It seems very rare to find a travel blog that reports on a disappointing destination or experience. Perhaps bloggers are more motivated to write about a great place. It is also possible that many travel bloggers are sponsored in some way and feel obligated to give a complimentary if not glowing review of their experiences. Since I am not sponsored in anyway I am going to forge into the report of a disappointing trip. My Google search produced this list: 30 Most Disappointing Travel Destinations .
An interesting common denominator with many of these destinations was too many “tourists” or a “touristy atmosphere”.
Tourist vs Traveller
As a travel blogger I have experienced an identity-crisis about being a “traveler” versus a “tourist”. Within the travel blogger community there is a definite disdain for the “tourist” . According to this USA Today article, Tourist vs Traveller, a tourist looks to stay in their comfort zone and visit the predictable and controlled destination. The traveler seeks immersion or a more genuine local cultural experience.
I can imagine that we have all met the traveler that really has no desire to learn or understand another culture. On the other hand we have met the nomads that absorb and love every experience and culuture.
The relevance of this discussion is that I believe that if I am a true traveler I will love every place I visit. I want to be known as a traveler rather than a tourist but after my last trip, I fear that I am not as evolved as I had hoped. Because I am not yet a “location independent nomadic wanderer” I am still looking for the best experience and value for my money. I have to return home to a job and family so I need the experience to be more pleasurable than miserable. While accommodations or certain details may fall short, I can usually find the trip an overall redeemable experience if I met interesting people or learned fascinating things. I assumed that as I grew ever more experienced at traveling and planning trips that there would never be a dud, we would never find a disappointing destination.
Here is the truth….of course there are going to be some duds.
Grand Turk Island
Our recent trip to Grand Turk, a smaller island in the archipelago of Turks and Caicos, was a dud. We chose this destination for the diving. The diving was mediocre but typical for Caribbean destinations. What often makes predictable Caribbean diving extraordinary is the quality of the dive group we work with. That being said, this group was not extraordinary. They seemed to suffer from the same malaise that infected the whole island. We discovered that there is a difference between island-time and a depressed apathetic culture.
The pictures I took made it seem to be an unparalleled paradise. I really wanted it to be and tried desperately to love this island. We travel frequently to small remote island nations and have experienced the simple island culture. But usually, we find the people welcoming and extremely proud of their homeland.
Cruise Industry Backwash
But the beauty of this island was a thinly veiled shell around an island that had sold its soul to the cruise ship industry. The island completely shut down when the cruise ships left and the locals made it clear that they resented all visitors.
The interior of the island was filthy with trash, wild dogs, wild mules and their respective droppings. The poverty and despondency was obviously crushing for the people that lived there. Food and shelter was scarce. Perhaps this island was charming and quaint before the explosion of the cruise industry but that seems hopelessly buried now. I can only assume that someone somewhere is getting rich from the cruise tourists but nothing is trickling down to the people of this little island.
Finally,I leave you with this sad image. One day on our way to the dive boat we found the road blocked. During the night this quaint historic library (the only one on the island) was set on fire. The local residents on our boat shared their opinion.
“…probably the local kids did this, it was never open anyway and I never knew anyone to go in there.”
I have a special spot in my heart for libraries and I feel a community’s level of self-respect can be gauged by its respect for learning and knowledge. Destroying a library speaks volumes.
So yes there are disappointing destinations.