Journeys that Matter
By Untraveled Founder Florian Herrmann
When I traveled around the world in my early 20s, I always appreciated the sincerity of destinations, unique landscapes, local cuisine, cultural events, and of course great weather. And as a German, I love warm and sunny weather. But that wasn’t everything. That wasn’t the thing that mattered most about my journeys.
My first travels were with my parents, and I still remember our time on the French coast near Bordeaux like it was yesterday. I am still motivated by the memory of visiting a French farm where the local owners welcomed us into their point of view. They shared their culture and lifestyle, how they thought, and what they did every day to make lives better. This connection has remained deeply important to me. Travel changes the way we see the world.
Travel is nothing less than a cultural exchange where we share values with others, learn from each other, and build an experience we will never forget.
I believe that travel is the best education to make us better stewards of this planet. It can transform us.
My very first job in college was in a restaurant in Moneglia, Cinque Terre in northern Italy. I wasn’t just learning about Italian cuisine and and tasting local foods all day; I was also interacting in Italian and learning about how they present their culture to visitors. Serving international guests great Italian meals, running through the restaurant 14 hours a day through the sweaty summer was by far the hardest job I have had in my life.
I made the most of my rare days off hiking along the scenic rocky coast of Cinque Terre on world-famous trails. These trails took me along the edge of the Appenin, Italy’s most impressive mountain range. It was over 30 degrees celsius and most of the Italian visitors were sunbathing on the Cinque Terre coast, but I was hiking from village to village, drinking in the mountain views and wine from vineyards along the way. It was sweaty, but I didn’t mind. Thanks to the hot summer temperatures, I had the trails to myself. I had the opportunity to talk to the locals and and get their recommendations on the best trails (the ones with shade) and where I could fill up with water and taste Italian wine.
I have fond, formative memories of those days in Cinque Terre. However, things have dramatically changed.
The last time I visited the Cinque Terre, trails were overrun—some even closed to the public due to the overuse by international crowds that had discovered these special places. In recent years, innumerable people “heard” online about these trails, flooded the small communities, and hiked a few miles down a trail to find the best selfie spot. I was shocked. The local atmosphere and culture had been disappearing as group after group hiked along these sensitive trails. Not only do they leave waste behind on the trails, they also take advantage. I was sorely disappointed when I heard from local wine growers and farmers that hikers were stealing grapes and lemons from their gardens. This was the first time I heard of the locals hating the tourists.
That return visit to Cinque Terre, Italy, was a wake up call for me.
I want to be involved in tourism because I believe it can make this a better world. But over tourism has had the opposite effect. I was so disheartened to see this impact on Cinque Terre’s people that I began questioning if tourism could positively benefit individuals and communities like it did when I was younger.
I decided it is time to take action to combat over tourism and its effects.
I identified two roots to the over-tourism problem: first, a common misunderstanding about the best time to visit any given destination and second, a lack of appreciation for what tourism can do for a small community.
Visitation can be powerful when it’s spread over a year, across the countless destinations on Earth. Tourism can save the life of a small village, but only if a visitors spends all their money within the community. Travelers aren’t informed of these considerations when they book a package with a large tour operator or purchase a package online. Rather than going online and just booking a trip, I believe visitors should better understand what travel to these communities is all about.
That’s why we are building a community that embraces these values: encouraging travel to places that are untraveled, at optimum times of the year, to provide the maximum impact for host communities.
In the end, life is all about connecting with others and contributing. We hope we can inspire you to become one of these stewards with whom we can share meaningful travel stories, itineraries, and trip ideas to enhance sustainable travel at its core.