Home > At Play > Graffiti and Irresponsible Travel

Graffiti and Irresponsible Travel

With the rollover into a new year, many people make New Year’s resolutions and create or review lists of things they would like to see, visit or do sometime in the rest of their lives. For instance, imagine that visiting Machu Picchu is on your list of ultimate travel experiences. You save for months, perhaps years, for your dream trip and excitedly anticipate the day your flight touches down in Peru.

After a scenic train trip up 7,800 feet, breathtaking views of the mountains spread out before you. Exploration of the magnificent archeological site lives up to your longtime dream, except for a troubling practice. You had not anticipated the widespread graffiti left by previous visitors. Not ancient Incan writing but instead the thoughtless scribbling of tourists who lack respect for history, culture and OPP (other people’s property).

The previous scenario is hypothetical, but the practice of tourist graffiti is not. So here is my question: What makes tourists think that writing their names or “Susie luvs Ralph” is acceptable, whether etched on a column along a Roman cardo or a trunk of an oak tree in Central Park?

I recently confronted a woman as she tried to write her name on an ancient Roman column using a ballpoint pen. I asked her to stop. She continued to try to get the pen to write. I explained it was irresponsible to write on the property. She responded, “Well, there’s no sign to say not to do it.” My blood pressure spiked. Where are the tourist police when you need them?

DSC_7761 (531x800)
Since when does a reasonable, rational person require a sign stating the obvious to deter said reasonable, rational person from defacing public or private property?

How do they think the graffiti will be removed—with a bit of Clorox and some elbow grease? Or perhaps with the help of the next hard rain?

Is it important for the next visitor to know that ‘James’ was there in 2012?

By the way, the trustees of Petra—a UNESCO World Heritage Site and unfortunate victim of tourist graffiti—actually do mind when visitors leave their autographs onsite. Under “Responsible Travel”, the Petra National Trust (PNT) admonishes visitors to “treat Petra as you would your own home”. That includes not littering, climbing on monuments and, oh yeah, drawing graffiti. Can’t get much clearer than that. The PNT even included the antidote for the pen-wielding sickness (or whatever the weapon of choice). Graffiti cannot be removed. To satisfy the need to leave your name on a prominent place onsite, become a member and donate to the PNT. In return, the PNT will inscribe the donor’s name on an official plaque and display it in the visitors’ center.

Help preserve national treasures

Help preserve national treasures

Petra and its tourist-attracting counterparts deserve a little respect for their age. Natural elements and human contact cause strain on these national treasures. Erosion occurs from wind and rain. Human contact such as touching, leaning, and rubbing and even walking on original stones wears away natural surfaces. We all want to enjoy these sites in their beauty and splendor when we visit, and responsible tourism is essential for the preservation of history.

It is better to travel well than to arrive.

Petra National Trust: http://petranationaltrust.org/UI/ShowContent.aspx?ContentId=73#Graffiti:

  1. January 13, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Karen was here and commented. 1/13/13 (couldn’t resist a little virtual grafitti!)

  2. January 13, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Okay, now that that’s out of my system…. I agree with you 1000%. While taggers may say they are leaving behind art, I see it as plain and simple property damage! Senseless!!

    • January 13, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      And at the bottom of the totem pole are those who aren’t even artists and they just scribble their names anywhere.

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