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Just past noon on a cloudy, gusty day a few weeks ago, I found myself perched on a ladder attached to the side of a cliff about 200 feet off the ground. My legs were trembling like a couple of leaves in the wind. And I wasn't attached to a rope.
The photo above shows the view I had at that moment, with one exception: that's Brad, my mountain guide, up ahead, moving with cat-like ease up the ladder. The exception is the neon-colored rope, which you can see running along one side. We weren't using it for the first couple of ladders, because I had told Brad that I'd be cool without it (lol). When my legs started to shake, he very generously passed me the line, which is what finally gave me the comfort to get out my phone and take that photo.
I was on that ladder for work, technically speaking, but I was also there as a tourist. You might even call me a doom tourist, although I know that sounds kind of grim. I'm trying to understand how climate change is affecting tourist destinations like the Mer de Glace, the shrinking glacier that lay below me as I stood trembling on that ladder. Does visiting a destination that's disappearing change our perceptions of the world, and our place in it?
I still don't have a full answer to that question, but one thing I can say for sure is that the adrenaline on the ladders was 100% worth it. At the top of the cliff, Brad and I paused for a picnic lunch on a grassy ledge, from which we enjoyed the view that you can see in the photo below. It's a beautiful and imposing glacial wilderness — a landscape that my grandchildren, if I have any, will probably never see.
Worth a read
So many problems in tourism arise from a mismatch between supply and demand. Desperate to restart its tourism industry, Hong Kong is planning to give away half a million airline tickets to lure visitors back. Meanwhile, a village in Spain has turned down the label of "most beautiful" because it says it's not ready to welcome the tourist onslaught that would result.
I've been to the Balkans only once, but the book I'm that currently enjoying — My Family and Other Enemies: Life and Travels in Croatia's Hinterland — is giving me an itch to go back. Written by the journalist Mary Novakovich, an ethnic Serb with family roots in Croatia, the book doesn't shy away from the complex (and sometimes violent) recent history of this part of the world, which has lately become so popular with visitors. Novakovich explores the food and culture of the region, while also revealing how her family has been upended by the conflict. It's the kind of thoughtful and informed travel writing that I'd love to see more of.
Worth a watch
Gordon Ramsay's reputation as fire-breathing asshole hasn't exactly made me warm to him over the years... so I've been surprised to discover how endearing I find him in Uncharted, his cooking-cum-travel show for NatGeo/Disney+, which sees Ramsay scaling a cliff in Peru, cast-net fishing in Laos, and rappelling down a waterfall in Morocco (in search of mushrooms, obviously). It's a fun watch.
After having devoured Season 1 of The White Lotus— a show that skewers the micro-dramas of the über-wealthy on vacation — I'm dying to watch Season 2, which is out now on HBOMax, this time set in Sicily. But I can't figure out how to stream it in France! (If you have a tip, let me know.)
In the meantime, I enjoyed this conversation between The New Yorker writer Naomi Fry (who, btw, is an absolute joy to follow on both Twitter and Instagram) and the creator of The White Lotus, Mike White, for The New Yorker Radio Hour.
Worth a listen
If you haven't come across the Zero to Travel Podcast, you're in for a treat. Host Jason Moore has had all sorts of fascinating explorers, writers, and entrepreneurs on the show over years. And his episodes have been downloaded more than 8 million (!) times, so he's clearly onto a good thing. Jason was kind enough to invite me on his show recently to talk about a few travel trends that I've been following in my reporting. I had a lot of fun recording that one.
Closer to home, Rick Steves, pictured below, made a return appearance on The Better Travel Podcast to talk about filming his "opus magnum" — his brand new (and free to watch!) TV series about European art.
Also for the podcast, I got to speak to Manisha Pande, an Indian entrepreneur who founded a tour company with the explicit aim of helping villages benefit from tourism. I feel so privileged to have the chance to share stories like Manisha's, which (I hope) might inspire people working in tourism in other parts of the world.