauty of travelling through photos. Behind any long term trip is the hidden cost of living. There are 30 bed dorms, rickety buses and the same few  t-shirts that were worn over and over again. I budgeted on £15 a day for my coast to coast walk and on cold days I was envious of the other walkers who stayed in hotels/B&B's when I could only afford to camp. 
4. Scars
Away from home and liberated from the technology that keeps you stationary, travelling inevitably gives you scars. Mosquitos take your blood unwillingly and leave you with scars. I've got scratches from maintaining monkey enclosures in South Africa and purple toenails from excessive walking. All part of the travel experience I say! 

5. The non chalent attitudes upon returning.
On returning back to the UK, I burst with a renewed zest for life, I love and appreciate everything more then I ever did before. It is cliche but I do believe travelling is soul searching. On reuniting with friends, I do find it a little saddening when friends/peers forget where I've gone or have little to no interest.The conversation would go from 'how was *insert country*? Then revert very quickly back to a trivial topic. This doesn't bother me as much anymore, please remember that if it's valuable to you, it doesn't need to be valuable to anyone else. 
6. The travel companion 
One thing I'm sure of, finding a compatible travel companion is very, very difficult. You are outside your comfort zone with no idea how to get to your target destination. There will be conflicting interests, different comfort levels and an inherit annoyance for each other when things start going wrong. Don't let this stop you from doing what you want to do. Talk through any issues with travel buddies before they boil over or go alone, it's one of the most liberating things you will ever do. 
7. The desperate yearning  to repeat it all again.
Like a indistinguishable fire that burns inside, the desire to do it all over again is ever present. I work full time now, but 40 hours should never define who you are. Throw in spontaneous evenings, wander free for the weekends and fully embrace the holiday days you have.