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Once We Can Travel Again, What Road Will You Choose to Travel On?

Updated on April 21, 2020
Beata Stasak profile image

Beata works as a qualified primary school teacher, a councillor for drug and alcohol addiction and a farm caretaker for organic olive grow.

Take the road less travelled Alone or with someone close

Just the two of you A lonely planet guide in your back pocket

To guide you through an ancient Bulgarian city

on the plains of Saskatchewan

Or the unspoilt mountains on Polish and Slovak borders

Where no one goes

Use local transport and your common sense

Support local people offering you home made fare

And unique bed and breakfast ancient cottages

You never forget

They teach you the language and their customs

Offering you a glimpse of a real life that you have never known

to exist on our beautiful unique planet Earth

In a place you have never been before

And that no tourist has bothered to visit

Or keep floating on overcrowded vessels

Spreading human waste and germs wherever you go

In every historical port or unspoiled nature spot

Belching after too much food and drink

Feeling full and uncomfortable

And wasted, just like every other

spoilt ageing traveller around you


In places that are exceptionally lovely but fragile

Cramped and badly run

Just like Venice

UNESCO has put most European

historical ports on its list of endangered sites

unless cruises are banned


Venetians have voted for many years now to ban cruise ships

But the cruise ship business is booming

And the tsunami of ageing rich pensioners

Is ever growing. Are you one of them?


Last year just like everyone else around you...

You dreamt of visiting Venice

Strolling through alleys, squares and bridges

Since the best things there

Are free

There is no need to spend money

You just hopped on one of the thousands

of international vessels that ply their trade

Over indulgent, over sized vast cruise ships

With air fares, food, drink and transport paid

In no time, you anchored in the lagoon

And towered over the city of your dreams

You were just one of the of the 700,000 cruise passengers

Who used the port annually


You promised to meet your friends from Europe

On St Mark’s Square

They arrived on buses and trains

Pushing through the other 80,000 travellers who visit the city daily

You were so excited to follow the route from the Rialto Bridge

To the square


The bridge was the hub of the trading empire in the Silk Road times

The merchants of Venice hung around the bridge for information

Promising deals and lost cargoes

“What news on the Rialto?”

“A bloody traffic jam. They closed it.

There is a crack in the middle.

Too many bloody tourists taking selfies on it.”

A fellow Aussie from your cruise ship in his 90s

gets back onto the cruise bus with difficulty.

“Back to the deck to sip a sherry, if you ask me.”


You decide to soldier on

The walk is just a few hundred metres so you decide

to wriggle through the tourist tsunami eastwards

From the business district of the ancient city

Through the narrow passageways and ‘sotoporteghi’

to dream of emerging through the great arch at the base

of the 15th-century clock tower into Venice’s heart


Bad luck - the route is jammed with a slow moving flotilla of tourists

All oblivious to those around them with their headsets on

Listening to their guides in one of the many languages

You become wedged - unable to go forwards or back

The pushing and shoving

The bulging bags and sick body odour of hundreds of sweaty arm pits

The strong elbow of an oversized overweight stranger wedged painfully

into your ribs - you can barely see through the pain

You vomited your huge cruise breakfast on someone's shoulder

and wished to be a thousand miles away from this place, back home.



When you are finally released from this overcrowded smelly cityscape

You forget about the selfie in front of the Basilica 25 million visitors take every year

Rushing back, you nearly knock over bancarelle

one of thousands of cheap souvenir stands that take up every free space

A hawker from South Asia forces you to buy pigeon seed for two euros

To release his tight grip, you throw the seed to the ever present

flock of pigeons, whose piles of excrement are further damaging the old buildings


A scruffy noticeboard that you passed by, was barely visible under stickers, chewing gum and grime

asking tourists not to pollute with waste

Nobody paid much notice

“This is Venice, for goodness sake! I paid with hard earned dollars to get here so let me enjoy it, will you?” A burly man with an American accent stacks his half eaten McDonald's plastic tray on the sign.

