I have been struggling with the huge increase in tourists and tourism in Moab and the surrounding community. I have railed against the influx of strangers crowding into our neighborhoods, the increased volume and seemingly constant vibration from the amazing amount of motorized vehicles that are brought here and the overall impact on our community.
I’m finding it more and more difficult to experience the absence of noise when I go out into the backcountry, or to be able to go to a restaurant anytime during the increasingly long season without waiting an inordinate amount of time. I try to calculate my trips to town so I don’t have to turn left on the main streets. All of these things are true.
However, I, too, am often a tourist. I like to go to less-popular places, whether it’s the backroad areas further out of town, in New Mexico, or Western China and Bali. I want to go to the sights not everyone goes to. I walk around neighborhoods and see how people from other cultures live. Increasingly, I have found it challenging to do this, as I know firsthand the impacts it can have. I have become more and more aware of my intrusion on their privacy and communities.
Having been blessed with an international family, I have now seen the impacts of tourism all over the world.
In January I am going on a trip to Japan with my brother. For the first part of the trip, we will be visiting our cousin, who lives near one of the best ski areas in the world. I have always loved to travel this way: avoiding hotels, staying with friends and relatives and getting to meet the people who live there.
This time, after we leave my cousin’s home, most of our lodging will be through Airbnb. Hopefully all of them, or at least most, will be “legal.” But there is no way to know. I am going in spite of my “anti-overnight-rentals-in-residential-areas” stance.
My brother has been showing me the photos of some of these fabulous dwellings, which gives us the opportunity to stay in real Japanese homes with people who live there and know the area. I am looking forward to the variety of experiences we will have.
Ah, that’s the rub, isn’t it? I want our hosts to be nice, gracious and hospitable. To tell me about, and perhaps show me, some of the more out-of-the-way, unusual sites to see in Japan. I want them to be glad I am visiting and interested in the place where they live. Hmm. I will be the stranger intruding. I am going to do my best to be respectful of the places and the people we visit.
This realization has affected me in several ways. Besides being more respectful of the places I visit, it is helping me to be more patient with the people visiting the Moab area that we all love. I am consciously being nicer to the people who come from all over to visit one of the most spectacular places in the world. I am trying to be more gracious and hospitable.
When I get the opportunity, I do tell our visitors about the struggles our community is having. It seems that sometimes people go on vacation and forget their manners; not everyone else is on vacation. Most people seem to appreciate the information, and hopefully with education and kindness, they too can be more aware of the impacts of their enthusiasm. Maybe our visitors will treat our area, and other destinations, with more respect and awareness of the people and other beings who live there. And I will do my best to do the same, wherever I go to visit and be a tourist.
I’m doing my best, but I still cannot reconcile myself to the overt and constant noise of the UTVs.
Judy Powers moved from New York City in 1991 to live with her father in Castle Valley “for a few months.” More than 27 years later, she has had lots of different jobs in Moab, including 21 years as a Realtor. Now with her business, Powers with Animals (powerswithanimals.com), she gets to follow her passion: spending time with animals and sometimes training their humans.
“I am consciously being nicer to the people who come from all over to visit one of the most spectacular places in the world.”