Everyone nearby laughed


“They treat Venice like ‘Disneyland’ The gondolier from South Asia sighed as you paid him handsomely with your last dollars, finding refuge at his bancarelle

You watched the dirty stinking water lazily splash while the gondolier pushed on

“ They do not understand, those tourists. Disneyland is sterile and fake and it separates tourists from their money fast. Venice does not raise enough taxes from tourists to even dredge these smelly canals.”


You smiled, replying: “Imagine when passport ownership in China reaches the American rate,
450 million of them will invade this place. Taking selfies to send back home.”

He looked at me in panic: “My gondola is owned by a wealthy Venetian. They just employ us as we are cheap.”

“Everything has become cheap in Venetia’s tourist Disneyland.” I sighed, watching from the water all those identical eateries dotting the pavements.

They offer day-trippers frozen food heated up in a microwave. 'They don’t come back anyway'


And you know deep down that they are right. You have no wish to come back

As your cruise finally leaves the overcrowded port

The old buildings’ marble columns are stained by the acqua alta an ugly muddy green.

High tide is creeping ever higher as the city is literally sinking in front of your eyes

When your huge colossus of a ship sails away with it's high flying business corporation colours

And holding the multicoloured plastic glass that is meant to resemble crystal

You are standing under an enormous cheap plastic chandelier that is meant to resemble the past glory of the Titanic, in the exquisite cocktail bar among other pensioners

who have already forgotten stinking, drowning Venice and now have their eyes on another exciting port

that will be presented just for them in a fake and sterile way: ‘Disneyland of Zanzibar.’


Suddenly you remember the European friends. You never managed to see them

And you promised to take them onboard to show them all this fake luxury

Well, they did not miss out on anything, you thought to yourself as you finish your drink, throwing the plastic glass into a plastic bin in the shape of a Venetian urn.

This Year you are just like everyone else around you...

Home bound in self isolation

Watching on your computer screen

The crystal clear water of the Venetian canals

Even the dolphins came back to play!


In the fish market beside the empty and repaired Rialto

The seafood is heaped high on piles of crushed ice

The crowds are gone and the locals come back to the market

In their masks, they smile shyly with their eyes


There are no gaggles of tourists in front of the stalls to take selfies

So locals have space and time to pick from a pile of eels, swordfish and octopus

Or twitching local 'squilla mantis' that is sold alive


Outside the 'Arsenale', an ancient military base just a few minutes walk

from San Marco, that you never reached

A retired baker opens his shop again that was replaced last year

by a souvenir shop selling trinkets that has no use here now

Instead, the locals come back and the fish stop nearby opens too

A happy baker waves at the visiting cameraman

Before he puts his face mask safely back on


The long suffering inhabitants came back to rent their properties

After the greedy, rent seeking behaviour of the tourism business was stopped

The locals want tourists back, but not the overcrowding


The bigger the low budget crowds, the less attractive the place becomes to the true lovers of Venice and its history. No one wants to struggle through mad misbehaving crowds to go to the opera or the gallery.

“We should never have become an historical Disneyland for bored cruise passengers and selfie taking day-trippers. We are the real thing. We should never sell ourselves so cheap.” In the cool reception of the Danieli, the hotel’s marble columns gleam, cleaned of the stains of the high tide


The cameraman is offered a frothy cocktail in an expensive Venetian glass while standing under multicoloured crystals of enormous Venetian chandeliers, among the antique furniture used by the first merchants of Venice

“Good for you, Venetians,” I sighed to myself. I go back to my home grown organic vegetable patch. Maybe it is time for all of us not only think about sustainable living but sustainable travelling too. We would all be better off for it in the end

Comments

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    • Beata Stasak profile imageAUTHOR

      Beata Stasak 

      13 months ago from Western Australia

      Thank you Peggy for understanding me and yes it is time to learn to live differently ...we truly are on the crossroads of the time...

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      13 months ago from Houston, Texas

      I enjoyed your last two sentences the best: "Maybe it is time for all of us not only think about sustainable living but sustainable traveling too. We would all be better off for it in the end." I think that traveling may become different in the years to come post-pandemic. For now, I will read about experiencing places that I have yet to see.

    • Beata Stasak profile imageAUTHOR

      Beata Stasak 

      15 months ago from Western Australia

      I am very happy Demas you have had a great experience, transport is here for us to use, ships, trains, cars and planes too, it is how we use them from now on we have to decide:) Thank you for your input and all of other readers who understood where I come from. None of us like to be challenged and none of us like to be asked challenging questions but sometimes just sometimes we have to ask those questions ourselves including me...or we can continue as before and pretend everything is fine...

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      15 months ago from UK

      You have put together a great poetic collection here. Designed to challenge readers and confront them with hard truth. It certainly makes us think. I think that cruise companies are going to have a long way to go to attract the numbers they used to. Maybe we will give a little more thought to the impact of our travel choices in the future.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 

      15 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      This takes us on a long, but reflective journey back home to where our real lives take place. placestosee.com offers the travel without the bugs (yes Maine has a wide variety of biters.) This week alone, I have been to a lobster feast and schooner cruise in Maine, a trip to an ice cave in Greenland, dining out and touring Italy, Israel, Etc. And, that doesn't include the mental trips I can take by reading Hubs. No tramping required, and home cooked food for every meal.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      15 months ago from Central Florida

      Beata, you leave a strong message with this piece. If any good can come from this pandemic, let it be respect for land, nature, and each other. Greed has clouded our judgement and spoiled the earth. Let the destruction recede and life emerge once again!

    • Beata Stasak profile imageAUTHOR

      Beata Stasak 

      15 months ago from Western Australia

      I love Alaska Oscar and Yukon and also northern part of BC where no one goes (everyone just stops in Rockies hey:) I got there slowly in an old car with a little provision in my pocket and a tent of course and I have seen little bit of it but plenty bears and wildlife it was out of this world, few people on those roads less travelled, well only few roads are there:) It was spring and lots of insects to bite you at night but it was all worth it. Met the native people of that area and also grizzly men looking after grizzlies, amazing truly.

      And I agree with you Eric if we all decide to trample everywhere bye bye nature it will be the same like we do now, all dream of tramping few desirable and fashionable travel spots right:)

    • Beata Stasak profile imageAUTHOR

      Beata Stasak 

      15 months ago from Western Australia

      My dear fellow hubbers, I have started to travel only after the ripe of age of 50 I have to admit because as a migrant and teacher, counsellor, farmer and mother I had to find enough finances and time and also get a good valuable passport, which as a new Australian citizen I have been blessed to get. I travel with a friend I trust and usually work as a volunteer along the way, I live from my suitcase surviving on $50 dollars per day at most using public transports and local people accomodation to support them and learn new languages, customs and habitat. I save whole year to go once per year somewhere and I eat very little and use very modest transport and accomodation on my travel but it is my choice and I have seen a lot that way...It is possible to travel on very tight budget and make it meaningful and sustainable experience for yourself and others ...I am lucky I can travel absolutely, I have spend half of my life locked in the communist Eastern block to dream to be able to explore the world and enrich myself and others by doing so...now I finally can...

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      15 months ago from Southern Illinois

      I really do not know where I'd go, but just to be able to go anywhere you desire would be heavenly. I like the way you presented this, sort of poetic. Take care.

    • Oscarlites profile image

      Oscar Jones 

      15 months ago from Monroeville, Alabama

      Hi Beata, Hi eric, I'm one who would walk over the virgin terrain and explore.. I have walked many mountainsides and well, trails, in Alaska. Also the tundra, the snowy drifted tundra, and the beaches along its shores..

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      15 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Most wonderful. Never been on a cruise or even a tour. I cannot think of anything more repulsive. But I am sure that is just my quirkiness.

      On the other hand in nature. We need to follow the path if everyone made their own -- bye bye nature.

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